By July 15, 2010

Apple iPhone 4 Review

Apple iPhone 4 ReviewThe new Apple iPhone 4 is without doubt the one phone that has had the most attention this year. With a new design and improved specification the iPhone 4 is more than worthy of sitting in top place in the smart phone wars but how does it truly compare in my opinion with the many top of the range Android devices that are constantly hitting the market?

With some data issues from day one Apple have made various excuses and seem to be happy with the consumer spending extra money on a bumper to solve the problem. Is this issue a problem for me and will it affect sales? You will have to read on to see what I think about it.

What’s in the box:

  • iPhone 4
  • Charger
  • USB Cable
  • Headphones

 

The ten second review:

Device: Apple iPhone 4 16gb

Price: Varying

Summary: A perfect phone for the web, using apps, shooting video and so many other things.

Best of: UI, HD video recording, web browser, apps

Worst of: Rear is made from glass. May scratch.

Buy it now from: All UK networks on contract

 

Apple iPhone 4 specification:

  • Size: 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm
  • Weight: 137g
  • Display: TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
  • Size: 640 x 960 pixels, 3.5 inches
  • Scratch-resistant surface
  • Multi-touch input method
  • Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate
  • Three-axis gyro sensor
  • Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Internal Storage: 16/32 GB storage, 512 MB RAM
  • GPRS: Class 10 (4+1/3+2 slots), 32 – 48 kbps
  • Edge: Class 10, 236.8 kbps
  • 3G: HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: v2.1 with A2DP
  • Camera: 5 MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
  • Video:  [email protected], LED video light, geo-tagging
  • 1 GHz Apple A4 processor
  • Colours: Black, White
  • GPS: with A-GPS support
  • MicroSIM card support only
  • Scratch-resistant glass back panel
  • Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic.
  • Battery: Standard battery, Li-Po 1420mAh

 

General:

The left side of the iPhone 4 houses the new style up and down volume buttons as well as the mute switch.

Apple iPhone 4 Review-left

iPhone 4 left side

The right side is flush but the micro sim card slot is located there.

IP4-right

iPhone 4 right side

 

The top contains the power switch and also the 3.5mm headset jack.

IP4-top

iPhone 4 top

 

On the bottom we have two speakers as well as the charge/sync port.

IP4-Bottom

iPhone 4 bottom

 

Over on the rear of the device is the camera lens and flash. Also a nice shiny Apple logo.

IP4-back

iPhone 4 rear

 

The front still looks typical iPhone with the one button under the screen. Above the screen is the ear speaker, front facing camera and proximity sensor ( although it must be hidden as I cant see it!)

IP4-front

iPhone 4 front

 

Highlights:

  • Apps
  • HD Video Recording
  • Display
  • Web Browsing

 

Lowlights:

  • Back of the device is also made from glass. May scratch easily?

 

 

Review:

Taking the iPhone 4 out of its box for the first time was an almost ceremonial experience. With so much hype surrounding the phone is was almost too good to be true when the courier delivered mine.

Not owning an iPhone before I was initially surprised at how heavy it felt. From my point of view that is a good thing. I like a heavy phone as it makes it feel a bit more robust and the iPhone 4 certainly feels that. The new design makes it feel thicker than the old iPhone 3G, although it is actually a bit thinner. The metal strip that runs around the iPhone 4s four edges gives the handset a luxurious feel and that coupled with the black front and back (on this model) gives for a sleek quality look and feel. The build quality is outstanding and it really feels like it is built to last. You really don’t want to drop it though as the rear of the device is also made from glass this time. If you don’t mind using a case then that is advisable. I’m not though. I love my naked iPhone 4!

IP4-angled-right

The new style up/down volume buttons are a vast improvement over previous models. Having them separate and not in a rocker style makes for nicer use and again has improved the premium phone feel.

In iPhone tradition the actual front of the device looks very similar to its predecessors with only the one button below the screen. Once again most actions are performed using the touch screen display.

This would be a good time to mention the 3.5 inch display. Apple have created what they call a ‘retina display’ which contains a 960-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi. To normal people like me this basically means that the iPhone 4 display contains more pixels than the human eye can see. Why is this a benefit you may ask. What it will allow for is a much crisper display. Icons appear less pixilated and if you zoom into text it appears crystal clear right up until you cant zoom any more. Stunning.

Is the retina display the best screen we have seen so far. I would say no in my opinion. Although it is truly beautiful I would say that the Super AMOLED screen on the Samsung Galaxy S is a little better. The colours on the Samsung are just a wee bit more colourful. (See the Galaxy S review for more details).

 

Unless you have had your head buried in the sand you will be aware of an iPhone 4 reception problem that has been getting a fair bit of media coverage. Many have called it the death grip but to summarise Apple have included the iPhone 4’s antennae in the silver bezel that runs around the edges of the device. Customers have reported a big drop in signal strength when holding the iPhone 4 and covering the antennae with their fingers. Have I had the issue? Yes and no. I have discovered that if my signal strength is good I tend not to see the problem. However if I am in an area where my signal strength is not great I can see the bars dropping. For me though this is not an issue and I will tell you why. To test this I had to hold the phone in a way that I would never hold it normally. If i am holding the phone to my ear then my fingers will naturally be on the upper half of the phone, therefore not effecting the antennae. So for me this really is not an issue. I have though noticed a lot more complaints about this coming out of the USA. Maybe our network coverage is a little better here?

