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Summary:

Apple’s iPhone 4 officially launches today as both pre-order customers and those hoping to walk up and grab the new device are lined up around the country. Just like the original Apple iPhone, this model is sure to influence the features on future smartphones from competitors.

Apple’s iPhone 4 officially launches today, and both pre-order customers and those hoping to walk up and grab the new device are lined up around the country — and that’s after an estimated 600,000 of the devices were pre-ordered. There’s no question the iPhone 4 is popular — and just like the original iPhone, this model is also sure to influence future handsets from competitors, in the following five ways:

  1. Front-facing camera and video calling — iPhone 4 isn’t the first handset to offer a front-facing camera that supports video calling, but FaceTime — the engine used behind the iPhone 4 video calling software — is an open standard, so apps on other platforms can integrate it. However, currently FaceTime works over Wi-Fi only — Apple is planning for 3G support later this year. By comparison, I’ve recently used Fring on a Nokia E73 Mode for video calls over 3G.
  2. Thin is in — At 9.3 millimeters or 0.34 inches, Apple claims title to the “world’s thinnest smartphone” with the iPhone 4. But the just-introduced Droid X is a svelte 0.4 inches and other new handsets without hardware keyboards aren’t that much thicker. Still, Apple is setting the trend here and is doing so with elegant engineering — by designing the device internals to minimize space. Indeed, the use of smaller microelectromechanical systems in the new iPhone 4 should trickle down to many other handsets.
  3. More pixels – Perhaps the most noticeable difference in the new iPhone 4 is the display, which packs in four times the amount of pixels than the prior model. At 960×640 resolution on the 3.5-inch display, images and text look crisper and clearer than on other mobile platforms, which generally top out at 854×480. Apple was wise to pixel double both horizontally and vertically because it provides simple application compatibility for old software. As Android — and perhaps other mobile platforms — look to future smartphones and tablets, watch for even higher resolutions supported on future devices.
  4. HD video recording – Another feature that pre-dated iPhone 4 on a select few recent handsets is 720p video recording, but with this version of the device, Apple is bringing the feature mainstream, complete with video editing. Capturing and processing that video at a full 30 frames per second just needs the right software and CPU — both of which are readily available for the smartphones of today and tomorrow.
  5. Improved interfaces — In many cases, competing smartphones often offer the same or even more functions as iPhone 4, but none match the intuitiveness of its user interface. Competitors know this and are working towards improving their product: Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 UI is vastly improved over prior versions, for example. The Android team is reportedly focused on ease of use with Gingerbread, the next version after Froyo, and Google’s hiring of Mathias Duarte, the designer of Palm’s webOS platform, should help greatly. Nokia is also making great strides with MeeGo, which will power all N-series devices following the N8 handset. And don’t count Research In Motion out, either — the new BlackBerry 6.0 looks far more finger-friendly and intuitive than the current operating system.

Of course, other devices have influenced the iPhone as well, with features like multitasking, threaded email conversations and customizable wallpaper, to name a few. But the iPhone 4 will take the smartphone category to an entirely new level.

Related content on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Three Things RIM Must Do to Remain a Player in Superphones

  1. This is crap, nokia had been making devices with a front facing camera and 720p video recording since 2008, htc just did it too, but when the iphone does it its the most original idea ever. I also dont really care how thick my phone is just as long as it fits in my pocket. This article is absolute grade a crap.

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    1. You’re right Gavin, I should have said that Nokia and others have had devices with front facing cameras. Oh wait… I did. ;)

      I’ll grant you that many things Apple does “appear” to mainstream customers as though Apple invented such features or functions. That bothers me too. However, those features often work better or are easier to use which help adoption.

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      1. Don’t let him get you down, Kevin.
        Firstly, his name is Gavin. A bad name like that means he must be a Brit. So he’s still angry over the ass kicking we Yanks gave his countrygirls in soccer and is angrier still that once again they’ll need our help against the Germans.

        Secondly, there’s a reason Nokia is dying — even in their homeland of Finland. Cause just because they say they have a feature doesn’t mean it actually, you know, works. Apple makes the feature work.

        Think of it this way. Microsofties can talk all day long about how they had tablet computers well before the iPad. But have you ever actually met someone who bought one? Right now, iPhone is setting the global standard. Even the haters can’t deny it.

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    2. Well, Kevin did say “future” smartphone sales – and the trend for Nokia US Smartphone sales is looking dismal.

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    3. I suggest you read “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. It explains far better then I could why first-to-market companies very often fail to popularize innovations while followers capitalize on their mistakes.

      Obviously, people at Apple have read the book :)

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    4. The HTC Kaiser had front facing camera many years ago. It just lacked carrier support here in the US. You’re not gonna get video conferencing out of an EDGE connection. Apple didn’t do anything new. They just refined what was already in play. I do respect the durable approach they made with their hardware in this thing. It now competes with my Moto Droid in this regard. The Facetime interface is a very nice refinement, or at least it will be when it gets 3/4G support, and is adopted on other platforms. But dollar for dollar, I still prefer my Droid with Froyo to iOS4. The icon-only homescreen and lack of widgets just leaves Apple feeling real Fisher Price to me. And Swype is most certainly the direction to go for input.

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  2. None of the features listed above are even close to being revolutionary. Alright, I can give it to Apple for the display, but in all other aspects Apple is only catching up. It’s funny how much credit we give to Apple for things which it does not deserve.

