Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference kicks off today with a keynote address from Apple CEO Steve Jobs. In the past, WWDC has mostly been about the Macintosh, but this year everyone expects the conference will be all about the iPhone, iPad, mobile applications, and how Apple plans to stay ahead of increasingly capable competition.
And Jobs did not disappoint, unveiling the iPhone 4 with a 5 megapixel camera, Apple A4 processor, a stunning 326 pixels-per-inch display, a WiFi-based video calling capability, and a stainless steel case 24 percent thinner than the iPhone 3GSstorage…and it’ll be available in black or white June 24 for $199 (16 GB version) or $299 (for a 32 GB version).
Apple CEO Steve Jobs opened his WWDC keynote with a summary of the iPad’s success to date, noting that the company has sold over two million iPads since launch—roughly one every three seconds—and that the device is now shipping in ten countries. Jobs stayed on his recent message of the iPad being a “magical” device that fundamentally changes the way people use the Internet, interact with photos, manage email and communications, and much more. Jobs noted the iPad has more than 8,500 native applications available, along with over 200,000 iPhone apps that can be used on the iPad without modification. More than 35 million iPad applications have been downloaded, which equates to about 17 applications per iPad: if Jobs is trying to make the case that the iPad is a growth platform for WWDC’s developer audience, he’s succeeding.
Jobs noted that Apple’s iBookstore for the iPad has been a success, with iBookstore customers accounting for about a fifth of ebook sales from many major publishers, and announced enhancement to the iPad’s iBooks application due in about a month: iBooks users will now be able to make annotations in books and view PDF documents. The application will feature a separate bookshelf for PDF documents.
Jobs then went on to outline Apple’s wildly successful App Store. Noting that Apple is committed to HTML 5 as a fully open, uncontrolled platform where developers can make any application they like for the iPhone or iPad. However, the App Store itself is a “curated”—Jobs carefully avoided the word “closed”—platform that represents the “most vibrant” application community on the planet. Jobs says that 95 percent of all applications are approved for the App Store, but rejections fall into three main categories: they don’t function as advertised, they use private APIs, or the apps simply don’t run. Jobs failed to mention applications apparently rejected due to their content. But Jobs also put numbers on the App Store’s success, noting that 70 percent of sales revenues goes to developers, and that more than $! billion has been paid out to developers from the App Store so far.
Jobs introduced new applications coming to the iPhone, including NetFlix and Zynga’s Farmville. A Netflix application for iPhone will be available this summer, free to Netflix users. Netflix customers will be able to access movie and television contents, their complete queue, and use a search feature to add selections to their instant queues. Farmville for iPhone will enable users to tap into the same farms they’ve built up via Facebook and other social sites. In addition to standard farming features—fertilizing friends’ crops, sending gifts, etc.—the iPhone app will handle push notifications for dying crops, and enable users to virtually “farm” anywhere they might be…like in a boring demo at a developer conference. Farmville for iPhone should be available this month. Activision also demonstrated a Guitar Hero application for iPhone, available today for $2.99, that enables users to share their rockstar avatars and post updated directly to Facebook.
Jobs then introduced iPhone 4, which he claims offers over 100 new features, though he would focus on only a handful for the keynote. The iPhone 4 looks like the iPhone prototype obtained under questionable circumstances by Gizmodo: stainless steel casing, all-glass front, and a design Jobs describes as the thinnest smartphone on the planet: almost 25 percent thinner than the iPhone 3GS.. Unlike previous iPhones, the iPhone 4 will have volume controls on the side of the phone along with an accessible microSIM tray. The iPhone 4 features a front-facing camera, and the back sports a microphone, 30pin connector for docking, and a speaker, while the top sports a second microphone for noise cancellation, sleep/wake button, and a headset input.
Jobs went on to highlight the bands around the side of the iPhone 4 that caused much speculation in the wake of the leaked prototypes. Jobs identified them as part of the phone’s antenna system, saying the stainless steel band is also a primarily structural element of the device. The antenna supports all the iPhone 4’s wireless capability, from 3G to Wi-Fi to Bluetooth to GPS along with cellular communications.
iPhone 4: Retina Display
The iPhone 4 will also sport what Jobs described as a “retina display” with four times the pixel density of a typical LCD display at a whopping 326 pixels per inch—by far denser than anything else in the consumer electronics market. The result is a 3.5-inch display with a native resolution of 960 by 640 pixels that is actually a higher resolution than the typical human eye is capable of perceiving, when held at a distance of just 10 to 12 inches. Jobs claims the iPhone 4’s display winds up looking like a high quality printed book (albeit that emits light!) rather than a blocky pixellated grid. The iPhone OS automatically handles rendering text and controls at the higher resolution for the iPhone 4, so developers don’t need to do anything to update their applications to look good on the new display…but, of course, if developers want to add higher-resolution graphics to their apps, they will look stunning on the iPhone 4.
iPhone 4: A4 Chip and Gyroscope
The iPhone 4 will also feature an Apple-designed A4 CPU, following along the lines of the processor powering the iPad. Jobs said the A4 processor improved power management, so the iPhone 4 will manage 40 percent more talk time on 3G networks (up to 7 hours), or up to 6 hours of 3G Web browsing or 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing. The device can also play up to 10 hours of video, 40 hours of music, and should have an standby time of up to 300 hours. The iPhone 4 will also pack up to 32 GB of onboard flash storage, and will offer quad-band HSDPA/HSUPA for mobile broadband speeds up to 7.2Mbps downstream, 4.8Mbps upstream…assuming carrier networks support that technology. The iPhone 4 will also support 802.11n Wi-Fi, assisted GPS, Bluetooth, and packs and accelerometer, compass, proximity sensor, and an ambient light sensor,. The iPhone 4 also sports a gyroscope, which enables six-axis motion sensing…just like a game controller, and iPhone OS 4 will offer developer APIs to leverage the gyroscope: Jobs envisions the gyroscope enabling whole new types of mobile gaming.
