iOS 4: It’s All About the Face

One of the biggest releases in iOS history, iOS 4 brought many new features, including FaceTime.

Now officially known as iOS, its fourth major release came in June 2010, and it brought with it the iPhone 4, one of the most gorgeous looking phones I have ever owned and packed some serious new features over the iPhone 3GS.

The iPhone 4 hardware was a huge improvement. It contains an 800 MHz A4 processor and 512 MB RAM. (The iPhone 4 benchmarks at 368 in Geekbench 2, a 33% improvement over the 275 score of the 3GS.) The camera improved to 5 MP autofocus with a flash plus a front facing video calling camera. The screen was one of its biggest selling points with its 326 ppi (pixels per inch) screen resolution dubbed the Retina Display.

iOS 4.0 was released for the iPhone range only. It was the first time an iOS release dropped hardware as the original iPhone and iPod touch first generation was left out of the upgrade process. Oddly, it wasn’t released straight away for the iPad, despite the iPad only being introduced a few months earlier.

The number of new features was impressive. It introduced FaceTime, Apple’s video calling app, and multitasking, which was available on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, but unfortunately not the iPhone 3G.

Mail now offered a unified mailbox for all accounts, and iBooks was introduced as a downloadable app from the App Store. The addition of folders meant you could group apps/games together for easier access. It always struck me funny that home screen wallpapers were classed as a feature, but it was and offered only to the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, as well as third generation iPod touch.

Version 4.1 introduced Game Center, a unified online place for gaming scores. It also brought in HDR (high dynamic range) for the camera, but this was only for the iPhone 4 and its new camera technology, leaving out the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS.

It was also the first version of iOS to be released for the second generation Apple TV.

iOS 4.2.1 was a huge update. It brought a unified approach to iOS after being rather fragmented, bringing iPhone, iPad, and iPod features all to the same level. iPad owners finally got iOS 4 after being stuck on iOS 3 for a long time, offering the greatest number of changes with multitasking top of the welcome list and changing the mechanical switch function from screen rotation lock – which becomes a software function – to a programmable switch.

AirPlay and AirPrint were added, making wireless streaming and wireless printing possible.

Ever since iOS 4 was given to the iPhone 3G, owners – myself included – complained about poor performance. Version 4.2.1 went some way to rectify this, making it considerably faster and therefore usable, but it was to be the end for the iPhone 3G and iPod touch second generation.

iOS 4.2.5 brought CDMA to the iPhone 4, which was now available through Verizon and other CDMA carriers, with 4.2.6 through to 4.2.10 offering further fixes. This was the first time the iPhone was available outside the AT&T network in the US.

Version 4.3 added Personal Hotspot plus iTunes Home Sharing, and 4.3.1 to 4.3.5 brought iPod touch touchscreen fixes, baseband updates for the iPhone 3GS and iPad first generation, and iPad FaceTime fixes.

iOS 4 was an important era for iOS devices, and I know a lot of people who delayed upgrading from it because it was so good, but iOS 5 was to introduce more ‘must have’ features.

Check out the next release, iOS 5: Short and Tweet, or read the previous, iPhone OS 3: Three Is the Magic Number.

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