Thanks to the famous Apple distortion field, it’s easy to get caught up in the Apple rumour mill. Today for instance, leaked images of a new iPhone case have the blogosphere in full speculation mode as to the dimensions of the upcoming iPhone 5.
Thinner! Bigger screen! Repositioned volume buttons! Can you believe how breathless we’ve become about attributes that should frankly illicit little more than a yawn were they in regards to *any* other company. But this is Apple we’re talking about and the usual rules clearly don’t apply.
Which brings me to my favourite Apple rumour-du-jour, which has nothing to do with the next iPhone.
Instead, it concerns a project that many have been theorizing on for some time: Apple is poised to bring an HDTV to market.
I know, I know, this too – were it from *any* other company – should prompt nothing more than a slightly glazed look and then a quick glance to see if there’s anything interesting on Twitter. After all, the consumer tech landscape is teeming with HDTVs. The aisles of Best Buy, FutureShop and Walmart are littered with them. A recent study (albeit a highly politicized one) out of the U.S. even suggested that they have become so mainstream that even 17% of people dubbed “poor” now own them.
So why would an Apple HDTV matter?
First of all, according to a CNET report, Apple is already in talks with LG to manufacture 55″ OLED screens. Right there, we have a major technology shift in the works. There are for all intents and purposes, no OLED TVs on the market right now. Plasma and LED-backlit LCD panels represent well over 99% of all HDTVs. The primary reason so far has been price. Even Sony’s OLED experiment, the XEL-1, a diminutive 11-inch kitchen-class device cost a whopping $1,700 when it briefly came to market a few years ago. Needless to say, a 55″ beast would be an order of magnitude more expensive, making it prohibitive for all but wealthiest consumers. But nonetheless, LG themselves have announced plans to build just such a TV next year. It lends a lot of credibility to the Apple HDTV rumour. And OLED will be a game-changer.
But if LG is going to make one, it will probably be cheaper than Apple’s, so why would I buy the one with the fruit on it?
It’s safe to say that Apple’s second generation Apple TV unit, that little black hockey-puck of a device, has been much more successful than most anticipated, especially given the luke-warm response their first generation “hobby” was given. It’s also safe to say that any Apple HDTV will have Apple TV or similar functionality baked right into the unit. As cool as I’m sure this would be, it’s not a big deal. Apple TV’s are cheap (relatively speaking) at $119.
But the feature that I think will really set an Apple HDTV apart, is FaceTime. Yes, it would be the same FaceTime that has been available on iPhone 4s, iPod Touches and Macs for over a year now, but with one key difference: The FaceTime camera will be behind – not on top – of the OLED screen.
This is a feature that I had predicted would make its way into the very first iPad. Man was I wrong on that. The iPad didn’t even get a regular webcam until the second version.
But in my defense, I didn’t know that the iPad would be an LCD-equipped device. And according to the patent I was basing my prediction on, in order for a screen to work with a “hidden camera,” it needs to be OLED – not LCD.
In case you haven’t clicked-through to my iPad prediction yet, allow me to summarize: A hidden FaceTime camera would change the nature of video chat. Instead of watching someone gaze at a point in space that seems to be around your lower-neck, they will be looking right at you. All the time. The TV would become a virtual window allowing eye-to-eye communication. FaceTime is already a great chat product – especially on the iPad 2. A FaceTime camera situated behind the screen where you’re already looking, would be, well, magical.
Yes, it seems a little foolish that having been wrong on this once before I’d be willing to stick my neck out again for the same premise. But I guess that’s a measure of how great I think this feature would be, and why Apple could own the high-end of the HDTV market just like they own the high-end of the smartphone and tablet market.
Check back here in 2012 to see if I’ll be eating my words once more.
Once again, the Apple faithful gathered to hear the leader of their church, Reverend Steve Jobs speak from his pulpit to deliver his much anticipated keynote to the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in California. The topic of his sermon? The famously “lost + found” next-generation iPhone, simply known as the iPhone 4.