 

So lets jump into the iPhone 4s OS and see what’s inside.

First off we have the lock screen. As far as I am aware their have been no changes here. You still see the same info as on the last version of the OS. It maybe would have been nice to see some notifications on this screen but not this time.

IMG_0162

The arrangement of the on screen icons on the iPhone 4 is much the same as it has always been but now with iOS4 we have a nice new extra feature that I really love, and that is folders. If you drag one app onto another it will create a folder where you can then store up to twelve apps in total. The folder can be renamed and moved to which ever home screen you require. This will allow you to have more applications stored on your iPhone as you are not just restricted by home screens. In fact if you had 16 folders on just one screen they would hold 192 apps. That is a little better than on previous models holding only 16 apps per screen. Nice!

 IMG_0164 IMG_0165

Under the 16 on screen icons we have four more which are meant to hold your most common feature/apps. These can be customized which is handy. While we are on the home screens I had better mention another new feature with iOS4. Now you can change the wallpaper on the iPhone 4 to anything you want. On the iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch you could only change the lock screen. A huge bonus. Well I think so.

The biggest change for me with iOS4, and this is why I have not owned an iPhone before, is multi tasking. A double tap of the iPhones button will pop up a kind of task manager that shows you what applications are running on the device. You can scroll left and right to view all the running apps and here we can also can close apps. Just hold one down and the ‘minus’ sign will appear on all running apps in the task manager. Just close the ones you no longer require to be open. Simple.

 multi tasking multi tasking 1

Like we have seen before, the search option is still to the left of the home screen. Either give a left swipe to find it or you can give a single press of the iPhones button. The search not only searched your phone but also the web and Wikipedia. I only just noticed that. Bonus!

search

Using the iPhone 4 for the first time you may want to jump straight into settings first of all to make a few tweaks. Top of the list is airplane mode. This gives you quick access to switch off all connections for those times when you either have to do so or don’t want any calls and messages.

Settings

Next is Wi-Fi and getting this set up is a breeze. The iPhone automatically searches for open hotspots and then it is just a case of entering the password. Could not be made easier.

As well as changing your brightness and sounds you now also have the option to change your wallpaper here. You can either choose from the pre set wallpapers of choose from your camera roll.

The other important place within settings is mail. Here you can set up multiple email accounts and now with iOS4 you have the option to view all emails in a combined stream. Before it was a case of jumping from one account to another, and you can still do that if you wish to keep them separate, but now you have a choice.

email

Setting up emails accounts is a piece of cake and once this is done you will see any new emails on the ‘mail’ icon on the home screen. A press of this will take you straight into your inbox.

Click on the email you want and the message is beautifully displayed. You have tabs at the bottom of the screen to allow you to forward and reply as well as delete the email, and move to other folders you have set up.

If you do have an email open you can also use the up and down arrows at the top right of the screen to jump back and forth through messages quickly. If like me and you constantly spell words wrong the iPhone 4 kindly resolves that problem. If you spell a world wrong the phone will show you the correct spelling. Thank god.

 email2 email3 email6

In addition we now have support for multiple Exchange ActiveSync accounts so Matt is happy!

This may be a good time to mention the onscreen keyboard on the iPhone 4. As far as I am aware the keyboard is pretty much unchanged and this makes sense as it is not in need of a makeover. It performs perfectly in both portrait and landscape although I must confess I always use in landscape when I can just so the keys are a little bigger. This may just be as I am also a BlackBerry user and i prefer to use two thumbs when typing. I can however type pretty well on the iPhones touch screen keyboard and I must say it is the nicest one I have used to date. It can be a bit of a pain though when entering punctuation as you need to jump to a new page which is done by pressing the .?123 key on the bottom row. This gives you numbers and a list of symbols. A further press of the #+= key gives you a further list of symbols. This sure slows you down when writing a detailed message but you just get used to it.

 email5

key 2 key 3 key 1

Text messages are still shown in the traditional threaded bubble format. Not too much to say about them apart from it works very well and is attractive to use. I rarely uses SMS these days to be honest.

IMG_0178

Google maps is a application on the iPhone that I really like as I have found myself using it on the iPhone where as on other devices I didn’t really like it much. Pinch to zoom is used here and the built in compass also springs to life when you are outside to help with navigation. Like on all other devices here in Europe you can use Google maps for directions but it will not act as a sat nav so using it when driving in not going to be easy as you need to concentrate on the road.

IMG_0179 IMG_0180 IMG_0181

At the bottom right of the screen is a kind of flap tab. Press this and you get a few more options. Here you can change the type of map you are using and this has come in handy for me once or twice. Switching to satellite mode will show you photographed images. Now this may sound a bit daft but I use this to look for parking places. I find where I am going on the normal map and then switch to satellite to see if there is a car park or on street parking available. I like to plan ahead!

