Steve Jobs Invokes Star Trek (Again) While Unveiling 4th Gen iPhone – But Where Is Star Trek Mobile Video Chat?

Back in January when Apple unveiled their highly-anticipated iPad, Star Trek was there, using the new movie to show off its multi-media capability. And today when Apple unveiled the 4th generation iPhone, Star Trek was again invoked, this time by CEO Steve Jobs himself when introducing the new video calling capability. This prompts the question: Is Star Trek actually behind the curve on this tech?


Jobs invokes Trek for iPhone 4

The 4th generation version of Apple’s popular smart phone was unveiled today at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in San Jose. Steve Jobs gave one of his famous keynotes introducing the new phone and it's key features, one of which is the new 'FaceTime' video calling feature. Jobs prefaced his introduction saying (via arsTechnica):

I grew up here in the US with The Jetsons and Star Trek and communicators, dreaming about video calling, and it's real now!

This bit of Trek injected into the event inspired the UK Times to title their article on the rollout as: "iPhone brings Star Trek to the modern world". More info on the new iPhone at A video report from the event is below.

Star Trek and video calls – when will it go mobile? 

The two-way video chat is a classic piece of Trek tech, starting with the original Star Trek and conversations via both the big bridge view screen and smaller screens. However, even though the classic Star Trek hand-held communicator has often been cited as an inspiration for the modern cell-phone, they never had a video function.

Video chatting was part of Star Trek from the first TOS episode aired ("The Man Trap") to the final TNG movie ("Nemesis") – but not with the hand-held communicator 

This missing bit of mobile Treknology was actually going to get an upgrade in the 2009 Star Trek movie. The new Star Trek communicators actually were designed with a screen on the inside (using a little green screen on the inside of the black flip-open cover), but this functionality was never shown on screen. The Playmates Toys version of the communciator was originally going to have a lenticular image to show this functionality, but in the end this was replaced with a simple starfleet logo. It is possible that we will finally see a mobile video chat via a communicator in the Star Trek sequel.

New "Star Trek" communicator was originally designed to have video chat – but was never shown in the film 



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This is really hot!!!

looks really amazing wish i could afford a phone like that

Apple only holds 28% of the smartphone market while RIM, makers of BlackBerry holds 35%…so it would seem the iPhone is the 2nd most popular smartphone, contrary to the opening paragraph.

hopefully they show the new communicator having video-chat capabilities in the sequel…… right boborci ? (if your reading….)

Great new phone, love the features but the cruddy thing is AT&T will now limit the streaming data to a monthly, limited use charge-meaning after so many minutes of data used, you must pay the cost of going over that limit. Very similar to the old cell plans where there was no unlimited access. Their service sucks to begin with ( I get so many dropped calls) I can’t imagine trying to anger their customers even more. I really look forward to the day when other carriers can have the iPhone.


I’m no iFan but they’re not talking about the company’s market share, but the popularity of the actual phones. Blackberry’s share is spread between dozens of models, no one phone comes close to outselling one of the few models of iPhones.

RE: market share.
Right you are, i edited it to fit better

Ok Bob Orci. Make it happen ok. I am getting the Sprint Phone Tomoorow. It is the HTC Evo the worlds first 4g phone. But Video chatting will be the future here in the near future.

So freakin’ cool!

Clearly iPhone 4 is technologically beyond Star Trek communicator!

Well, the future really begins for Star Trek…

What this article should also mention is that the new iPhone’s screen is literally made of transparent aluminum, i.e. Scotty in ST4. No joke.

#12. You are right. But Scotty did not take credit for it. But he was the real inventer. Lol.

#12 – “Hello computer…” hahaha

I’m all over this.

Although it does have the cool name, it is my understanding that the iphone’s aluminosilicate glass is regular glass with aluminum oxide mixed in to make it harder. that doesn’t seem all that much different than Pyrex, which isn’t exactly star trek tech. So i am not sure it can be said that it is ‘literally transparent aluminum’. I do believe they have actually made real transparent aluminum in the lab but it doesn’t last long and takes ridiculous amounts of energy. I think Kayla reported on that a while back

If you ask me, Star Trek TOS, the subsequent series and movies were right on the money with “video chat” not being standard on portable devices. I doubt it ever will be simply because most people would never use it even if they had it. It’s the same reason video calling will never be standard on house phones and the same reason video chat doesn’t get used as much as regular calling on Skype. Not everyone wants to be seen while they talk, it’s not always convenient and more often then not people on a calling device want to be doing other things. There’s also the reality that people like to make gestures and use body language when they talk and they don’t always want that body language to be seen. Sometimes, your gf just makes you roll your eyes during a conversation and what she doesn’t see won’t get you smacked.

The second (next?) generation communicator… from Apple. The iCommunicator


About time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I figure we’ll get holo-mmunicators in the next movie.

