The Apple iPhone 4 Camera & Display Technologies

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.

Primary Camera
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.)

Front-Facing Camera
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.

11 thoughts on “The Apple iPhone 4 Camera & Display Technologies”

  1. I should mention that the primary camera also features a LED flash. But I try to shoot as few pics as practically possible with a flash. I’d say less than 5% of my photos were snapped with one.

    As far as me, I’m not sure what my upgrade plans are. So many variables to weigh… including no AT&T reception from the office. And I wish there was a dedicated camera button. Hm.

  2. Re: LED Flash….that and the fact that every time I’ve tried to use one people get pissed off at me for blinding them… :-)

  3. I’m pretty sure I want this really badly.

    I have the regular 3G and it’s showing it’s age with all of the stuff I try to throw at it. The iPhone 4’s screen and processor alone are enough for me to want it. Now when our contracts are up, we’ll have to see if work will allow us to get these.

  4. The iphone 4 pretty much sealed the deal for me. Not on the iPhone 4, but on the iPad. I will not be purchasing the iPad until it has both cameras and the retinal display.

    I agree, Flip, and the whole industry of cheap cameras / video cameras is on life support. Lastly, it remains to be seen how FaceTime will evolve but it certainly must be troubling for Skype.

  5. Underwhelmed myself. Was kind of hoping for *something* we didn’t know about already. Even the rumored free MobileMe might have done it. Or Wifi syncing. Or tethering for the iPad. Or something.

    Still… does look very nice. Personally I wish the display were bigger, more on par with the Evo 4G. But we’ll see whether the new resolution really helps readability as much as Jobs claims. I’ll remain skeptical for the moment.

    Camera quality? I’ll wait for reviews. Jobs is right that megapixels don’t matter, but I’m not going to take his word about the low light performance or anything either. Lots of reviews suggesting various Android 8 MP cameras produce worse pictures than Android 5 MP cameras tells you its all quite complex. When do the press get these? When will Walt and Pogue post their reviews? Odd that hasn’t happened already.

    New antenna? Will it really improve call quality, and cut my dropped calls on AT&T or won’t it. No idea. I’ll wait for reviews.

  6. Yeah, on the software side there’s still work to be done. I should NEVER have to plug an iPhone into a computer… WiFi sync or cloud syncing with a free MobileMe are needed.

    On the hardware side, I’m fine with the screen size. The iPhone is already a tad bit too large for my tastes. A 4.3″ screen would be too much for me. The 3GS 3mp camera beats most 5mp phones camera in most categories in my experience. Which is why I assume whatever they produce next will be near the top of the pack.

    I imagine review hardware is going out now or shortly and press will have embargo dates around either the pre-order day or the launch day. Probably safe to say also say it’ll be on Walt Mossberg’s schedule. Although I don’t particularly get that strategy.

  7. It was a surprise to me at that time: “before the misplaced iPhone saga began”

    I’ve also limited my reporting of the ‘found’ phone given the circumstances. I’m not sure how I feel about it all and I’ve been cautious as Fast Company inadvertently implied I had inside info on the sale of the phone. Which I don’t. (Their post may have been tweaked after I said something on Twitter. I don’t recall.)

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