Part 1 of 2, Still Picture Mode:
In 2007, while other phone manufacturers were producing cell phones with 5MP cameras or higher, Apple chose to launch the original iPhone with a week 2MP, fixed lens camera. Then in 2008, with the introduction of the iPhone 3G, Apple chose to leave the camera untouched essentially continuing with the same lousy camera they introduced with the first iteration iPhone while disappointing many iPhone users (myself included). With the release of the iPhone 3GS one of the biggest improvements that previous iPhone users will see is the new 3.2MP camera.
|Taken at the Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City, looking northward toward the Apple Store.|
Finally, with Apple’s third installment of the iPhone they have chosen to improve the onboard camera, and improve they did. Granted, the megapixel count didn’t increase much (it’s now 3.2MP vs. 2MP), but they introduced a few key features that makes this camera shine: autofocus, spot focus, spot metering and more. Images from the new iPhone 3GS are considerably sharper, have noticeably more detail and are easily worthy of printing by your favorite photo printer (I wouldn’t say that for the first two iPhones) so long as you stay in the smaller sizes (3×5 or 4×6).
If you’ve read many of my posts before then you will know by now that I’m kind of a photography buff, so this post was not only necessary for me to write, it was also a lot of fun to produce. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve taken my new iPhone out on a few photo outings. I’ve tried to lug around my old iPhone too, for comparison sake, and you’ll see below that the results are pleasing and in many cases startling.
Let’s take a look at the technical specs of the cameras offered in the iPhone:
|iPhone||iPhone 3G||iPhone 3GS|
|Spot Focus (touch screen)||No||No||Yes|
|Spot Metering (touch screen)||No||No||Yes|
|Image/Video Geo Tagging||No/n/a||Yes/n/a||Yes/Yes|
|Image Size||1600 X 1200||1600 X 1200||2048 X 1536|
|Pixel Count (MP)||1,920,000 (1.9)||1,920,000 (1.9)||3,145,728 (3.1)|
|Video||No||No||Yes, VGA (640×480) 30fps with Audio|
Camera Controls, Spot Focus, Spot Metering
One thing to notice immediately is that with iPhone OS 3.0 the interface has changed somewhat. Now you see a small thumbnail of your previously taken picture in the bottom corner. On an iPhone 3GS, you also see a slider button to toggle between video and still mode (video functions to be covered in a later post). However, what’s more is that you now get the focus square in the middle of the screen when the camera is focusing and adjusting aperture.
|iPhone 3GS Camera Interface|
|Note the still/video toggle and also the small square in the image which is where I touched on the screen for spot focus/metering|
Touch anywhere on the screen and that is the spot that the camera will focus and take it’s metering from. This is a very cool function, one that we will likely see in high-end dSLR cameras in the future (mark my words!) and you saw it here first!! (well, on your iPhone 3GS first). Why is this function so important and cool? Well, with any typical camera these days, in order to “spot” focus or “spot” meter you must point the center of the camera at the point that you want to focus/meter, half press the shutter button, re-frame your subject then follow through on the shutter release. Well, not with the iPhone 3GS. Simply frame you subject, touch the screen where you want focus to be, and touch the shutter release button. Wrong exposure? No problem, just touch somewhere else and allow the phone to re-focus and re-meter that spot then retake the pic. Here’s a couple of samples to demonstrate this feature:
|iPhone 3GS Spot Focus/Metering Demo|
|Focus/Metering on Tree
Note the detail in the tree.
|Focus/Metering on Flower
Note the detail in the flower.
|Focus/Metering on Desk||Focus/Metering on Window|
If you are a macro photographer then you will appreciate the new minimum focus distance of the new iPhone 3GS’ camera. Macro shots, albeit not as sharp as even a P&S camera, are now possible.
|Comparison Macro between iPhone and iPhone 3GS.|
The new camera offered in the iPhone 3GS is a significant step up from the previous two offerings. Now, having said that, I wouldn’t call the camera superior to all phone-mounted cameras, but it is a refreshing improvement. If you’re a hardcore photographer then by all means, don’t consider this camera for much of anything. However, if you’re a photo buff and like to experiment and would find value in these new features, then this will be a nice improvement to your phone.
- Significantly better than previous iPhone cameras.
- Spot Focus and Metering are welcome additions, and make using the camera function much more enjoyable.
- Auto focus is finally here.
- Video (See follow on post that will discuss this in greater detail).
