The good news for folks who recently bought an iPhone 4 and were dreading today’s announcement: you don’t need to feel foolish.
Today, Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team unveiled the iPhone 4s. It’s a phone that looks outwardly exactly like the iPhone 4 (see image above). All of the changes are on the inside.
Those changes are all incremental improvements to an already very successful formula. Improved are the CPU, the data speeds, the graphics performance and the camera. The phone also gets an innovative interactive voice-controlled assistant known simply as “Siri.”
But as welcome as these enhancements are, they are barely enough to keep the iPhone ahead of an increasingly competitive field of smartphones, most of which are running Google’s Android OS.
iPhone 4S announced:
- body remains the same as iPhone 4, gets A5 chip which gives 7x faster graphics performance, 2x faster CPU performance (Dual core processor/dual core graphics)
- it Supports HSDPA at up to 14Mbps downlink
- Supports GSM and CDMA – giving it world-roaming capabilities
- Gets an 8MP rear camera 3264×2448, with improved backside illumination. Photo lag has been reduced and sharpness increased thanks to a 5-element lens design. Macro settings for extreme close-ups. Face detection.
- Video recording at 1080p, with image stabilization
- AirPlay mirroring: anything you can see on the iPhone’s screen you’ll be able to see via AirPlay on an Apple TV
- Voice-activated personal assistant “Siri” – ask a real question, get a real answer. Deep integration into iOS, settings, maps, calendars, reminders. You can ask it to define a word and it will scour the web for the answer. It can do voice dictation, but only where data connectivity is available.
- New iPhone line-up: iPhone 3GS (8GB, free on contract) iPhone 4 (8GB, $99 on contract), iPhone 4S (16GB, $199 32GB, $299 64GB, $399 – all contract prices) N.B.: All prices in $USD
- Sprint added as a U.S. carrier
- The iPhone 4S will be available for pre-order October 7th and ship October 14th in U.S. and Canada and in 70 other countries by December. Bell, TELUS and Rogers are all confirming they will carry the iPhone 4S.
Of these features, the biggest reason to buy an iPhone 4S – especially if you still own an iPhone 3GS – is the camera. Phil Schiller, SVP of Product Marketing at Apple made it clear that with the iPhone 4S, Apple isn’t going after other camera-equipped phones, they’re targeting the point-and-shoot category of cameras. They seem to be on the right track.
The iPhone 4S has a remarkably better camera than the 4 – it now shoots 8MP stills with macro capability and full 1080p video with image stabilization. With these specs, the only thing the iPhone 4S can’t do is optical zoom.
People who spend a lot of time commuting in private cars, or folks who have trouble navigating their phones with their fingers, will appreciate Siri. From all accounts, the demo Schiller gave of Siri’s abilities was impressive. Siri can understand natural language questions and respond in kind. It also understands context, so certain activities will feel more intuitive. Finally, Siri can even act as your personal dictation servant, though this feature requires data connectivity and there’s no word yet on just how much of your data will be consumed when connected via
Frequent travelers will appreciate the fact that with CDMA on top of HSPA, the iPhone 4S can literally go anywhere and keep you connected.
But none of these features are going to cause current iPhone 4 owners to gaze mournfully at their phones and wish they had waited for Apple’s next product. They’re good. But they aren’t must-haves.
What Apple didn’t deliver were any next-generation features such as LTE, NFC or a larger display. Rumours of a thinner, wider body and re-designed home button failed to materialize.
What we see here is Apple once again mastering the art of the leap-frog. True-to-form, the iPhone 4S gives 3GS owners a strong incentive to upgrade. iPhone 4 owners can now sit back, relax and calmly tell themselves that they’ll wait for the “next one.”
