Multi-tasking? Check. Hi-res display? Check. Zoom and flash? Check. Video calling? Check (sort of).
On Monday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the wrapper off the latest iPhone model at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, but the new design and features were more or less what everyone had expected, thanks in part to the prototype that fell into the hands of tech blog Gizmodo earlier this year.
It will be interesting to see how analysts and (more importantly) consumers react to the new device, particularly as HTC's Google Android-based phones continue to turn up the heat in the smartphone market.
Despite the fact that Jobs' keynote was a bit anticlimactic, the new device is impressive. The 3.5 inch screen uses what Apple is calling "Retina display," which allows the iPhone to pack in 326 pixels per square inch -- according to Jobs, the human eye can't differentiate individual pixels above 300. Job says that the new screen has 78 percent of the pixels of the much larger iPad. And like that tablet, the new iPhone promises to be much easier to view in bright sunlight than past models.
The operating system has been rebranded iOS, rather than iPhone OS, allowing Apple to group its mobile devices under a single platform -- like, say, Android. It also lets the company boast that it will ship its 100 millionth "iOS device" by July. And much to business users' delight, the operating system will at long last support multitasking, and will also provide a single-view e-mail inbox, app folder management and improved enterprise support, including data protection, device management and multiple Exchange accounts.
The camera is also a vast improvement. Not only is it 5 megapixels, but it has an LED flash and 5x zoom, and it also records HD video (and for $4.99 you can buy iMovie in the app store and edit directly on your phone). The battery life has also been bolstered -- providing 7 hours of talk time on 3G -- and it runs on the A4 processor that Apple uses in its iPad. Upping the ante on the gaming front, the company added a gyroscope, which gives the iPhone six-axis support.
Apple is also calling the new iPhone the thinnest smartphone ever, at 9.3 millimeters. Its flat front and back are made of a glass that Apple says is "30 times harder than plastic" and the surfaces are covered in an oil-resistant coating.
It's a fine piece of hardware, but the "one more thing" addition at the end of Jobs' keynote may not generate as much enthusiasm. The iPhone 4 supports video calling, which Apple is dubbing FaceTime, but only from two iOS devices and only on Wi-Fi. The carriers -- AT&T, anyone? -- need time to catch up with the functionality, says Jobs. He also failed to mention that the technology isn't exactly unheard of in the mobile world. Of course, it wasn't called FaceTime before.
In the face of studies suggesting that Android has been threatening to move past Apple in the smartphone race, Jobs pointed to some different numbers. The iPhone has 28 percent of the consumer smartphone market, he said, citing Nielson, compared to 9 percent for Google. He also claimed that 58 percent of U.S. mobile browsing is done on iPhones (sorry about that, AT&T).
But those numbers are unlikely to stay put. Sprint announced on Monday that the HTC EVO -- the first U.S. phone to support 4G -- broke the company's previous one-day sales records when it became available Friday. While Sprint didn't offer concrete numbers, it did say that it moved more EVOs than the previous record-holders -- the Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre -- sold over their first three days of availability combined. Another HTC Google phone, the Droid Incredible, has been a huge seller for Verizon, and was at least partially responsible for the failure of the Google Nexus One.
And yet another Android smartphone -- the XT720 from Motorola - was unveiled on Monday. Motorola is claiming that this one, at 10.9 millimeters thick, is the thinnest Android to sport an 8 megapixel camera and the first to include a Xenon flash.In other words, innovation is hardly slowing down. And while the new iPhone, which goes on sale June 24 for $199 (16 GB) and $299 (32 GB), has some nifty features, it's hard to say that there's anything there that will put an end to the march of the Android army.