Backstage | iLounge

Backstage

Backstage at iLounge is the combined blog of our editors, featuring casual and often only loosely iPod-, iPhone- or iPad-related discussions that our readers may enjoy. Founded in July, 2004, Backstage has served as a launching pad for stories that later appear on the main site, and as a place to discuss portable phones, games, computers, and accessories. Visit Backstage Archives for past stories, and bookmark backstage.ilounge.com for new ones.

On iPhone and iPad Screen Protection: Why It Matters + Some iPhone 4 Results

By Jeremy Horwitz | 07.27.10 | 22 comments

Almost every time we post an article dealing with iPhone or iPad cases, there are subsequent (and semi-heated) discussions in the comments threads regarding the merits of film-based screen protection. Over time, the comments have largely polarized into three perspectives:

“I love my screen protector,”

“I use and like screen protectors but have trouble getting them to be bubble- and dust-free like the ones in your photos,” and

“I hate screen protectors, they look dirty and terrible and my iPhone/iPad is impervious to scratching so it doesn’t need it anyway.”

Okay, “hate screen protector” guys, consider your point made, vote registered, and voice heard. You hate them. Got it.

But for everyone else—those of us who really don’t like having to wipe down our screens every day or two because of all of the fingerprints, or are concerned about scratches, dirt and the like—we’re posting a quick update on two things that might be of interest. First, the current state of iPhone 4 anti-glare screen protection, and second, how to apply a screen protector without making it look crappy.


Power Support Anti-Glare

We’ve had the chance now to test iPhone 4 anti-glare films from United SGP, Incipio, SwitchEasy, Griffin, and Cygnett, and the results have been consistent with past ones we’ve seen on iPads, earlier iPhones, and iPods: the United SGP film is better than its competitors. At least, for now—Power Support’s film for iPad is spectacular and likely to be a rival on the iPhone 4 given past experiences, but the iPhone 4 version still isn’t available.


United SGP Steinheil Anti-Fingerprint

Most of the companies that sell film—the vast majority, really—buy the material from Chinese factories that are willing to churn cut pieces out at very low prices, guaranteeing high profits while skimping on quality. Almost every case that comes with free film uses Chinese stuff. The consequential issues we see most often are prismatic effects, or rainbow glittering on the screen, and edges that are either cut too precisely or not precisely enough to the curves and holes on a given device’s face. If the film’s not cut properly, aligning the film on the screen can be difficult, overlapping onto the black plastic edges of the iPhone 4 or iPad screens in a way that makes the film peel off over time. Some film solutions also have unusually large holes that offer too little protection or otherwise look weird after they’ve been applied, no matter how well you’ve installed them. By comparison, higher-end film is almost invariably made in Japan and a little more expensive as a result: United SGP sources its film from Japan and then finishes it in Korea, while Power Support’s film is purely Japanese. Properly cut film makes alignment easier and the film stays on almost indefinitely. The film is thicker, and consequently more durable, as well as optically superior to the cheaper stuff. We’ve had the same piece of Power Support film on one of our iPads now for three months of very active daily use and it’s in perfect shape.


Griffin’s Screen Care Kit (Matte)

What is the real value of keeping a piece of protective film on an iPad or iPhone for months? Well, in the case of the iPad, it means that we literally haven’t had to wipe the screen down because of fingerprints more than once per month, if even that often. Anti-glare film basically removes the need for daily or every-other-day smudge cleaning, which is the major reason we prefer it to the glossy and mirrored films that are also sold for these devices. Additionally, iPad anti-glare film can limit the driver-blinding sunlight reflections a passenger’s iPad can give off in a car. We haven’t seen one that’s perfect in this regard, but most of the anti-glare films we’ve tried offer better results than the glossy uncovered iPad screen, for sure. For the iPhone, it means not needing to worry if a coin, a key, or some other metal item accidentally winds up in the same pocket as the glass device. This does happen, and if it does, scratching can result. As hard as the glass on new iPhones is said to be, the oleophobic coating is softer and can show marks. If you don’t care, you don’t care, but if you do, a layer of film can make the difference between thin hairline marks and pristine surfaces.