Given that most of the world had been given a sneak peak at the device courtesy of some questionable reporting by tech blog Gizmodo, who by the way, were rewarded for their efforts by not being invited to today’s announcement, many were curious if Jobs could wow his crowd of onlookers with what hadn’t been leaked.
Here’s a point-form rundown of what was announced so you can make up your own minds. My initial reaction follows…
- iPhone 4
- Comes out of the box running the newly dubbed “iOS 4”
- 9.3 mm thick, which means it is 24% thinner than the current line of iPhones. Apple claims this makes it the thinnest smartphone on the market.
- Front-facing camera in addition to the standard rear-facing camera
- Glass front and back, with a stainless steel wrap around the edges. In a bold move design wise, the edge pieces are actually the antennas for the radios inside the phone (Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/GPS and UMTS/GSM)
“Retina Display” – this is Apple’s term for the screen which sports an incredibly high resolution 326 dpi 960×640 matrix. The name comes from the fact that the human eye has trouble discerning detail beyond the 300 dpi threshold. The Retina Display goes a little beyond this threshold. To understand what this means without actually seeing it, a piece of printed paper from a laser printer is the equivalent of 300 dpi. The display is four times sharper than the current iPhone.
- 800:1 contrast ratio (again, four times greater than the current model)
- New A4 chip, like its stable-mate the iPad. Much like the iPad, battery life is impressive: 40 percent more talk time, from 5 hours to 7 hours; 6 hours of 3G browsing; 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing; 10 hours of video; 40 hours of music; 300 hours of standby.
- Wi-Fi now provides support for 802.11n
- Quad-band HSDPA/HSUPA with 7.2 Mbps down, and 5.8 Mbps up but Jobs was careful to note that these speeds were only theoretical until carriers provide the neccessary support
- Memory: 16 or 32GB
- Gyroscope – possibly the least expected feature announced, this new sensor complements the existing accelerometer to provide pitch, roll and yaw for a true six-axis awareness of the phone’s position. Clearly gaming is the target market with this.
- New camera sensor that delivers 5 megapixel resolution but offers better low-light performance though a backside illuminated sensor. LED flash.
- The camera can now record 720p HD video at 30 fps
- An optional iMovie app which will cost $4.99 gives users the ability to perform sophisticated video editing right on the phone, with the choice to output their final creations in the native 720p or lower-def 360p.
- Multi-tasking will be enabled out of the box and implemented in such a way that Apple claims will not impact battery life or performance.
- iBooks on the iPhone will sync wirelessly with any other iBooks device you’re running (iPad, iPod touch) to create an experience that mimics what Amazon’s Kindle can do.
- FaceTime – a form of video chat that lets iPhone 4 users conduct chats in real-time (over Wi-Fi only initially) using either the front facing or rear-facing cameras.
- Price: iPhone 3GS 8GB drops to $99, iPhone 4 16GB $199, iPhone 4 32GB $299 (all prices $USD, all with contracts)
- Colours: Black & White editions
- Available in the US June 24th, with pre-orders starting June 15th. Canada likely to be part of the July launch for the international group of countries.
For existing iPhone users, the addition of multi-tasking, improved battery life and a crisper screen are all good reasons to upgrade to the iPhone 4, while cool features such as the HD movie recording and editing and the FaceTime video chat will give people who have been holding back a reason to jump on the iPhone bandwagon.
Once again, Apple has upped the ante in the smartphone space, while preserving a price-point that is within reach of many smartphone shoppers. Design-wise, they have now brought the iPhone in-line with the rest of the Apple products with its flat front and back and curved metal edges, a move which I suspect will win more fans than critics.
Overall, the iPhone 4 looks to be everything you would expect from a company that is now on their 4th revision – sophisticated, polished, powerful and offering more of what has made it such a success since its launch in 2007.
Update: We’ve just learned that Bell Mobility will be offering the iPhone 4 “in coming weeks”. Hopefully that means we will not see a repeat of the exclusivity deals that were done for the initial release of the iPhone in Canada.