The iPhone event, which took place at Apple’s headquarters at 4 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California also included updates on some of Apple’s other products, including some small tweaks to their iPod line of portable music players:
- OS X Lion update: six million copies sold to-date
- MacBook Pro and iMac are the best selling laptops and desktops in the U.S. respectively
- There are 60 million Mac users worldwide
- iPods are still 70% of the portable music market. Over 300 million have been sold
- 16 billion songs have been sold via iTunes
- iPhone ranks #1 in customer satisfaction according to JD Power but is only 5% of worldwide market share
- Every state in the U.S. has pilot programs for the iPad in educational settings
- 92% of Fortune 500 is testing or deploying iPads
- 3 out of 4 tablets sold in the U.S. are iPads
- With 250 Million iOS device, iOS is the #1 mobile OS worldwide
- 61% of mobile browsers are using iOS
- 1 billion apps are downloaded a month
- Apple has created a new app called “Cards” that let you create greeting cards on iOS and Apple prints them for you. App is free, each card costs $2.99 including trackable postage in the U.S.
- a re-cap of iOS 5 features
- iOS 5 will be a free update October 12th
- new feature: “Find my friends” – Like a highly customizable 4Square with better privacy controls
- iCloud launch October 12th – Free
- iPod nano gets an update: improved fitness features, navigation, 16 new clock faces, new pricing: $129/8GB
- iPod Touch now comes in white, $199/8GB
Only on days that the Montreal Canadiens are playing a playoff game, you can go to any BestBuy or BestBuy Mobile outlet – but only in the Montreal area – and pick up an iPhone 4 for $99 on a three-year contract with Virgin Mobile. The longer the Canadiens stay in the Playoffs, the longer the offer continues.
Oh, there’s one other catch: You’ll need to download this coupon and bring it with you when you roll into one of their stores for the offer.
But wait there’s more…
Turns out Montrealers aren’t the only ones who get to bask in the iPhone Playoff celebration. The same offer is being made in British Columbia. Grab the coupon and head in to any BestBuy or BestBuy Mobile location anywhere in B.C. This offer is good for (you guessed it) any day that the Canucks are playing a playoff game.
What with all the excitement around iOS 4.2’s new features such as multi-tasking and folders (on the iPad) and Air Play (all devices) and wireless printing (all devices), not enough attention is being paid to what is possibly the most valuable new feature: Find My iPhone (or other device) which is now free of charge.
The feature was previously only available as part of the $100/year Mobile Me subscription package. Now that it’s free, I strongly suggest you take the few quick steps that are required to enable it on your device – there’s no telling when you might need it and it isn’t turned on by default.
Now I hate to do this to you if you just read the above and got all excited, but here’s the bad news: The free service is only available for current generation devices (iPhone 4, iPad, iPod Touch 4th gen). All other devices can still use the service, but they need the paid Mobile Me subscription.. I know, it sucks :-(
- Set up a free Mobile Me account using your existing Apple ID (this is your iTunes/App Store ID)
- Configure your device to allow location-based services
- Verify your Mobile Me account
- Log on to www.me.com to try it out
As with any service like this, there are a couple of provisos, specifically:
- Your device must be powered on
- Your device must be connected to the internet either by Wi-Fi or 3G
- Your device must be in a geographic area where the service is supported (some countries don’t support it)
If this is not the case, you won’t be able to locate your phone.
Another cool aspect to the Find My iPhone tool is the ability to force the device into “locked” mode (but only if you’ve assigned a Passcode previously), wipe the entire contents of the device remotely (you’ll be able to restore all of it from the backup on your PC if you get your device back) and – perhaps most useful of all – you can send a message to the device that will appear on its screen and play a sound for two minutes (this works even if the device is locked and even if it’s set to mute).
This last feature will appeal to people who routinely misplace their devices but can always find their way to a computer.
Though it shocks a lot of people when they find out, the truth is I have never spent much time with an iPhone. Sure I’ve used one on an occasional basis as friends and colleagues have let me play with theirs, but my primary device has always been a BlackBerry.
