Yesterday, Steve Jobs introduced the 2010 version of the iPhone, which Apple is calling the iPhone 4. It has a number of new features, many of which will appeal to lawyers. The new model is available starting Thursday, June 24 and can be pre-ordered starting Tuesday, June 15. The pricing is the same as what the iPhone 3GS has cost for the last year: $199 for the 16GB version and $299 for the 32GB version (assuming that you are eligible for an upgrade from AT&T). (You can also get last year's model, an 8GB iPhone 3GS, for only $99. Don't do so; you'll regret it later.)
Other sites have done a great job running down all of the new features, so you may first want to read the reports at sites like Macworld or Engadget, or you can now watch the entire Steve Jobs Keynote Address on Apple's website [UPDATE: Late on June 8, Joshua Topolsky of Engadget published this excellent overview of the iPhone 4.] My focus here is on what I expect lawyers to love the most.
Previous iPhones had an impressive 480 x 320 screen. Doubling both dimensions to provide four times the pixels, the iPhone 4 has a 960 x 640 screen. That's a lot of pixels, but what will make the iPhone 4 really compelling for lawyers and others who read lots of e-mails or documents on the iPhone is that because the screen dimensions are not changing, that means that Apple is packing in 326 pixels per inch. That is astounding. There are a lot of printers that print at 300 dpi (dots per inch) and Steve Jobs said that at around 300 pixels per inch, held a reasonable distance from your face, the human eye cannot differentiate between the pixels. Thus, text looks like it is in a printed book. That is how they came up with the name "Retina display." MobileCrunch has a screen shot that can help you to get an idea of what the new display looks like.
The reviews of this new Retina display have been uniformly glowing. Joshua Topolsky of Engadget — who is no Apple fanboy and therefore provides balanced, if sometimes a little negative, review of Apple products — said: "The screen is truly outrageous — you basically cannot see pixels on it. We're not being hyperbolic when we say it's easily the best looking mobile phone screen we've ever laid eyes on." Harry McCracken of Technologizer said: "In the demo area I visited after the keynote, it was a knockout — the text was some of the crispest I’ve ever seen on any device that wasn’t made out of ink and paper." Jeremy Horwitz of iLounge (an attorney who used to practice IP law) says: "The improved screen resolution and colors are stunningly beautiful and need to be physically seen to be fully appreciated; while impressive, even the comparisons shown during the Keynote didn’t fully do justice to how much crisper and richer the iPhone 4 screen is over the prior models."
John Gruber mentions another advantage of the new display: the LCD and the glass touchscreen no longer have a tiny gap between them and are fused together. Gruber explains: "The effect is that the pixels appear to be painted on the surface of the phone; instead of looking at pixels under glass, it like looking at pixels on glass. Combined with the incredibly high pixel density, the overall effect is like 'live print'."
Electronista adds that the new display "should be more scratch-resistant and as much as 20 times stiffer, and 30 times harder, than plastic."
I cannot wait to use this new screen during my daily iPhone reading.
More battery life
I usually carry an external battery with me when I will be using my iPhone away from a dock for a long period of time, but every iPhone owner has had some experience in which their iPhone starts to run out of battery power near the end of the day. With the iPhone 4, this should happen less often.
Apple said that last year's model, the iPhone 3GS, had battery life of up to five hours of talk time on 3G, five hours of Internet use (nine on Wi-Fi) and 30 hours of audio playback. With thew new iPhone 4, Apple claims to boost these numbers to seven hours of talk time on 3G, six hours of Internet use (10 on Wi-Fi) and 40 hours of audio playback. (Video playback of 10 hours remains the same, as does the 300 hours of standby time.) Your actual usage may vary, of course, but it appears that we should get an extra hour or so (maybe more) with the iPhone 4, which can make a big difference.
Thinner and feels great
The iPhone 4 weighs about the same as the prior iPhones, but is thinner: .37 inches versus .48 inches. Apple does the math and says that this means that the new iPhone is 24% thinner than the iPhone. How does this feel qualitatively? Topolsky of Engadget simply said: "it's shockingly thin." This should make the new iPhone feel better in your hand and in your pocket.
The iPhone 4 has a more squared-off look. Devin Colewey of MobileCrunch reports that "the new flat back and squared-off edges will either delight or bother you. I’m guessing delight."
Also, I like the feel of the glass on the front of my iPhone 3GS, and I look forward to having glass on the back of the device as well.
