Apple Unveils iPhone 4.0

Jobs: "This is one of the most beautiful designs you've ever seen"

A crystal-clear display, a faster processer, an upgraded operating system with multitasking, a front-facing camera for video calls and the ability to shoot and edit HD videos straight from your phone.

Meet iPhone 4, Apple's newest must-have gadget.

"This is one of the most beautiful designs you've ever seen," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said. "This is beyond a doubt the most precise thing, one of the most beautiful things we've ever made."

Jobs unveiled the phone Monday, after months of speculation, at Apple's Wordwide Developers Conference. The 16GB model will cost $199, the 32GB model will cost $299, and both will be available June 24.

The biggest disappointment: No mention of Verizon or any other cell phone carriers. It appears iPhone users are stuck with AT&T.

Physically, the phone looked just like the one that Gizmodo unveiled months ago -- the famed test phone that an Apple engineer left at a bar near Apple's headquarters. But while Gizmodo was able to break the phone down and examine its parts, the tech blog wasn't able to show us what the phone can do.

Jobs did that on Monday, unveiling a state-of-the-art phone that, on its surface, seems to move a step ahead of the competition from the top Android phones.

It includes some features that Apple fans have been been asking for since the original iPhone -- multitasking and a bigger battery. But it doesn't have some sought-after features: flash support and a cell provider other than AT&T.

Jobs said iPhone 4 comes with over 100 new features, and he highlighted nine of them:

  • FaceTime, an app for video calls that can use either the front-facing camera or the back-facing camera (WiFi only).
  • The screen uses technology Apple calls a Retina Display, which has 326 pixels per inch. That's four times the number of pixels in the iPhone 3GS, Jobs said. "People haven't even dreamt of a display like this. Once you use a Retina Display, you can't go back."
  • The processor is an Apple A4, a small chip that is optimized for power management. This helps the phone get improved battery life: 7 hours of 3G talk, 6 hours of 3G browsing, 10 hours of WiFi browsing, 10 hours of video, 40 hours of music, 300 hours of standby time.
  • A 3-axis gyroscopce for mobile gaming -- Jobs played a new Jenga-like game to demonstrate this.
  • A 5-megapixel camera with digital zoom and a backside illuminated sensor, to improve lighting for photos.
  • HD video camera that records 720p at 30 frames per second, with a built-in video editor. 
  • New operating system: iOS 4. One word, Apple fans: Multitasking. OK, a few more words: folder support, threaded mail, unified inbox and more. iPhone 3G and 3GS users can upgrade on June 21.
  • iBooks: Apple's eBook app is coming to the iPhone. Watch out, Kindle.
  • iAds, a new in-app advertising platform.

Of course, nothing's perfect, not even a Steve Jobs presentation. About 40 minutes into the presentation, the iPhone 4 received an error message: "Could not activate cellular network."

Turns out the WiFi networks in the convention hall were overloaded, and the iPhone couldn't pick up a 3G connection. Jobs laughed off the error, and asked everyone to shut their laptops so he could use WiFi.

Funny, right? But it underscores the iPhone's biggest weakness: AT&T. Jobs didn't mention any changes to AT&T's iPhone exclusivity -- and AT&T's network has long struggled to handle the load from the data usage of iPhone users in major metropolitan areas, especially New York City and San Francisco.

In fact, some of the iPhone's new features will only make the problems worse. Jobs unveiled a free Netflix app, which will allow users to stream movies to their phones -- but that will require heavy data usage. FaceTime looks great -- but it's WiFi only, surely due to AT&T's weak data infrastructure. Apps like Skype should be able to tap into the front-facing camera for video calls, but again, that would eat through a data plan.

And since AT&T just eliminated its unlimited data plan, using those apps could become costly for iPhone users.

The new phone comes as Apple -- for the first time since the iPhone was first unveiled -- begins to face serious competition for the state-of-the-art smartphone. Three phones running with the Android operating system provide stiff competition to the iPhone -- Google's Nexus One, Verizon's Droid Incredible and Sprint's Evo.

The Evo, released Friday, still has one feature the iPhone lacks: a 4G data network, giving it the fastest internet access of any mobile phone.

Jobs pointed out that iPhones held 28% of the smartphone market, while Android phones had just 9%.

Watch video updates streamed live from the event by NBC Bay Area reporter Scott Budman below. Also, be sure to check out Scott's Twitter feed.

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