But my good ol’ BlackBerry Curve is beginning to show its age in a big way and I’m gearing up for my next mobile device. The question is, do I stay with the King of the Keyboard or do I throw caution to the wind and join the legions of people who have ditched physical buttons for touch screens? As luck would have it, both Samsung and Apple were kind enough to lend me their flagship smartphones to perform a head-to-head comparison. I’ve now had the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant for a month and the iPhone 4 for two weeks. And though we don’t have room here to discuss every aspect of these two high-tech marvels, here are my thoughts on how they stack up in a few key areas.
The first thing you notice about the Galaxy S Vibrant is how it lives up to its name. The Super AMOLED touch screen which measures 4” and has a 480×800 resolution is truly stunning. The blacks are deep; the colours are rich and jewel-like. I’ve always preferred OLED to LCD when it comes to HDTV displays (though sadly this use of the technology has yet to catch on at the manufacturing stage) and the same is true when it comes to the mobile arena. The iPhone 4 uses an LED-backlit IPS-LCD screen at 3.5” with an astounding 640×960 resolution which they refer to as a “Retina Display”. Though the specs are impressive, in comparing the iPhone 4 to the Galaxy S, I didn’t find that text was any easier to read on the iPhone or that images were any sharper. Both phones have excellent screens, but the Galaxy S’s larger and brighter display makes for a better viewing experience.
The obvious benefit to touch screen phones over their physical-keyboard brethren is the larger display area and easy, gesture-based interaction. But when it comes to typing, many people find that real buttons can’t be replaced with soft ones. I’ve always been one of those people and it’s been the biggest reason for sticking with my BlackBerry. As I had suspected, typing on the iPhone 4 – even in landscape orientation with a wider keyboard layout – was difficult and required a lot of backspacing. Over the years, my thumbs have developed such familiarity with the location of letters on my BlackBerry Curve that I can often watch the screen and not the keys while maintaining a very good level of accuracy. I recognize that I might get there with the iPhone given enough practice and there are plenty of iPhone users who demonstrate superb typing skills. But the thought of having to go through the inevitable months of pain while I condition myself to a totally different system depresses me.
And then I discovered Swype. And the world changed just a little. Swype is software that ships with the Galaxy S Vibrant and it gives users a completely new way to interact with the soft keyboard on their phone. Instead of trying to accurately hit those little keys, Swype only asks that you trace a path on the keyboard from one letter to the other. You don’t even have to be all that accurate. At the end of the word, remove your finger from the screen and voila – the word you were typing, er, swyping, automatically appears.
It sounds like magic and most of the people who I show Swype to have the same reaction: “No way!” It’s that good. So good in fact that when I switch from the Galaxy S back to the iPhone, I’m even more irritated by the iPhone’s keyboard. Every touch screen phone should come with Swype.
The two phones are fairly similar in outward appearance: Black slabs that are all-screen with a few physical buttons on their front and sides. The Galaxy S is slightly larger in width and height but is lighter in the hand than the iPhone. To some this will feel good – especially if you plan to carry it in your pocket, while others will prefer the iPhone’s heft and its solid feel. The iPhone claims to be the thinnest smartphone on the planet, and while that might be true, you’d need a magnifying glass to be aware of the difference between these devices.
The Galaxy S keeps its power/wake-up button on the side near the top of the phone while the iPhone maintains its traditional top-mount location. While I prefer the iPhone layout, it’s not a big deal. More impactful are the Galaxy S’s three navigation buttons at the bottom of the phone. Nowhere else does the Android vs. iOS experience become so similar to the PC vs. Mac debate. Apple has always maintained that a one-button mouse should suffice when using a computer while PC mice typically feature two or more buttons. And so it goes with the iPhone – a single “home” button that performs several tasks, while the Galaxy S offers the same physical button, but flanked by two dedicated soft-touch keys: “menu” on the left and “back” on the right.
I’m going to take a guess that if you agree with Apple on the whole mouse design issue, you will have no problem with their single home button – instead relying on the operating system to provide you with all the navigation options you need. I’m not in that camp. I like my computer to have a two button mouse (with a scroll wheel!) and coincidentally, I really like having a menu button and back button available to me whenever I want them on a smartphone. Can you get by without them? Sure – the iPhone works just fine without them. But they sure are handy.