Incipio’s Anti-Glare Screen Protector

The other thing we wanted to share was some advice for avoiding imperfections during the installation process, which we originally posted as a (buried) comment to an earlier article. First was to (a) buy properly made film, followed by (b) prepping your screen by using tape and a wipe to completely remove all dust before the film is applied. It helps to apply film to a just-purchased device, but proper cleaning with complete dust removal can make application just as problem-free. For iPads in particular, step (c) was to turn the iPad to horizontal orientation, use the Home button hole to get the initial proper alignment, and gently adjust the angle of the other side - before plunking the film down - to make sure the film doesn’t hit the iPad’s surface and then need to be pulled up and pushed down. Finally, step (d): apply the film and work the air bubbles out. Anything that’s small and remains there is most likely a dust speck you missed. With good film, you can gently pull up the film and tweeze it out, sometimes made easier with a little moisture on a finger—properly made film is hard enough that it won’t bend during this process. Cheaper film will get ruined, so it might just be best to accept the imperfection as is.

Hopefully, this will help those of you who are interested in screen protection for your new iPhones and iPads. We’ll follow up with responses to questions in the comments thread below.

Apple iPhone 4 Case Program - Here Are The Best + Worst Picks (Updated!)

By Jeremy Horwitz | 07.23.10 | 130 comments

Apple officially unveiled the iPhone 4 Case Program this morning, along with a free downloadable iPhone 4 Case Program App that automatically checks your iPhone 4 against Apple’s serial number database and enables you to choose from eight cases—actually, seven if you count the two colors available for one of the cases. We’ve seen a bunch of the cases already, as well as predecessor versions of others for past iPhones, so here are the ones we’d recommend, plus comments on the others. Updated July 29, 2010 with additional photos and details.

Speck’s PixelSkin HD. This just-released case combines twin textures—glossy and matte black plastics—to create a grid on the back of the shell. Easy to put on and take off if necessary, PixelSkin HD has fairly accessory compatible holes and lacks only for screen protection. We’d definitely lean towards this one, which otherwise sells for $30.


PixelSkin HD

Griffin’s Reveal Etch. Based on the company’s earlier Reveal for iPhone 4, Reveal Etch pairs soft rubber sides with a hard plastic back that has a faux carbon fiber texture—the standard Reveal has a clear plastic back. Reveal Etch appears to work properly with the iPhone 4’s camera and flash system, has reasonably sized accessory holes, and the same integrated button protection as PixelSkin HD. Choosing between them is mostly a question of the type of rear texture you like, but PixelSkin HD’s sides are a little firmer, which we like, while Reveal Etch’s back is stiffer. It’s normally $30.


Reveal Etch Graphite

Griffin’s Motif. Normally $20, this semi-soft TPU case is translucent gray—“smoke”—and has a diamond pattern on its back. Though the atypically low price might lead you to write this one off, the strength of Motif and earlier predecessors from competitors is that the manufacturing process yields very affordable, durable, and sharp-looking designs. Motif feels glossy on all of its sides, which might be an issue for users who need more tack, but the diamond rear pattern looks very cool in an understated way on the iPhone 4. This case is also noteworthy because its bottom and camera holes are tailored nicely for proper accessory, speakerphone, and photo performance, though its headphone port hole is on the small side.


Motif

Speck’s Fitted Case. We generally really like the style and fit of Speck’s Fitted series, which pairs a fabric rear surface with a hard plastic two-piece shell. The one Speck’s offering in the case program has a gray and black Tartan Plaid pattern and normally goes for $30; the only reason we’d lean away from it is that the button coverage is really weak by comparison with the cases listed above—they’re basically all exposed—and the accessory holes don’t have any ability to expand due to the hard plastic. But the fabrics Speck chooses are always really nice, as shown on the version we’ve covered already, and have a matte finish.


Fitted for iPhone 4, with a different fabric pattern

Incase’s Snap Case for iPhone 4. Now sold for $35, this is Incase’s take on the seriously overpopulated “simple thin shell” genre, which is only appealing due to the simple, clean design. The iPhone 4 version is shown below in clear, and comes packaged with a plastic separate video stand; it offers very limited top and bottom protection, with no front protection and open side buttons. Apple’s offering this one in smoke or clear colors, the only case with two versions—neither is the more deluxe Perforated design we liked and featured in our iPod/iPhone Book 5 earlier this year.


