When Steve Jobs announced 720p, 30fps video recording on the iPhone 4 during the WWDC 2010 keynote, the first thing that popped into my head was: "Wow, now I don't have any use for my Flip MinoHD video camera!" I have since then done some thinking and researching about this very topic to determine if this is really case.
In order for the iPhone 4 to replace my Flip, it must do close to everything just as well as the Flip. By everything, I mean video and audio quality, storage capacity, battery life, portability, convenience, and ease of use. Let's take a look after the break.
Ease of use and convenience
Both the iPhone and Flip are very portable and easy to use. However, even though the Flip is small, it would be much more convenient to carry only an iPhone with me.
In the same category as video quality, we must also consider the lenses of both these devices. The Flip offers a fixed focus of 1.5m to infinity, f/2.4 aperture, and 2x digital zoom. Unfortunately, Apple hasn't provided us with the specifications of the lens on the iPhone 4. However, we do know that the tap to focus feature will be available when recording video. This is a huge advantage over the Flip because it allows for creativity. Apple has said that 5x digital zoom is available when taking photos, but it does not seem as though this feature is available when recording video.
One thing the Flip has been praised for is its sound quality. Quiet voices and sounds are easily picked up by the Flip and boosting volume in post editing is rarely a necessity. Will the iPhone 4 offer the same? I suspect it will be efficient enough. It may not be quite as good as the Flip, but it's a compromise I'm willing to make in order to carry one less device in my purse.
The most storage available on the iPhone 4 is 32 GB and Flip's newest camera, the SlideHD, is available in 16 GB, which is approximately 4 hours of video. Even though the iPhone has more available space, it is safe to say that there is never a time when all 32 gigabytes are free to use. Basically, storage space is going to vary by user; for me, I have about 16 GB of free space on my iPhone now, so the two devices are comparable.
iPhone 4 vs. Flip MinoHD: Battery life
But what about battery? Flip claims to get 2 hours of battery life between charges. Once again, Apple has not provided us with this information. However, I remember that Dieter, our Editor in Chief, let his iPhone 3GS record video for about an hour during an iPhone live! episode and had battery life to spare. With the bigger battery in the iPhone 4, I expect to be able to record video for about 2 hours as well. However, draining the battery on the Flip is better than on the iPhone because it only renders the video camera useless, not an entire phone.
iPhone 4 vs. Flip MinoHD: On-device editing
The last thing I want to mention is editing. The Flip does not offer any way of editing on the device itself. It does come with free software for your computer, but it's clunky to say the least. With the iPhone, I can trim clips immediately after capturing footage and for under $5, I should be able to do some impressive editing with the upcoming iMovie for iPhone. I can then upload my finished project directly to YouTube. The ability to do this all with my iPhone is very impressive and a compelling argument to ditch the Flip. (No word yet on whether or not iPhone 4 will support the Camera Kit USB reader that shipped alongside the iPad, but that would certainly be even more interesting...)
iPhone 4 vs. Flip MinoHD: Conclusion
So what's the verdict? Will the iPhone 4 replace my Flip MinoHD? My answer is: usually. For day to day use of capturing quick memories of my dogs (and soon, my child) and other random instances, the iPhone 4 will easily replace my Flip and I look forward to removing the Flip from my purse. However, if I know I'm going to capture a lot of footage, I will make sure my Flip is with me so that I don't waste precious battery life on my iPhone. Also, if I'm planning to make a nicely edited video, I will use the Flip because of the 16:9 aspect ratio (unless and until Apple proves 16:9 on the iPhone 4).
Once the iPhone 4 is in my hand, I will be putting the unknowns (battery life, audio quality, lens quality) to the test and perform side-by-side comparisons. In the meantime, I can only base my conclusion on the facts we know and dream about about what video recording on the iPhone 4 will really be like.
What about you? Do you expect the iPhone 4 to replace your Flip video camera (or similar device)? Why or why not?