I’m sure no one was surprised today when Steve Jobs officially introduced the next iPhone. Even before the misplaced iPhone saga began, I’d assumed we’d see a megapixel bump and high definition video out of this next gen handset. And Apple delivered. But what I didn’t anticipate was a front-facing camera and such a massive increase in display pixel density that also arrived in the iPhone 4.
The primary camera on the rear of the new iPhone has evolved from the 3 megapixels found on the prior generation 3GS to 5mp. Which is pretty much par for the course — something I sported on the Nokia N95 like three years ago. However, there’s much more to good photos than the pixel count. And Apple’s 3GS camera has served me well for spontaneous photography, including surprisingly sharp macro shots. So I expect more good things from this larger and new “backside illuminated” sensor. …Including 720p video recording capabilities. (RIP Flip.)
The iPhone 4 also ships with a front-facing VGA (640×480) camera to be used for self portraits and video chat. “FaceTime” is the accompanying new functionality and set of conferencing protocols to power the camera, allowing folks to chat over WiFi for free with other iPhone 4 owners. Longer term, Apple hopes to share this as a new, open standard and move towards carrier support. In the short term, it seems unlikely the front-facing camera hooks will be made available to developers (like Skype). But perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The most impressive feature of the iPhone 4 may be its new glass display. It retains the classic 3.5″ physical dimension while quadrupling the pixel count — so high that individual pixels are not discernable to the human eye. Of course, it’s up to developers to fully maximize these benefits. One of the first practical applications will be the new iPhone iBooks app. Additionally, the new screen features a 4x increase in contrast over the 3GS and IPS technology to expand viewing angles.