- Much improved detail in images (due mainly to auto focus)
- 150% more megapixels than previous iPhone cameras, although 3.2MP is nothing to scream about.
- Much improved low-light capabilities, albeit far from what I’d like to see.
- Still lags behind the competition in camera resolution.
- No flash.
- Still not a point and shoot replacement (yes, I know it’s a phone first – it’s all about device convergence).
- Ity, bity, tiny lens. Until this is bigger, not much here will change.
- Still no physical camera buttons for shutter release or even to switch to camera mode. You must use the touch interface.
- No self-timer.
Post your feedback in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think. Also, if you liked this post, there are many similar others so take a poke around.
Note: All images in this post are © Copyright 2009 by Rob Lyons and AppChatter.com.
One of the great new features of the new iPhone 3GS is Voice Conrol. This new feature allows you to call contacts, dial phone numbers, play music and more. While voice control for a phone is not new, it is new for the iPhone and it is only available on the new iPhone 3GS. I did a quick video tour of Voice Control this evening, just jump to the end to skip the written stuff…
Voice Control is launched by holding down the home button while on any screen, even if the phone is locked. Once it launches, you hear a couple of beeps which indicate that it is ready for your voice command. There are a number of things that you can say, such as “play songs by … ” or “next song” or “shuffle.” You can also ask what song is playing or what artist and a few other iPod commands. For dialing phone numbers simplay say: “call <contact>” or “dial <phone number>.”
Here’s a list of commands:
|Command||What to say|
|Get basic help||Say “help”|
|Call someone in contacts||Say “call” or “dial” then the name in the contacts list. If the person has more than one number you can elaborate and say “mobile” or “home.”|
|Dial a phone number||Say “call” or “dial” and then the phone number.”|
|Make a correction||Say “wrong”, “not that one”, “no”, “nope.”|
|Control Music Playback||Say “play songs by ,” or “play artist “, “play album “, “play playlist
|iPod Control||Say “pause,” or “next song,” or “pause music,” or “previous song,” or “shuffle.”|
|More information||Say “what song is this,” or “what’s playing,” or “who sings this song,” or “who is this song by.”|
|Genius||Say “genius,” or “more songs like this,” or “play more songs like this one.”|
The voice command list is rather short, but it’s not bad for a first iteration. We were hoping to see the ability to launch applications (like the new voice memo’s app?) but that function is noticeably missing. We can only assume that a future software update will enhance this feature further and we look forward to those enhancements. Also, I tried to use the voice function using a Plantronics bluetooth headset but no-go. You must hold down the home button (or Apple pause button on included headset) to launch. It will also not use the mic on your bluetooth device, so keep the phone close … or use the included headset.
The good: very accurate, even understands my 5yo when he speaks at it (which he loves to do). Easy to launch (home button for 3 seconds or headphone pause button for 3 seconds).
The not-so-good: A rather short list of commands. Does not work with many bluetooth devices.
We’re mostly an iPhone applications blog but since we’ve had our hands on a new iPhone 3GS we can’t stop posting about it. So today I took a few minutes to see if the “S” for “Speed” in “3GS” really meant it. Results: we’re impressed.
We pit the original iPhone against the 3GS in a number of application launches as well as web pages loads/renderings (both on WiFi for fairness). While we realize that most of you out there have the 3G you should know that the original iPhone and the 3G share the same processor, graphics chips, and RAM (as well as many other things). So this test isn’t completely invalid for all you 3G owners out there. In fact, there are several similar tests that pit the two 3G phones against each other and it’s clear, the “S” really does mean “Speed.”
So if you’re like me and have been hanging onto your antiquated iPhone 2G (err, first gen), waiting for a good reason to upgrade, that day may have actually come. Check the video and see for yourself:
Since I live in a semi-rural area I wasn’t expecting our iPhone shipment until later today. So when the doorbell rang at 8:30am this morning you could imaging my surprise (and delight!) that our new phone had come earlier than we were expecting. So, without any further delay, here’s our first ever unboxing pictures and video here at AppChatter.com.
When UPS came I asked if he had something from Apple. He said this was all he had. I was expecting a bigger box like the ones seen in the AT&T video. Nope. Here’s our iPhone 3GS Unboxing and Mega Photo Gallery. Video is after the jump…
Note: iPhone is a 32GB model, black (obviously).
