Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Apple Unveils iPhone 4

The significance of the iPhone’s grip on the mobile gaming market is not to be taken lightly, with the system adopting the kind of multimedia space first eyed up by Sony and the release of the PSP. Since its launch people have gone crazy over Apple’s sleek, and incredibly stylish entry into handheld telecommunications, whilst developers have salivated over its mass market gaming appeal and the financial goldmine it potentially brings to those clever enough to exploit it.

All of the above makes Apple’s official unveiling of the brand new iPhone far too important for us at IQGamer to ignore. The new unit (dubbed the iPhone 4) - showcased along with the new iPhone OS4 - is almost as powerful as the recently released iPad, but at under half of the size and with improved motion sensing capabilities integral to getting a decent gaming experience, along with a higher resolution screen, HD video recording capabilities, and a new multi-tasking operating system.

The iPhone 4 comes in at just 9.3mm thick, some 24% thinner than the iPhone 3GS - what Apple is calling the ‘thinnest smartphone on the planet’, and for the first time will be available in either black or white. The design is remarkably close to the prototype photos that were leaked over the Internet by tech site Gizmodo, with a glass finish on the front and the back, and silver metallic strip going down the sides separated only by two horizontal black lines.

As per usual the unit looks very stylish, but then again it IS an Apple product so that’s only to be expected.

In terms of features, the iPhone 4 has two cameras, one at the front and a more powerful 5-megapixel one round the back complete with digital zoom function and LED flash. It is also capable of recording high-definition video in 720p and at 30fps - exceptional for such a small device. Two microphones are also present along with an increasingly more common noise reduction button.

The impressive 3.5” screen has a wider viewing angle than before, and has seen a resolution boost over previous models as well, packing a total of 326 pixels per inch, across a 960x640 resolution screen. This is around four times as many pixels as the 3GS, which should allow for greater clarity and detail whilst watching movie clips and more importantly, playing games. Furthermore an 800-to-1 contrast ratio was also confirmed, so expect deeper black levels and better upper end luminance making for a brighter, more eye-popping screen.

Moving on, the same A4 processor that powered the iPad now powers the new iPhone 4, thus providing a noticeable jump in graphics quality should developers decide to take advantage of that fact, and of course if Apple’s restrictive software API doesn’t still get in the way.

This A4 processor basically contains the system’s CPU, GPU and video decoder all on one chip, delivering solid 3D performance whilst being incredibly energy efficient. Apple has stated that through the inclusion of the A4 over previous chips, that battery life has seen significant improvements with the no less than 7 hours of talk time, 10 hours of Wi-Fi web browsing, 10 hours of video playback, 40 hours of music, and 300 hours of doing absolutely nothing on standby. That’s pretty impressive, considering Apple’s incredibly poor track record when it comes to battery life on older iPods.

Included inside the A4 processor is one Cortex-A8 CPU core, an Imagination Technologies Power VR SGX535 GPU, and one VXD375 video decoder. All of which provides significant extra grunt over the existing 3GS model making the iPhone 4 a true successor, rather than an incremental upgrade like the 3GS was to the 3G.

Backing up that horsepower is some much-needed, enhanced motion sensing capabilities designed to be more responsive and better suited for gaming as a whole. The gyroscope inside features 6-axis motion sensing capability - reportedly ‘perfect’ for games according to Steve Jobs at the event - and can handle things like full pitch and roll, sensing in a 3D space, not do dissimilar from Sony’s PS3 controllers. Apple demonstrated the improved capabilities of the device using party game Jenga, in which tilting the iPhone forward and backwards, and side to side manipulated movements onscreen with minimal lag and much greater accuracy than before.

Other than the aesthetics and hardware tweaks the most significant upgrade comes with a change of software. The iPhone 4 is the first to use the un-imaginatively titled iOS 4 (previously known as the iPhone OS 4), which brings the hotly rumoured multi-tasking feature to users for the first time outside having to jailbreak their iPhones. Finally you can run multiple apps at the same time without having to close one down to use another while only having to reopen it again later. All you need to do is push down on the Home button and the task-managing interface will pop up allowing you to access applications that are still running in the background.

Unfortunately there was no sign of any flash compatible web browsing software, with users having to make do with the integrated YouTube app for Internet video only. Maybe at some point Mr Jobs will finally lift his ‘no flash’ policy much in the way he did with iTunes DRM restrictions after numerous complaints.

However, Jobs did say that the new iOS 4 would be available for free to older iPhone and iPod Touch users starting 21st June, except those with first-gen iPhones.

Price wise the 16GB version will retail for $199, and the 32GB for $299, both on contract only. No word was given out in how much these would be available for on ‘pay as you go’ or when this was likely to happen, although previous models went on sale via ‘contract only’ for a few months before other alternatives became available.

No pricing information was given for the UK, but we do know that the iPhone 4 will be hitting stores on 24th June, with preorders starting on 15th June onwards. As usual you can expect preorders to sell out within a couple of hours, along with another battle for any free stock to take place on launch day.

So that’s the iPhone 4 in a nutshell. Interestingly, we see the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad all eating further into the handheld gaming space. As the both the technology and functionality improves so to will the software. That could in turn leaded to bigger and more ambitious titles being produced, whilst also feeding the casual market with smaller, but more polished experiences, experiences that many people already associated with Apple’s entry into the gaming space, and one that Sony and Nintendo will both have to look out for.

We don’t expect to be getting a hold of the iPhone 4 upon release, or even to have available access to one, but we’re sure to encounter Apple’s latest world dominating handheld at some point, and when we do, we will no doubt endeavour to report our findings.

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