A closer look at iPhone 4's coolest tech

Three standout specs elevate Apple's next-generation smartphone above its predecessor.

The Apple iPhone 4 packs a lot of cutting-edge tech--one of the reasons preorders for the iPhone sold out immediately. Here's a second look at three standout specs that elevate the iPhone 4 above its predecessor.

The angles of rotation in three dimensions about the object's center of mass is known as pitch, roll and yaw. ZeroOne

Gyroscope: Apple is leading smartphone rivals with this feature, according to market researcher iSuppli. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 4's gyroscope at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (see video below), he was signaling a new wave of gyroscope-equipped smartphones, as "a flood of competitors vie to emulate the feature," Jeremie Bouchaud, an iSuppli analyst, wrote earlier this month. "Mobile handset makers until recently have shown little interest in gyroscopes. However, the success of the Nintendo Wii Motion Plus video game console demonstrated the consumer appeal of gyroscopes for game playing."

What does the gyroscope bring to games? The iPhone 4's gyroscope, like those used in aircraft, measures pitch, roll, and yaw, among other capabilities. And used in tandem with the accelerometer (already integrated into the current iPhone), it achieves six-axis motion sensing. What Apple describes as "user acceleration, full 3D attitude, and rotation rate."

All of this is tied to new APIs, or application programming interfaces, "that give you extremely precise position information," Jobs said.

Retina display yields: Probably the most talked-about feature of the iPhone 4 is the high-density 940x640-pixel retina display. But the biggest potential issue for consumers over the next few months may be the display manufacturer's ability to make enough of the screens to meet demand . Low production yields on the LCD panel could impact production volumes--i.e., availability--for the iPhone 4, according to Ashok Kumar, managing director and senior technology analyst at Rodman & Renshaw. And it's not hard to see why production yields on Apple's retina display would be a challenge: the display boasts a density of 326 pixels per inch. The pixels are so small--only 78 micrometers across--that the human eye can't distinguish individual pixels.

512MB of RAM (reportedly): As reported on Friday , the iPhone 4 is expected to integrate 512MB of random access memory. If true, this would be significant because the bigger iPad has only 256MB of memory, as does the iPhone 3GS. As with any computing device, more system memory means better performance, especially when multitasking, a feature iPhone OS 4, available Monday, offers.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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