Update: June 7, 2010: Apple's Steve Jobs revealed the features of the new "iPhone 4" at today's worldwide Apple developers' conference kickoff. While this launch was not as compelling as that for the original iPhone (especially since some iPhone 4 details were leaked early), the new iPhone 4 packs some great new features, and some upgrades that will specifically improve the phone for GPS navigation purposes.
Just to cover the basics, top-line new iPhone 4 features include:
- A new form that is thinner (by 24%) than the iPhone 3GS, has more squared-off edges, a metal frame, and separate buttons for volume control.
- A front and back camera. The back camera takes nicer pictures, with 5 megapixels, and includes an LED flash.
- A higher-resolution display (960x640 pixels, 4X more) in the same-size, 3.5-inch screen.
- Powered by a super-fast proprietary Apple A4 chip.
- Larger battery, lasting as much as 40% longer.
- Pricing: $199 for the 16GB version, $299 for 32GB.
- On sale June 24.
Of interest to navigation and GPS users, Jobs stated that the stainless steel frame doubles as an antenna for the iPhone's various receivers, including GPS. Let's hope this boosts the current iPhone's somewhat anemic GPS reception. Also, the upgrade to a much higher resolution display should help sharpen up those complicated map and navigation displays we rely upon. The new steel frame and toughened glass face will make it sturdier for outdoor use. Last but not least, the new iPhone 4 will run on the to-be-released iOS4 operating system, which will permit multitasking. That will certainly help alleviate the current awkward situation, which lets navigation apps multitask with just a few items, such as iPod functionality.
Also of interest, the new HD video capability of the iPhone 4 appears to geotag videos.
Overall, a terrific new smartphone that will continue to make big waves in the world of navigation and GPS.
Editor's note: This story will be updated regularly until iPhone 4 launch.
Thanks to a lost iPhone prototype obtained by the tech blog, Gizmodo (see photo), we know a lot more about the next iPhone than we normally would at this time. The new model will most likely be announced and available for sale in late June, 2010.
Based on the Gizmodo leak, the new iPhone will have:
- A front-facing video camera suitable for video chat.
- An improved back camera with a larger lens.
- A higher-resolution display.
- Separate, round buttons for volume control.
- A back that is flat, rather than rounded.
- A flat, aluminum border, and a more squared-off look.
- A 16% larger battery.
This new iPhone 4 form factor will match up with the already-announced features of the new iPhone operating system (OS4), to be released in late June, also. OS4 feature highlights include:
- App folders for organizing apps.
- Enhanced mail with a merged inbox view option.
- A game center.
So what do these facts mean, in terms of the next iPhone's GPS, turn-by-turn navigation, and outdoor navigation features and capability? The two most significant factors are OS4's multitasking capability, and the larger battery of the new iPhone HD 4G hardware package. With something closer to true multitasking, we'll be able to keep turn-by-turn and outdoor/rec navigation apps running in the background while we attend to other tasks or use the phone. With the current iPhone OS, only the iPod music can be multitasked. Regarding the larger battery, any additional battery life is welcome in the iPhone, especially when running GPS apps, which are notorious for quickly burning through battery power. With the additional new iPhone HD 4G battery power, we are more likely to finish a round of golf, complete a hike, or navigate to our destinations, without the need for supplemental juice.
A faster processor, such as the Apple A4 used in the iPad, would help speed processor-intensive GPS navigation apps, especially when they are being multitasked. A higher-resolution display, all but assured in the new iPhone HD (960x640 pixels, rather than the current iPhone 320x480 pixel display) would help visibility of navigation apps when used at arm's length in a car.
The app folders feature of OS4 will also be welcome, and I look forward to starting separate folders for car navigation apps, outdoor navigation apps, and location-based services apps, such as Yelp.
There is no word yet, or even rumors regarding any changes or enhancement of the GPS chip or GPS capability of the iPhone HD 4G. However, I hope that Apple engineers have found a way to improve GPS reception and accuracy. For example, in side-by-side tests, I've found the current iPhone 3GS to be less likely to hold a strong GPS signal in challenging conditions, such as deep woods or canyons, than a good quality dedicated car GPS or handheld GPS device.
I'll be updating this story on a regular basis as more GPS and navigation features of the iPhone 4 become available.