iPhone 4 offers new tools for journalists

There will be no lack of discussion about the new iPhone this week in the tech press. And again next week when it goes on pre-sale, and the week after that when it hits the stores. But for journalists the question is: “Will it help me do my job better?”

Alfred Hermida, who teaches online journalism at the University of British Columbia, weighs in on the multimedia capabilities of the phone.

“A device that you carry all the time loaded with a mobile multimedia editing suite is a powerful combination for a journalist, let alone people caught up in news events. One of the main limitations has been the quality of the video that the iPhone 3GS could record. At best, it was 640 by 480 resolution. The new camera addresses this limitation. Of course, there are still questions over the actual quality of the video, and it is not going to replace professional or prosumer HD camcorders.”

Cory Bergman (a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board) figures the day of ubiquitous live video is here.

“For years now, we’ve talked about that mythical day when the crowd, armed with live video cameras, can broadcast live from just about anywhere. Where live video is just part of the ethos of human communication — like picking up a phone. After watching today’s unveiling of the new iPhone 4 and FaceTime, I think we can safely say that day is arriving.”

Nick Wynja, a recent grad who is joining the VeriCorder team this month, writes about the video tools as well, but also points out the IT-friendly features of the phone.

“Enterprise solutions probably weren’t the first thing that came to mind when you thought about the iPhone 4 for mobile journalists, but as more media organizations outfit teams of journalists with iPhones, these solutions make it much more feasible for the IT team to support the devices. Mobile device management and wireless app distribution are only a few of the features that IT teams can take advantage of to help outfit larger teams of mobile journalists.”

The specifications look technically promising. The screen has a 960×640 pixel, 326 ppi, 3.5 inch display and an 800:1 contrast ratio. It remains to be seen how well it operates in direct sunlight, a problem with the current iPhones.

The phone comes with two cameras — a 5 mega-pixel back camera that also captures 720p 30 fps video, and a front camera designed for video chats. The current iPhone carries a 3 mega-pixel camera, but several of the new Droid phones range from 8 to 12 mega-pixels. With iMovie now available on the phone, the potential for field editing and publishing is certainly increased, though several vendors already offer iPhone video editing apps.

Multitasking of apps is now available on the phone, though most of the examples of this seem to involve listening to streaming radio. More importantly Apple reports that the use of multitasking should not adversely affect battery life on the device, a constant concern for journalists. The base specification calls for 7 hours of talk time or 6 hours of mobile web surfing on 3G. Both are improvements over the 3GS.

> Why Apple’s new iPhone 4 is not a Flip mini camcorder killer (ZDNet)
> iPhone 4 is slimmer, sharper, smarter — and still tied to AT&T (Washington Post Fast Forward)
> iOS: Apple Unveils New Tricks for Background, Video & Audio Apps (ReadWriteWeb)
> iPhone 4′s multiband antenna makes it a true ‘world phone’ (TUAW)
> iPhone 4 vs Droid Incredible vs Android Evo 4G vs Nexus One tech specs (TiPb)
> This blog post could save you from Steve Jobs’ iPhone 4 Reality Distortion Field (Betanews)

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