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iPhone 4 Debuts to Tepid Surprise


With so many of the details already leaked, the wind was taken out of Apple's sails.

The battery is larger as already noted in the leaked prototype, which equates to 40% more talk time, six hours of 3G browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 10 hours of video, 40 hours of music, and 300 hours of standby.

With detail after unsurprising detail, Jobs landed the crowd with an unexpected jab. Rather than just keep the old accelerometer in the older models, Apple has added a 3D gyroscope capable of measuring rotation and movement along six axes. Jobs showed off his handheld display of a Jenga tower tilting, rotating, and matching his movements.

Then another surprise. This time, much bigger.

The camera is boosted from three megapixel to five, and with the added flash -- or "backside-illuminated sensor," as Apple has dubbed it -- Jobs beamed that it will also record 720p video at 30 frames per second. The flash becomes a camera light, hence its new name. And when Apple engineer Randy Ubillos unveiled the iMovie app for the iPhone and ran through its features on a few video clips, the crowd went nuts.

Easily the showstopper for the day. Except for another. In the middle of the presentation, the unthinkable happened. For Jobs, that is. For every other iPhone user, it's come as expected.

The network connection failed.

Visibly aggravated, Jobs asked the crowd to get off Wi-Fi for a moment as he tried to load the New York Times website. Frustrated with the blank screen, Jobs asked to his side, "Scott, you have any ideas?" In response, someone in the crowd shouted, "Verizon!"

To Jobs' benefit, the iPhone 4 doesn't currently have a wireless blood pressure meter. But he got his revenge -- not just to the Verizon (VZ) guy, but the whole crowd. After demoing the iMovie app, Jobs put on his schoolmarm hat, turned off the Wi-Fi, and asked everyone to set their laptops on the ground or, otherwise, there won't be anymore demos.

Whether he asked everyone to spit out their gum has yet to be confirmed.

The iPhone OS has been redubbed iOS 4 and Jobs ran through its aspects people already know. Tethering, multitasking, folders, etc. Mentioning Yahoo (YHOO) and Bing's integration as default searches didn't bring much excitement to the crowd.

But not as much as the lengthy iAd demonstration.

Jobs wowed them at the end with a demonstration of the front-facing camera and the new iPhone video chat capabilities. Giving fellow Apple exec Jonathan "Jony" Ive a quick call, he showed off the long awaited face-to-face conversations in store for future iPhone 4 owners. And in support of AT&T's hampered 3G network, the feature will be Wi-Fi only.

Surely, Apple isn't too happy about that limitation.

Prices for the iPhone 4 will run the same as the 3GS: $199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB model. No 64GB internal capacity. But perhaps in light of AT&T's unpopular decision to discontinue the unlimited data plan offer, it's moved upgrade eligibility up six months to accommodate existing customers whose contracts end in 2010. Although it's good news for customers itching to upgrade, some analysts said it's merely a ploy to keep customers locked in another two years as Apple weighs its options on Verizon, Sprint (S), or T-Mobile (DT).

It's too bad that two iPhone prototypes had to be leaked prior to this conference. Chances are, the new features for Apple's upcoming smartphone would've made much more of a splash.

But there's also one in white. Not many people saw that coming.

The iPhone 4 goes on sale June 24.

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