One thing that is unclear to me is how much the iPhone 4 is faster that previous models. The iPhone uses the new Apple A4 Processor, the same processor used in the iPad and most report that the iPad feels faster than an iPhone. However, instead of advertising that this brings the iPhone more speed, Apple instead emphasizes that the new chip can do more, saying on its website: "Apple engineers designed the A4 chip to be a remarkably powerful yet remarkably power-efficient mobile processor. With it, iPhone 4 can easily perform complex jobs such as multitasking, editing video, and placing FaceTime calls. All while maximizing battery life." And as noted above, the iPhone 4 gets better battery life. So maybe Apple decided not to emphasize speed for speed's sake and instead decided to do more at the same speed with longer battery life. Having said that, Jacqui Cheng of Ars Technica got to play with the unit after the keynote yesterday and wrote: "As for speed, the iPhone 4 is fast. It's hard to perceive the differences between an iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS, but it's definitely on the speedy side, on par with the iPad. We'll do more speed testing when we get our hands on one for review, but for now, we're optimistic. Typing was very fast for me, whereas typing on the original iPhone usually results in me getting several words ahead of the phone itself." Similarly, Topolsky of Engadget said: "The general speed of the whole OS is way snappier. The camera app in particular is noticeably faster -- shots get snapped in an instant."
On the other hand, Harry McCracken said: "For what it’s worth, in the few minutes I played with an iPhone 4 after the keynote, it felt speedy. But it didn’t feel any speedier than the 3GS, whose performance advantage over the 3G was instantly obvious."
I suspect that on some tasks the iPhone 4 will be faster, and on others it won't. Nevertheless, there is certainly no downside to having a sophisticated Apple A4 Processor in this device.
This one is just a guess on my part. Apple says that the stainless steel band around the iPhone 4 functions as an antenna. What Apple hasn't yet said is whether this is an improved antenna for 3G. Presumably, though, Apple wouldn't have added the hardware if it didn't think it was an improvement. Similarly, will the glass back on the iPhone 4 improve 3G reception? We'll see.
Apple does brag that the new iPhone 4 includes quad-band HSPDPA/HSUPA networking with a maximum of 7.2Mbps down and 5.8 Mbps up. Jobs admitted yesterday that these increased speeds are just theoretical because AT&T doesn't support them yet, but as I've discussed before, AT&T announced plans to improve its 3G later this year, so the iPhone 4 will be ready when AT&T is.
I've already talked about why lawyers will love iPhone Software 4, which Apple is now calling iOS 4. For current iPhones, iOS 4 will be available on June 21, but I'm sure that the new operating system will work best on the newest device.
It seemed that Steve Jobs was most excited about the ability to video chat between iPhone 4 devices, a technology called FaceTime. FaceTime is an open standard, so other developers could add this technology to computers, other phones, etc. I rarely use video chat in the office, but I do use it a lot at home to talk to relatives across the country. It would be neat to be able to video chat with and see my kids when I am traveling just using my phone. For some people, this will be the #1 reason to get an iPhone 4. For me, I suspect that it will just make it more fun.
I also look forward to the improved camera. iPhone 4 takes five megapixel pictures (up from three on the iPhone 3GS) and takes HD 720p video at 30 fps. It also has an LED flash, a slightly wider angle, and an improved ability to take pictures in low light. Developers who make document scanning software for the iPhone must be thrilled, and I'll admit that I have used my iPhone to snap a picture of a document on more than one occasion. But this will largely be a fun feature for me; I'm most likely to love this better camera when I am taking pictures or video of my kids at the park, zoo, etc.
In addition to the accelerometer, the iPhone 4 adds a gyroscope. This should allow even more sophisticated virtual features in apps, letting the apps know where you are in time and space. I expect both improved games and improved mapping / augmented reality software.
If you are a lawyer, it doesn't matter whether you currently have a 3GS or a 3G or if you are new to the iPhone — I suspect that you will really like the iPhone 4. I plan to get one as soon as I can, and of course I will post my thoughts here once I do so. Nevertheless, don't wait up for me; it seems obvious that this is a fantastic new iPhone. If you own an iPhone now and are not currently eligible for a subsidized upgrade, the decision becomes harder because it appears that AT&T will charge you $599 or $699 for the new iPhone (depending upon model), but for everyone else, this looks like a worthwhile new iPhone that you are going to want to buy.