The wait for the iPhone 4 has been excruciating. I’ve have been drooling over this phone since it was first found in a bar and sold to Gizmodo. On June 15, I was able to reserve the 32GB iPhone 4 at our local Apple store. My excitement for June 24 cannot be explained in words.
Jump to June 24th. Nick and I arrived at the Apple store at 6am to get in the reservation line one hour before the store opened. It was obvious that we was not the only one excited by eavesdropping in other line-stander’s conversations. At 7am Apple opened up the doors and by 7:30am we walked out as proud owners of a new iPhone 4. Apple had offered to help set up email and other features, I politely declined as that is the fun part about getting a brand new phone.
Upon walking out of the Apple store with my iPhone 4 in hand, the first thing I thought was “I am going to need a case for this”. The phone has a stunning look with its silver bezel and glass front and back; however, it feels that it will get easily damaged if dropped. With a glass front and back, one drop seems like enough to shatter the device and ruin all of the fun to be had. So I purchased the only case available at the Apple store, a Bumper. The iPhone 4 Bumper, a piece of plastic costing you $29, covers the bezel of the phone and leaves the front and back glass open. The Bumper gives the iPhone a good grip as to not drop it out of your hand while playing with it. However, it takes away from the industrial look that Apple is going for. I carry my iPhone in my jeans pocket and the Bumper does not do much to protect the glass from pocket damage. We are actively looking for another third-party iPhone 4 case that we like, but until we find one, the Bumper will do.
On the second day of using the iPhone, I decided that I wanted to show off the beauty of the phone and remove the Bumper. Risking potential damage, I removed the Bumper and used my iPhone 4 in its naked state the entire day. Comparing it to the iPhone 3GS, there are some major design changes. Apple ditched the plastic back and the shiny metal look. The iPhone 4 has a beautiful glass back that complements the front of the device. The Apple logo is under the glass, so no need to worry about getting it scratched like on the 3GS. The downside to the glass is that it attracts finger prints like crazy. The sides of the phone are a matte metal that does not look as if it will easily attract scratches, like on the iPhone 3GS. Only time will tell how scratch resistant the matte bezel will be to scratches.
The phone itself is made well and is really sturdy. When holding the phone, there aren’t any spots that feel cheap or can be pressed in like plastic. The glass feels really strong as well. I think the iPhone 4 design looks really slick and clean. The design does leave the phone more vulnerable to damage when dropped, but we think in general it looks much cleaner than previous iPhones.
I instantly noticed how crisp the retina display is on the iPhone 4. Just by looking at the text on the home screen under the icons you will see a major difference from the iPhone 3GS. This retina display is the best screen on any smartphone on the market right now. As expected, photos and videos look superb on this display. All text on the phone just looks so clean and crisp that it actually looks like text on a paper. Even when holding the phone right up to your eye, it is nearly impossible to see any pixels. This is because Apple has included more pixels in the display than are visible to the human eye. I hadn’t really understood how big of a change the retina display was compared to the iPhone 3GS display. If you haven’t yet seen a iPhone 4 and are considering it, I would suggest hitting your local Apple store to see the display in person.
The most important part of our daily use with the iPhone 4 is the software. The device is running iOS 4, the latest software released by Apple for the iPhone. iOS 4 adds a bunch of features that I’ve have been dying for including multitasking, folders, iBooks, home screen wallpaper customization, and a unified inbox. iOS 4 is available for both the iPhone 3G and 3GS as well, however all of the features are not available on the iPhone 3G. After using iOS 4 on the iPhone 4 for about a week, I can say that Apple has really implemented some nice changes the right way. Category folders are fantastic and make it very easy to organize your apps into folders that correspond to the nature of the app. The unified mailbox saves time that would normally be wasted switching between different email accounts. And multitasking is fantastic to use when the app has the API that allows it to run in the background. There has been some debate whether iOS 4 has “real multitasking”, but the way Apple has implemented it saves battery life. Coming from an iPhone 3G, I am thoroughly enjoying all of the features of iOS 4 and how fast it runs on the iPhone 4.
With double the RAM of the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4 is a joy to use. Switching between apps is very fast and has almost no lag. Every transition is smooth and fast and every keystroke is instantaneous. For those of us coming from the iPhone 3G, the difference in speed will be very noticeable.
The iPhone 4 has a 5 megapixel camera. Steve Jobs says that the megapixels aren’t everything, much more goes into the camera than that. I’m going to have to agree after using the iPhone 4 camera and comparing it to other phones with higher megapixel cameras. The test images I took on this device are so clear and crisp that we think it could replace our regular point and shoot. There is a 5x digital zoom that lets you zoom in close on what you are trying to take a photo of. For low light environments, there is a LED flash. Check out a few sample images I took with our iPhone and didn’t retouch at all.
Apple boasts about its new HD video recording on the iPhone 4. Gone are the days of carrying around your Flip camera and phone, now you can just carry the iPhone 4. The quality of the video recording is superb and crisp. Even in low light situations, the video camera takes some nice shots for the little device it is. Once you shoot a bunch of video, it is easy to edit it right from the phone with iMovie for iPhone, available in the app store for $4.99. With iMovie you can take different clips, edit them, piece them together, add titles, add music, and much more to make a professional looking video right from your iPhone. Edited videos can be exported to YouTube, Mobile Me, or MMS in medium (640×360), large (960×540), or HD (1280×720) format.
I shot and edited together a quick (took about 10 minutes total) video to showcase how the HD video works:
One of the biggest complaints I had with the iPhone 3G is the battery life. I would have to recharge my phone at least twice a day to keep it working all day long. When I switched over to the iPhone 4, I was surprised at the battery life I was getting out of this device. With pretty heavy use, I would have about 30-40% of battery left. One day of testing yielded 30% of battery remaining after 4 hours, 35 minutes of usage and 13 hours, 31 minutes of standby. Another day of testing yielded 42% of battery remaining after 3 hours, 32 minutes of usage and 12 hours, 57 minutes of standby.
One of the most talked about new features on the iPhone 4 is FaceTime. FaceTime is essentially video calling between two iPhone 4 devices using the front facing camera on the device. Right now FaceTime is only available over Wi-Fi, which is a bit of a downer, but Apple is working with the carriers to get it working over 3G sometime in the future. I’ve done numerous FaceTime calls with friends who purchased the iPhone 4 and I have to say that I’m pleased with the quality of the call. The voice quality improves when switching to FaceTime because the call is transferred from 3G to the Wi-Fi network making it a voIP call.
After one full week of using the iPhone 4, I have to say that I am very happy with the device. I’ve tested a lot of phones for Smartphone Nation and the iPhone 4 really sticks out as one I am going to be happy to use for a long time down the road. With all of the improvements made to the device and the new software update, I believe that this phone is going to be popular among all different types of users, from business users to teenagers. The device is still locked down to AT&T which is the one major thing holding a lot of consumers away from the device, however I personally think this phone warrants a carrier switch if you are aching for the phone.