Regarding the iPhone HD/iPhone 4G hardware specs


Yesterday we looked at the iPhone HD/iPhone 4G design, today we look at what that design embodied -- the iPhone HD/iPhone 4G hardware and specs. A lot of what was revealed in the Engadget pics and Gizmodo hands-on seems to confirm past rumors, a lot more still remains a mystery. One thing's for certain -- as much as Apple jumpstarted the smartphone space in 2007 with the original iPhone 2G, the competition has blown past them when it comes to hardware specs to date. That changes in 2010 with the iPhone HD.

We'll cover the internals, the CPU and GPU, RAM and capacity in a future post, but in terms of what could easily be discerned so far, let's break it down as follows:

Screen resolution

The original iPhone (and all iPhone models since) sported a 480x320 multitouch display. That display remains the absolute best multitouch screen on the market, bar none, but the resolution has been eclipsed by Android and Windows Phone where 800(+)x480 has become the new norm on the high end. HD2, Droid, Nexus One, Desire, EVO 4G, the list of obscenely large displays on competing platforms seems to be growing monthly. We were wondering (read: hoping) Apple would match that last year, even though we thought it would cause problems for developers (the way it has for Android). Apple didn't. They kept the iPhone 3GS at the same 480x320. This year we again hoped they'd match it. According to rumors, Apple won't -- they're going to exceed it.

Gizmodo couldn't see anything other than the connect-to-iTunes screen, so we don't know for certain what the actual resolution will be, but they claimed to be unable to see the pictures, but Daring Fireball has said a whopping 960x640 is what's supposed to be on the iPhone HD (hence the name TiPb predicted back in 2009 and Engadget hears just might be the name in 2010). That's twice the vertical and twice the horizontal pixel count as all the previous generations of iPhone. It's also over 300dpi at the physical size Gizmodo showed off. Daring Fireball points out, and our own past experience tells us, that's past fair quality print resolution, especially for color work. With Apple's sub-pixel anti-aliasing (where the red, green, and blue components of each pixel can be fired independently), it might just look as good as a high-end glossy magazine, and that would be incredible.

Being twice the current iPhone resolution also ties remarkably well into something Apple announced for the iPad and its larger, if less dense 1024x768 screen -- pixel doubling. Every pixel on the iPhone can be doubled to occupy four pixels (2 vertical x 2 horizontal) on the iPhone HD and at 300dpi look pretty much identical. No blurry double-chunky like on the iPad, and no problem for older iPhone apps. No fragmentation. (And when developers update with universal binaries for iPhone, they should look fantastic, and should also work at 1x at the same size as current iPhone apps work at 2x on the iPad). In other words, it solves a lot of problems for Apple and developers.

Front-facing camera

When the iPhone 2G shipped without Mobile iChat it was a source of speculation (conspiracy theorists thinking AT&T didn't want anything cutting into their lucrative SMS business). Since then there have been persistent rumors that not only was Mobile iChat coming, Mobile iChat video was coming with it. Of course, that would mean a front-facing camera -- a webcam or chat-cam. While it didn't appear on either the iPhone 3G or the iPhone 3GS, it is on the iPhone HD and strings for iChat have been showing up in the software starting in iPhone 3.2 for iPad and continuing into iPhone OS 4 beta 1.

Sprint's upcoming Android EVO 4G will have a front-facing camera when it ships, and will be working on a fast WiMax connection. Whether or not AT&T, which still faces data issues in some markets, will allow iChat video over their 3G network is unknown. If not, like movie downloads on current iPhones, it could be restricted to Wi-Fi only use, where cell bandwidth is no issue. Perhaps it will be similar to how streaming video is handled today -- lower quality of 3G, higher quality over Wi-Fi.


Bigger rear-facing camera

Gizmodo also noted that the camera on the back of the iPhone HD was "bigger". 5 megapixels would be nice. The new Verizon Droid Incredible has an 8 megapixel camera but if the point-and-shoot wars have taught us anything it's that pixel size... well, it matters, but it matters less than lens quality. We'd take a great 5 megapixel lens that doesn't cut up the sensor too much and gives better low-light sensitivity than a bigger, worse camera (ahem, Droid).

We'd also take 720p video recording. The 3GS is good enough for casual use. 720p would replace 90% of our video camera needs as well.


Camera flash

There looks to also be a flash, which would match with rumors of Apple looking for LED flash components. No, it's not built into a glowing Apple logo, but it's there.