iPhone 4: Camera & iMovie
The iPhone 4 will feature a 5 megapixel camera with a backside-illuminated sensor, which Jobs says increases the amount of light captured by the sensor, resulting in better photographs, particularly in low-light situations. The camera will also record HD video at 720p resolution and 30 frames per second, and the LED flash can be used to light video as well. Like the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4 will feature in-phone video editing and enable users to share video the the Internet (think Facebook and YouTube). However, Apple is pushing the video editing envelope with a new iMovie application for iPhone, that enables users to assemble and trim clips and record directly into an iMovie timeline. Users can also add camera photos to their movies (complete with the pan-and-scan Ken Burns effect), and iMovie for iPhone will enable users to add titles and transitions to their videos. The iPhone 4 camera embeds geolocation information in video; iMovie for iPhone can optional display display that information. Users can also add music as a soundtrack to their video, and select from a number of pre-generated themes. iMovie for iPhone will be available as a separate purchase from the App Store for $4.99.
No Longer iPhone OS 4: iOS 4
Since it won’t do to have an iPad running something called “iPhone OS,” Apple has decided to rename its mobile device operating system to simply “iOS 4,” encompassing all its mobile devices: the iPhone, the iPad, and the iPod touch. iOS 4 will have the features Apple outlined back in April, including a form of multitasking support (so applications like Pandora can stream music in the background while an iPhone user, say, surfs the Web in Safari), a unified Mail inbox that supports multiple services, home screen folders, a Game Center, and improved support for Microsoft Exchange and enterprise users. However, developers will probably be more intrigued by a boatload of new APIs and significantly deepened features. Developers at WWDC will be able to set hands on a release candidate today.
iPhone 4: Bing
Among new features in iOS 4 will be an option to use Microsoft’s Bing as a default search engine; Google will still be the iPhone’s default search, but Yahoo and Bing-powered searches will be available as options. Note that Bing will be taking over the back end for Yahoo’s search services later this year.
iBooks for iPhone
Apple also announced a version of iBooks will be available for iPhone, with feature parity to the iPad edition (complete with previously-announced PDF and annotations support). The applications will be able to synchronize across devices, so users will be able to start reading an iBook on an iPad, then pick up at the same spot on the iPhone. Users will be able to download purchased books to all their supported devices at no extra charge.
Jobs also took a moment to highlight Apple’s new in-application advertising platform iAds: according to Jobs, Apple is developing iAds as a revenue channel for developers so they can earn money from applications in ways other than direct sales to users. As outlined last April, Apple is aiming for high amounts of interactivity and engagement with iAds, building on HTML5 technologies rather than the still-industry-standard Adobe Flash. Apple will host all the advertising and handle ad sales, so all applications developers have to do is specify where in the applications the ads should be placed, then collect 60 percent of the revenue from placements in their applications. Apple has only been selling iAds for about two months—they should go live Jule 1—and so far has many major brands on board, including Disney (Jobs is Disney’s biggest single shareholder, remember), Target, Best Buy, Geico, DirecTV, and other major brands. Unlike traditional banner ads that eject users from applications out into Web browsers, iAds run without exiting a user’s application, providing an interactive experience without causing people to leave apps, or lose work or messages: the goal is an engaging experience that users know is “safe” regardless of the app they’re using.
Of course, that front-facing camera in the iPhone 4 exists for one and only one purpose: video calls. Jobs demonstrated what Apple is dubbing FaceTime video calling with the iPhone 4. The feature will initially be Wi-Fi only and operate iPhone 4 devices—no word in whether FaceTime will support, say, desktops or notebooks equipped with cameras. Users will be able to switch to the rear-mounted 5 megapixel camera on the iPhone 4 to let callers see what they’re seeing, or stick with the front-facing camera for face-to-face chat. Jobs says Apple plans to work with mobile operators to make FaceTime available over 3G data services. Apple says it plans to ship millions of FaceTime-capable devices this year—and if current iPhone sales are any indicator, they’re right—so iPhone 4 users will have plenty of people to talk to. (How far off is an app called FaceTime Roulette?)
Apple says the technology behind FaceTime will be come an industry standard, and will be supported by other devices and services.
iPhone 4 Pricing and Availability
The iPhone 4 will be available June 24 in black or white, with pricing set at $199 for a 16 GB model and $299 for a 32 GB model: those price points match the iPhone 3GS. Initial availability will be the United States, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
In the United States AT&T will enable any iPhone user whose contract expires in 2010 to upgrade to the iPhone 4 for $199 or $299 (for the 16 GB or 32 GB model) if users top off their contracts for another two years of service.
Apple plans to continue selling the iPhone 3GS, with the 8 GB model going for $99.
Pre-orders for the iPhone 4 will open on June 15.
Apple plans to begin offering the iPhone 4 in 18 more countries in July, followed by 24 additional countries in August and 40 more countries in September.
Apple will offer a selection of accessories, including a $29 dock and a “bumper” case in various colors.
iOS 4 Availability
Apple’s iOS 4 will ship standard on new iPhone 4 handsets. Apple plans to make iOS 4 available on June 21 for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, and iPod touch—although there will be some limitations and some iOS 4 features wont be supported on older handsets. (For instance, multitasking will not be supported on the original iPhone 3G. Apple’s original EDGE-only iPhone, released in 2007, won’t support iOS 4 at all.)
[This item was written in real time during the WWDC keynote; additional items will highlight significant news from WWDC.]