WWDC, or World Wide Developer’s Conference, is one of the big events for Apple fans the world over. Steve Jobs, as he usually does, made the Keynote address and announced some new products and technologies as well as gave an update on the state of Apple. This event is also becoming the yearly introduction event for the next generation iPhone. This year was no exception.
The new iPhone is technologically superior to its predecessors and it certainly is a premium handset that any geek can be proud to own. Unfortunately, the design and most of the features were leaked months before the official introduction, deflating a lot of the enthusiasm for the product. To make matters worse, as we previously reported, AT&T’s new data plans put a big damper on the party.
So what does the new iPhone bring to the table? Quite a bit, including an incredibly high density screen, an improved antennae design, an upgraded back camera with flash, and a front facing camera for video conferencing, all in a newly designed package. Of course it is faster and has a bigger battery, but those changes would only be noteworthy if they were slower and smaller. The phone hardware just keeps getting better, which brings us to the software.
As part of WWDC Apple has rebranded the iPhone OS as the iOS. This makes a lot of sense since the OS powers the iPhone, the iPod Touch and the iPad. If you’re keeping score at home that’s 1 device that is a phone and two that aren’t. There have been rumors of an Apple TV powered by iOS, so a rebranding would make even more sense if those rumors are true. The new OS will ship on the new iPhones, but current iPhone owners will get a taste of the new OS a few days before those new handsets hit the shelves. This is a smart move on Apples part as it will reduce the amount of traffic hitting the servers as new iPhones need to be registered.
There was an announcement that Netflix would be coming to the iPhone in short order and while initially it seems like a great idea, with the new capped data plans from AT&T, we just can’t get excited about it. That beautiful high resolution screen pushes almost as many pixels as the iPad, which means an hour of video content could easily eat almost a quarter of the monthly pittance that AT&T is dolling out to its serfs. Without bandwidth to burn, any new software that consumes a lot of megabytes is going to be low on everyone’s wish list.
Which brings us to the double disappointment that is Facetime, Apple’s new <q>mobile</q> video conferencing application for the iPhone. The concept is great, you can video chat with people as easily as making a phone call and hitting a button, but the reality is not nearly as nice. Facetime will initially only be available when the iPhone is connected to a WiFi hotspot. This means you can video conference if you and your chat partner both happen to be near an access point, but otherwise you are out of luck. There are so many applications where Facetime could change how we interact, but if we have to be near WiFi, then it just doesn’t work.
Imagine being able to send back live video from a remote job site to get trouble shooting assistance. Imagine, because without 3G being an option, that’s all you’ll be able to do. No one will cheer too much even if Facetime is opened up to 3G since the minuscule bandwidth allotments or AT&T customers will render any sort of video chatting two expensive. While not as bad as the $21/minute original video phone from AT&T, the per gigabyte usage charges will add up fast enough to keep demand for video chatting at a trickle.
All in all the WWDC announcements from Apple were good, but we just can’t get excited over any of them. Will we be upgrading our phone, of course, we still get to our unlimited data plans.