Despite the entire furor over “Antennagate”, I didn’t experience any issues with dropped calls on either the iPhone or the Galaxy S. But there was a noticeable difference in the quality of the sound itself. On the iPhone, voices sounded rich and natural – at times it was hard to tell I was talking on a mobile phone. The Galaxy S on the other hand, sounded tinny and distant. This wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me as voice calls are something I do only rarely, but if you’re a big talker, the iPhone wins hands-down.
This is one area where I wish I could combine the strengths of each phone into one device. The Galaxy S gives you great control over your inbox, letting you perform bulk actions like multiple-delete, something the iPhone lacks. [Update: the iPhone 4 can do this too, but you need to jump into an edit mode to do it – Thanks Robert for the clarification in the comments section]. Whereas the iPhone does a better job of rendering HTML emails to preserve their original format. The Galaxy S lets you access all of your mailbox subfolders (inbox, sent items etc) from any screen, but the iPhone lets you see message threads as a single item, so you can more easily see how a conversation has progressed over a series of replies.
Photos & Video Recording
Both devices have 5 megapixel cameras capable of capturing 720p high-def video at 30 frames per second. Both have software zoom capability. But the iPhone takes a slight lead in this category, based solely on improvements to the iOS. The iPhone 4 can capture HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos which significantly improve the look of images that would otherwise have washed-out areas or poor detail. In video mode, you can trim the video clips you just shot and immediately upload them to YouTube via Wi-Fi.
iTunes Vs. Samsung Kies
Though most smartphone buyers are going to judge their next device based on what it can do when you’re out and about, some consideration should be given to how easy it is to transfer content to and from the device using your PC or Mac. When using an iPhone, iTunes is the de facto standard for device management. Though there are certain weaknesses (e.g. you can’t import or export photos and videos via iTunes on a PC) iTunes is a very polished piece of software with two undeniable strengths: 1) The built-in store gives you super easy access to a wealth of first-rate content including music, movies, TV shows and Apps. 2) You can back up every app, video and song you have bought from the App Store so that if your iPhone dies you haven’t lost your investments in content.
The Galaxy S line of phones has an equivalent to iTunes known as “Kies”. What’s odd is that this very useful piece of software is largely unpromoted by Samsung. There’s no mention of it in any of the product manuals that accompany the phone, and I only happened to stumble upon it by accident when googling an unrelated search. Kies is essentially a virtual desktop program. When launched on a PC, the program simulates a desktop complete with a “My Computer” icon in the top left corner and a dock area that contains icons for the program’s various functions such as “media player” and “photo viewer”. Anyone who has worked on a Mac will immediately see the similarity to MacOS. When you connect your Galaxy S device via USB, it shows up as a mounted icon in the upper right corner. The reason for the desktop interface is that Samsung is trying to provide an all-in-one environment for duplicating the functions of the smartphone. Instead of jumping from one app environment to the other the way you would on the actual phone, these functions appear as windows on the Kies desktop. It’s a system that works surprisingly well. The ability to fully back up your phone is absent as is any connection to an e-commerce platform to buy content, but I expect that Samsung will be adding this soon, given their recent announcement of their iPad competitor, the Galaxy Tab and its associated storefront known simply as the “Media Hub”. While Kies may still lack the sophistication of iTunes, given that it is still early in its development cycle compared to the more mature iTunes (now in version 10), there’s plenty of reason to think it will get better as long as Samsung doesn’t abandon it.
