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New iPhone big on video, offers nothing new radio-wise


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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs continued his annual summer tradition of unveiling a sleeker, more powerful version of the company`s ionic smartphone, announcing today a redesigned iPhone with new HD video recording and conferencing features as well as numerous other bells and whistles. But the fourth version of the iPhone fell short of being the revolutionary new device many were hoping for.

No CDMA or 4G version of the iPhone was forthcoming, and AT&T’s (NYSE:T) lock on exclusivity on the device seems to be intact for the time being. The multimedia enhancements to the device were significant. It sports a new high-resolution screen with 326-pixel-per-inch density, which Apple claims is greater than the human can eye resolve. Dual cameras will support both videoconferencing and calling, and the main lens can capture 720p high-definition video. Apple is even introducing an iPhone version of its iMovie software to allow for on-device editing of captured video. The device also contains a new gyroscope, which will greatly enhance the accelerometer’s movement sensing, and to round it all off, Apple is implementing the same multimedia and processing silicon in the iPhone 4 that it uses in the iPad tablet, the Apple A4 chip. (For a more detailed breakdown of the new iPhone’s specs, check out Gizmodo’s rather comprehensive guide.)

Though Apple paid a lot of attention to the applications platforms on the device, the communications architecture remains basically the same as in the iPhone 3GS. Apple has bumped up the Wi-Fi chip to support IEEE 802.11n networks, giving the phone a much bigger boost on LANs, but nothing has changed on the 3G radio. The official Apple specs sheet lists generic high-speed downlink and uplink packet access at U.S. and global 3G frequencies, but several publications reporting from the show have said that HSPA iteration remains at 7.2 Mb/s. AT&T is upgrading its 3G networks this year to support at least 14.4 Mb/s on the downlink and possibly as the full 21 Mb/s allowed by HSPA+. The new iPhone won’t be able to take advantage of those greater speeds, but Apple may have had little choice in the matter. The only HSPA+ device chips available — from Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) — are targeted primarily at data cards, making handset silicon hard to come by.

The new iPhone features are certain to spark a new rush to stores, as older iPhone users look to upgrade to the new video features and the remaining holdouts buy their first Apple handsets. The new video features will be particularly attractive to those with any interest in recording video with their phones. But it doesn’t look like version 4 will have the same impact as version 2 — the first 3G iPhone. The iPhone still is basically an AT&T-only device in the U.S., and loyal Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ, NYSE:VOD), Sprint (NYSE:S) or T-Mobile (NYSE:DT) customers won’t be any more likely to jump ship than they were before. And for those that don’t have much interest in the new video features, there’s probably not too much compelling them to upgrade or switch to the iPhone. From a standpoint of pure speed, Sprint just released the HTC Evo 4G, which delivers a much faster connection in areas that have Clearwire’s (NASDAQ:CLWR) WiMax network.

Considering the new video capabilities, it’s no surprise AT&T decided to introduce its new tiered smartphone data plans before its launch. With a new 5 megapixel camera, HD video and two-way video calling capabilities, the new iPhone will be a much bigger data hog than its predecessors if customers take advantage of the ability to share and post multimedia content over the network. Initially some of the features, such as video calling, will only be available over Wi-Fi, but AT&T and Apple said they planned to make them accessible over the 3G network eventually.


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