With Monday’s WWDC keynote, Jobs and Co. put considerable distance between the iPhone and its competitors on 2 fronts simultaneously.
Back in the heyday of the PC-Mac platform wars, when Microsoft was still trying to capture some semblance of mindshare on the desktop, a favorite tactic of pundits/Windows consultants when comparing their inferior offerings with Apple’s was to talk about all of the hardware features Apple didn’t have – as if the company hadn’t thought their customers would benefit from their inclusion. That’s where we got the always-entertaining “megahertz myth” plotline.
History does love to repeat itself, so when an equally inferior user experience in the smartphone arena – Android – compares itself to the iPhone, the GHz of the processor, the megapixels of the camera sensor, the pixel density of the displays and the option of a removable battery has become the modern-day equivalent of the megahertz comparison. The response from Apple users – then and now – is to cite the superior user experience with the knowledge that, even when these spec deltas did mean anything, the whole far outweighed the sum of any other platform’s parts.
As of Monday’s introduction of iPhone 4, the spectards in the Android community who had pleasured themselves by comparing their phones with Apple’s year-old 3GS, just lost a little bit of their mojo.
The iPhone’s processor is now the iPad’s smoking A4 chip. The chip is designed by Apple specifically to work with its mobile devices, as opposed to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, which has to work with a number of different devices. You can bet the combination of the A4 and iOS 4 blows away any performance advantage Froyo may have had over the 3GS.
The displays of Android handsets like the Incredible and the EVO were also sharper, which was achieved through increasing the pixel density to an average of about 250 ppi across the most current Android handsets. The iPhone’s Retina display packs 350 ppi, resulting in rendered text free of pixelation and images that are crisper than anything preceding it.
Lastly among freetard bragging rights was the camera. The 3GS’s starting point was a 3MP sensor, which many tester noted actually took better pictures that competing handsets with a much higher pixel count. That’s because, as a rule, Apple fundamentally focuses on the experience over the specs. The iPhone 4 will have a 5MP camera that, while still inferior to the 8MP sensors in some Android phones, will benefit from the same kind of “quality over quantity” thinking that made the 3GS competitive with these devices. There’s also a front-facing camera, a feature popping up on recent devices like HTC’s EVO.
A funny thing happened between April, when Apple announced the features of its latest iPhone operating system, and the keynote on Monday. People in the Android camp conveniently forgot that Cupertino, unlike Redmond, actually delivers the features it announces. As if a new device wasn’t bad enough for Android, the iOS4 (formerly iPhone OS 4) offerings were repeated at WWDC.
In addition to the feature that everyone in the Android camp were talking about as a “catch-up” feature – multitasking – were the features that form the choking cloud of exhaust on which Android phone owner will suck: folders, a unified email inbox, faces and places in photos, iBooks, improved exchange support, universal spellcheck and keyboard support – just to name a few. Of course, the “one more thing” feature, FaceTime, a videochat client for the iPhone that revolutionize the term for mobile devices, presents a feature for which Android has nothing in the pipeline (although you can rest assured the photocopier is now running).
Unlike Google’s policy of having mobile carriers decide when, if at all, customers get their Froyo, iOS 4 will be available to all iPhone 4, 3GS and 3G users – as well as the growing army of 3rd generation iPod Touches – this month.
It was fun watching Android grow a couple of chin hairs and talk tough about competing with Apple at Google I/O – like how you can appreciate the moxie of the young upstart landing a couple of punches against the heavyweight champ right before he gets destroyed in the 2nd round. For Google, the bell for round 2 rang Monday.