iPhone 4: One week later (review)

On June 30, 2010, in Apple, iPhone, review, by DonGiaconia

So last week I woke up at the ridiculous time of 5:30 AM and made my way down to the Apple Store in Corte Madera.  I had managed to reserve one of the Shiny new iPhones via the wonderful Apple Store App along with hundreds of thousands of other folks across the country apparently. I even managed to discover that standing about 10 dudes behind me was Rick McCallum, producer of the Star Wars movies.  I snapped a few paparazzi shots of him too.  I guess he was probably picking up a phone for himself and maybe one for George.

I showed up around 6:20 and there were already well over a hundred people in line ahead of me.  By 8:15 or so I was inside and by 8:30 I was out the door with my new iPhone in hand. They can activate the phone in the store, and so you walk out with a fully charged mostly functioning phone in your hand.  The only reason I say mostly functioning is because until you get to iTunes somewhere, you don’t have any of your apps, music, or contacts.  Although, if you have a mobile me account, as soon as you set it up on the phone, it will transfer in all your contacts.

The main reason I decided to join the loonies and wait in line super early was to save time.  The new iPhone shoots HD video and I wanted to make sure that I had the new phone for my upcoming trip to Disneyland with my dad and step mom.  It’s been several years since they’ve been to the park, and I didn’t want to have to lug 2 cameras around with me the whole time to record the trip.  If I didn’t sacrifice a little sleep that morning, I would have probably wasted countless trips to the Apple store to check and see if they had them. Eventually I would have given up and just ordered one online. That’s exactly what happened with my iPad and I didn’t want to succumb to insanity. Also, I have to admit at least half the reason I was willing to get up and go wait in line was the same reason people line up to see a movie on opening night, or tailgate before a big sporting event like when I go to Raiders games with my friend Jon West.  It’s the camaraderie and the excitement of anticipation.

So, if you’re still reading and haven’t fallen asleep yet, here’s a quick overview of what I’ve come across after a week with the new shiny.


  • Retina Display
    • Yes, it really look frakking amazing. I showed someone picture of a car that I’d taken and they said “It’s like looking at the car through a window.”
    • Here is a side by side comparison of the displays between the 3G vs the v.4 iPhone. No really… I’ll wait.  Go ahead and zoom in and enhance, rotate 90º

      Click through for the full size image....

    • With the IPS technology they use for the display, you can look at the screen from any angle and it doesn’t lose brightness or detail.  And I don’t just mean side to side angles.  Literally, any angle that you can see the front of the phone, the blacks are very dark black and the colors stay true.  Everything just pops.  When I switch back to the iPad the IPS technology is there, so it looks great any any angle, but the pixel density is so much lower that it feels like it is a generation behind.  I don’t expect an iPad to come out with a retina display any time soon since the required resolution for a 9.7 inch screen at over 300 ppi would work out to more pixels than the 27″ iMac… and that’s asking a bit much of a mobile processor.
    • Reading text is like night and day between the 3G/3Gs and the v.4 iPhone.
  • 5 Megapixel Camera / 720P HD Video / Front facing camera
    • The front facing camera is going to come in handy so I look a lot less like a fool when trying to take a picture of myself in front of something interesting when I’m off exploring on my own.  Also it makes a handy mirror since the on screen display swaps east/west.
    • The flash on the back is good for blinding people because it is wicked bright!
    • I don’t generally give too much credit to megapixels since a crappy lens with higher megapixels will just get you a really high resolution shitty picture.
    • I haven’t taken enough pictures with it to really say how good or bad the pictures look, but I figured this pretty much sums up where it sits…  iPhone 4 probably won’t replace point and shoot cameras for snap shots but it does for video.  But I do think it makes sense to use the iPhone 4 as your secondary up camera if you also have a DSLR. 
  • FaceTime
    • Right now this is little more than a neat gimmick until the Verizon iPhone comes out in January and my family jumps on the iPhone bandwagon, however, it’s eerily interesting that it just happens to be AT&T that really did “bring it to you.”  Remember these commercials narrated by Magnum P.I.?
    • I’m fairly sure this will be in the next version of iChat — come on Apple, seriously! Hopefully AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, Google chat, Facebook and/or Skype may jump on the band wagon and come up with a platform and service agnostic way of chatting.  Chat on the internet is broken — you can’t send a message from one protocol to another.  Can you imagine if email worked that way?  “Wait, hang on, let me log into my Yahoo! mail account so I can send you this email because it won’t go through if I send it from Gmail.” I guess nature’s “solution” to this problem was creating applications that let you simultaneously be online multiple accounts at the same time and condense your buddies’ multiple accounts into one contact, e.g.  Adium for OSX, Pidgin for Windows or BeeJive for iPhone and BeeJive for iPad.
  • New Solid Aluminium enclosure
    • I haven’t had any of those “you’re holding it wrong” issues that I’ve seen other folks report. And I’ve done all but lick around the edges and hold my hands completely around every surface of the phone.
    • It really feels very solid and almost weaponized — as though you could lob it squarely at an attacker’s temple and knock the dude to the ground.
    • The buttons and mute switch feel a lot more sturdy… I know a lot of folks had their mute switch fall off on the 3G/3Gs models so I’m glad they corrected that.
    • Now that the front and back are both slick flat glass, I tend to pull it out of my pocket and try to click a non-existant home button on the wrong side.  I’m sure I’ll eventually learn to go by the volume controls instead of trying to feel for a curved backside.
    • The home button itself seems to click differently… It’s almost identical to the original iPhone — it has a lot more give to it when you push it in.  The 3G/3Gs barely moved at all.
  • Speed, Performance, etc
    • Yea, it seems faster, but maybe that’s because when I installed iOS 4 on my 3Gs everything went slow as dog poo on a cold day.  I can’t imagine what the iOS 4 runs like on the standard 3G.
    • It seems like the new dual mics for noise canceling (the extra hole in the top next to the headphone jack) must make a difference. I’ve mostly done my calls so far on Speakerphone, and I’ve gotten a lot less “WHAT’S?” back from the folks I’ve talked to. I suppose this was a requirement for them to get FaceTime to be worth a damn.
    • Battery life seems drastically better than my 3Gs.  Apple has put all its research to good use from what it learned with the MacBook Air.  I think they’re quite a ways ahead of anyone else in terms of battery technology.  They shrunk the size of the components in this new phone, increased the size of the battery, and replaced the processor with their own Apple A4 chip.  Apple was smart to pick up Intrinsity in order to acquire all their  low power / high speed chip technology.
  • Where did my HOLD button Go?
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