Snap Case for iPhone 4 in Smoke

Belkin Shield Micra for iPhone 4. With a $25 asking price, Shield Micra is the only case in the bunch that we don’t know much about, besides the pictures on Belkin’s site—the company has had some rough patches with cases we’ve seen in recent years. This one appears to have open buttons, but whether it’s made from semi-soft TPU plastic or a harder material is unclear; there would likely be button covers if it was made from TPU.

Apple Bumper Case for iPhone 4. Sold for $29, this “case” is really just two types of plastic—one matte rubber, one glossy hard plastic—wrapped around the metal edge of the iPhone 4. It creates major accessory incompatibilities and offers no protection for the iPhone 4’s back, unlike all of the other cases above. Though we like its looks, we wouldn’t recommend this one.

Notably, none of these cases includes screen protection, making some form of film an advisable additional purchase if you’re worried about glare, smudges or potential scratches. A wide collection of other iPhone 4 case options is available in our iPhone 4 Case Gallery, as well.

On iPads Replacing PCs and Macs - It’s Starting To Happen Here

By Jeremy Horwitz | 07.21.10 | 12 comments

After Apple introduced the iPad in April, it rapidly took over so much of my computing time that my MacBook Pro and iPhone were essentially sidelined. The laptop gathered dust and I started to forget where I’d left the phone at night—no easy feat considering that they’d previously been my constant companions for the past roughly three years. My desktop Mac literally remained necessary for business purposes, but for everything else, I was using the iPad. And this was only in the iPad’s first month, with the first wave of iPad-specific applications—ones that had been rushed out and in many cases only modestly enhanced from earlier iPhone and iPod touch versions.

Over the past few weeks, a bunch of things have changed: the iPad’s apps. They’re just getting better and better. In some cases, they’ve become so superior to desktop applications that I’m shifting even further away from using a computer, and towards using the iPad for as many purposes as possible. When I’m checking the news, I now prefer to do it with the iPad app Reeder rather than the Mac version of NewsFire, which I used religiously for the past year. PDFs now go into the just-updated version of iBooks, which really speeds up the previously sluggish display of big documents. Gaming, watching videos, and web browsing have shifted almost entirely to the iPad as well, with increasingly impressive games and greater support for the iPad’s native video and browser capabilities.

The thing that’s most striking about the iPad user experience at this stage is the speed at which it transitions between different usage models—and users. One minute, I’m browsing through web pages as I sit on the sofa with my daughter, who’s watching Dora or Diego on a nearby television. Three minutes later, we’re together on YouTube hunting for Beatles videos, and soon thereafter, we’re doing puzzles in Shape Builder, tapping on sheep in Baa Baa Black Sheep, or sketching out letters in iWriteWords. She’s two years old and switches between apps with speed and confidence that dazzle her grandparents… and her parents. Then the iPad’s back in my lap again, and a minute later, doing something completely different. Even the best Mac computers can’t pull off that sort of trick.

Part of this is due to iOS, which offers such an instant-on, quick app-loading experience that Macs now feel comparatively slow—though multitasking makes them much more powerful once you’ve loaded a few apps. Most of the iPad’s appeal, however, is due to the work of third-party developers who have innovated more in a short period of time than most users could have ever thought possible. Today’s iPhone + iPad Gems column is a prime example: even when apps such as Flipboard and Popplet show up in the App Store in need of additional work, their bedrock content is so compelling that you can’t help but feel that mouse-based desktop computing is going to fade away, replaced by beautiful, powerful touch-based apps. Why bother with a full-sized computer when the iPad makes doing the same tasks feel so much better?

There are things that the iPad still can’t do as well as a Mac, though half are purely software-limited, and the other half are due to hardware differences. Facebook feels weak on the iPad because the web site still doesn’t support iPad media uploading or chat, and the official app is stuck with iPhone 3G-era limitations. Photo browsing on the iPad is awesome, but iPad Camera Connection Kit importation bugs in the Photos application have really limited the quantity of picture processing I’ve wanted to achieve through the otherwise capable device. Mail still stinks because iOS 3.2 doesn’t support unified mailboxes. Streaming of iPad audio and video content to a TV doesn’t happen because there’s no Apple software for it—even with the Apple TV—and there are still rare occasions when I need to use a computer to view Flash or other content on a web site. Finally, video calling and video editing just aren’t happening on the iPad for now; blame missing components or the lack of software and accessory support as you prefer.

