Apple launches iPhone 4 and iOS4 at WWDC

As the lights dimmed at this year's Apple Developer Conference, an unseen announcer asked the audience to turn off all mobile phones and PDAs.

Surely it would have been simpler to ask them to turn off iPhones and iPads, as the gathering is a uniquely Apple affair.

Being made up entirely of Apple developers and the company's friendly (and exclusively invited) press pack, the chances of anyone turning up with a non-fruity gadget are pretty slim. They would probably be lynched.

With over 52,000 attendees, WWDC 2010 is the biggest ever, with tickets selling out to the Mac Faithful in eight just days.

And as Steve Jobs, Apple's charismatic leader strode onto the stage, wearing his traditional Levis and black turtleneck, the crowd could barely contain itself.

True to form, Jobs spent the first part of the keynote blowing the iPad trumpet with lots of facts and figures about the trail-blazing tablet device. The most interesting of which being that at least one iPad owner had managed to talk to a real girl because he was carrying the device.

iBooks
Jobs announced that the iPad's book-reading application had been incredibly successful, selling five million titles in the first 65 days. He then went on to announce that iBooks will be upgraded to be able to read PDF files, which went down rather well.

App Store
Jobs next moved onto the App store which he said now receives 15,000 submissions every week, 95 per cent of which are approved within a week. The other five per cent are rejected either because they don't do what the developer says they should, or because they use private APIs, or simply because they crash.

Farmville for iPhone
Facebook gaming outfit Zynga announced that Farmville, probably the biggest casual online game ever, is coming to the iPhone. And not a line of Flash code in sight. The game already has 70 million active users who will now be able to play wherever they are, not just at work during office hours.

Guitar Hero
Activision's Karthik Bale announced that a new version of the pluck-'em-up would get a new strumming mechanism which would make the experience more like playing a real guitar. We remain to be convinced, as most of the THINQ staff have been known to spank the plank on occasion.

With some of the fun stuff out of the way, Jobs decided to get back to the business of business and, as most of the gathered crowd were there to learn about developing Apps for iDevices, it was time for more numbers. Very big numbers.

Jobs announced that that the iTunes App Store had served more than five billion downloads, and that developers had been paid more than $1 billion in a split revenue deal which saw Apple creaming 30 per cent off of the top.

It's at this point, with the crowd whipped into a virtual frenzy, that Steve drops the big one.

iPhone 4
Well, it looks like the waiting is over. Proving he has a sense of humour after all, Jobs begins his new iPhone pitch with, "Now stop me if you've seen this already," to gales of knowing laughter.

If you don't know what the new iPhone looks like, you've obviously been spending all of your time in the wrong German beer bar, but Steve gave us the skinny... literally.

"This is one of the most beautiful designs you’ve ever seen," he said. "This is beyond a doubt one of the most precise and beautiful things we’ve ever made. Glass and steel… its closest kin is like an old Leica camera. And it’s really thin."

At 9.3mm thick, it's 24 per cent thinner than the 3Gs and, according to Jobs, "the thinnest smartphone on the planet."

The new iteration has a front-facing camera including an LED flash and a second mic for noise cancellation. As it turns out, the gaps in the side trim of the iPhone 4 - which some commented looked like very un-Apple-like engineering gaffes - are actually part of the design. The steel rim of the device is split into three sections and two of the three individual sections are actually antennas for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS on one side, and cellular connections on the other. Very clever.

It also turns our that the back of the iPhone 4 is made of glass, which looks very nice, but is just one more delicate thing to break for us clumsy oafs.

Steve then went on to introduce an entirely new screen technology, called Retina Display, which wil be seen first on the iPhone 4.

According to Apple, the new display increases the pixel density by four times to 326 pixels per inch, the highest ever on a phone. Apparently the human eye can only differentiate 300 pixels per inch, so this is as good as it's ever going to get. To put into context, the new display has 78 per cent of the pixels on the much larger iPad.

Steve also revealed that, following expectations, the new iPhone will be powered by Apple's home-grown A4 silicon, and will use the new Micro SIM, all of which means there's room for a bigger battery inside the slim case.