[Update: As of Monday, June 15th, Apple indicated that online orders would still be delivered on the 19th (Apple in store pickup is first-come first serve, even if you pre-ordered). AT&T has also reaffirmed that they are indeed sold out of pre-orders for delivery or in-store pickup.]
I’ve been meaning to go down to my local AT&T store all week to pre-order an iPhone 3GS. I was ready to go down there on Friday but for one reason or another held off, thinking I’d have more time today (Saturday). Well, I went down to pre-order this morning and to my dismay they told me that they will no longer guarantee one for the 19th. Apparently AT&T issued a company wide guidance that said pre-orders taken after Friday afternoon will be delivered “within the next 7 to 14 days.” He was clear to tell me that this also included ordering online from att.com. So getting an iPhone 3GS directly from AT&T is no longer an option if you want to take posession on the 19th.
I had read online with TUAW.com and Gizmodo.com that if I pre-ordered I could just go get it in the 19th and not have to take my chances, I’d have it “reserved.” Well, that reservation ended Friday. The only way I could get one now on the 19th was to wait in line and take my chances. They also told me that last year the people that got them on release day had camped out all night (not an option for me). I went home, slighly discouraged to see what I could do online.
Online pre-orders for Apple stores made it clear that reserving one via the web did not guarantee I’d get one, even if I went down to the Apple store saying that: “iPhones are sold on a first come first serve basis.” Now I am getting worried I’d have to wait… until I noticed that ordering online for delivery at home showed: “delivery on the 19th.” I was saved! I imediately went through the order process and sure enough, on my order confirmation it says “Delivers by June 19th.”
For those that are still hoping to get your iPhone on the 19th will likely find that their only option now is to order online from apple.com. So, what are you waiting for? The longer you wait the less chance you have of getting it on the 19th.
AppChatter.com is not a rumor site by any means, and so for the past several months we’ve had to sit back and bite our tongue as every other Apple oriented blog out there took it upon themselves to report every single rumor possible about the upcoming iPhone. Well, today was reconciliation day for all as Apple laid out the new iPhone firmware and of course, the new iPhone 3G S.
- Two new iPhone models: 16GB iPhone 3G S ($199) and 32GB iPhone 3G S ($299)
- In addition to the two new iPhone models Apple will continue to sell the original iPhone 3G 8GB for $99.00
- Some are reporting that the “S” designation on the new iPhones is for “Speed.”
- New iPhones will be available on June 19th. That’s June 19th.
- Updated features on the 3G S iPhones include:
- Significantly improved battery life: 9 hours on wifi, 10 hours watching video, 30 hours of audio playback, 12 hours of 2G talk time, and 5 hours of 3G talk time.
- Support for Nike+
- Built in digital compass.
- Voice control and voice dialing.
- Control iTunes via voice commands.
- Voice commands float around in the background on the screen.
- New camera with 3.2MP, auto focus, auto exposure, auto white balance.
- Tap on the screen to focus on that part of the picture.
- Improved low light sensitivity.
- Macro capability.
- Captures video (woot!).
- Video at 30 frames per second in VGA resolution, also auto-light and auto-focus.
- iPhone 3G S is roughly 2X faster overall from iPhone 3G.
Along with the new iPhone 3G S comes a new software update for all iPhone ownsers. We previously reported about the new firmware when it was seeded to iPhone developers and now here is the final word on it:
- New iPhone OS 3.0 firmware will be available world wide on June 17th.
- Copy/Paste and Undo supported across all apps.
- MMS is now available (ATT will not support MMS until later this summer).
- Spotlight is being added to iPhone OS 3.0.
- Rent and purchase movies right on the iPhone.
- Improved parental controls.
- Data tethering via USB or Bluetooth for both MAC or PC (only 22 carriers in 42 countries, no word on ATT).
- Autofill usernames/passwords in Safari.
- New feature: “Find my iPhone” available only to MobileMe subscribers.
- A new remote wipe command that you can remotely wipe the contents off the iPhone.
- Send a message from land line or online to trigger remote wipe.
- App subscription support.
- Push notifications for developers.
- Much more.
- iPhone OS 3.0 is free for all current iPhone users (2G and 3G) and is $9.95 for iPod Touch owners.
So to sum it up: new iPhone OS 3.0 is available on June 17th and the new iPhone 3G S will be available on June 19th. Mark your calendars and schedule your vacation days (as I turn to my “other” job to do just that). We’ll be bringing you the iPhone 3G S full pics and coverage on the 19th once we’ve been down to the Apple store to get one. Stay tuned!