Even with these issues yet to be addressed, the iPad’s utility has continued to grow so impressively over time that it’s certain to become my primary computer in the near future. While writing this article, the power went out in my neighborhood, stopping my typing mid-sentence as my computer and entire wireless network went down. The iPad, complete with its 3G wireless connection, stayed on and ready to use. There seemed to be a message there: if only I’d been typing on it, instead, this article would have been up already—and my work day would have ended 10 minutes earlier.

iTunes LP: Ten Months Later, It’s Worth Paying For - But Not On iOS Devices

By Jeremy Horwitz | 07.20.10 | 6 comments

When it was introduced last year, Apple’s enhanced digital album format iTunes LP was touted as a marquee feature of iTunes 9, but it enjoyed little apparent support from the music industry, and had no compatibility with Apple’s portable devices. It was obvious that the idea of unifying liner notes, music, video, and possibly interactive content behind a DVD-like menu interface was a good one, lacking only for support from good artists, record companies, and Apple itself. Despite less than enthusiastic participation from the recording industry, the content side of the equation has slowly started to come into its own thanks to more appealing releases from additional artists, and now the only question is how long Apple will take to add proper iTunes LP support to the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch—or whether it will do so at all.

Because of its generally superior pricing, we buy far more music from Amazon.com’s MP3 store than from iTunes, and have found real benefits to actively shopping around before making digital music purchases. iTunes almost never offers a price advantage, so iTunes LP is Apple’s potential differentiator; a way for its versions of albums to transcend the bare song and digital booklet downloads it has been offering for years, adding content that might for some users actually justify Apple’s higher prices. For instance, Amazon’s version of the just-released Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse album Dark Night of the Soul presently sells for $6, while the iTunes version goes for $8—with fewer tracks (!)—and the iTunes LP Deluxe Edition sells for $12, with one added mix and some multimedia content. In this case, there are at least two different reasons to prefer the Amazon version, but some really hard-core fans of the artists or collaborator David Lynch might like the extra iTunes LP wrapper enough to pay twice the Amazon price, anyway. Generally, we found that early iTunes LP releases such as Peter Gabriel’s So+ were neither particularly appealing nor worthy of the premium.

iTunes LP’s real potential is illustrated by compilation albums such as “Time Flies,” a recent two-disc set from the now defunct British band Oasis. Released by Sony, the basic 27-track album is offered by Apple for $11, and by Amazon for $12 with the same content. Compared with $1.29/track individual song prices, either version is priced aggressively enough (41-44 cents per track) to get people interested. But only Apple offers a premium $20 version with 47 tracks, 40 music videos, and the iTunes LP digital wrapper—so much additional content that the premium price for once seems totally justified, offering bundled 23-cent pricing across audio and video files.

The twenty additional audio tracks are “iTunes Festival” performances from the band, including live versions of songs from the standard album, covers such as The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus, and more. Each of the album’s core 27 songs plays with a laid-out version of its lyrics separate from the included digital booklet, which is a flip-through fan tribute to the band. Videos range from U.S. and international versions of major hits to live performances from the iTunes Live London Festival and other concerts. Those looking for a traditional album experience can hit a single button to play sequentially all the way through the music, while interactive menus provide clickable screens to access individual tracks or videos in whatever order the user may prefer. This is as close to a realization of iTunes LP’s promise as we’ve seen since it was introduced, albeit without the somewhat gimmicky visualizer content that some early LP releases contained.

Note, however, the word “clickable” rather than “tappable.” Even though the menus of this and other iTunes LP releases are clearly touchscreen-friendly, Time Flies doesn’t transfer its special interface to iOS devices such as the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch—the menu system works only on iTunes 9-equipped computers and Apple TVs. The same is true with other iTunes LP releases, as well. Copying the Oasis album to the iPad leads to 87 music and video files all falling into the iPod application where they’re individually selectable, though not marked as video or audio content when grouped as an album; the iPad’s Videos application also holds the music videos if you prefer to access them there. Unfortunately, the 88th file—the digital booklet and menu system—refuses to sync to the iPad at all, even into iBooks, which is capable of displaying the PDF-format digital booklets that were released with full album downloads in the past. The only Apple device the iTunes LP digital wrapper will play on besides a computer is the Apple TV.