I likes me some good gadgets, but I won’t buy anything that adds a ton to my monthly bills. Keep going, Jobs. Invent affordable stuff.

Hardly behind the curve. Trek communicators have a range of tens of thousands of miles, potentially, without the need for cell towers. Even satphones cannot compare.


I think Bradley1701 makes a legitimate point. The Blackberry has a dozen different models with a dozen different names, but they’re all Blackberries. There are four different iPhones too, but they all look similar and go under the same name, and few people if anyone bother to split the numbers by model. Not saying Blackberry is definitively the leader, but I wouldn’t say the same about the iPhone either.

Korea is so way ahead of the world.

Hasn’t the blackberry been around longer? Also with the introduction of the first gen iPhone, there were many features lacking, which large companies required. Now that iPhone has caught up and surpassed in some areas over the BB, corporations are more likley to adopt the iPhone as their standard phone, at least that’s what I have been reading. As most people know, the BB was originally marketed towards the corp markeet. Let’s see if this changes, as the iphone keeps improving. Apple is already workig on it’s next iPhone, which will have 1GB memory, improved camera etc.

#17. The video talk feature doesn’t have to be used, just use the iPhone like a regular cell. Doesn’t another smart phone already have video chat?? I am not sure…

i think i will just get the Nokia N8 instead its an amazing phone (sure even my old nokia had video chat for the last 3 years) , and according to star trek the Nokia company will be around in the 23rd century !

(nokia phone in the car kirk borrows in the new movie :) ).

I think the “official” range of a Trek communicator, at least in the TNG Tech Manual, is 40,000 miles without assistance.

The next iPhone will use subspace as its carriage medium to match this range. No joke.

17. Aj… Exactly. Videophones are one of those technologies (like voice recognition) that just really isn’t needed or wanted. Sure, there might be a few times when having a videophone would be nice, like on Christmas or birthdays, but for everyday use? No. And on those rare occasions when they are useful, they won’t be the handheld variety with a teeny-tiny screen you have to hold at arms length. That’s uncomfortable for more than a minute or so, and its hard to see the screen. People will probably still do that like they use webcams today, but they’ll probably be integrated into your TV by the time videophones are practical.

I can’t count all the times I’ve seen friends, family, or co-workers duck for cover or hurry out of a room when someone breaks out a camera (this seems especially true the older you get.) I’d put serious money that if videophones suddenly became widespread tomorrow, at least 75% of them would have the video part disabled by the user.

222. Cap’n Calhoun… “The Blackberry has a dozen different models with a dozen different names, but they’re all Blackberries.”

Right. I’m still trying to figure out when having choices became a *bad thing*. Man, that Apple hype machine is good!

24. Scott G… “Now that iPhone has caught up and surpassed in some areas over the BB, corporations are more likley to adopt the iPhone as their standard phone, at least that’s what I have been reading.”

Three strikes against iPhone:
1) Corporations would be stuck with AT&T. No choice in the matter.
2) Stuck using Apple/ITunes Store’s software. Everything your company wants to do on their smartphones has to be blessed by Mr. Jobs first.
3) No physical keyboard. iPhone has a nice Onscreen Keyboard, but that’s still a poor man’s keyboard for anyone who has to input a lot of information. Even Blackberry’s tiny keys are better than that.

Those three scare off lots of corporate customers right there. There’s a reason Blackberry continues to dominate the corporate market, years after iPhone debuted.

Woah. Sweet.

but I have to say, something looks insanely wrong with Quinto’s hand in that one picture………ok those “walking dead” pictures from that previous article really creeped me out, lol. Yeah, I know, I need to grow up.

I never cared for the idea of ‘video calls’ (be they from 2001, Star Trek or Apple). Personally, I appreciate the fact that I can call my friends from home and can look just as badly as I want to! ; )

I think it’s a nice option, but I don’t think it’ll set a new standard for phone calls. Besides, can you imagine people having 2-way video conversations in movie theatres?? Regular voice calls interrupting movies are bad enough….

i’ve never really felt the urge to look up someone’s nose while i’m talking to them on the phone.Sorry, video calling on mobile/cell phones would just be a gimmick that wouldn’t last.

I wish my contract was anywhere near up so I could grab one, but for now my 3Gs still rocks and the only people I know with a phone that compare have the exact same thing. All of my friends that have Blackberry’s have tons of problems with theirs, stuff I’ve never had much trouble with.

no 32: “Sorry, video calling on mobile/cell phones would just be a gimmick that wouldn’t last”….eh?

Friends said that about the first ipod when i got mine on the launch day.. now all my friends have one or 2!… Kids will love it, adults will love it. It is the future… here now.
If you travel for work it will be great to keep in touch with family, i thought the promo ad with the deaf couple signing was amazing what a damn clever idea! And looks like it wont cost anymore than making a a phone call!

The iPhone is ok, but the droid phones are outselling them two to one in most markets. I have the droid Eris, and its the most convenient phone I’ve ever had. I just wish it flipped lol, but it is an awesome piece of tech.

