iPhone Gets Improved Specs, YouTube Support

By James Alan Miller

June 20, 2007

Days before it even hits the market, Apple trumpets iPhone's better battery and better touch screen, while YouTube launches an iPhone portal.

Apple has upgraded the power specifications for the iPhone, just days before the highly-anticipated smartphone ships on June 29th. It also announced the device's display will be made out of better, more durable materials.

Rather than the humdrum 5 hours of battery life for talk time, internet use and video playback across the board, Apple now claims the iPhone should get you 8 hours for talk, 6 hours for internet and 7 hours of video -- nearly twice as much as a video iPod. It'll offer 250 hours (over 10 days) of standby time.

Question: Does Apple's web access specification refer to use under Wi-Fi or AT&T's cellular-wireless EDGE network or, perhaps, both? That remains unknown.

Apple today also raised its estimates for audio playback, from only 16 hours to much-improved 24 hours.

As if an increase in battery power wasn’t enough, Apple asserts better materials are being used for the iPhone’s touch-display as well. Rather than the originally announced plastic display, the iPhone's 3.5-inch screen will be built out of what Apple calls "optical-quality glass" for better scratch resistance and optical clarity.

Both sound good to us. But will the display still be optically clear after a day's worth of tapping, flicking and pinching with your (sometimes grimy) fingers?

The iPhone has a single button, for returning to the home screen. The majority of user interaction with the device is done through the display using Apple's multi-touch technology, which places the emphasis of input and navigation squarely on one's fingers.

Apple says its multi-touch display is far more accurate than a regular touch display, with support for multi-finger gestures (the pinching mentioned above, for example) and the ability to ignore inadvertent touches.

iPhone YouTubed

Popular video sharing site, YouTube, has launched a new portal to make some of its content viewable on a wide variety of mobile phones and smartphones. It is also in the processes of re-formatting its entire catalog for viewing on the iPhone.

Videos posted to YouTube’s new mobile portal, called YouTube Mobile, are encoded in the common 3GPP video standard rather than the Flash format used on the YouTube's standard Web site. This means all WAP 2.0 devices, which includes many of today's mobile handsets, with a 3GPP video player included should be able to view the videos at YouTube Mobile.

YouTube Mobile isn't YouTube parent company Google's first mobile play for its video service property. Last fall, the search giant partnered with Verizon Wireless to give the carrier's V Cast customers access to a selection of YouTube videos from their cell phones. Nor is it the last. 

YouTube is re-encoding its entire catalog of clips into the H.264 format, also supported by the iPhone, which isn't compatible video site’s Flash video format. This is big for the Wi-Fi equipped Apple TV set-top box, which will support the YouTube clips after a firmware upgrade.

The H.264 codec is supposed to allow YouTube to achieve higher video quality and longer battery life on mobile devices. And, not surprisingly - as Apple and Google appear to be best buddies lately - the iPhone will be the first mobile device to be able to view YouTube's newly H.264-encoded videos.

Apple and YouTube expect 10,000 videos to be available at the time of the iPhone's launch, with new H.264-encoded clips added on a weekly basis until the entire YouTube catalog has been converted, a process Apple says will be completed by the fall.

With a new Apple-designed application on the iPhone, users will be able to wirelessly stream YouTube's content over either Wi-Fi or AT&T's EDGE network for viewing on the device's 3.5-inch display. No doubt the much wider Wi-Fi pipe will deliver the better performance.

For its part, AT&T (Cingular) is in the process of fine-tuning its 2.5G EDGE network under the name ‘Operation Fine Edge’ to boost minimum data transfer speeds from 40kbps to 80kbps. It’s beefing up the backend by increasing the number of T-1 lines at the carrier's poorest performing cellular towers.

Sure, it is still a long way from 3G like EV-DO—AT&T's EDGE network averages between 400 and 700kbps—but any improvement should be welcome. While the iPhone is the catalyst for the upgrade, all EDGE-enabled cell phones and smartphones will benefit from the boost in performance.

When you first enter m.youtube.com, YouTube smartly warns that because YouTube Mobile is data intensive application, you should "upgrade to an unlimited data plan with your mobile service provider to avoid additional charges."

This warning applies to any cell phone or smartphone user, including those expecting to get an iPhone, who plan on using their device heavily for any type of multimedia streaming, file downloading or Web access through any carrier’s cellular-data network.

Paying by the kilobyte or megabyte can get very expensive very fast.

AT&T will be the exclusive provider of the iPhone for the next five years. When the iPod/smartphone hybrid goes on sale later this month (at 6:00 pm local time), the 4GB model will go for $499 and the 8GB model $599 with a two-year contract.

Versions of this story first appeared on SmartPhoneToday.

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