Steve Jobs’ latest iPhone is far from the disaster that was reported in the early stages of its US release. At the same time, while it is an undeniably impressive device, it’s perhaps not as revolutionary as earlier iterations.
The most striking difference that the iPhone 4 presents is definitely the new Retina display, which boasts the most incredible screen resolution I’ve seen on any device, ever. Also nice is the antismudge coating to the glass front and back of the device; a simple wipe with a cloth should get rid of all fingerprints and smudges, which was an area of difficulty with previous iPhones and the iPad. It comes pre-installed with the most recent operating system, iOS4 – this is also available to 3G, 3GS and iPod Touch users (but does not come as recommended to 3G users). The major addition is multitasking support: the ability to run multiple applications at once, as opposed to the previous requirement to close one to use another.
Other areas of improvement are the cameras. Plural. Yes, there are now two camera lenses: a new front-facing camera and the traditional one at the back for photo capture. Now, however, the main lens has been upgraded to 5.0MP, it can also record HD video in 720p and includes a flash. The front-facing camera, however, is primarily for a neat new feature called Face Time, which facilitates video. It’s limited to other iPhone 4 users, though, and requires a wi-fi connection, which really limits its usefulness.
Now for the much-hyped "Grip of Death”: a reception problem pertaining to the device’s external antenna and given heavy coverage in international media despite its relative infrequency out in the wild. While I could replicate the supposed grip of death – most commonly encountered by left-handed users covering the bottom left corner of the phone – it required me to clasp the device in the most unnatural manner. Even then the reception would drop by only two bars, and I’d never come close to holding it in this manner during normal use. I’m going to relegate this one to ‘non issue’ here in New Zealand.
Something that is a slight issue, however, is the device’s proximity sensor: a mechanism that disables the touchscreen when it detects that you have the phone to your ear. There’s been a fairly widely reported problem with the iPhone 4’s sensor, and I can confirm I encountered this issue. On a couple of occasions during use my ear inadvertently hung up a call (by hitting the onscreen "End call” button) and even attempted to initiate a Face Time call. It’s odd because this was not an issue with previous models. Anyway, Apple is reportedly working on a fix, but it’s a frustrating problem for the time being.
PROS: Improves on the iPhone 3GS in most of the right areas. Beautiful display. Super fast.
CONS: Brings a couple of problems that didn’t exist in previous models. Not really a quantum leap forward from the 3GS.
VERDICT: As an iPhone 3G user, I was worried that my time with the iPhone 4 would make my current handset appear sluggish and the display horribly dated. The iPhone 4 is absolutely the definitive version for those wishing to pick an iPhone up for the first time, and more than likely the best smartphone currently available. That said, (and thankfully for my wallet) I don’t think it presents enough reason for existing iPhone users to rush out and upgrade
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