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Modesto-area iPhone fans on pins, needles

Talk to almost any iPhone user about the next-generation phone and their eyes take on a familiar glint.

It's part excitement, part hope and a whole lot of lust.

How much does it cost? What does it feature? When can I have one?

Central Valley iPhone owners said they were interested in the iPhone 4, which was unveiled Monday at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. The new model will be released June 24 and includes a thinner body, larger battery, high-definition screen, better camera and video conferencing.

Jay Grover of Modesto was at Vintage Faire Mall with a group of friends, almost all iPhone users.

"The first paycheck I get after it comes out, I'm getting it," said Grover.

The 26-year-old is on his eighth iPhone after upgrades and replacements for damage. He said he is intrigued by video calling, which will let iPhone users see each other while chatting through a new function it calls FaceTime. A back-and-front camera allows real-time conferencing over Wi-Fi networks.

"I've got a little boy on the way, so I'm going to use (the video function) for sure," said Grover, who plans to buy them for himself and his girlfriend.

The phones will cost $199 for 16G or $299 for 32G with a two-year AT&T contract or renewal. Apple and AT&T have worked out a deal so customers who become eligible for an upgrade anytime in 2010 will be able to get the new iPhone at the reduced price.

The iPhone 3GS, which made its debut last year, will be available for $99.

The new iPhone didn't address some users' biggest issue, the spotty AT&T network infamous for dropping calls. There were rumblings before the conference that a Verizon version of the iPhone might become available, but those fizzled and AT&T remains its sole carrier.

Apple did address one of the other major grumbles of current users -- the iPhone's weak battery life. The new battery will have up to 40 percent more charge than the old, going from five to seven hours of talk time on 3G.

"(The battery) is a huge problem right now with this one," said Tony Cordova of Ceres, who has an iPhone 3G. "That's the reason I had to buy this (extra battery case). I'd kill the battery in a couple of hours playing games."

The new iPhone has a host of other improvements. The flatter, more angular redesign is 24 percent slimmer than the previous model, at three-eighths of an inch thick versus nearly half an inch.

The front and back are covered with durable glass 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic and rimmed with stainless steel that acts as part of its antenna.

The new phone comes with a new display, which Apple has dubbed Retina Display. The screen shows four times as many pixels, the dots that make up an image, as the previous screen, making it the highest definition smart phone screen on the market.

The camera is 5 megapixel, up from 3, and comes with a built-in flash and five-times digital zoom. It records high-definition video and, with the purchase of the iMovie app, can edit and post video directly from the phone.

Then there is application multitasking (allowing more than one app to run at once with easy switching back-and-forth) and the inclusion of iBooks (making the phone an e-reader), and other goodies such as the new operating system iOS 4, app folders and even a gyroscope.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs called iPhone 4 "the biggest leap since the original iPhone."

It even has iPhone haters giving it a second thought.

Spencer Ball, the lone holdout among Grover and his friends, said he might not be able to resist any longer.

"With the iPhone, as soon as you buy it, they put out a new better one," said the 21-year-old Ripon resident. "But everyone I know has one and they all play games together and stuff. I hate Apple, but they do have a fantastic set of products."

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or 578-2284.

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