Apple Announces iPhone 4 with Impressive New Features

Apple CEO Steve Jobs officially announced the company's latest smartphone upgrade, the iPhone 4, today. While it wasn't exactly a secret after the prototype was found in a bar, the official Apple announcement did confirm a lot of hardware specs. And they sure are impressive.

While the new iPhone looks a little boxier than previous models, it's still very sleek. The iPhone 4 has glass on the front and back, with a stainless steel band running around the sides. It turns out that that band actually acts as part of the antenna for wireless signals, which should help reception. The phone itself is 24% thinner than previous iPhones, too. " "It is the thinnest smartphone on the planet," Jobs said.

The iPhone 4 also uses the Apple A4 processor that was first used in the iPad, a move that significantly improves processing power and battery life, Jobs said.

"Because we've been able to make the battery bigger and because the A4 is so good, we've improved the battery life. 7 hours of 3G talk, 6 hours of 3G browsing, 10 hours of WiFi browsing, 10 hours of video, 40 hours of music and 300 hours of standby," Jobs said.

One of the most fascinating features Jobs demoed was the "Retina Display." The iPhone 4 has a 960 x 640 pixel resolution display (326 pixels per inch), which is so high that the human eye can't perceive individual pixels anymore, according to Jobs. This makes images and especially text extra crisp. In fact, the 3.5-inch touchscreen of the iPhone 4 has 78 percent of the pixels in the 10-inch touchscreen of the iPad.

Jobs showed images on the iPhone 4 and the 3GS side by side and the difference was remarkable. Text and photographs were much sharper, for example. The display also has 4 times the contrast of the 3GS screen.

Other specs of the new iPhone include dual mics, 802.11n WiFi, GPS, a front-facing camera, compass, accelerometer and (all new) a gyroscope.

"We're adding a 3 axis gyro, and we tied the gyro and accelerometer, compass, and gyro together for six axis. It's perfect for gaming," Jobs said.

As expected, the iPhone 4 also has a completely new camera system. The new iPhone camera has been upgraded from 3 megapixels to 5, but without decreasing the size of the sensor pixels. "When most people increase megapixels they make them smaller, but we've kept ours the same size," Jobs said.

That should improve image quality as the camera can capture more light, Jobs said. But even more impressive is the fact that it can record HD video, up to 720p resolution at 30 frames per second. Apple has even created a new app, called iMovie, for editing and tweaking video directly on the device without having to download it to a computer.

As expected, the iPhone 4 will also run the new iPhone OS 4.0 operating system — now renamed iOS4 — that the company announced months ago. This gives the phone multitasking abilities, the capability of making folders on the home screen and access to Apple's new gaming community. It also means iPhone apps can take advantage of the new iAd system of interactive advertising created by Apple and, surprisingly, Microsoft's Bing search engine for Web searches.

Of course, a Jobs keynote is never good enough without his legendary "One more thing..." statement, and Jobs delivered. This time, the one-more-thing was a new iPhone 4 feature called FaceTime, which is basically a video conferencing function that takes advantage of the forward-facing camera. FaceTime allows iPhone 4 owners to hold a video call with other iPhone 4 owners. Currently, it is only available over Wi-Fi connections because carriers aren't prepared to handle video calls yet. FaceTime doesn't require any setup and can use the front or rear camera in portrait or landscape mode.

The iPhone 4 will be available on June 24 and pre-orders start on June 15 in five countries: U.S.A., France, Germany, United Kingdom and Japan. The iPhone will come in white or black and will sell for $199 for 16GB of storage and $299 for 32GB (with a contract through AT&T, of course).

"AT&T is going to make an incredibly generous upgrade offer. If your contract expires at any time in 2010, you can upgrade to the iPhone 4. You can get it up to six months early," Jobs added.

Apple will also be getting into the accessories business with the announcement of the "Bumper" rubberized covers for the iPhone 4. Similar to third-party iPhone covers, Bumpers use rubber and molded plastic to protect the iPhone 4. Bumpers come in white, black, blue, green, orange, and pink colors for $29.