It’s been a busy morning for Apple with lots of iPhone news and what’s now called iOS news. Lots of important stuff so let’s break it all down. First, Apple announced that the app store now has 225,000 apps with 5 billion downloads. That’s all in just under two years. I can’t quantify this for certain but that would make Apple’s mobile platform the fastest growing platform in history. Period. In a market driven by the value add of third party apps, that’s extremely important. What’s more important isn’t the number. I don’t need 225,000 apps. You likely don’t either. What you do get are the subset of apps that are right for you and that’s why the overall number is more important than you might think. Apple also shared that it’s now taking 28 percent of the US smartphone market, somewhat behind RIM but well ahead of Android’s 9 percent but again, perhaps more importantly, 58 percent of the mobile browsing market. Considering that three years ago iPhone wasn’t even on the market yet, that’s a major and important accomplishment. The big news thought was the launch of iPhone 4. Apple’s latest effort in the smartphone space. Apple talks about seven core features of the device and I’ll go into them here as well as what they mean.
1. Design. The new phone is nothing short of stunning. I know you think you might already know what the device looks like but trust me, it’s not even close to seeing the device up close and in person. It’s super thin at 9.3mm which is a shrink down of 24 percent. It’s got a solid feel and heft and the metal trim (which are also the antennas) gives it a very elegant look. You’ll know immediately it’s an iPhone but this is Apple’s best effort in design yet.
3. It’s running an A4. Just like big brother iPad. Suffice to say performance is excellent. There’s a degree of fluidity that’s fantastic across the board. Apple’s also added some fun stuff like a larger battery for the best claimed battery life of an iPhone, 7 hours of 3G talk time, HSDPA/HSUPA and 80211.n. Apple’s also tossed in a set of dual mikes for noise cancellation.
4. There’s a gyroscope. Yep, the iPhone now does pitch/roll/yaw. Add in the accelerometer and there’s now six axis support. I don’t have to explain what this will mean for next generation games and other apps. It’s not a killer feature by itself but it’s going to allow a lot of cool stuff to happen.
5. There’s a new camera. It’s now a 5mp lens, with LED flash and 5x zoom. There’s also updated video to 720p with full editing and sharing. Even cooler, there’s now a full version of iMovie for iPhone 4. Themes, transitions, movies are all here. It’s an extra $4.99 but looks like it’s easily worth it. It’s really a small movie studio that goes in your pocket. Super cool.
6. As mentioned, Apple has consolidated the platform for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad under one name. It’s now called iOS. Apple says it’s on track to ship the 100 millionth iOS device this month. This is extremely important as the battle in mobility isn’t just about phones. With an Apple platform of connected screens at 100 million there’s huge incentive for developers to further embrace the platform. This is the classic positive feedback loop that Microsoft so successfully exploited at the desktop level. I’ve talked about most of the iOS 4 features in the past so I won’t go into more depth here except for one thing. iOS now supports Microsoft’s Bing as a search option. No, it’s not the default… yet. One, however, can clearly see how the competition between Apple and Google is leading to strange alliances. I’ve questioned Google’s approach in the past about creating a rift with Apple (and Google’s recent language at i/o made it clear who they are taking shots at). There’s an important message being sent today. Keep your eye out for what comes next.
7. Some more detail about iBooks for iOS 4. There’s sync across devices and like other Apple content, books can be downloaded any number of times to any number of devices. That’s nice change from some of the restrictions of the KIndle platform and how many times books can be downloaded. Apple now boasts 150 million accounts and credit cards making one of, if not the largest commerce sites. Overall the combined three stores have seen 16 billion downloads which shows how strong Apple is relative to the competitive landscape.
One more thing. It’s been awhile since Steve said those words and today it’s all about FaceTime. Taking advantage of the iPhone 4’s front facing camera, FaceTime is mobile video conference done right. It works iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 and it’s WiFi only for 2010. What it is though is simple. There’s no setup, there’s no configuration. There’s no lag. Audio and video are fully in sync. In short it just works. We knew there might be this sort of capability from some of the leaks but the truth is, until you see it in action, it’s hard to appreciate. Even cooler, it’s all open so developers can easily add this functionality to their apps. Skype, are you listening? Apple isn’t the first to market with video conferencing on a phone but they’re the first to get it right. It’s not a feature unless the mass market uses it and I expect FaceTIme will drive a lot of sales.
The new devices hit on June 24th and iOS will drop just before that. Good news is iOS 4 is a free upgrade for both iPhone and iPod touch users. Memory configs will match last years 3Gs devices at the same price point. The 3Gs drops to the old 3G slot as an entry level $99 device.
Bottom line? Apple has raised the bar for the phone market once again. With a combination of new hardware and software features, iPhone sets the standard for what the state of the art smartphone experience is. While 3Gs users can console themselves that they can take advantage of core features in iOS 4, I expect many will want to upgrade. Look for a full hands on in the near future when it’s released on the 24th.