Apple’s bringing sexy back.

iPhone 4G? Are we not calling it the iPhone HD yet? That nomenclature is beyond confusing, because, unlike the iPods, whose generations we stopped counting around 5.5, the 3G iPhone is named after the network, and is only a second-gen device. In addition, the “4G iPhone” doesn’t seem to actually function on 4G networks.

That rant aside, it’s been a big day for nerds. Setting aside the douchetacular way this has been handled by the blog networks (until my next post, anyway), the thoroughly unofficial unveiling of the iPhone HD is exciting stuff.

Facts first: this is the new iPhone. No Apple prototype makes it that far into the field without it being a production sample. Seams and all. WYSIWYG.

Apple was keen on showing off how the new iMac’s screen has an “infinity edge”, like a trendy bathtub. Of course, it’s all aesthetic; under the infinite expanse of glass is a bezel as thick as ever. Still, this edge-to-edge glass is a welcome replacement for my endlessly scratchable (and dated-feeling) chrome bezel.

The glass back is stunning. Many are saying it’ll carry a signal upgrade, but someone will have to explain to me how glass or high-gloss ceramic is more radio transparent than plastic.

No. What this represents is Apple realigning function with form, after letting function run the show for two years.

When the iPhone was announced, it wasn’t just a shiny new gadget. It was a tiny, sexy monolith. Aluminum was slippery and impaired the signal, but not the signal it sent to your brain (and your friends): I own a premium device.

The 3G changed that. Much like comparing the 1G iPod with its eventual descendants, you get the sense that the latter devices were meant for mass production and consumption, with all its unsexy signs.

The iPhone 3G seems to accept that its eventual destination is a landfill, from the chintzier chrome buttons to the hollow sound of its thin plastic casing. For me, it’s enough to pine for the original, premium iPhone. For some crazies, it’s enough to custom-fabricate titanium replacement casings.

Some are calling the new iPhone an honorary Dieter-Rams-Era-Braun design, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s elegant, minimal, and every part seems to have been thought through in great detail. I love the simple, glass-aluminum-glass sandwich, the buttons, everything.

I also love that it’s thinner and flat: It can’t hide it’s bulk by tapering at the edges (which even the iPad does). It is what it is.

Some are saying that the battery is now user-replaceable, which makes sense. Apple loves to let third parties set up cottage industries around their products’ shortcomings, only to yank the rug out from under them in one surprise reveal.

Make no mistake: Apple has noticed that the only people not making money on iPhone batteries is Apple. They’d be all too happy to sell you a spare battery or two with your iPhone at $69 a pop.

That means that all those battery-case hybrids are three times irrelevant: they don’t fit, the iPhone needs less protection, and there’s no need for a dock-blocking (heh) battery backpack.

Speaking of case manufacturers, I’m so glad to be rid of invisible shields I could burst. I loathe those things. They cheapen the look and feel of my iPhone, discolor almost immediately, and turn into used Band-Aids in a matter of weeks. But the scratch-prone plastic case makes them an absolute necessity. The worst part is that they add $40 to the cost of every single iPhone I buy. Now, with a glass front and back, they’re toast.

The high-res screen was a gimme. I’m wondering how that’s going to work, though. Sure, existing software will look the same, but will developers need to create 3 versions of apps: 1 for iPhone, 1 for iPhone HD, and 1 for iPad? I’m sure Apple has an answer waiting in the wings as to how this isn’t going to fragment the market and create hell for developers.

For my part, going from using my iPad and my wife’s Droid makes the resolution on my iPhone feel downright woeful. At this point, it’s more of a “fix” than a feature to me.

I hope the front-facing camera does more than video chat. I don’t use it on my computer, And I don’t anticipate using it on my iPhone that often. It’s novel, but it’ll be up to the software to make it useful. And iChat just isn’t all that useful. (Now Skype, on the other hand…)

LED flash: super meh. Those are only useful in the absolutely most dire circumstance. I can’t wait to hear Scott Forstall get all bug-eyed and declare a new gold rush on LED flashlight apps.

The microSIM tells me that Verizon customers shouldn’t get their hopes up for a simultaneous launch with the AT&T version. Maybe someday. Maybe. On the other hand, Apple is punching AT&T in the face repeatedly with the iPad 3G “pay as you go, then stop paying whenever you want, easily” plan. That relationship sounds strained, at best.

I am satisfied enough by the iPad that I’m in no hurry for a higher-res iphone browsing experience, but the device itself. Oh my gosh, so sexy. It’s everything I miss about the original iPhone, stepped up.

June can’t come fast enough.

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Brandon

Brandon's been bringing the pain via blog since '02. Word. Er... Press.