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iPhone 4 2010: Reinventing the Smartphone — Again

iPhone 4 2010: Reinventing the Smartphone — Again

Seemingly like clockwork at this point, Apple revealed its latest model to join the iPhone legacy on June 7, 2010, dubbed as the iPhone 4. The successor to the wildly popular iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4 was far more than a slight upgrade to the previous model and introduced several smartphone “firsts” that are still widely used today.

iPhone 4

In all honesty, the iPhone 4 had lofty expectations to live up to. Earlier in 2010, Apple had unveiled the iPad and all eyes were on the company’s shiny new tech and what was popping up in the App Store. So when the iPhone 4 was revealed to have more than 100 new features, it’s no surprise that it became an instant hit and continued to build Apple’s legacy as a leader in innovation. 

An iPhone Rooted in Controversy

Though Steve Jobs didn’t officially unveil the new iPhone 4 until June 2010, pundits were already raving about the product as early as January that same year.

On January 27, 2010, Engadget received leaked images of the very first iPad, and with those images came two unreleased iPhone 4 models.

Fast forward to April, where gadget website Gizmodo came under fire for allegedly purchasing an iPhone 4 prototype for a whopping $5,000 and breaking down every feature and upgrade. However, the prototype was actually reported to have been lost by an Apple employee.

Once Gizmodo published their product teardown, Apple’s legal team swooped in to request the return of the prototype. The home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen was also raided just days later by the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) task force, resulting in a seizure of all computers and hard drives. However, by this point, Gizmodo had already returned the prototype to Apple and it was revealed that no charges had been filed against Chen or the company.

Just weeks later, Taoviet published additional leaked images of a second iPhone 4 prototype. These images appeared to be nearly identical to the leaked images of the first prototype. The website claims to have purchased the model for $4,000 and revealed that the screen resolution of the new iPhone 4 was 960 pixels by 640 pixels, which Apple confirmed in its first official announcement.

Well-developed publicity stunt? Perhaps. Regardless of how the leaks came about, one thing was clear: all eyes would be on the iPhone 4 when it did finally hit the market.

Setting New Records for Apple

The iPhone 4 represents a series of firsts for Apple, including several chart-busting records that exceeded even Apple’s expectations.

For starters, the iPhone 4 instantly became the best-selling iPhone to date, with more than 1.7 million units sold in its first weekend. Pre-orders alone totaled more than 600,000 units, another record for the tech giant. (This record would be shattered by the release of the iPhone 4S in the following year).

It became Apple’s most successful product launch to date, despite only initially launching in five countries (that would later expand to 88 countries). It also earned acclaim as being the best smartphone on the market at the time, the phone to rule all phones across brands and makers.

Exploring Some of the iPhone 4’s 100+ New Features

The iPhone 4 brought us a lot of features that forever changed the course of mobile technology as we know it today. Here’s a look back at some of its most powerful advancements that truly raised the bar:

The World’s First Front-Facing Camera

Two of the iPhone 4’s most talked-about features are the first front-facing camera on a smartphone and the much-anticipated flash. Though the rear-facing camera was more feature-rich, with things like HD video recording and 5x digital zoom, the first front-facing camera was a necessary step to create another new feature that put Apple on the map: FaceTime.

The World’s First Front-Facing Camera


Jobs once remarked that the ability to use a phone for face-to-face conversations had been decades in the making, and it was finally brought to fruition on the Apple iPhone 4. FaceTime has become a household name on the same level as Kleenex is for facial tissue or Sharpie is for permanent markers.

FaceTime arrived at a perfect time when smartphone users were increasingly interested in selfies. The front-facing camera allowed users to see themselves on the screen to snap the perfect selfie, as well as make video calls to others and know exactly how they look on camera.

Improved Rear Camera

Apple’s signature rear camera also got an impressive facelift with the iPhone 4. The company boosted the resolution to a full 5 megapixels and improved the video quality to 720p for 30 frames per second. Arguably, this is the pivotal phone that brought smartphone camera and video technology to rival external devices. Today’s smartphone cameras are on par with high-end professional gear after a decade of engineering and technology that grew leaps and bounds with the iPhone 4.

Same Screen Size, but Double the Resolution

The screen size of the iPhone 4 was largely unchanged, but Apple doubled the resolution to improve the image quality. This decision also allowed the company to maintain compatibility with existing apps in the App Store.

The new display, called a Retina Display, was one of its most impressive features yet. It was designed based on the perceived maximum amount of detail that a human eye could digest at any given time, with the expectation that the device will be viewed from a distance of about 12 inches from the eye. Apple argued that a higher resolution would have no effect on the user because the human eye was already viewing it at its capacity.

Such a powerful statement was met with disdain and dispute, with some experts claiming the display was “nearly perfect” but could still be noticeably improved.

Multitasking Prowess

The iPhone 4S was arguably the first iPhone to offer any sort of multitasking ability (though some claim this was actually available on the iPhone 3GS — it just didn’t make headlines in the same way as the iPhone 4). The new A4 chip takes the credit, which was a total processor increase over its predecessor.

iPhone 4 Multitasking

This simply means users could run multiple apps in the background or switch from one app to another without fully “closing” the app. For example, switching between two apps meant not having to wait for them to reload every single time. You could pick up where you left off instead of essentially “starting over.”

One of its most charming examples was the ability to listen to music from a third-party streaming app while doing something else on your phone, or even letting the music play in the background.

Multitasking on the iPhone 4 was no longer limited to Apple’s own apps, which was likely the case with the iPhone 3GS.

White Model Release

Sleek white devices have become synonymous with Apple products, so much so that many people are surprised to learn that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until the iPhone 4 that Apple’s most successful line of products offered a white model. Up to this point, devices were a classy black, as were most smartphones of the time. The white model wasn’t part of the initial product launch, either. In fact, it wouldn’t be available to purchase until later in 2011.


Whie Model iPhone 4

More Network Players

Until the release of the iPhone 4, users could only get the device as an AT&T customer. But this was the phone which would allow Verizon to join the ranks of being able to sell and distribute iPhones to its customers. However, the move wouldn’t come until early 2011.

Always Forward, Never Backward

There’s no doubt that the newly reinvented iPhone 4 was Apple’s best iPhone to date, ever. Again. While this superlative might sound like a broken record after every iteration of the iPhone, it’s also largely true based on consumer opinion. And that’s the very nature of Apple — they continue to push the boundaries of technological creativity and move the entire industry always forward, never backward.

In doing so, the mere mention of a new Apple product became guaranteed to get bloggers, techies, journalists, and competitors atingle — a feat Apple continues to maintain to this day.

Stay tuned for our upcoming look at the iPhone 4S, another major milestone in iPhone history.