New iPhone spins and shoots
By Hiawatha Bray, Globe Staff June 7, 2010
The newest version of Apple Inc.'s hugely popular iPhone features a built-in videoconferencing feature - the most eye-catching of several major upgrades unveiled today, as Apple tries to stay a step ahead of rival smartphones powered by Google Inc.'s Android operating system.
Speaking at the company's annual conference for software developers in San Francisco, Apple chief executive Jobs called the new iPhone 4 "the biggest leap since the original iPhone." Set to go on sale in the US on June 24, the new iPhone will include a camera on the front of the device as well as on the back, allowing the user to capture and send self-portraits in stills or video. The phone will also include FaceTime, a free videoconference program that will work over home or office WiFi wireless networks, and eventually, over cellular data networks.
Jobs said that Apple is still working with cellular carrier AT&T Inc., the exclusive US provider of the iPhone, to allow videoconferencing over the carrier's phone network, but ABI Research senior analyst Michael Morgan doubts that AT&T's data network has the capacity to handle millions of FaceTime users. "Right now, with a 3G network, it's not going to be a very good signal," Morgan said. Cellular videoconferencing won't catch on until carriers launch faster data networks. AT&T plans to offer the next generation of network service, called 4G, in 2011.
The iPhone 4 will also feature an upgraded screen with sharper resolution; a new processor chip similar to the one in Apple's popular iPad tablet computer; and a built-in gyroscope that measures rotary motion, allowing for more sophisticated video games.
Jobs also previewed the iPhone's upgraded operating system software, called iOS 4. Users will be able to run several software applications at the same time, a feature long available on other smartphones. Buyers will also be able to purchase a new version of Apple's iMovie video editing software for $4.99 program, allowing users to shoot, edit, and send video right in the device.
Another new Apple offering, iAds, will make it easier for application developers to embed advertising in their software. Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner Inc. in San Jose, Calif., said that including ads with many iPhone apps will pay off big for Apple. "They're going to make a lot of money off of those," Dulaney said.