If you’re a BlackBerry user, battery life is one of the big differences when it comes to using other smartphones. My Curve has been known to go for three days without a charge and I have never had the battery die on me during regular use. I’d already heard the complaints about the iPhone 3G and 3GS batteries so when I got the iPhone 4 I was prepared for regular charging. Much to my surprise, I was able to get two days out of the iPhone before needing to charge, and that was with fairly liberal use of Wi-Fi, 3G and calling. No massive hour-long conversations or anything, but neither did I hold back. The Galaxy S on the other hand was never able to go more than 24 hours on a full charge, and even then, I wasn’t able to use it as hard as the iPhone. A few people in the office were quick to blame things like the Samsung’s larger AMOLED screen, but I don’t think the difference is a result of power-hungry components. I suspect the reality is that Apple put a much higher capacity battery in the iPhone 4 than in previous models. Apple has made enormous strides in battery life since the first iPod models hit store shelves and I think they have finally achieved a balance between weight, cost and longevity. Not being able to replace the battery on the iPhone is no longer a reason to avoid it, if ever it was.
The Galaxy S Vibrant and the iPhone 4 are both incredibly sophisticated and powerful smartphones that are ideal companions for people who want complete control of their digital lives while on the go. Which one you choose will likely boil down to how you answer the following questions:
- Are you already hooked into the Apple ecosystem because you own devices like the iPad or iPod Touch? If so, you may as well get the iPhone 4 as it will allow you to maximize your existing investments.
- Are you frustrated by the inaccuracy of touch screen keyboards? Samsung’s embedded Swype application largely takes the pain out of this experience and 2 minutes of playing with it will make anyone feel speedy.
- Are you swayed by fashion and trends? Get the iPhone 4. You’ll get tons of admiring glances and you’ll have a virtually unlimited choice when it comes to accessories for dressing up your phone.
- Do you prefer to exert more control over your technology instead of going with the default settings? The combination of Samsung’s TouchWiz 3.0 interface and the Android 2.1 OS gives you lots of choice in how you interact with the Galaxy S.
As for me? Well, I’m waiting to try out RIM’s BlackBerry Torch before making my final decision. But if I had to choose right now, I’d probably go with the iPhone. While I preferred the overall user experience of the Galaxy S, having an iPad at home has made me an App Store junky and I’m reluctant to give up on our collection of apps even if it means a few more typos.
Every Apple Store will be carrying the iPhone 4 tomorrow (July 30th) in both the locked and unlocked flavours. The doors open at 7 a.m. so if you plan to hit one of the popular locations like Toronto’s Eaton Centre you should probably arrive early.
Shopping online for the iPhone 4 is also an option if you want the unlocked edition.
If you don’t require the full Apple experience, then you’ll be able to grab the iPhone at select Bell World locations and Rogers Wireless outlets. Check out these links for pricing info from all of the carriers:
As of the writing of this post, Telus has still not updated their website with pricing information, but it’s a fair assumption that they will be on par with the other two providers.
Good luck and happy shopping!
Update Jul 30, 9:12 AM EST: BestBuy and FutureShop are now reporting that they too are carrying the iPhone 4 today and that you can sign up with any of the carriers that support the device (TELUS, Bell, Rogers, Fido, Virgin Mobile).
Update Jul 30, 3:32 PM EST: TELUS now has pricing info as well. Thanks for the tip Joan.
Disclosure: Sync Blog is owned and operated by Bell Canada.
When Steve Jobs now famously declared “We’re not perfect“, he was referring to the fact that despite their tremendous success over the past few years since launching the original iPhone, Apple can still make mistakes.
If he had left it at that, it’s likely that Friday’s press conference would have been seen as an appropriate demonstration of humility on the part of a company that had released a product which if nothing else, has a flaw that turned out to be bigger issue than expected. Most observers would likely have concluded that indeed, no one is perfect, and that Apple’s offer of a free case was the right thing to do, assuming that they would follow this measure up with more due-diligence to determine if the antenna problem had affected all of their iPhone 4’s or simply a small batch.