Despite the increasing appeal of the iTunes LP format, it’s quite possible that these deluxe albums will never come to Apple’s pocket devices. Reduced to a 3.5” screen, the interface buttons and text may just be too small, and even the 9.7” screen of the iPad falls short of the 1280 x 720-pixel resolution Apple specifies for the iTunes LP menu system. Downscaling of these menus is an option on the iPad, and probably easy enough to accomplish, but on the iPhone and iPod touch—particularly the 480x320 pre-Retina Display versions—it seems unlikely to happen. Too much detail would be lost, and in some cases, thin text might even become unreadable.

Have you downloaded any iTunes LP content that was worth or not worth the premium? Do you care if iTunes LP comes to the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch? Share your tips and thoughts in the comments section below.

Play iPhone 4 Debacle Event Bingo

By Jeremy Horwitz | 07.15.10 | 5 comments

Apple’s going to be holding a press conference tomorrow to address complaints about the iPhone 4—or so everyone thinks! Since no one’s really sure who’s going to be speaking and what’s going to be said, we’ve come up with this little Bingo card with a mix of likely possibilities and wildcards. We’ll be playing along with you!

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Click Here For The Full-Sized iPhone 4 Debacle Bingo Card

Insights On Early iPhone 4 Case Options

By Jeremy Horwitz | 07.06.10 | 19 comments

Now that the first dozen iPhone 4 cases are available—and since a lot is changing behind the scenes with these cases—I wanted to take a moment to fill you in on what we’ve been testing, seeing, and hearing over the past couple of weeks.

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Developers really rushed out the first handful of cases in order to get early options into AT&T and Best Buy stores, and in some cases are going back and fixing problems they discovered only after the iPhone 4 became available. Issues with the iPhone 4 flash have been most widely discussed, particularly in cases from iFrogz that have mysteriously not arrived here for testing, but also in other cases with backs that weren’t cut to allow the flash enough room to fire. Griffin will be replacing early units of its Reveal case (shown above), a sharp-looking clear and opaque plastic design, with ones that don’t have flash issues.

Cases we’ve tested from Incipio have been surprisingly solid across the board. It’s “surprising” only in as much as so many competing cases seem to have problems here or there; Incipio’s feel like they’ve hit their stride after years of iterative improvements to older designs. We’re particularly fond of Silicrylic, but NGP Matte is also nice, as is the very similar dermaShot, and Feather’s fine, too.

Speck’s PixelSkin and CandyShell are already very good, and CandyShell’s getting updated. CandyShell was, hands down, the best iPhone 3G/3GS case after receiving its later manufacturing and color tweaks. The iPhone 4 version is lightweight, looks sharp, and fits really well, though it needs a little help on the bottom in particular to become more accessory-friendly. With slightly better port tailoring, CandyShell could be awesome for the iPhone 4. PixelSkin is a very solid rubber pick for the moment, and we can’t wait to try the new version, PixelSkin HD, which is expected soon.

Hard Candy and Gumdrop have had mixed results. Both of these case companies are from former Speck exec Tim Hickman, whose latest designs are variations on the cool, quirky themes that he was involved in at Speck. Hard Candy’s BubbleSlider series turned out to be really quite good—similar cases with a rubber interior and button protection would be spectacular—but Gumdrop’s earlier Gumdrop Skin and Moto Skin Cases feel like rush jobs that really needed a little extra development time and polish. We’ve updated our First Looks to show off how the iPhone 4 looks in these cases… they arrived two weeks before the iPhone 4 hit shelves.

Apple’s iPhone 4 Bumpers? Ugh. There’s not much more to say about the iPhone 4 Bumper “Cases” other than that they’re rip-offs—ridiculous pricing given that they offer no front or back protection, and the rubber/plastic design pinches CandyShell, too, without offering its other advantages. While we like the metallic buttons that are built into the Bumpers, the cases’ almost complete incompatibility with headphone and Dock Connector accessories makes them a huge pain to actually use with anything. We wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.

United SGP’s Surprise. We were a little concerned that the Leather Pouch Vintage Edition wasn’t going to fit the iPhone 4 properly, given that it arrived a week before the iPhone 4 did, but it’s trouble-free. Sharp-looking, nice leather with the same dark red interior as SGP used on an earlier and similarly nice iPad version of this case. We don’t like or really recommend flip cases, generally, but this is one of the better-looking ones for sure.

