My iPhone 4 arrived two weeks ago while, fittingly, I was in the middle of what would be my final phone call from my iPhone 3G. I was caught somewhat off guard, as I hadn’t been following FedEx as closely as I sometimes do and it was arriving nearly a week before schedule. I managed to make it through the rest of the call without any sort of drooling or heaving breathing so I feel like I handled the whole situation pretty well.
The unboxing process was nice enough but I wasn’t nearly as excited about this iPhone as I had been about the 3G, mainly because I didn’t expect this transition to be nearly as drastic. I was both right and wrong about this, in a good way, so let’s break it down:
This – THIS – is what an iPhone should look like. I liked the original aluminum iPhone, and very much disliked the glossy plastic 3G and 3GS so this new design is a very welcome change.
Unsurprisingly, it feels great to hold – Apple has few peers in this area. In recent history their influence over competitors’ designs is somewhat obvious, but photos can’t portray just how big the difference in build quality is. At the risk of stepping into fanboy territory, it’s often the difference between buying a gadget and a functional work of art.
Interestingly, I did run up against what is mostly a psychological problem when setting the phone down. In a situation where I’m about to put the phone on a desk or other flat surface, I’d tend to hold it with my thumb on the left, four fingers on the right, and the screen facing up. The curved back of the iPhone 3G meant that the back of the phone would make contact before my fingers, so I could then release. The flat back of the iPhone 4 results in the opposite, meaning I either have to reposition my fingers or “drop” it slightly. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an issue as it doesn’t result in any harm to the phone; it’s just an oddity.
I found the initial startup to be a little underwhelming, actually. I think there was a lot of buildup for the Retina display and at first I didn’t notice a tremendous improvement. It is definitely nicer – a little whiter and a lot sharper, but it’s something that requires a slightly closer look for me to really appreciate. Where the difference is most pronounced for me is the app icons, as some of them are still formatted only for the old resolution and are quite grainy as a result.
What I wasn’t expecting was for the increase in performance to be so noticeable. Everything is significantly faster than on my old phone, but for me the two most useful instances of this are:
- The camera. It still takes a couple seconds to launch, but shutter actuation is much, much faster. It could still benefit from a bigger lens, but so could every camera ever made.
- Wifi. Locking the iPhone 3G would result in a loss of wifi (understandable), but it would take its sweet time reconnecting when unlocked. Not so with the iPhone 4, which retains a wifi connection even while locked (presumably for short periods of time) or reconnects almost instantly when unlocked.
The wifi in particular is an example of what Apple does well: continually refining things that were already okay until they’re great. The 3G’s wifi performance was a little annoying at times, but it wasn’t a situation where identical behavior from the iPhone 4 would’ve prevented a purchase. The newfound responsiveness has been particularly useful when using Touchpad, the remote app for our Windows Media PC.
I may be a fanboy, but I’m not so rabid as to admit that Apple’s devices don’t have their flaws. In this case, though, I think the nits I have to pick are mainly software-based except for two, both of which are self-explanatory:
- More storage is always better.
- The camera could be better still.
Even iOS 4 is pretty solid, in that it would take me a fair amount of time to remember and compile any of the complaints I would’ve had. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is with Apple’s implementation of Facetime. I certainly understand their reasoning for putting it front and center within the in-call menu, but they did so at the expense of the hold button. This resulted in a panic when I tried to put a call on hold the first time, and the end result was not pretty.
There’s been some coverage of this already, with the “official” response from Apple being that hold is just a glorified mute button. I get that, and now that I realize there even is a mute button I find myself a bit less peeved by the whole thing. The obvious question becomes: why did the two exist in the first place?
Also, I guess they’re having antenna problems or something? I wouldn’t really know as I haven’t experienced any.
And finally, still no 3G around here. Just go suck a dick, AT&T – you guys are terrible. On that note, though, I am now on the new DataPlus plan so I don’t feel like I’m being totally robbed every month. I guess that’s an advantage.