My week with the iPhone 4

I decided to step away from grad school for a moment to give my take on Apple’s iPhone 4.  There has been a lot of press surrounding the phone (good and bad), but how does it function during daily use?  I will tell you!

Design

The first thing you notice with the iPhone 4 is its new design.  The glass on the front and rear with the stainless steel band, give the phone a very sleek look.  When pictured next to my iPhone 3G, the 3G looks cheap and fat.  The iPhone 4 is 25% thinner than the iPhone 3G and 3Gs, but the weight is the same.  The phone just feels more solid, but I would not recommend dropping it!

iPhone 4 and iPhone 3G

The design is where the most criticism of the iPhone 4 has stemmed.  The new “revolutionary” antenna design makes the phone more capable, but if touched in the right way will lose signal.  Therefore, there have been countless videos on YouTube and sites such as Gizmodo that show the effect of touching the seam on the left side of the phone.  I have been able to replicate this, but only if I hold the phone tightly with my left hand.  In normal conversations and usage, the phone has yet to drop a call.  So yes, touching the seam on the left side makes the bars drop, but it always stops at one.  Apple will surly address this issue soon, as the free case program ends September 30. By the way, I got a free black bumper for mine, but do not use it!  My iPhone is naked except for an invisiableSHIELD by Zagg.

iPhone 4 and iPhone 3G

The other issue I have experienced is the proximity sensor.  This is what makes the screen go black during a phone call as you move the phone closer to your ear.  The sensor is too sensitive and if you are multitasking (as many grad students do!!) and holding the phone up with your shoulder, the screen does come back on.  I have experienced this twice.  Once my cheek disconnected the call and the other time it turned on speaker phone.  This will be an easy fix for Apple and it will be addressed next week with iOS 4.1.

iPhone 4 and iPhone 3G

Hardware

Now for the stuff that makes the iPhone 4 one of the best phones on the market.  The iPhone 4 sports a new front facing camera with Facetime.  I have yet to use Facetime, but I have taken images with the front facing camera and they are not bad.  The camera on the back of the phone, however, is what made headlines.  The 5 megapixel still camera works great and the 720p HD video mode is also very well done.  Apple has used a very advanced sensor for the iPhone 4 and it shows!  I also paid the $4.99 for iMovie, but I feel that should come with the phone.  I have taken a video of the Quad at JMU with the iPhone 4 and edited it with iMovie.  Meaning the video was shot and edited on the iPhone.  The quality is amazing!

Taken with the iPhone 4 – Blueridge Mountains from JMU

The other headliner as far as new hardware is the Retina Display.  Many have dismissed this as a major advancement, but looking at the screen in person makes the difference.  The quality is amazing!  The pixels are simply not visible, unless I look at it with a magnifying glass.  The Retina display makes a huge difference with this phone and gives it a real HD feel.

Retina Display on iPhone 4

There are a few other hardware features that make give the phone an edge.  Apple’s A4 processor delivers powerful speed which saving energy.  I still have 60% charge and have not charged the phone in two days!  I have made several phone calls, checked email, played some new games, and surfed the web.  The battery life is amazing for a phone!

Software

Of course, hardware is only as good as the software that runs on it.  Apple, again, has made an operating system for a phone that does not overwhelm the user, but creates a ease of use.  iOS 4 adds several features that the iPhone has needed for some time.  Apple’s version of multitasking is actually very efficient.  I switch from one app to another and back again without ever having to reload the app.  It makes using the phone much simplier.  Speaking of simple, the addition of folders has cut down on having to scroll between 7 screens of apps.  Now, all my apps are organized into folders and fit on 2 screens!!  There are many minor changes in iOS 4, but they are not as noticeable as others.  Unified mailbox in Mail is much easier.

Issues

Besides the proximity sensor and the dropping of bars, I have experienced one other problem with the phone.  I received a phone call last Tuesday (the phone was a day old!) and I was unable to answer it because the phone said it was overheating and needed to cool.  In fact, I was unable to use the phone for five minutes.  Now, the phone was not hot.  It was actually cool to the touch and had been sitting on my desk for about an hour in sleep mode.  I feared there may have been an issue with the temperature sensor so I called AppleCare to find out if it was a wide spread issue.  They said it was not a big problem.  They took the information about what happened.  Had me do a hard restart of the phone and it has not happened since.  They assured me that if it happened again, however, I was to call back and they would replace the phone.  But that was over a week ago and no issue, so I think it was just a brief software glitch and it may very well be one of the “bugs” being fixed by iOS 4.1 next week.

Overall

Before I give the iPhone 4 a glowing review, let me just clarify one point.  Many of you know that I own several Apple products and am what many may descirbe as a “fanboy.”  However, before purchasing the iPhone 4 I did check out other phones.  The BlackBerry Torch and HTC Aria were two that AT&T offered that I looked into.  The issue I had with both phones was their construction.  They are bulky, and are made from cheap feeling plastic.  The iPhone’s glass and stainless steel feel much more sturdy.  That being said, the iPhone 4 is an awesome upgrade from Apple and is well worth the money.  The negative press is regarding the signal issue has been overblown and the iPhone has worked great for me.  There is one negative aspect surrounding the iPhone that seems to never go away and that is AT&T.  Their coverage is weak, their plans are too expensive, and their customer service leaves something to be desired.  It took the AT&T store an hour to activate my iPhone 4.  They had six employees and two did not do a damn thing the whole time I was in there.  I had to wait for the one person who knew how to activate a phone.  And there was a line behind me!  So, if there is any negitive press to be thrown at Apple, it should be regarding AT&T and not issues that are far and wide between.  That being said, Apple stands behind its products and is allowing customers to return the iPhone 4 at anytime within 30 days for a full refund or exchange.  If you do not like it, take it back.  It is that simple.

This weekend I will write about my first week of classes!  Until then…

-Eric

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