Because of the bigger battery, and the A4 chips power efficiency, Apple reckons the new iPhone will manage seven hours of 3G talk time, six hours of 3G web browsing, ten hours of Wi-Fi browsing, ten hours of video playback, 40 hours of music playback and 300 hours of standby. About time too.

Apple also announced that it would be adding a three-axis gyroscope to the iPhone G4 which should make for some interesting games.

New cameras
"Everybody loves to talk about the things that are tangible when it comes to photography, like megapixels," said Jobs standing in front of a huge picture of a mountain scene. "But we tend to ask the question: how do we make better pictures?

"Megapixels are nice, but what cellphone cameras are really about is capturing photos and low-light photography. So we’ve gone from a three to a five megapixel camera with a backside illuminated sensor."

It soon becomes apparent that Jobs' mountain scene was taken using the new camera, which is almost as impressive as the fact that it also records 720p HD video at 30 fps. Rather than cramming more pixels onto the sensor, Apple has gone down the route of making the pixels smaller, 1.75 micrometers, in fact. Add to that the LED flash which will also remain constantly lit for video, tap to focus and a 5X digital zoom, and it looks like the iPhone is finally catching up with the rest of the camera phone crowd.

But what do you do with all of that HD video? Why not edit it on the phone? Next up is iMovie for iPhone. The software allows users to edit video with fancy transitions and titles, add music from iTunes. It's all very impressive and way ahead of anything currently available on any smartphone platform.

iPhone OS renamed iOS4
Despite some technical problems with the 570 Wi-Fi base stations installed in the room, Jobs went on to demonstrate the new mobile operating system, now simply named iOS4.

It now has over 1,500 developer APIs and 150 new features, including the much requested multi-tasking, folders, Retina Display integration, unified mail inbox and threading, enhanced camera Apps and better enterprise support.

Rather than Microsoft's Bing search engine becoming the default as was predicted, it will become a user option with Google remaining on top of the iDevice search stack.

iBook for iPhone
It's already a runaway success on the iPad, but Apple's book reader is now coming to the iPhone.

"The same controls, the same highlighting, the same bookmarking, the same PDF reading," said Jobs. "If you get a PDF in Mail, tap on that and you’ll go right to iBooks. And, of course, the iBook Store right on your iPhone. We’ll have it on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.

"You only have to buy it once. And, iBooks will automatically and wirelessly - and for no charge - sync your place, notes, and bookmarks across all your devices."

iAds
"Why are we doing iAds?" asked Jobs. "For one simple reason: to help our devs earn money so they can continue to create free and low-cost apps for users. Apple hosts and sells the ads, so all you have to do is tell us where you want them and make the money."

And there's a lot of money out there to be had, according to Jobs. Already advertisers have committed $60 million to the platform and that's after just eight weeks. "We think it’s going to be 48 per cent of the entire US mobile display ad market. We think we’re off to a pretty great start!”

One more thing...
At this point in the keynote Jobs was practically begging people to turn off their Wi-Fi connections in order to show a live FaceTime video call demo with Apple designer Jony Ive. The App will need two iPhone 4s and a hefty Wi-Fi connection (at the moment) but it's impressive all the same.

There are lots of emotive images of babies and sign language and absent fathers cooing over children... and barely a dry seat in the house until Steve says, "This is one of those moments that reminds us why we do what we do."

iPhone 4 pricing and availability
The handset will come in black or white liveries and will cost $199 for 16GB and $299 for 32GB on a 24 month contract from June 24th.

Current owners will get a six-month early upgrade option at the same price on AT&T in the States so you can expect a similar deal from O2 in the UK.

Pre-orders will start for USA, UK, France Germany and Spain tomorrow, and by September the handset will be available in 88 countries.

Upgrades to iOS4 will be free across the board (including iPod Touch for the first time) from June 21st, but obviously all feature will not be supported on older hardware.

And Finally...
So there's a lot of new stuff coming for the iDevice family. No real surprises but we reckon the iPhone 4, with it's better cameras, new processor and better battery life will sell like hotcakes.

Love 'em or hate 'em, the folks at Apple listen to their customers and their critics. There's no such thing as a perfect device, but Apple gets closer than most.

We'll leave the final word to Mr Jobs: "This is our new baby, I hope you love it as much as we do!"