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Inside iPhone 4: Gyro spins Apple ahead in gaming

Apple appears to have inadvertently discovered mobile gaming as a killer app for the iPod touch last year, but iOS 4's Game Center and the new iPhone 4's new gyroscope indicate the company is ready to lead mobile gaming as a competitive opportunity.

On stage at WWDC, chief executive Steve Jobs was expected to have little new to show about iPhone 4, given that a prototype version had been stolen and publicly dissected weeks before the event. Fortunately for Apple, most of its key details weren't grasped by the prototype's leakers.

Nothing about the new Retina Display was leaked apart from the fact that the new phone appeared to have a much higher resolution display, something everyone expected anyway. Leaks only assumed the presence of an A4 brain and faster 802.11n WiFi. Additionally, nobody guessed that the stainless steel shell would double as an antenna system for WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G. The leak also didn't anticipate any details of Apple's standards-based FaceTime video calling.

The biggest secret however might have been the new phone's gyroscope, a feature that beat to market the fancy phones from Nokia's Symbian and Google's Android. Few who bought into Android phones from Verizon and Sprint over the past six months will be ready to pay up to $350 in early termination fees just to grab the next gyro-equipped models one they eventually come out. Microsoft has also admitted that it won't be ready to support gyros or digital compasses in Windows Phone 7 at its end of the year launch.

That makes Apple's gyro introduction, tied to the mega-launch of the new iPhone 4, a big deal in terms of differentiating Apple's platform. Jobs' announcement of the new gyroscope feature generated an enthusiastic, instantaneous whoop from a few developers at the WWDC keynote who understood what it meant. For everyone else, Jobs had a demonstration planned involving a 3D Jenga-style game that allowed for an entirely new type of motion feedback.

On page 2 of 4: What's a gyroscope?