Unfortunately, Jobs elected to follow up his statement with a declaration that all smartphones to a greater or lesser degree, suffer the same problems as the iPhone. In essence, “We’re not perfect” became “We’re not perfect, and by the way, neither are our competitors”. It looked as though Apple had committed the classic mistake of trying to lessen the focus on their mistakes by pointing the finger at someone else. If this were a schoolyard squabble you could imagine Jobs saying to a teacher “Yeah, well I know I started the fight, but Johnny started a fight last week – why don’t you punish him too?”
Jobs cited RIM, Samsung and HTC’s smartphones as just as vulnerable to antenna problems when held in a certain way. He even showed some videos demonstrating what that looked like.
As you might expect, it hasn’t taken long for the companies that were dragged into the fight (and even one that wasn’t) to respond to Apple’s condemnation of an entire industry.
Gizmodo is reporting that Samsung has this to say following Apple’s demonstration of a reception-impaired Omnia 2 smartphone:
“The antenna is located at the bottom of the Omnia 2 phone, while iPhone’s antenna is on the lower left side of the device. Our design keeps the distance between a hand and an antenna. We have fully conducted field tests before the rollout of smartphones. Reception problems have not happened so far, and there is no room for such problems to happen in the future”
The message to Apple is clear: Go ahead and defend your product, but don’t implicate our product when you do it.
RIM was far more direct in their reaction, not mincing any words:
“Apple’s attempt to draw RIM into Apple’s self-made debacle is unacceptable. Apple’s claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public’s understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple’s difficult situation. RIM is a global leader in antenna design and has been successfully designing industry-leading wireless data products with efficient and effective radio performance for over 20 years. During that time, RIM has avoided designs like the one Apple used in the iPhone 4 and instead has used innovative designs which reduce the risk for dropped calls, especially in areas of lower coverage. One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity. Apple clearly made certain design decisions and it should take responsibility for these decisions rather than trying to draw RIM and others into a situation that relates specifically to Apple.”
And somewhat suprisingly, Nokia, who wasn’t mentioned by name in Apple’s press conference, felt the need to make a few clarifying statements lest anyone think that their products suffer from Apple’s “Smartphones have weak spots” remark:
“Antenna design is a complex subject and has been a core competence at Nokia for decades, across hundreds of phone models. Nokia was the pioneer in internal antennas; the Nokia 8810, launched in 1998, was the first commercial phone with this feature.
Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying human behavior, including how people hold their phones for calls, music playing, web browsing and so on. As you would expect from a company focused on connecting people, we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict.
In general, antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held. That’s why Nokia designs our phones to ensure acceptable performance in all real life cases, for example when the phone is held in either hand. Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying how people hold their phones and allows for this in designs, for example by having antennas both at the top and bottom of the phone and by careful selection of materials and their use in the mechanical design.”
One thing’s for sure: we haven’t heard the last of “Antennagate” whether Apple recognizes it as a problem or not.
Despite the calls for a recall of Apple’s newest smartphone, the iPhone 4, Steve Jobs had this to say to all of the people who have bought the device, and to those who have critiqued it: “There is no Antennagate”.
Over the course of a 40 minute press conference today at Apple’s headquarters in California, Jobs outlined what he and his team believe to be the issue with the iPhone 4 after analyzing all of the available data. The bottom line: there is no issue.
Or at least, there is an issue, but it’s the same issue that plagues all smartphone – an assertion that Jobs backed up by playing demonstration videos of 3 competing handsets from 3 different manufacturers with 3 different mobile operating systems. Each handset appeared to exhibit the same drop in signal as the iPhone 4 when gripped a certain way.
He reinforced this point with some other facts relating to customer experience:
- Only .55% of all iPhone 4 customers have called Apple to complain about the phone’s reception. That’s less than a percent.
- In the period that the iPhone 4 has been available, AT&T has received 1/3 of the returns that they experienced with the iPhone 3GS during the same period
- The iPhone 4 drops 1 more call per 100 than the iPhone 3GS
Though Jobs acknowledged that this last point was not acceptable to him, he shared a theory (not backed up by any data) as to why it it’s happening: Many more people who bought iPhone 3GS’s walked out of the store with a case designed to fit the phone. Since putting an iPhone 4 in a case effectively solves the reception problem, he believes that this data point has more to do with case use, than with any inherent flaw in the iPhone 4’s design vs. the 3GS.