There will be much more to say on iPhone 4 cases as the weeks (and months) pass. For now, our advice would be to exercise caution before making a purchase, as there are a lot of not-quite-right options floating around out there in the early days of the iPhone 4’s availability.

Introducing Catherine Anne Horwitz, Live Over iPhone 4 FaceTime

By Jeremy Horwitz | 07.01.10 | 5 comments

My daughter Catherine was born yesterday at 3:55pm, and 40 minutes later, she met her sister Madeline (and two of her grandparents) for the first time over a FaceTime connection.

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The first photos of Madeline were sent out from the original iPhone nearly two years ago, with early video chats handled through iChat. Once Apple adds FaceTime support to iChat—and more devices—we won’t be the only people sharing these moments live from a hospital room.

A Note On iPhone 4’s New EQ: Do You Like It?

By Jeremy Horwitz | 06.28.10 | 26 comments

One thing that past iPhone owners might not have noticed on the iPhone 4 is a change to the equalizer (EQ) feature found under Settings > iPod > EQ. It’s not obvious from just looking at the screenshot, but if you plug a pair of headphones in, start listening to a song, and then change the EQ from Off to something else, you’ll notice that the volume drops. By about one bar on the 16-bar on-screen scale.

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Reader Butch H. suggests that this was likely done to address long-standing complaints about iPod and iPhone audio distortion that was evident when the EQs were turned on—specifically, bass distortion used to be extremely obvious at higher volume levels. Rather than improve the audio chip, iPhone 4 appears to be lowering the sound level a little bit before applying the equalization effect. We’re wondering whether you’ve noticed the change, and what you think of it.

The iOS 4.0.1 iPhone 4 Reception Fix

By Jeremy Horwitz | 06.28.10 | 8 comments

Just a proposal. It would reduce visual clutter and make using the iPhone 4 a little more magical.

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Now if only there was a way to get rid of the AT&T logo there, we’d be all set.

Just A Quick Note To Help Users With iPhone 4 Reception Problems

By Jeremy Horwitz | 06.24.10 | 5 comments

Users who are and aren’t noticing the iPhone 4 signal drop problem might want to try taking their iPhone 4s outdoors, as well as inside different buildings. We’ve done quite a bit of testing with multiple units and found that the signal issue only is happening inside one specific testing location, doesn’t happen outdoors, and doesn’t happen inside at other places where we’ve tried it—but it does happen with multiple iPhones in the same place. It might be specific to a certain radio broadcasting frequency, or it could be due to interference from other wireless devices.

iPhone 4 Comparison Photos Show Camera in Good Light

By Charles Starrett | 06.24.10 | 0 comments

We’ve just posted an interesting collection of comparison photos taken with the iPhone 4. Similar to the comparison videos we posted last night, in which we compared the device’s 720p video recording against that of a standalone, pocket-sized solution—in that case, the Flip Ultra HD—this time we’re pitting the iPhone 4 against Canon’s well-received PowerShot S90. And the results are… surprising. In a number of photos taken outdoors in good lighting, the iPhone 4 produced results that went toe-to-toe with the S90’s when viewed at 50% magnification. At 100%, the enhanced detail of the S90’s 10 Megapixel shots became obvious, but for smaller prints, and especially for web use, the two cameras were far closer than ever could have been expected, even in macro and depth of field abilities.

iPhone 4 or Canon S90?


Notably, the iPhone 4’s camera displayed a tendency to slightly oversaturate colors compared to the Canon’s more level output; but it wasn’t a deal-breaker, and with greater access to the iPhone’s camera promised in iOS 4, it shouldn’t be long before apps offer fine-grained control over such exposure settings allowing more experienced photographers to overcome any limitations posed by Apple’s default image processing algorithms. See the shots for yourself in this Flickr set, featuring full-resolution images from both cameras.

iPhone 4’s FaceTime Battery Life Is…

By Jeremy Horwitz | 06.24.10 | 3 comments

Three hours and 10 minutes, give or take a little, from a completely charged iPhone 4. That’s via Wi-Fi, as compared with a promised 7 hours of voice-only talk time over 3G, and 10 hours of standard data time over Wi-Fi—the difference is attributable to iPhone 4’s camera, mics, speaker, video and audio encoding and decoding capabilities all being used at the same time. Note that we tested two iPhone 4s on this one, seeing average battery consumption of 30% per hour, with slightly lower consumption when there wasn’t as much change in the outgoing video image.

