The iPhone 4 has been met with mass attention and several reported hardware defects. Whether you are a smartphone power user, iPhone enthusiast, or perspective customer there is a lot to admire with the new iPhone. Remember, iOS 4.0 offers a great suite of features for previous models as well. Just because the iPhone 3GS isn’t the new kid on the block doesn’t mean you have to trash it like a cheap box of wine.
The iPhone 4 is compact. At 4.5″ by 2.31″ by .37″, the iPhone 4 is smaller than previous generation iPhones. In fact, the phone feels much more ergonomic than other devices on the market making it easier to use. Although a little heavier than previous models, at 4.8 ounces the iPhone is not a brick. In fact, it feels much better in my pocket than other smartphones I’ve used, including the Nokia N97 and the HTC Touch Pro2.
Regardless of size, the biggest cosmetic improvement comes in the form of materials. The days of plastic are finally gone. The back of the phone is now formed with scratch resistent glass, a welcome upgrade from the weak plastic of previous models. Sadly, there are reports of minor scratches on this glass leading users to suspect a lower grade glass than the front touch screen. The phone is then incased in a band of stainless steel to round out the professional appeal.
Speaking of the screen, the new Retina display is majestic. At 326 pixels per inch, the Retina display has by far the highest resolution screen on the market. But is the Retina screen a useful feature or marketing hype? Although it’s hard to imagine, the screen is breathtaking. The level of detail seen in pictures and images is remarkable. In fact, when you load a complex webpage like the New York Times and you can read all the text without zooming, you can more easily understand the usefulness of the Retina display. In fact, thanks to the new IPS technology found in the Retina display, the iPhone 4 has much wider viewing angles from all directions.
Also on the exterior of the phone are the antennas. Perhaps the biggest talking point of the iPhone 4 isn’t what it does well, but its reception woos. As early as launch day, left handed users were noticing signal degradation when holding their phones. As more reports hit the internet, it became clear something was wrong. Apple responded in a press conference designed to highlight the problem and showcase the issue in other device.
Apparently, the formula used to display the signal bars is completely wrong. Apple goes on to say that the reason for signal loss is poor mobile data coverage and suggests that the original bar reading may have been artificially increased. A software update has been released and Apple will supply free cases to combat these problems. Although I can reproduce this issue, I have yet to drop a call or loose connection. Either way, a free case is a nice gesture.
Finally, I’d like to address colors. When Apple announced the iPhone 4, they demoed both a black and a white unit. Unfortunately, just hours before launch Apple officially stated that white iPhone’s would not be available until late
July 2010. Personally, I have no interest in this white model. However, the absence of a white iPhone has increased demand for the black model making it more difficult to purchase a unit. Apple says manufacturing issues forced their hand, but it seems to me Apple used this situation to artificially boost demand.
One of the reasons I was so quick to jump on this new iPhone was the improved camera. At five megapixels with a larger sensor and an LED flash, pictures look much better than before. Images are crisper and autofocus continues to work wonders. I’ve been particularly impressed with macro shots taken by simply tapping on the screen. And although there isn’t an optical zoom you do have the option of using up to a 5x digital zoom, although I tend to steer clear of this method.
Moving on, video recording is very important to me. Sporting 720p HD video capture, the iPhone 4 is great mobile device for aspiring film makers. The idea of having a viabile capture option wherever you are is extremely appealing, and one of the major selling points of this device. In terms of quality, video look great. Resolution is sometimes marketing hype but Apple’s implementation of video recording works very well and creates excellent video. And if you want to edit your high definition clips on the go, iMovie has gone mobile and works quite well.
Moreover, Apple has added a VGA resolution camera to the front of the phone. Useful for taking self portraits, this camera has another great feature: FaceTime. FaceTime is Apple’s mobile video chat solution allowing iPhone 4 users to speak, see, and hear their contacts. FaceTime is limited to iPhone 4 and is currently WiFi only. Apple has said they plan to make FaceTime utilities public allowing developers to create their own solutions on top of the FaceTime API’s. I’ve yet to determine the practicality of video chat, but having the option to see my friends when I call them is appealing.
Since the dawn of time, smartphone users have been crippled by poor battery performance making it difficult to last the entire day on one charge. The only solution was to disable services, forcing many users to cripple their new devices to last throughout the day. As of late, Apple has made great strides in battery performance offering powerful laptops with legitimate eight hour batteries and the iPad which lasts for over ten hours on a signal charge.
Without a doubt, the iPhone 4 takes queues from its brothers. With a battery now rated at 1420 mAh, the iPhone takes usage in stride. I’ve been able to complete a day of heaving usage while staying above 40%. Simply amazing. What’s more, Apple’s battery technology is expected to last for one thousand recharge cycles meaning you can expect quality battery performance for a long time.
Often overlooked on smartphones, the core function of these devices is calling. Although I’ve personally moved away from voice chat in favor of SMS, MMS, and Email, I still think it is truly important to purchase a phone with solid calling abilities. I’m happy to say the iPhone performs extremely well. I’ve both made and received calls from the iPhone 4 and can honestly say it sounds life like. Words are audible, voices are clear, and I’ve noticed fewer dropped calls.
New to the iPhone 4 is a second microphone, located on the top of the device, for active noise cancellation. In simple terms, the second microphone picks up background noise and removes it from your outgoing audio making your conversations less noisy and distracting. Furthermore, Apple has greatly improved the speakerphone making calls louder and crisper while also enhancing the music listening experience.
Apple has also implemented a software feature to help AT&T’s desperate network. The device actually switches from band to band to connect to the frequency with the least amount of congestion and interference. Don’t get me wrong, if the signal is too weak the iPhone won’t connect to it, but there are other variable in play to make your experience the best it can be.
You can read as many overviews and walkthroughs as you want but eventually you need to make a decision: should I buy this device? I’m sure you have discovered this by now, but I am extremely pleased with my iPhone 4. I’m always connected and the iPhone is a solid device that drives my communication: whether that be social media or direct conversation. iOS 4.0 is a great software package that makes using the device simple and reliable while also expandable with over 200,000 third party applications.
To be frank, there is no better device on AT&T at this point. The hardware of the Palm Pre Plus is dated and the few android devices are limited by AT&T’s restrictions. I’m a fan of the Tilt 2 (Touch Pro2) but at this point I’d stay clear of Windows Mobile devices, at least until Windows Phone 7 launches. If you are on another carrier, you are not excluded either. If you have good AT&T coverage, I highly suggest you switch to the iPhone, you won’t be disappointed. However, if AT&T 3G is lacking in your area I suggest you look for a different device on your network. The iPhone is a quality smartphone but if you don’t have reception the whole point of an always connected mobile device is lost.