He further acknowledged that given some of the data available to them, there must be a problem, but it only appears to affect a very small percentage of users.
At the end, Jobs provided the one measure that Apple was prepared to take in order to address an issue that they essentially feel isn’t an issue at all. Until September 30th, all iPhone 4 buyers can received a free case that will be sent to them if they order it from Apple’s website. The free cases will not be available at retail. People who have already bought Apple bumpers will get a refund.
Jobs finished his explanation with a sort of “Stop picking on us” rant. According to Engadget‘s coverage of the event, he said:
“We think this has been so blown out of proportion… it’s fun to have a story, but it’s not fun on the other side.”
During the Q&A that followed, Jobs continued to express dismay at how Apple has been treated by the press over the last 22 days since the antenna issue became apparent. According to Mobilecrunch.com‘s coverage:
“I guess it’s just human nature: when some group or some organization gets successful, there’s always a group of people who want to tear it down. I see it happening with Google, and I think to myself: why are they doing this? Googles a great company, and they make great companies. And now they’re doing it to us. I ask myself: why? Would you rather we were a korean company, instead of an american company? Would you rather we werent innovating right here? […] Just to get eyeballs for these websites, people dont care what they leave in their wake. I look at this whole Antennagate thing, and I say: Wow. Apple has been around for 30+ years; haven’t we earned the credibility and trust from the press to give us the benefit of the doubt? I think we have that trust from our users, but I didn’t see it from the press”
These words are showing us a different public side of the man who leads what is arguably the most successful and innovative consumer tech company in the world. Apple isn’t used to having to defend itself and Jobs’ remarks about being American rather than Korean had a disturbingly xenophobic ring to them – at least to my Canadian ears.
So readers, now that you know when the iPhone 4 will be available here, and you know how Apple has responded to the question of reception problems, are you more or less likely to buy one than you were before today?
Update 3:58 p.m.: Reactions are beginning to trickle in around the web to Apple’s annoucement and, predictably, there are as many people defending Apple as there are those who find Jobs’ explanations lacking.
Let’s put this to a poll and find out what Sync readers are thinking:
Remember that problem with the iPhone 4’s antenna that surfaced not long after the device landed in consumers’ hands?
It seems that despite Apple’s acknowledgement of the problem and later promises to issue a software update, Consumer Reports has decided it represents a serious flaw in the device’s design. So much so that they have added Apple’s latest smartphone to its “not recommended” list.
According to CR’s blog, the design of the antenna is such that:
“[if you cover a portion of it with your hand] the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you’re in an area with a weak signal.”
This report doesn’t bring any new facts to the table, but it is one of the first third-party tests to establish beyond any doubt what many users of the phone have been saying for weeks. Apple’s previous model, the iPhone 3GS, remains by contrast one of Consumer Reports’ recommended phones.
Beyond the actual antenna problem, CR also takes Apple to task over its explanation of the issue as an “optical illusion”:
“Our findings call into question the recent claim by Apple that the iPhone 4’s signal-strength issues were largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software that “mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength.””
The big questions raised by today’s announcement are: Will this influence people’s decision to buy the iPhone 4 – especially since the device has yet to debut in the Canadian market? and… Will having such a bold condemnation of their device by a respected publication like CR cause Apple to consider a recall and subsequent redesign of their antenna?
Update July 13, 3:16 p.m. EST:
While there is still no official response to Consumer Reports’ review of the iPhone 4, Apple’s forum moderators seem intent on keeping any references to the post from gracing their discussion boards. Huffington Post quotes reports from TUAW that indicate Apple is going to significant (though apparently not uncharacteristic) lengths to hide the links.
Readers, where do you stand?
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.