iPhone 4 Combines Power With Practicality

Critics may allege otherwise given Apple's propensity for doling out changes in small amounts, but the reality is that it's never been a company to slack off when it comes to producing cutting-edge devices. Consider latest mobile wonder the iPhone 4, which adds a sharper screen and multiple cameras, plus clocks in as the slimmest smartphone at just 9.3mm thick, or roughly 24 percent thinner than its predecessor, the 3GS. Arriving June 24 in 16GB ($199) and 32GB ($299) units, raw technical advancements may seem middling. But from the introduction of mobile videoconferencing options to the addition of multitasking capabilities, it also boasts a number of less immediately obvious, yet more potentially bar-raising small-business features.

Both existing and new iPhone owners will instantly be able to spot improvements at a glance, courtesy of a 3.5-inch, 960 by 640 "Retina" display that offers four times the resolution of that found on the iPhone 3GS. Web pages immediately appear crisper and more vivid when viewed on the display, as do photos, videos and other forms of multimedia content. A redesigned form factor also proves highly attractive, scratch-resistant and easier to grip, making it an eye-catching conversation piece to boot. But where things really get interesting for entrepreneurs is in the addition of multiple cameras, including both a front-facing unit and rear-mounted 5-megapixel model with 5X digital zoom and LED flash. Using them, it's possible to stream live video via Wi-Fi connection, or snap sharper-looking stills and high-definition video for easy upload to your personal blog or company website. Coupled with a new application called FaceTime, which allows for real-time videoconferencing, these options further promise to change the way we work and interact, enabling face-to-face communication with clients or colleagues many miles distant.

Behind the scenes, the brawnier Apple A4 processor (the same model found inside the iPad) allows for faster program loading and execution, as well as more complex applications and 3-D visuals. As a result, apps boot up quicker, perform calculations in less time and can execute more advanced functions, as well as exploit a new gyroscope that provides 6-axis motion sensing. Expect a host of new productivity and entertainment apps that take advantage of these abilities shortly, as pioneering software developers discover fresh ways to serve the public's appetite for compatible utilities and games.

Powered by the new iOS 4 operating system (also available for download on older models), iPhone users can now multitask, switching between programs on the fly. As a result, you can quickly check flight times, log travel miles or even check the weather at your next destination without having to close individual apps. A new organizational system that takes advantage of folders to group programs also makes it possible to quickly sort and categorize software installed on your handset. With more than 225,000 apps now available on-demand via the App Store, including pocket translators, voice recorders and CRM or inventory management solutions, it's like having a portable PC in your pocket.

Battery life also gets a boost here, with the handset offering up to seven hours of talk time on 3G networks or 10 hours of juice while surfing the web on Wi-Fi. Owners can further sample, purchase and enjoy more than 60,000 books (including various business bestsellers) or browse PDFs using the iBooks application. Consider this digital publishing and e-reader solution a welcome resource for road warriors looking to research new management methods or catch up on industry best practices while hopping a cross-country flight.

But beyond improving and extending the already industry-leading features found in predecessors, perhaps the iPhone 4's greatest strength is simply in the personal touch it adds to everyday interactions. Through the addition of videoconferencing capabilities, globetrotting entrepreneurs can now actually see their children off to bed, or watch firsthand how a proposal goes over with prospective clients. That's not to say functional enhancements including greater enterprise support, beefier hardware and slicker multimedia output should be discounted--merely that the device wisely emphasizes practicality as much as performance, and, given its enhanced range of workplace solutions, may appeal to a broader range of business owners as a result.