#34 sorry, I don’t agree. The ipod was a terrific leap forward. Looking at the person you are talking to? meh, who care’s.
Anyway, on the off chance it should take-off I’ve got a Patent in for a mini tripod for placing it on. Other than that it will be like watching one of these trendy tv shows with the shaky cam. You know, the one’s that make the viewer feel like up-chucking.
I know when I make my phone calls I like my dinner to stay in my stomach. ;-)

It’s obviously a nice function to have, but certainly not for all calls. It’s not an either or. Once it is available it will be used for many applications, and not used by those who don’t want to. Simple as that, but to say it shouldn’t exist because it’s not practical for everyone is just silly.

35… That’s because Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile outnumber AT&T two to one (at least). The iPhone is an excellent device, I’m not saying it isn’t. (But I do think iPhone 4 is only going to get current iPhone users upgrading, not many new customers until its available for other networks.)

37… I’m not saying it shouldn’t exist, I’m saying no one wanted or asked for it. As long as vanity exists in the human soul, videophones will be nothing but a gimmick. Apple’s marketing machine simply can do no wrong: “Buy our iPhone 4! It’s a VIDEOPHONE! Woo hoo! Star Trek tech is here!” and the usual “gotta have it” suspects will line up at the Apple store to buy one.

Then they’ll realize they didn’t really want a videophone.


1.) This is the only point where you are correct.
2.) Businesses DO NOT need to have their apps go through the App Store for deployment. And enterprise solutions exist that can deploy applications without the need for iTunes.
3.) Guess you’ve never seen a teen texting on an iPhone.

The reason the Blackberry dominates the enterprise market is because the Blackberry is designed for the enterprise market. The iPhone is designed for the rest of us.

I have a 3GS. I purchased it earlier this year. In my opinion, it’s the best handheld communication device in the known universe, in the history of human civilization, bar none. I haven’t tried the HTC Incredible, but I cannot imagine how it could be better than my 3GS.

I also recently purchased a Google phone — the original one, the G1, that runs Android 1.6 (as updated). It’s a T Mobile phone. I purchased it because I still like physical keyboards. It’s very versatile and I use it for streaming video and audio, just as I do with my 3GS. I use it all the time as a phone, as well. However, my G1 isn’t as good as my iPhone. Admittedly, the G1 is older technology, having been released in October of 2008.

I have a second line with AT&T that is eligible for an upgrade. I plan to upgrade that second line to an Apple iPhone 4 from my existing LG.

I agree with previous posters that Star Trek so far probably have been pretty spot on with the lack of video function in their communicators, because it just isn’t needed in that situation.

All of you seem to be forgetting one thing with the video function though. It has become a bit of a blessing for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, since they can use the video function for sign language. Obviously though, this is still a minority and in a situation similar to that of Star Trek, it probably wouldn’t be needed.

The larger view-screens however, is a different matter. This of course since people then are sitting down, and with a larger screen, you can see the person clearly. It becomes pretty much as a personal meeting, which is sometimes preferred, especially when discussing more important matters.

I’ll just say this:
Touch screens suck. (Especially for cameras.)

Steve Jobs is definitely trying to alienate the iphone userbase with that iSpam crap and the stubborn refusal to upgrade the storage capacity of the iphone in the nbew model. HD VIDEO, VIDEO EDITING and in order to use it to any meaningful effect I gotta eliminate half my music library because Apple wont put out a 64GB iphone? GRRRR

Evo blah blah blah.
iPhone blah blah blah.
Droid blah blah blah.

Why is there no cell phone that looks like a TOS communicator??? I’m amazed that there isn’t even a case of some kind to snap your cell phone into that looks like the classic prop. This is unbelievable.

Great, now when is someone going to work on warp drive?

I’d say the portable video conferencing of the new iphone is more akin to Dick Tracy’s video wrist watch than Trek’s communicators. And, ultimately, it’s something I would never use…as I ‘m usually talking while doing other things. But I can certainly see it’s advantages, and to be able to do it, on the go, in my lifetime is still is still pretty amazing. What’s next, Hondas that fold up into a briefcase?

@6 – According to AT&T, new customers to the iPhone will be required to pay the new data plan rates. But current AT&T customers (whether they used the iPhone or not) will be grandfathered under the old, unlimited rate. I’ve been checking on this because my daughter wants a 4G, and I wanted to make sure she didn’t go over on her data.

At least, that’s what AT&T is telling me. Grain o’salt, and all that.

wont video on the communicator not ruin Trek tech canon.

It wasn’t in the prime universe, should the new parallel universe have it just because technolgy has advanced?

I think the communicator should stay similiar to what it was. The new movie had one too many changes.

no forget what I said in number 49

Its no longer canon what they do as its a new universe. Would be cool to see the two way video on the communicator but I still like to be faithful to the original communicator