Review: Apple iPhone 4 (16GB/32GB)
Pros: The most museum-quality phone design yet from Apple, packing the most powerful iPhone hardware in history into the smallest and sleekest enclosure. Overall camera performance is outstanding, even by comparison with low-end dedicated still and video cameras, with configuration-free video calling an option over Wi-Fi. New 960x640 display equals past iPhones in brightness and off-angle viewability while surpassing them by a factor of four in detail, improving the smoothness of photos and fonts. Improved speaker performance across the board, and markedly better microphone performance in handset mode amidst ambient noise. Markedly faster data performance under some conditions. Reasonably priced given the technology inside.
Cons: Smudge, scratch, and shatter issues await users who avoid cases. Antenna reception is more noticeably reduced under some conditions than on prior iPhones, particularly impeding cellular performance in certain indoor environments. Despite improved screen, user interface is only modestly improved from iPhone 3GS. Lowest capacity version feels cramped given video recording capabilities and release of high-resolution apps. High-resolution video output to monitors is confusingly limited; video calling is presently incompatible with even Apple’s own iChat application. Data consumption due to higher-resolution screen is ill-suited to lowest-end limited data service plans. Sole U.S. cellular data provider AT&T continues to provide inconsistent and sometimes poor service. Updated: Click here for Verizon iPhone 4 details.
The following applications received only minor updates, generally higher-resolution text, on iPhone 4.
App Store. As a main Home Screen application, App Store is the most important shopping app bundled with iPhones and iPod touches. Unlike iTunes, it is solely devoted to selling and giving away additional apps for Apple’s portable devices, including iPhone 4, and instantly installs each app after wirelessly downloading it. As with iTunes, cellular downloads are limited to a maximum of 20MB per app, though any sized app can be downloaded over Wi-Fi, assuming you have the space. There are no iPhone 4-specific enhancements to this application apart from higher-resolution text and images.
iTunes. As a main Home Screen application, iTunes is the second of two shopping apps now bundled with every iPhone and iPod touch. It sells music, movies, TV shows, audiobooks, and ringtones from Apple’s iTunes Store, while offering free downloadable access to the Podcasts and iTunes U sections of the Store. Cellular downloads are limited to a maximum of 20MB per file, though any sized file can be downloaded over Wi-Fi, assuming you have the space. In addition to swapping the prior text and graphics for identical versions at higher resolutions, iTunes on iPhone 4 defaults to offering users the higher-priced HD versions of movies and TV shows, adding an “Also available for purchase in standard definition” button to the bottom of each listing page. “The HD version of this movie will be downloaded to this device and the SD version will be available for download to your computer,” it says, without noting that the iPhone’s wireless transfer times for even the SD versions can be very long.
Calendar. As a main Home Screen application, Calendar shows the current day of the week and month on the iPhone’s Home Screen, and opens to reveal three types of calendar views: a list of all upcoming events, a list of the day’s events, or a grid-styled month view with a scrollable list of each day’s events at the bottom of the screen. Calendars can be synchronized from a Mac, PC, or online account using iTunes. There are no iPhone 4-specific enhancements to this application apart from higher-resolution text.
Contacts. Placed by default on the second Home Screen, this application merely duplicates the functionality of the Phone application’s Contacts button, providing you with an editable list of names, addresses, phone numbers and dates that can be used for phone calls, FaceTime video calls, e-mails, map searches, web pages, and birthdays of your friends, family, and business contacts. With the exception of higher-resolution text and photos, as well as the additional FaceTime button that appears at the bottom of a contact’s listing if you’re on Wi-Fi and FaceTime is enabled, Contacts is the same on iPhone 4 as on earlier iPhones.
Stocks. As a main Home Screen application, Stocks enables you to track the prices of a scrollable collection of publicly traded stocks, as well as industrial averages, with links to related news stories and up to two-year price charts for each entry. Apart from higher-resolution text and images, there are no iPhone 4-specific enhancements to this application.
Weather. As a main Home Screen application, Weather provides six-day forecasts for multiple cities, with one six-day high/low/condition chart per page. Apart from higher-resolution text and images, there are no iPhone 4-specific enhancements to this application.
Notes. As a main Home Screen application, Notes provides a yellow notepad for keyboard entry of text notes, as well as the iOS 4-enhanced ability to automatically wirelessly sync the notes you create with some Mac and PC e-mail programs and multiple IMAP e-mail accounts. Apart from higher-resolution text, there are no iPhone 4-specific enhancements to this application.
Clock. As a main Home Screen application, now hidden within the Utilities folder, Clock includes four features: user-selectable world clocks to track times around the globe, multiple alarms to wake you from ringtones, a stopwatch with a lap timer, and a countdown timer with a ringtone sound. Apart from higher-resolution text and images, there are no iPhone 4-specific enhancements to this application.
Calculator. As a main Home Screen application, now hidden within the Utilities folder, Calculator features both standard and scientific calculation features, alternating between the simpler and more complex interfaces based on how you turn the iPhone. Apart from higher-resolution text and images, there are no iPhone 4-specific enhancements to this application.
Nike + iPod. Hidden on the iPhone 4 unless you enable it from the Settings application, Nike + iPod is a fitness application, designed solely to be used with the $19 Nike+ Sensor and optional Nike+ remote control accessories. Nike + iPod provides voice and musical accompaniment while you run or walk, using the Sensor to track the distance you’ve covered while calculating the time and calories burned through each workout. Nike + iPod syncs your workout information to iTunes and the Nikeplus.com web site. Apart from higher-resolution text and images, there are no iPhone 4-specific enhancements to this application.