At Apple's Worldwide Developers' Conference in San Francisco, CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated iPhone 4, the latest version of its all-conquering handheld computer.
Almost identical in appearance to the prototype revealed by Gizmodo and Engadget weeks before launch, the new model will be available from June 24 in black or white. Pricing is unchanged at $199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB model.
New features include Apple's A4 processor, a battery with 7 hours of claimed talk time and 6 hours of 3G web browsing, dual microphones, an LED camera flash, and a front-facing camera. Most exciting to onlookers, though, was the 5 megapixel main camera and the gadget's new high-resolution display, which offers 4x the screen resolution compared to the current model. This feature, predicted by Apple pundit John Gruber early in the year, means that the screen has 326 pixels per inch, denser even than the dots per inch of some printed material.
It's also sharper than other recent smartphones and high-def laptops like Sony's Vaio P. Typographers and artists will doubtless be pleased at the possibilities.
But the show didn't go entirely as planned. In an on-stage side-by-side demo of the new model vs. the last, Jobs' iPhone 4 suffered problems with internet connectivity. With a groan, the infamous perfectionist forged on with demonstrations of offline material. Later, Apple reported that the room, packed with laptop- and cellphone-toting journalists, contained 570 wireless devices, all competing for bandwidth. Attendees were briefly asked to turn off their machines.
The fourth iPhone also has a 3-axis gyro, tracking pitch, roll and yaw: perfect for video games, according to Apple's blurb.
Jobs showed off the new machine's videophone feature, "FaceTime," by calling Jon Ive, Apple's chief designer. Readers will be unsurprised to learn that it works only if both callers have WiFi connetions.
He also also announced 100 new features in iOS4, the operating system to be used by iPhone and its sister devices, the iPod Touch and iPad. These include threaded email, folders for app junkies, and the iPhone's long-awaited implementation of multitasking. This will allow users to run more than one third-party app simultaneously, albeit with certain limitations.
Microsoft's Bing is also now a search alternative to Google.
Now claiming a 28 percent share of a smartphone market once dominated by RIM's Blackberry devices, the iPhone was launched in 2007 to the jeers of many in the industry. Three years on, almost every device maker has scrambled to copy it.
Apple's sold 2m iPads in the touchscreen tablet's first 59 days on sale, according to Jobs. Now available in 10 countries–to be 19 by the end of July–this represents much faster growth than the iPhone. 8,500 iPad-cut apps have been downloaded 35m times since the launch.
As for iBooks, the vaunted program that turns the iPad in to a rival to Amazon's Kindle, Sony's Reader and other e-ink gadgets, 5m have been sold. IBooks, Jobs said, will also now be able to view PDF files natively — as will the iPhone.
He also highlighted HTML5 as an alternative, if limited way to create apps for the iPhone OS: an important issue to many developers given the restrictions imposed on the AppStore, Apple's official outlet for software. There are now 225,000 apps in the store, with 15,000 more submitted each month for inclusion. Ninety-five percent of apps are approved within a week, and the download counter's already hit 5bn. Apple's paid $1bn to developers, who get a 70% cut of AppStore sales.
Also given was an explanation for why developers shouldn't use "private" APIs — internal software-writing hooks — in their own apps. It's to ensure quality control, Jobs said: "If we upgrade the OS, and their app breaks, they're not going to be happy campers."
New apps announced include a iMovie for iPhone, which lets operators edit clips shot with it into videos they can share online; a free-of-charge version of Netflix for iPhone, Guitar Hero; and that damned farming game from Facebook.