Apple’s June 7 announcement of the new fourth generation of the iPhone marks Apple’s effort to catch up in the smartphone space after being bested by a succession of Android-based devices that have more features, larger screens and things like multitasking that Apple has avoided.
The new iPhone 4 attempts to make up that ground by launching new features that attempt to move the iPhone to the next level.
Whether the iPhone 4 accomplishes that move depends a lot on what you need in a smartphone. While there are a lot of snazzy features that may ultimately prove useful to some, it’s the basics that matter to most enterprise users, and the iPhone 4th Generation makes some improvements there.
Most notable is a faster processor, the Arm A4, which was designed cooperatively with Apple to provide better performance to what could be a new round of resource-hungry apps. Also significant is a new, high-resolution screen that features four times the picture density of the previous versions of the iPhone, and a significantly better antenna system that may help overcome the existing iPhone’s problem with dropped calls.
What’s missing is support for 4G wireless, or even the nearly-as-fast HSPA technology already fielded by T-Mobile and being built by AT&T. In fact, the iPhone’s 3G wireless capabilities are unchanged from those of its predecessor. However, the new version of the iPhone does support 802.11n, which will give the device a faster data rate as far as the wireless access point.
Whether that results in a faster connection to the outside world depends heavily on the speeds of the attached connection to your ISP. For many, it will be slower than the download speeds of 3G. What may or may not be related is the fact that the new iPhone failed to connect to WiFi during Apple’s demo, while the 3GS version did it without trouble. A prototype issue? Perhaps.
Despite the speed penalty, the new iPhone does deliver on some much needed improvements that bring it into parity with the Android devices. A significant improvement is that Version 4 of iOS now supports multitasking. This apparently means you can check something on your device while you also talk on the phone.
The Apple announcement also says that the new iPhone will support multiple Exchange accounts and support for Exchange Server 2010, mobile device management and wireless application distribution. In addition, the announcement promised SSL VPN support and better mobile data protection.
The iPhone 4G Regains Parity with Android Devices
The enterprise-related improvements along with multitasking help Apple move beyond being a target for the makers of Android devices that have been taking shots at the iPhone since Android 2.1 came out. They do not, however, appear to move the iPhone Gen 4 past the Android world in ways that matter significantly to enterprise users.
What are more likely to matter are more reliable communications and a better screen. The new antenna system on the iPhone actually consists of the metal edge surrounding the perimeter of the device. This perimeter is divided into two physical antennas, one for WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS and the other for GSM and UMTS (3G). This new design may have been dictated by AT&T’s spotty 3G service. The new screen will make the device easier to read and make for more useful images.
The iPhone’s new camera is a 5-megapixel unit that will also shoot full-motion HD video. There’s also a new version of iMovie coming out that will let you create videos on the device itself. This could be potentially useful for some enterprises.
The dozens of other new features of the new iPhone are more consumer-oriented. The device supports Microsoft’s Bing. It has a six axis physical location sensors (including a gyro) for gamers, and it supports Apple’s bookstore. There is a PDF reader available that will help with document viewing.
A potential downside, depending on how it’s used, is the advent of iAds. Applications can now be advertising supported, which may or may not sit well in the corporate environment. The device also includes a front-mounted camera and two microphones, which can support video conferencing. It remains to be seen just how well video conferencing works in a handheld environment and whether the 3G network will support it adequately.
There’s no question that the new iPhone will sell a lot of units. Whether it will work better for your business than the recently released Droid Incredible from Verizon or last week’s Sprint Evo depends more on your specific needs than anything else.
The new iPhone is sure to set off a new series of innovations in handheld device design, but that new series was already rolling. What will probably matter most to your company is whether you’re already using apps for the iPhone or for Android devices; whether you need to develop custom apps for your devices (which could eliminate the iPhone); and whether you’re already under contract to another carrier.
What the new iPhone does do is bring Apple into the same league as the latest Android devices. It’s also priced similarly, with an 16GB model selling for $199 with a two-year contract and a 32GB model going for $299. AT&T is offering upgrades up to six months sooner than they would otherwise be available as a way to keep customers from moving to Android and encourage adoption of the new AT&T data rate plan. The new iPhone will be available on June 24 and comes in two colors-black and white.