Slimmer, cooler, enough to compete with Android?

Steve Jobs officially announced the new iPhone 4 yesterday morning at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. The basic design of the iPhone 4 (read a full review of the iPhone4 handset) was hardly novel due to a leak by technology blog Gizmodo several months ago, but the slick appearance of the iPhone 4 and some steady improvements earned it a round of applause from technology media and blogs at the conference.

While the iPhone 4 still leads the smart phone market in some ways, there was hardly any single killer feature that significantly sets it apart in this fast-paced and rapidly evolving smart phone market. Instead, the iPhone 4 is entering a more homogenous and competitive smart phone market full of competitors eager to challenge its supremacy, an indicator of a new phase of overall growth for the mobile industry. Here are the three things you need to know about the iPhone 4 and its impact on the mobile space:

A steady upgrade to iPhone franchise

Compared with the iPhone 3GS, the new iPhone is squarer and thinner, and it shows off a new “Retina” IPS LCD screen which boasts the highest resolution screen in the phone market. The new 960×640 pixel resolution is twice the 480X320 resolution enjoyed by older iPhones. Without a doubt, it should secure the iPhone’s lead in the graphics department compared to other smart phones for now. The iPhone 4 also runs faster with its Apple-designed A4 processor, and Apple claims the processor’s improved efficiency will result in a 40% prolonged battery life and faster apps, especially game apps, the most popular category in Apple’s app store. While Google still remains the default search engine on the iPhone 4, Microsoft’s Bing has been invited to the playground, a sign of continuing rivalry between Apple and major mobile industry player, Google.

Smartphone market catching up

In the past three years since the iPhone’s launch in 2007, the iPhone has set the bar for smartphones, and profitably introduced the concept of apps. By now, many other phone companies in this mobile industry war have made ambitious efforts to catch up to Apple. Apple’s biggest competitor, Google, launched its mobile operating system, Android, and partnered with competitive phone manufacturers like Motorola and HTC to make Android ubiquitous across multiple carriers’ networks. As a result, Apple saw sales of Android-powered phones exceed sales of the iPhone during the first quarter of 2010, according to a report by NPD.

Android’s open platform allows its app universe to grow quickly and explore new possibilities. A prominent new feature introduced on the iPhone 4, the live video “Face Time” chat, was actually preceded by HTC’s Android-powered Evo 4G phone. On the iPhone 4, video chat is constrained to WiFi, due to AT&T’s inadequate 3G network, while live video chat was available on the Evo 4G through Sprint’s 3G and 4G networks before the iPhone 4’s release. The iPhone 4’s new operating system, iOS 4, will be launched on June 21st and will also finally allow multitasking on iPhones, following in the steps of mobile operating systems like Android and Palm’s WebOS which had already implemented multitasking functions. (Compare the iPhone 4G2 to the Android OS here).

iAds boosts the mobile advertising industry

iPhone’s new mobile advertising network iAds, which was originally revealed in April, also got a strong push at the WWDC conference. iAds is Apple’s take on integrated in-app advertising that makes ads more interactive and allows ads to engage users more effectively. App developers can easily build ads into their apps using iAds, as the system is built into the new iOS 4, and developers can get up to 60% of the revenues generated by their in-app ads. The iAds platform will be launched on July 1st this year. During yesterday’s conference, Steve Jobs revealed that $60 million in ad commitments had already been signed off for the new platform. The list of advertising partners includes many blue chip companies like Nissan, Unilever, AT&T, Best Buy, and Disney, and Jobs stated that iAds is projected to earn 48% of the mobile advertising market in the second half of 2010.

The mobile web space is getting a lot of attention–and rightly so; the mobile space is projected to become the next major Internet platform within the next five years. Not surprisingly the competition within the mobile industry is heating up. And iAds will no doubt be one of Apple’s most attractive and significant features as marketers begin to tap into enormous opportunities to engage with their customers in more intimate, interactive, timely, and location-sensitive ways across mobile platforms.