    I would have loved to see more innovation from the iPhone 4, but Apple probably missed the boat here. It will not be too long before Google will seize the initiative.

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  3. This article is kind of ridiculous. The “revolutionary” features are not only present in earlier phones (which the article admits) but also hardly revolutionary anymore, as most people have known about them and agreed that they are desirable. The argument seems to be that since Apple is Apple, they’re being revolutionary by simply doing anything. Sure, I’ve heard that line from many Apple fans, but I expect more from a tech blog, especially one that tries for insight.

    Yes, we are all very impressed by what Apple did with the first IPhone, but with Iphone 4 they are mainly playing catch up. (Even my Apple fan friends admit this readily.)

    Tofel says (in the comments) that he’s bothered by Apple getting the credit for all this, but still he writes an article that’s part of the problem. If the features “often work better or are easier to use which help adoption” as he says in the comments, he should write an insightful article about why he thinks that Apple’s design is better and will help adoption, not a fanboyish thing like this.

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    1. As noted by other commenters, the article doesn’t claim that any of these features are revolutionary — in fact, quite the opposite with the example that some features new to iPhone 4 have been on other devices for some time.

      But the iPhone marketing, buzz and sales numbers are setting expectations across the mainstream audience. Adding a feature to a phone where it’s not quite easy to use doesn’t set the bar.

      As far as the fanboyish comment, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. Were I a fanboi, I wouldn’t have publicly dumped my iPhone 3GS for a full-price Google Nexus One in January. I also didn’t have any intrest in buying an iPhone 4 because my Android phone is meeting my needs. To say that Apple is setting standards in the smartphone market doesn’t necessarily equate to a fanboi. ;)

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  4. @Brian S Hall
    Im american and that was my friend dicking on my email, i actually have an ipod touch and i love it, but i will be getting the Droid X

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  5. Apple added few pixels extra on the screen called it “Retina Display” and that’s all that is “revolutionary”.. GigaOm & Engadget are best places for some gadget comedy.. oh well if it weren’t for you guys gadet news would be darn boring stuff.. you make me chuckle almost every other day… ;D

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  6. worldbfree4me Thursday, June 24, 2010

    I say 2 Shay.. My almighty EVO has a 1.3 megapixel front cam that can do video conferencing over Wifi, 3g or 4g via Qik or Fring. Did HTC copy Apple or did Apple copy the competition? Who knows, but the fact remains that others do it just as good or better than Apple. However, I refuse to place blame on the Arthurs obvious slant towards Apple. Most people know that Apple expects a certain level of favoritism in exchange for early hands on review units. Don’t believe me? Ask Walt Mossberg or Gizmodo and they can corroborate it for you. If the competition really wants to compete with Apple on message they will need to spend more marketing dollars period. Give credit to Verizon and MOTO for spending upward $100 million on brand recognition.

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  7. 1: As previous posters pointed out this isn’t a first which means it isn’t setting the bar.

    2: What!? Other phones don’t use small components? I’m willing to bet that space savings comes at the cost of performance. The current antenna issues may be due to placement required to make the phone smaller. You kind of negate your own point at the end by mentioning another phone very nearly as thin as the phone you are apparently trying to make a case for. Good job.

    3: Really? It’s really a natural progression. It’s like saying computers will get faster. No duh! Natural progression. I bet my TV will get thinner and larger. These sort of advances are not a result of anything special Apple did and are not limited to the iphone 4.

    4: Once again you negate your own point. And I think mainstream is a bit of a stretch when there will be only 6ish million people with iphone 4′s and there are 6 billion people on the planet. Cars are main stream, iphone 4s are not.

    5: “but none match the intuitiveness of its user interface” really? I don’t poke the icons on my Android phones screen too?

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    1. “As previous posters pointed out this isn’t a first which means it isn’t setting the bar.”

      Hmmm…. so which specific handset set the bar for video calling? If I asked 10 random people, I’d get the same answer if a phone “set the bar” for it, right? Chances are 10 random people wouldn’t know that handsets other than the iPhone 4 have a front-facing camera that’s usable for video chatting, i.e.: to the mainstream consumer, Apple is setting the bar. To techie folks like you and me: not so much, but we’re a niche population. Not asking if you agree — it’s fine if you don’t — but does that make sense?

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  8. Matt McCallum Friday, June 25, 2010

    Good article, – Apple do somehow seem to get the credit for features that other phones have had for years, but I think it’s because of the high quality implementation and design.

    Sidenote @Brian S Hall – seriously, how can you say that Gavin is a bad name? BRIAN!!! are you serious. There’s a baaaaad name. Middle aged geography teacher wearing Corduroys and leather elbow patches bad. Also enlighten me – since when is a 1-1 score an ‘ass kicking’? (yes I am a brit)

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    1. Agreed on the whole Brian name thing. Probably should have legally changed it years ago.

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  9. Nowhere in the article does it say these features are “revolutionary”, as some commenters seem to have read. The article is saying that the iPhone 4 will ‘influence’ future smartphone features. Personally I think that the only real influence will be in improved interfaces as point 5 says. I think other manufacturers are waking up to how important ease of use is.

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  10. If Apple is so “intuitive”, why do they have to publish guidelines on how to hold the thing?

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    1. Two thumbs up for the remark! :D

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    2. Robin, they totally blew it on this antenna design IMO — great point and one “innovation” I hope we don’t see on future smartphones! ;)

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