iPhone 4 Review

“I don’t gamble. I don’t drink. My one vice is buying a new iPhone every summer. Well, that and lying about drinking and gambling.” — John Gruber

Design

From the few I’ve spoke to it seems that men like the new design and women don’t. The ladies don’t like the stainless steel around the edges or its sharpness. They find it unforgiving and masculine. Personally, I love it. Seeing stainless steel in an increasingly plastic society feels refreshing. Plus it’s a nice design wink to Dieter Rams and old Braun products. Most Apple designs are – but traditionally the iPhone never was.
I’ve found the 4 to be both terrible and terrific in the hand because of its hard edges. Most reviewers loved the feel, and I do. But only sometimes. That cold stainless steel makes holding it very mechanical in portrait mode. It’s comforting and industrial. And after a while that feeling welds itself to you and it feels familiarly beautiful holding it. I imagine hand gun owners get that same feeling of ‘home’ when they rest they’re hands on it in their holster.

However – for me – in landscape mode when taking a video or photo it feels pretty bad. It feels pleasant but not comfortable. You have no grip and feel like your going to drop it. The problem is likely magnified with my large hands. But it’s the main reason I’m ordering a nice, round, grippy case.

I had my 3G for 2 years and dropped it quite a few times caseless and it never broke. I had some minor scratches and an obtrusion at the bottom from when I dropped it heavily once. But, it never broke, and I never experienced any of the fragility others reported. Yesterday I dropped my 4 from just below waist height. I was confident there would be no large damage. And there wasn’t. However, there are some really horrible scuff marks. Because of the square design each corner takes the full weight of impact. On iPhones of old the rounded bottom would sort of soften blow. But not with the 4. And these scuff marks are horrible! They aren’t too noticable by sight but are in the hand. The smoothness is now replaced with sharp scratches and it feels rough. Sure, it’s my own fault. But if you own it for 18 months (24 in my case) your going to drop it. And after several shunts I can imagine the phone looking really battered.

The flat, glass back makes it sit nicely on tables and it looks splendid. But I’d prefer a plastic back. Having glass on the reverse of the phone doubles your worries of dropping it and doubles the chance of damage if you do. Also, you don’t want to touch the rear. It’s smooth and lovely, but with sweaty hands it feels slippy and makes you not want to touch it for fear of smear. Yet another reason for purchasing a case.

Tech

Jesus Christ!!! The screen is stunning. Beyond belief stunning. It is mind blowingly clear. It’s so perfect you don’t want to touch it. I just want to load up a Andreas Gursky picture and mount my iPhone. Other phones screens are like regular printer paper; the iPhone’s screen is museum quality paper. (It makes me so excited for the new iPad.)

Other reviewers have praised the 4’s camera saying it’s pretty good but not top of the range. That may be so, but this new camera is more than enough. I consider it just as good as nearly all point and shot cameras. As a photographer I honestly believe I could use the 4 on assignment in most cases. Not for studio based stuff, but certainly onside on location. It’s hard to take a bad picture with it. The point to focus feature is nice but I rarely use it as the large f-stop often makes it irrelevant. It’s handy occasionally though. The flash is okay. Again, nice to have. I haven’t used it enough to really critique it. It boosts everything nicely when using it in medium to low light. But the 4 is good generally adequate in low light. It’s good at night to get the job done. But whitewashes – like most flashes – so don’t expect too fine results.

It’s 720p video capabilities are better than it’s photo taking. The video is so good! Everyone I’ve shown videos to have been blown away. The biggest problem I’ve found with video is exporting it. I like to share it the moment I take it, on Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, e-mail, etc. Most websites give you your own e-mail address so you can attach it, send it, and then the website will upload it. Bit of a problem though. Firstly, it’s compressed before the phone evens sends it and by the time the website of your choice compresses it again and converts it to flash it will look terrible. Really terrible! Secondly, you can only e-mail short videos. It’s based on how long it is and I’ve never been able to upload a video longer than a minute. That’s not very long. Say you’ve taken video on a holiday and edited it all together with the iMovie app. That could easily be 5 minutes long. So, the only way to share it is wait to you get home to your computer, connect your phone, and export it using a software of your choice. So much for cloud computing. The poorly compressed problem is also magnified due to the phones amazing screen.

The battery life is pretty poor. The tech on the iPhone is so immense that it was never going to be great. And all things considered the battery life is decent. But mine has never lasted more than a day. It lasts ages on stand-by. For example, I’ve been up 4 hours and am yet to touch my iPhone since fully charging it over night and the battery percentage is at 98%. Which is great. But the moment you start using that beast of a screen it tumbles faster than a V8’s MPG. Last week it lasted half a day with heavy usage. I shouldn’t have to worry about battery percentage 5 hours after its last full charge.

iOS4

The iPhone’s software has always been one of its plus points. Joyful and easy to use, it defined the product and put other phones interfaces to shame – and still does. On the surface iOS4 looks like any of its previous iterations. It looks exactly the same. The main new features are folders, the ability to group apps in folders; the ability to gift apps; wireless keyboard support; tap to focus video and 5x digital zoom. And, multitasking. I thought multitasking would be magnificent. And it is. But the 4 is so fast it’s almost pointless unless your in the middle of a game. And even then most games take a few seconds to start up and continue from where you left off. Also, to use multitasking you double-click the home button. Well, I’ve found only ninjas and pac man enthusiasts can do this. You have to tap it twice to quickly it’s unreal. Maybe it’s just me, but 70% of the time I want to bring up the multitasking dock it takes me back to the home screen.

The Antenna Issues

I have had some antenna problems. If I put just part of my finger against the bottom left black line of the phone I will lose bars. Usually at a rate of 1 per 5 seconds. I can easily avoid holding this area when using the screen. It’s when I’m talking on it that I experience the problem. That black line is right where my pinky finger likes to sit. So, as a result I have to move my whole hand higher or lift the pinky and look like I’m a posh twat sipping on a cup of tea. My friend Thom got the exact same model, from the exact same store, on the exact same network right before me and has experienced no issues though. So maybe it’s only on certain phones. Or maybe he’s just missing a pinky. Personally I don’t think Apple will be able to do much just by changing software. It certainly seems like a hardware issue. Despite all this it doesn’t bother me that much. I mean who uses there phone for phone calls now-a-days anyway? I’ve been on the phone for 9 minutes over the week I’ve got it and most of those calls where only to gloat. But joking aside, if your a heavy caller you’ll probably find this more of an issue than I have.

All things considered

This is a truly great phone. Reviewers are arseholes. We nitpick because it’s impossible to critique a perfect product and equally impossible to claim something to be perfect. If you’re a previous iPhone owner this will be a nice upgrade. The 4 isn’t what the 3GS was to the 3G. This is a whole new phone. And if you’re not an iPerson, now will be the perfect time to jump on the Apple ship.


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