Many other phones have had this for a long time, and while it wouldn't excite us as much as a quality low-light lens, we're not upset to see it.

Secondary mic

In addition to the same mic on the bottom of the device found in all previous iPhones, the iPhone HD looks to have a small mic on the top as well. Gizmodo theorizes that this is like the Nexus One -- a noise cancelation mic that reads ambient sound and removes it from the main audio channel making you sound clearer to the person on the other end.

If there's a top mounted iChat camera, however, could it also serve (or serve double duty) for chat?


The aluminum band around the iPhone HD is oddly broken at the bottom making it into two discreet pieces. Some have suggested this is so that the device can be easily opened and the battery swapped out. The EU is mandating user-swappable batteries, which is part of where the logic behind this line of thinking lies. There's also a break up top, so we're not even sure how far that logic goes.

Anything is possible, but given the size and type of batteries Apple is making lately, and the life they're getting out of them, we're not getting our hopes up. Gizmodo pegs the iPhone HD battery as 16% larger already -- 5.25 WHr at 3.7V vs. the current 4.51 WHr at 3.7V.

For the most part we have external chargers. Unless we could swap the battery for one that supported inductive charging, that is...

UPDATE: Gizmodo has done an iPhone HD tear-down and the battery in NOT removable. (So here's hoping those breaks in the aluminum are).



Like iPad, the iPhone HD will use a MicroSIM as opposed to the MiniSIM found in current iPhones and almost all other phones. They're a standard and they're likely to become more common in the future, especially with Apple supporting them. (AT&T, Vodafone UK, Orange UK, O2, and Rogers have already announced support for the iPad).

They're also compatible with MiniSIM so you can cut down a MiniSIM to use it in a MicroSIM device, or put a "jacket" on a MicroSIM and use it in a MiniSIM device.

It'll make frequent SIM-switchers' lives more difficult for a while, no doubt, which might be part of the plan, but if it saves space inside for more battery, we won't complain too much.


Ceramic/glass back

The first iPhone 2G used aluminum for the back, with a plastic stripe to allow radio reception. The iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS went full on plastic. The iPhone HD seems to have a more glass-like back, but what that means exactly is uncertain. Certainly glass on the front and back would double the breakable surface area of the iPhone HD.

Mention has been made of an Apple patent for ceramics that would be glass-like, tough, and radio transparent. According to a source who claims familiarity with past Apple ceramic initiatives, however, that's unlikely for two reasons: pricing and rigidity. While there are ways around the rigidity, that drives up pricing. The flat backing, if final design, would be cheaper to deliver than something like the iPhone 3GS' curved back, but it wouldn't solve the rigidity problem. Apple has been so determined to keep their price-point down, raising it to cover the costs of a ceramic back might not make sense yet. Rather, something akin to Gorilla Glass could be used for the actual screen itself.

We're not super-smart chemists/alchemists, so whether or not Apple has solved those problems, or come up with some other material, there's no way to know.



So there it is -- a lot of rumor, a little hands-on, and just over a month to go before Steve Jobs takes the WWDC stage and almost certainly shows us all the final iPhone HD (or iPhone 4G, or whatever they call it). Like an episode of Lost, every answer until then will likely only leave us with more questions. We've shared our thoughts, now it's your turn. What do you think of the 4th generation iPhone specs seen and rumored so far?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Regarding the iPhone HD/iPhone 4G hardware specs


I love it. No matter if this is real or fake, I love it and I'm getting.
And it also doesn't matter what they end up calling it.


I'm interested in if this device has N WiFi... I'm surprised Giz didn't check for that internally.
That's a big deal. I want them to finally allow WiFi sync. I'm sick of plugging it in beside my bed, then plugging it in in my computer to sync it. It's annoying and there's a constant need for multiple cables.
Also, they NEED WiFi sync for the iPad, it's just RIDICULOUS to hook that beast up to a computer.. And the iPad has N WiFi.

The only thing i want from the final design is a full one piece metallic round like the pictures above [without the cuts of course]

If someone could answer a question for me? Does this mean the screen is sharper but is not larger?

I still feel like this is a test mule, and we won't be seeing the real deal until WWDC. But I'm loving the new hardware features! It's exactly what the iPhone needs. Can't wait for this summer!

hmmm... i would mind a curved back but thats fine. i still think this a planned leak though. apples just toooooo secretive to let this happen

And other thing would be awesome, having two microphones, the iPhone could very well record stereo audio!

