Ten Things You Didn’t Know About iPhone 4
The iPhone 4 announcement is only hours old, but after a hands-on and poring through tons of Apple documents on the new device, we’ve found a bunch of new details that you probably didn’t already know from the unveiling. Without further delay, here’s the list—and there will be plenty more to add in the near future. Thanks to Charles Starrett for his assistance in compiling this list.
1. 802.11n, Limited. While iPhone 4 does include support for 802.11n Wi-Fi, it is limited to 2.4 GHz only, meaning that users of Apple’s own dual-band Wi-Fi hardware may be out of luck in taking advantage of the AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, or Time Capsule 5GHz 802.11n functionality.
2. Faster Uploads + HSUPA. iPhone 4 adds support for HSUPA cellular connectivity, also known as High-Speed Uplink Packet Access, which increases maximum upload speeds to 5.76 Mbits/second, a theoretically major improvement over current speeds seen on iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS models. Unfortunately, upload speeds on iPhone 3GS devices are much lower than this—U.S. users see 0.2 to 0.3 Mbit/second rates, generally—and since the HSUPA feature is not yet supported by most cellular carriers, users won’t be able to take advantage of the new technology. This slow speed makes multi-picture and video sharing very sluggish whenever you’re not near a Wi-Fi network.
3. Fingerprints and Oleophobic Coatings. The addition of glass to the back of the iPhone 4 raises new concerns over durability and scratchability. Apple has sought to relieve those concerns by noting that the glass has been specially designed to resist damage, and notably says that both the front and back glass surfaces of the device feature an oleophobic coating. This coating will make fingerprints and smudges easier to remove from the iPhone 4 than on the iPhone and iPhone 3G, just like the screens of the iPhone 3GS and iPad, however, it’s worth mentioning that the devices still attract those markings en masse: Apple had personnel at each hands-on demo station using cleaning cloths to wipe each iPhone down immediately after it was set back down, in preparation for the next person’s use and photography. It’s unknown whether the oleophobic coating will have the same tendency to display fine scratches as before.
4. 720p Video.As with the iPad, the iPhone 4 now offers support for 720p H.264 videos and motion JPEG video playback—a big jump over the 640x480-capped iPhone 3GS—though MPEG-4 video is still limited to 640x480. Consequently, videos from the iTunes Store designated as “HD” will play on the iPhone 4, as will unconverted .AVI-format M-JPEG HD videos made on certain cameras, including some recent Nikons, but 1280x720 MPEG-4 videos recorded by other video cameras will not work on the iPhone 4 without transcoding.
5. Video-Out. Apple has indicated that the iPhone 4 will be compatible with the iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter, which may see the “iPad” reference dropped from its name. This adapter is currently the highest-resolution video output solution available for Apple’s iDevices, but does not provide audio output, and is capped at 1024x768 resolution—modestly below the 1280x720 capabilities of the iPhone 4.
6. The Second Video Camera’s Resolution + Accessibility. The front-facing camera is now confirmed to be VGA (640x480) resolution, fully sufficient for video calling purposes. It can also be accessed from within the Camera app by tapping a “flip-around” button in the upper right-hand corner, so that you can take pictures of yourself without turning the iPhone.
7. Those Little Dots. The white version of the iPhone 4 has a white faceplate. While it’s not entirely obvious from Apple’s photography, the white version has what appears to be an unusual row of mesh-like openings directly above the handset speaker. They’re not actually openings, but provide the proximity and ambient light sensors with the ability to see through the glass.
8. Keyboards. Though this feature is really an addition to iOS 4 rather than the iPhone 4 itself, the new device supports Bluetooth keyboards, just like the iPad. This means that users frustrated by the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard will have additional typing options.
9. Making Video Calls. Apple’s video calling feature works in two ways. First, there’s a FaceTime button prominently displayed on iPhone 4’s in-call menu when Wi-Fi is available, replacing the “Hold” button previously found on that screen. Second, you can make a FaceTime call without placing a traditional call first. Use Contacts, find the person you’d like to chat with, and tap the FaceTime button from within their contact listing.
10. Accessibility. Some new Accessibility features previously undiscussed by Apple have made their way into iPhone 4, and possibly into other iOS devices. One we’d heard about before was Large Font, which lets users increase the font size of text elements within Mail, Contacts, Notes, and Messages. New is Touch Typing, which has been added as a tool to help visually impaired users type on the keyboard, letting the user run a finger across the keyboard to hear each letter spoken aloud, then lift the finger to select the letter. VoiceOver has added a new virtual controller called the Rotor, which senses the use of a two-finger spinning gesture that simulates the turning of a dial, changing the language VoiceOver speaks, or the way it moves through web pages. Depending on the setting, you can move through the page by flicking to skip from header to header, link to link, or image to image, and “add settings to the web rotor such as lists, tables, text fields, and buttons,” notes Apple.
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