iPhone to iPhone 4 Upgraders: Reset Your Usage Meter

By Jeremy Horwitz | 06.23.10 | 2 comments

If you’re planning to upgrade your iPhone, iPhone 3G, or iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4, and want to take advantage of AT&T’s new, cheaper limited data plans, here’s a tip: don’t use your iPhone 4 for a day or three before checking the “Usage” meter that shows you how much cellular data you’ve consumed. (Settings > Usage > Cellular Network Data)

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A good pointer as of now: start your iPhone 4 fresh rather than transferring over all of the past settings from your earlier device—it looks like there are some benefits to doing so. But if you want to ignore that advice and preserve your old settings, make sure you reset the usage meter on the aforementioned Settings > Usage page with the Reset Statistics button. Otherwise, you’ll carry over the call time and data usage from your old phone, and get the shock of your life when you see that your brand new iPhone 4 has supposedly consumed enough data already to destroy your monthly phone plan.

iPhone 4: See Reception Drop From 5 Bars to 0 In A Hand

By Jeremy Horwitz | 06.23.10 | 9 comments


Remember the iPhone 4’s applause-worthy stainless steel antenna and frame system? Well, do yourself a favor and don’t actually hold the device in a way that covers it. This video demonstrates how the iPhone 4’s wireless signal strength drops from 5 to 0 bars when it’s cupped in a hand. Truly amazing.

Early iPhone 4 Phone Audio Quality Testing Results

By Jeremy Horwitz | 06.23.10 | 8 comments

For those who may be interested, here are some early testing results of audio quality through the iPhone 4 in three different use models. In summary, handset performance is the most improved for both incoming and outgoing audio, with headphone port performance only modestly different, while speakerphone performance is better for the iPhone 4 user, but not as much to the person on the other side of the call.

Handset Performance. The most noticeable improvements on the iPhone 4 relate to its two speakers, which have both seen dramatic volume upgrades. In handset mode, the iPhone 4 at 9/16 of its volume is roughly equivalent to the iPhone 3G/3GS at maximum volume, so the iPhone 4 at peak volume is roughly 40-50% louder—an extremely noticeable difference. iPhone 4’s handset speaker sounds a little clearer than the ones in iPhone 3G and 3GS, even at higher volumes, for “very clear” overall sound that has roughly the same tonality as before.

iPhone 4’s noise-canceling microphone works properly and impressively in handset mode. During silences, the microphone sounds just a little clearer than with the iPhone 3G and 3GS, such that words are a little more distinct. However, iPhone 4 improves considerably when there’s ambient noise in the background. During an iPhone 3G test call, music playing loudly in the background could be heard during both gaps in speech and while the person is speaking; with the iPhone 4, the music was completely filtered out after only a couple of seconds, becoming all but impossible to hear during either gaps or speech, with only very slight clipping of the speaker’s voice—the caller can hear virtually everything perfectly. The effect is similar to the Jawbone series of headsets, only built right into the phone.

Headphone Performance. Sonic differences were very modest between the iPhone 3G and iPhone 4 when testing with the same pair of Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic. Audio sounded ever so slightly better on the iPhone 4, but not in a meaningful way. Notably, the iPhone 4’s second noise-canceling microphone doesn’t work as well when you use microphone-equipped headphones; trickles of ambient noise pop in and out both during silences and speech.

Speakerphone Performance. The iPhone 4 at 10/16 volume is roughly as loud as the iPhone 3G/3GS at maximum volume, and doesn’t suffer from the same audio clipping and harshness that the earlier speaker did at the peak volume level. At maximum volume, there’s a substantial difference—the iPhone 4 is roughly 40% louder, and still clearer than the iPhone 3G/3GS at its peak. Unfortunately, these improvements benefit only the person listening with the iPhone 4, while the person on the other side doesn’t get a huge benefit. Noise-cancellation with iPhone 4’s dual microphones doesn’t appear to work very well, if at all, in speakerphone mode; the iPhone 4’s mics pick up as much ambient noise as voice, making it difficult to discern one from the other. On the other hand, the iPhone 4 user in a noisy music-filled room can hear you talking if the iPhone 4 is at maximum volume, whereas the iPhone 3G/3GS are drowned out.

We’ll have much more to say on the iPhone 4’s test results soon.

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