And apparently, you don't either, because for Apple to go out of their way to "plant" an "Iphone" in the middle of nowhere is extremely out of character for them. Considering the fact that they've been operating in secrecy and obviously succeeding from it, what's more likely? Them suddenly changing their gameplan out of the blue when they already know the next phone is going to be out-of-this-world popular? Or an accident by some buy? Considering the latter actually happens on a more regular basis, I'd think the accident is at least a bit more likely.
This entire article is basically an idiotic "Well, everything points to it being a rough idea of what it's going to look like, but we're not going to use our brains until Steve shows up on stage showing it off" Or "This can't be it! Because the next Iphone will have x-feature that this one apparently doesn't have!" One or the other.. or all of the above. (Oh, and throw in typical Android potshots, too)
People have complained and bitched nonstop about how bland the phone looks.. now that Apple actually changed it radically, they're bitching about how they think the old one looks better. There's just no pleasing you all, is there?
I think this unit looks really nice. Could go for a bigger screen, but eh, save that for a few years later.
Bigger camera, flash, front facing camera, multitasking and a more powerful processor = good enough.

Most test phones are crude looking. Apple will refine the design For launch especially because we all seen it. I don't mine a thicker square looking phone just as long as it has more goodies In it.
Apple needs something revolutionary like video chat with the foward facing camera and HD. I'm italian and Let me just say this. FORGET ABOUT IT!!!
It will be an instant purchase for me

just not happy with the overall design of the body. not very sleek looking to be from Apple, but who knows.

im 50/50 with this being real or not. its all internet speculation at the moment. sometimes i think its real, then others i wonder why i bother to believe this.

Son, take a good look on the back of your iPhone. I'm guessing that one is fake too since it has the samed FCC logo on the back??

i think it's hilarious how everybody kept complaining about no front facing camera.. yet when it looks like its coming, no body says anything. No one is ever satisfied on this blog. always find something to b-itch about non stop.

Multitasking, HD res, better battery life, would be nice to see a 4.3 inch screen like the HD2. 5 mp cam with improved optics. Front facing cam is cool.

I know what you are saying everyone complained last year when the 3gs was announced and said it was the same thing as the 3g they needed a new design and this and that. Now that they have changed it everyone complains that it looks too different. I personally love the new look I do hope that it is a glass back as Apple products always feel solid made. The glass back would have a great feel in your hands.

Im not 100% positive on this but I don't believe you can build a phone from scratch and connect it to a network without it passing FCC standards. Though I do not know just what I seems logical.

If thats the next iphone, hell yeah im getting it!!!!! Love the new features!!!! The looks can get better. But im sure ill get used to it, its just different.

@someguy I may be wrong but every time apple comes out with something. Between the announcement and launch. Is the time it clears FCC and other guidelines. I always thought they branded a final product before it can be sold to us. How and why would they brand this? The iPhone I have everyone else has and is a final device. And I'm not your son.

@killer Apple can give every option to iPhone. And people would still not be happy. Example. "gee thanks for the 5mp camera apple! My phone from 3years ago had one it. Now where is my free navigation. Lol. People are never happy. If you don't like what they have to offer. There's plenty of options out there. You won't be missed. Cause for every 1 person that leaves the iPhone 10 will come.

I like the idea of glass (or ceramic) front and back, as long as it's more shatterproof than the current 3GS glass. I haven't cracked my old 3G's screen, knock on wood, but I know people who have.
I also hope that the metallic edge blends seamlessly with the front and back slabs, the way the 3G/3GS metal bezel fits with the plastic back. There's just no way Apple could ever release a product as crudely mashed up as these prototypes. (Remember: there's another very similar prototype out there, and that one doesn't have the visible screws in the connector / speaker / mic area.)
Jonathan Ive is a fanatic for detail, and the level of crudeness of the prototype is unacceptable for a shipping Apple product. It's too late to make any significant changes to the electronics (except maybe cutting features that aren't quite "good enough".) But just a tiny bit of fit and finish work, and maybe polishing the metal of the case, and iPhone 4 looks like it's ready to go.

@WHO DAT: Why would Apple want a device back that was manufactured by a Korean phone impersonator? How is this good marketing in the slightest? Apple is known to be a very public image centric company. It would not make sense for them to inject this news and relate them to a KIRF. Stop being stupid.

