Apple’s (s aapl) 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:
- 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 (s nok) for video calls over 3G.
- 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 (s mot) 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (s msft) 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 (s palm) 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 (s rimm) 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.
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