Apple has unveiled the latest version of its iPhone handset, with enhanced video call functions being the key new feature. Apple chief executive Steve Jobs introduced the new iPhone 4 at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on Monday. Other features of the new phone include two cameras with an inbuilt flash, updated battery, improved screen resolution and a motion-sensing gyroscope for game usage.
The phone is set to launch in the UK on 24th June. Orange, Vodafone and O2 will carry the handset in the UK, although local pricing has not yet been announced. In the US, the device’s cost will start from $199 (£138) on a two-year contract through operator AT&T. The phone’s new ‘FaceTime’ videoconferencing application was the standout enhancement on the market leading smartphone device, and may pressure wireless carriers to provide more bandwidth.
While smartphone videoconferencing has been around for a while, the set-up process has often been complicated, which has discouraged adoption. With the iPhone 4, users can start videoconferencing much as they would a regular phone call.
However, there are limitations. For now, FaceTime only works over a Wi-Fi connection and on the iPhone 4, which is powered by the Apple-designed A4 processor found in the larger iPad tablet-style computer released in April. Apple announced that it would make FaceTime available for licensing by other handset makers, but details on how that would be done were not disclosed.
Apple didn’t announce integration between FaceTime and iChat videoconferencing on the Mac, apparently focusing on using the feature to drive more sales of the handset.
In addition, by offering Wi-Fi-only videoconferencing, Apple is placing pressure on wireless carriers to work faster at increasing bandwidth to support more advanced features.
AT&T, the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the United States, plans to deploy its 4G network based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology next year.
Rival Verizon Wireless plans to launch its LTE network in 25 to 30 urban areas later this year. Apple has been rumored for some time to be talking with Verizon about letting the carrier sell the iPhone. However, no announcement has been made.
IPhone 4 hardware support for videoconferencing includes a 5-megapixel camera on the front of the device, as well as one on the back.
Also complementing the feature is a new display. Called Retina, the 3.5-inch screen is 960 x 640 pixels, or four times that of the iPhone 3GS. With a density of 326 pixels per inch, the screen makes text, images and video look much sharper and smoother than older iPhones.
During his keynote, Jobs announced that Apple’s iAd mobile advertising network for the iPhone and iPad would debut July 1 with 17 advertisers, including AT&T, Best Buy, Campbell Soup Co., Chanel, Citi, DirecTV, GEICO, GE, JCPenney, Liberty Mutual Group, Nissan, Sears, State Farm, Target, Turner Broadcasting System, Unilever and The Walt Disney Studios.
Jobs said the advertisers had committed to spend $60 million in advertising in the second half of the year, which represents half of the total U.S. mobile ad spend forecasted by JP Morgan for that time period, according to Apple. Developers who include ads in their iPhone or iPad applications keep 60% of the revenue.
The iPhone 4 is scheduled to go on sale June 24. The device is a quarter thinner than the current iPhone, has a glass front and back, and will be available in black or white.
The 16GB model will cost $199 and the 32 GB version will cost $299 with a two-year data plan.
The smartphone will launch first in the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan. Apple plans to roll out the iPhone 4 to 83 more countries by the end of September.
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