We're not in a hole. A lot of companies would like to be in our hole - Scott 'touch'n'feely' McNealy
AS APPLE'S DEAR LEADER Steve Jobs presented his latest creation, Ipad owners were left in no doubt that their desire to own shiny toys had resulted in several hundred pounds being thrown down the drain.
The fourth Iphone is the most important for the fruit themed toymaker as it faces competition like never before, thanks to devices running Google's open source Android operating system. A number of reports show that Android smartphones are taking market share away from the Iphone. Jobs' riposte was predictablly to create a device that looks better than the competition.
Given the firm's emphasis on design and engineering, looking at the Iphone 4 makes you wonder if Apple's lead designer, Jonathan Ive, realised that the Ipad is a useless device and thought it wasn't worth applying his considerable design skills on.
Ignoring the superfluous claims made by Jobs that the Iphone 4 is the "thinnest smartphone on the planet" and that it is covered with glass that is "30 times harder than plastic", it still manages to combine impressive engineering with attractive design.
It is perhaps surprising that Jobs used the Ipad as a benchmark for the Iphone 4, because in doing so he highlighted the less than impressive Ipad. Given that the Iphone 4 has the same processor as the Ipad and the same in-plane switching (IPS) screen technology, physically the only real difference is in the screen's dimensions, and even there Jobs did a bang-up job of putting down the Ipad.
Jobs' claim that the Iphone 4 has 78 per cent of the pixels on an Ipad is pretty impressive when you consider that Iphone's physical screen size is only 36 per cent that of the Ipad. This, as Jobs pointed out, results in the pixel density shooting up, leading to a 'richer' picture. One hopes that Jobs' lead on this will force other manufacturers to pay greater attention on this often overlooked performance metric.
Apple's dear leader was at his best when trying to describe why cameras on mobile phones are utterly rubbish in low light situations. Using some meaningless pixel size metric to justify what technologically challenged fanbois might see as a minor jump in megapixels, Jobs also mentioned that the Iphone's sensor has its backside illuminated.
The reason why cameras on phones are poor in low light conditions has nothing to do with what shines out of Jobs' sensor but rather the tiny lens in front of the sensor which is simply unable to gather enough light with the fast shutter speeds employed to reduce blur due to shaking hands. It doesn't take David Bailey to realise that wide aperture lenses have glass of large diameter, but no, lets stick with pixel size and backside illumination to justify poor performance.
Then there's the inclusion of not one but two cameras. It's understandable that given the Ipad's cumbersome size and weight, even the most fervent fanboi would be unwilling to hold it aloft as some oversized large-format camera. However the front facing camera would be extremely useful when using the Ipad with applications such as Cisco's Webex video conferencing tool.
In the past Apple has declined to include a camera in products such as Ipods blaming space constraints, yet the firm managed to stick two cameras in a device that Jobs claimed was "packed to the gills". With Ipad tear-downs showing plenty of space, it's clear that the firm wants to introduce a camera as some sort of revolutionary feature to milk fanbois for their hard earned cash next year.
Jobs put on a song and dance about the inclusion of a gyroscope in the Iphone 4, further diminishing any difference between the Iphone and the Ipad. It's not that the Iphone shouldn't have a gyroscope, but given that Jobs also announced the Ibooks for the Ipad one starts to wonder why anyone would want to purchase a machine that does the same for user mobility as a ball and chain.
Apple fanbois like to claim that competitors rip-off their church when it comes to ideas, but the Iphone's dual microphone noise cancellation technology was first found on Google's Nexus One. How many fanbois will admit that their god wasn't able to create this truly helpful technology, instead nabbing it from a manufacturer that it is currently suing for alleged patent infringement.
Apple's Iphone 4 with its revolutionary bleeding edge operating system shows that Jobs' Mob knows its target audience and what they want. The latest Iphone has the looks and even the hardware but the software, despite running Iphone OS 4, will still be behind that of Google's Android. Google has taken an aggressive updating strategy with Android and while it might cause fragmentation between devices, it does mean that features arrive there long before they do on the Iphone OS.
Much has been written regarding the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, however Apple is about to indulge in much of the same, giving Ipad users access to Iphone OS 4 this Autumn, several months after select Iphone users get their mitts on it. Jobs wants to force punters to buy his latest device by crippling the functionality of Iphone OS 4 on older generation devices, but that should be of no surprise to any follower of the church.
Then there's Android 2.2. The latest version of the Android operating system not only shows up Jobs' Iphone OS but offers functionality that not only casual users will appreciate such as Adobe's Flash but also features that hardcore technophiles will be happy with, such as easy-as-you-like USB and wireless tethering. Considering Jobs' partnering policies with mobile operators, Apple users can forget such options, unless they pony up the dosh.
If anyone needed proof that the Ipad really is just a fancy way of making users pay over the odds for content that has been freely available on other devices, the Iphone is it. In all likelihood Jobs would have hoped to wait a bit longer to milk Ipad buyers before launching the Iphone 4, but given the competition the firm faced from Android, it ran out of time.
Apple's fourth Iphone is technically the most impressive mobile device it has launched. It won't have the same impact as the second generation unit that brought with it the App Store, but it will help Apple in its losing fight with Android. The problem for Jobs is that it has also shown up the Ipad for the device that it really is, an oversized Iphone without a phone. µ
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