Here at NileGuide, we’re not easily swayed by marketing hype or advertising, and we’re certainly not blind devotees of Apple’s Jobsian mentality. We are at heart travelers, ramblers, nomads. When we consider what to take with us on a trip, we ask the tough questions: Is it light enough to carry on an all-day museum trek? Will it hold up on camel-back? Will it keep us warm? If not, can it be bartered for furs and blankets in inclement weather? Does it double as a bottle opener? How much wine can we spill on it before it gets all gunked up?
Indeed, we are less impressed with a gadget’s guts than its gusto: how it can work for us in a variety of situations, and how it can stand up to improvisation in unforeseen circumstances. The “geniuses” at Apple clearly think they’ve come up with something pretty slick in the iPhone 4. Here’s a look at some of the phone’s new features, and how they could be useful on your next trip.
Possibly the most important improvement over its predecessor for travelers, the iPhone 4’s exterior is now all stainless steel and glass. Not just any stainless steel and glass (get ready for some hype), but rather Apple’s own steel alloy (5 times stronger than standard steel) and aluminosilicate glass (“the same type of glass used in the windshields of helicopters and high-speed trains” [told you to get ready]).
The stainless steel band serves as a mount point for all the hardware, greatly increasing the device’s rigidity. That means better chances it’ll hold up to a bumpy rickshaw ride or a drunken stumble through a bustling morning market. The band is also the phone’s antenna, meaning better reception from your jungle hut. 30 times harder than plastic, the glass on the front and back should be strong enough to stand up as a bottle opener, in a pinch.
The Battery Life
Although the iPhone 4 is almost 25% thinner than the 3GS, it packs in a 16% larger battery, much to the pleasure of roamers still tied to their smartphone. Apple is claiming a 40% increase in battery life, offering 7 hours of 3G talk, 6 hours 3G browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi, 10 hours video playback, or 300 hours in standby, due in part to the A4 processor’s increased efficiency.
Previous iPhone models barely held enough charge to last the day with normal use. Although the battery life improvements should make the device a more feasible take-along on your next day trip, you’re still going to have to bring your charger. Expect more fumbling with those white cables and praying your flight’s connection includes a quick break next to an outlet. Battery-wise, this is not the phone for the hardcore rover, but then again, what smartphone is?
The Face Time
Aside from the Postcard app available from Apple, the iPhone 4’s new cameras should be a boon for travelers looking to share scenic vistas and exotic locales with friends and family.
Add the new Face Time video conferencing abilities, and you’ve got the ideal device for capturing both that bustling street scene and your own haggard expression as you take it all in. Yes, video phones are finally here. Now where the hell are those flying cars…
Yes, there’s Google Maps of course, and other apps that let you track flights, pick up foreign phrases, convert currency, find restaurants, and explore public transportation options like never before. Pick up the NileGuide app, and you’ve got the best points of interest mapped around you. Next time you miss a gallery opening because your taxi driver took you for a ride, you’ll really no longer have any excuse. That’s… comforting?
The Motion Sensor
The addition of a gyroscope to the iPhone (which already had an accelerometer) means it will be capable of “six axis” motion detection. It’s a step toward making the iPhone 4 a serious competitor in the portable gaming arena, and a guaranteed silencer of backseat passengers, killer of layover time, and builder of nerd cred.
Apple calls their new Retina display “resolutionary,” and although the pun is bad, the technology is good: the IPS LCD has a higher pixel count – at 960 x 640 – than any other phone out there. By reducing the size of individual pixels, Apple was able to fit four times the amount of pixels in the same 3.5” screen. That means pixels so small they are undetectable to the human eye, and sharpness approaching that of e-ink.
The touch sensor has also been unified to the screen itself by a process called “optical lamination” that eliminates light refraction and space where dust could accumulate. That should come in handy on a trek through the Sahara, where blazing sun and blowing sand could otherwise hamper construction on your FarmVille project. (Oh yeah, a FarmVille app is on its way.)
The new iPhone has two microphones: one at the bottom for picking up your voice, and one at the top for picking up and canceling background noise. That should make for better voice clarity all around, and will be especially useful when trying to call your credit card company over the ruckus of heckling street vendors.
The iPhone now has an LED flash that works with either the still or new video camera. Perfect for capturing low-light scenes from your night at an Ibiza nightclub or a Vegas back room… or not.
The phone’s video camera now records in HD and works with the available iMovie video editing app ($4.99). You can capture even the finest features of those beautiful Brazilian beach-goers – and cut the occasional cottage-cheese thighs – before sending the video to jealous friends back home.
The biggest change to the iPhone’s operating system (iOS 4; formerly, iPhone OS) is the ability to multi-task. Jumping between apps is more seamless than before because iOS 4 runs the services needed for all apps in the background.
A unified inbox for all your mail clients and the ability to create folders, among many of the other improvements to the OS, should all achieve the main goal of getting you your information faster. That makes for the ultimate improvement from our point of view: less time on the phone, and more time to explore.