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Apple iPhone4 Hands On Review

Apple iPhone 4 16GB

Rating: ★★★★★

Dimensions

I will avoid specific measurements on this post as you can find out these kinds of details on the Apple site, and will instead focus on how it feels to hold it in comparison to previous models.

The phone feels really well built and exceptionally solid. The metal casing with glass front and back makes the iPhone not only sit well in the hand but also reinforces its solid build qualities. It is reasonably heavy and as such you can certainly feel it in your pocket, but it’s extremely thin so what it gains in trouser weight it more than makes up for in slide-in-to-back-pocket agility.

Look and Feel

Because of the phone’s amazing build quality it really is a stunner to look at.

It’s still early days and still a rare sight to be seen with around the office, so be prepared to have people rock up and ask to have a play on it. Any self-assured and confident person should have the where-with-all to remind them that this is not a book in a library and that your phone is in a long-term relationship with your Social Networks and therefore should not be pulled, grabbed or man-handled like a bit of steak at an all-you-can-eat buffet!

The buttons on the side of the device feel nice and solid with no ‘give’ or loose feel and the addition of etched ‘+’ and ‘-’ symbols will obviously add some extra accessibility to those that need it.

The speakers and cable slot are located in the same place and are the same size, as is the main circular call-to-action button on the front.

The addition of a front pin-hole camera to the right of the ear-phone speaker is the only noticeable change to the phone when comparing and looking straight on.

Speed, battery and reception

The iPhone 4 seems faster when loading apps and navigating the menus. I recently updated the OS on my iPhone 3G to version 4 and had felt it made the phone slower, and drained the battery faster. Not so with the new iPhone 4. The battery life on the new version is much, much better. I’ve found that despite extensive use the battery showed only 50% loss in 24 hours. However I’d say that I rarely use my phone for music and multimedia – instead tending to pull on the WIFI and 3G capabilities to read and update social tools.

I’ve noticed that the reception on the phone can be temperamental. I’ve read up about the antenna issues and ways to hold the phone etc, but I’ve not noticed this as a real issue. Instead I have noticed that where on previous models of iPhone I might have had good reception (such as at home) it seems to register a weaker signal; and other places where previously reception was notoriously bad (at work) it seems better.

This could be to do with interference of particular types of other signals as at home I have a cordless phone, and next door have Sky television. I also have quite a strong WIFI signal beaming out from two Apple routers. Whereas at work, our phones are wired, we have no Sky TV (unless there’s something they are not telling me) and no WIFI(?!) in our office.

Screen

The screen has been one of the most talked about new features to the iPhone 4 and it really is something that should be seen to be appreciated.The actual screen size has not been improved upon since the early iPhones but the rendering process really has come a long way. Text is the most appreciable thing to view on it as it really does display pixel perfect, leaving icons and buttons some way behind.

A good example of this is on the Guardian app where the article text renders perfectly and is a joy to read, but the header graphic showing the Guardian logo is pixelated and cheap-looking on the new screen (whereas it looked fine on older models).

Note: For those who know about such things, the advent of HTML5 and CSS3 (the coding language [and version] used to build and display websites) should begin to address the imbalance of button graphics and logos to text, as new ways to render web graphics and logos that might include rounded corners, drop-shadows or non-web accessible fonts can be created at any resolution on-the-fly through code rather than by displaying a pre-designed image. This means that web pages load quicker, but also can render to take into account new screen sizes such as iPads, netbooks, mobile and smart-phones.

Other noteworthy features

The front camera adds additional features such as the ability to swap between front or back camera while framing a shot; and the inclusion of FaceTime which is basically video chat. FaceTime is currently locked down to calls between iPhone4 users only but I think pretty soon they will open it up to AppleTalk users and eventually even further to take advantage of the “Jabber” chat framework (which Facebook also uses).

There are apparently two microphones now built into the body which in theory should make voice calls better as between the two it can distinguish one primary sound source and attempt to block out any additional background noise. I’ll be interested to see future apps that are released to take advantage of the two mics especially those in the music recording category..

Pros

  • Power
  • Portability
  • Screen

Cons

  • Price
  • Antenna

Verdict

What I especially like about the new version of the phone is something more than the sum of its parts: not just the shape and feel of the phone, or what it can do (all of which we have seen before in other smart-phones like the Nexus One and Desire) but actually the feeling I get from owning and having a practical use for such a well designed and engineered bit of kit.

It reminds me of watching my dad coveting his Sony Pro Walkman in the 1980s – a beautiful, heavy black professional and portable recording machine often seen under the nose of a reporter at the BBC. This phone’s slick silver metallic edges harps back to the 1970s and 1980s when media equipment was analogue and solid and had needles and dials instead of displays and buttons.

Yet it’s ability to be controlled by voice, to pin-point the stars above your location in the sky, to create 16 track music recordings, to record in 720p HD at 30 frames a second and upload to YouTube where ever you have a signal… all these abilities and more put it safely at the front of the current crop of freshmen multi-media phone devices.

The new iPhone 4 will not change everything again, but it will change our design tastes for the better and give us a lingering taste of the cutting edge of technology. It doesn’t take a genius-bar frequenter to predict that what starts with physical functional mobile phone design from Apple will permeate out through the ranks and end with better looking consumer products in every category – products with one digital footprint in the present and another in the re-presented and re-imagined past.

Original title and location of post from Justin’s personal blog: Another blog post about iPhone 4


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