Why would apple send a letter to gizmodo asking for the phone back if it wasnt theres?? I think this would be the final look and for all you people who is saying its ugly i bet £100 that you get it still, and like someone else here said, for the 1 person that leaves 10 will join.

All very interesting, but nothing new or imaginative here other than the ceramic back.
Everything else has been done by others. (And before you start the Apple does it better rant read how they have managed to F--kup something as cut and dried as a DHCP client on the iPad).
The one innovation left is the ceramic Back. That is innovative and says to me that the phone is now so thin they need to add stiffening to keep the front screen from breaking. Ceramics: Lite, stiff, radio frequency transparent.
But that's it, folks. Everything else is simply incremental changes. Nothing earth shattering, not in the hardware, and not in new OS.
This says, the boasting at the Conference Call about not mentioning new innovations for fear of tipping off their competition was just that. Windbag puffery.
Apple, with the release of the iPad, and this iPhone have exhausted their idea well. There is nothing new. They have hit the wall as far as innovation goes.

Arggh!! Common sense - its a real apple prototype (a KIRF manufacturer would need access to Apples production labs to make this) its thinner and smaller than the current 3GS, and im betting they will get rid of the seams in the aluminium before launch. Bring on our glass and aluminium sandwich overlords!

".. for the 1 person that leaves 10 will join"
What is it with fanbois and numbers? They want to be part of the most-owned phone??? Please, let everyone buy a droid. that way i don't have to feel part of the stupid masses owning an ifone. now every dud has one. like wearing jeans or driving a ford. yuk. Please.

@icebike Congrats you win the moron of the week award. Like I said no one is ever happy. You know what since all this new stuff has already been done and has been on other phones for years screw it. Apple don't put anything new on the iphone just leave it as it is. Better yet don't come out with a new phone we will just keep the last one you made. They did something innovative 3 years ago. If it wasn't for that you wouldn't have your nexus one.

@ fanboi That right I'm sick of hearing cry babies 5 year olds. "if it doesn't have a 5 mp camera I'm going to another phone". Then Apple out the 5 mp camera on the iPhone then you get. "big deal the so and so phone has had that for years". You want another phone. Peace be with you. Has nothing to do with fanboy's. You people need to grow up seriously. that your age or your IQ?? Man, you are soooo annoying. Jobs could take a dump in a box, put an Apple logo on it, and you would be here yaking about how great it was. You go on and on about the same thing. GET A LIFE. That said, this phone is pretty cool. Like the look. Needed a change from the current. It's was cutting edge when it came out, but it is showing it's age. What we know so far is sounding VERY sweet. Really like the fact that the camera seems to be behind the "glass" back. A larger battery is also very good. It is really shaping up to be A+.

Apple just want to test market reaction before really launching it, hence the phone-lost story. They still have chance to change the exterior if public reject it. Smart marketing. Still cant understand why a lot of people keep fighting on this joke lol.

@ Scott Ya I'm 15. And make 85 a year. I have a life many can only dream of. As far as my comments go I'm just speaking the truth. Which many of you just can't handle.

so with the new micro sim....does that mean the end of using iphones on other networks, ie tmobile, as att is the only carrier using this technology right? 85 huh?? HUNDRED?? American?? And mommy lets you have it?? Lets see. A life I can only dream of?? You mean like DRIVING A CAR?? Going get a BEER?? So your few dollars make you something?? I would say what that something is, but it would turn into *******. Speak the truth?? I bet you have Steve Jobs sheets on your big boy bed. Can probably rattle off more usless Apple junk than anyone should be allowed to. And, you know what?? GOOD FOR YOU, and your "85" a year. (That is REAL money, right??) Your problem is your CONSTALTLY flaming anyone that dares speak ill of the mighty iPhone. And, up until this point, and the leaked photos, there was a lot to speak about. So, I'm sure that your favorite cartoon is on, so I will let you go. Look forward to what you will most certainly have to say about this.

Is anyone else wondering whether the ceramic back relates to the Apple patent for gestures on the back of a device? Can't recall where I saw that but do a search and you will see what I'm talking about.

@MileHiPhone: My purely intuitive sense is that it's too early for Apple to bring out that kind of interface, and that it has too few additional features to bother with the added complexity.

I think it looks alot worse than the current model, flat back will less comfortable in the hand, just looks like any ordinary phone now, lost the apple appeal...

When you have it in hand it still feel just great! It is great if you choose an external battery, FM transmitter and hands free car kits all in one for it. I have one from Seenda