Anyway, Google maps now lives on my home screen for the first time ever with any phone.

 

An Apple product would not be complete without iTunes. I think in this day and age if you don’t know what iTunes is, you probably are not interested in an iPhone so I am not going to talk about it. Apart from to say it works seamlessly on iPhone 4.

iTunes iTunes 7 iTunes2 iTunes 6

Much the same for Apples app store. If you are reading this I am certain you know all about its benefits and that is without doubt the number one app store when compared to the alternatives.

app store 2 app store

Facebook is hugely popular these days and on the iPhone it is a real pleasure to use. It pretty much takes away the need to use it on the desktop. As you can see below the home screen is made up of the different features within the app. Most people will jump into the News Feed first to see what your buddies have been up to. Here you can click on an update to comment or like the status or at the top of the screen is a status bar for you to update your own.

Facebok Facebook 2 Facebook 3

As well as the obvious features as seen in the menu my favorite is photos. Here you can view your uploaded pictures and any comments that have been made about them. They look really great on the iPhones screen. As you can see below you can view all your albums,  photos in a gallery form and last but not least once you have opened one you can scroll left and right through them. As with most features on the iPhone4 you can use the accelerometer and rotate the photos into landscape mode if they fit the screen better that way.

Facebook 4Facebook photos facebook photos 2

If you use Facebook a lot you will be pleased to know that push notifications is present. If someone makes a comment etc about you a bubble will pop up on screen to let you know. This works when in any application so you wont miss out. The one downside here is that when you do get a notification the iPhone 4 does not make a noise so you are relying on the visual bubble only. I am sure this will be fixed in the future.

Overall the Facebook app is well pukka!

Web browsing on the iPhones Safari browser has always been one of its strong points. I flaming love using it! Pages are easy to navigate thanks to pinch to zoom and and a real joy to use. There is a lack of flash which is a shame but you cant have everything.

At the top of the page you have the address bar with a Google search bar sitting next to it.

IMG_0167

IMG_0168

Using the browser is one of the places where the iPhone 4’s retina display really becomes noticeable. You can zoom in on text as far as you can and there is no pixilation at all. The text is still as crisp as a crisp thing that came first in a staying crisp competition!

IMG_0169

Multi tabs is another nice feature that the iPhone 4 does well. At the bottom right of the web page there is a small icon which shows you how many you have open. Press this and the tabs appear on screen. You can scroll right and left through them and you will be able to see what is displayed on each open page.

IMG_0170

Bookmarks are easy to manage. On the web page there is a + icon at the bottom. Press this and you will be asked if you wish to bookmark the page. Editing your bookmarks is also very simple. You can rename them and also re arrange where they appear in the list. If you have particular bookmarks you visit very regularly you can even create a shortcut to the page on your home screens. I tend not to bother with this as it is so easy to do from within the browser.

IMG_0171 IMG_0172 IMG_0173

The calendar on the iPhone 4 is more than capable of taking care of your organizer requirements. Setting up appointments or reminders could not be easier, just fill in the boxes. As well as being able to change how long before the event you are notified there is also a notes section for adding extra information. The calendar can be viewed in list, day or month view and navigating around the app is dead simple. I will be totally honest with you and say that I don’t use the calendar on a day to day basis as I have my BlackBerry for that. I have however spoken with many people who do use the iPhone calendar all the time and they love it.

calendar Calendar 2 calendar 3 calendar 4

The YouTube client on the iPhone 4 is an excellent one. I do prefer it on the Android platform but i am not sure why. I use the app on my iPhone 4 every day without fail and this is mainly so I can check my subscriptions while having breakfast. Although the iPhone does not have the biggest screen, videos play well and the quality is fantastic. As you can see in the screen shots below you have tabs at the bottom of the screen to help you find what you are looking for. Pressing the ‘more’ icon pops up an extra list where you can find your own uploads, subscriptions and history.

Youtube YouTube 5 YouTube 4

The iPhone would not be complete without some nice clock features. The only one I tend to use is alarms. You can set multiple alarms which are easy to edit afterwards. With a range of alarm tones you will definitely find one that makes you jump first thing in the morning. A stopwatch and timer are also included as well as a world clock which will enable you to set up numerous clocks around the world. Handy for some people.

clock 2 Clock 3 Clock 4 Clock

Contacts are easily managed on the iPhone 4. As you will see in the screen shot below my contacts were synced with my Mac but you can do the same with a PC. Inputting from scratch is a piece of cake, just fill in the boxes. Depending how much information you input will determine how much is shown when you access a contact. As you can see in the second screen shot you have instant access to text, FaceTime, share, add to contacts and email ,if I had included a contact with one.

Searching for a particular contact from you list can be done one of two ways. You can either scroll up and down the list using the letters on the right hand side to start you off or there is a search bar which will appear at the top of the list. To access this quickly just swipe up the letters to the top in one swift movement. I find this easier than trying to tap the little logo at the top of the list as it is situated close to the + option and I found myself pressing that instead.

contacts Contacts 2

The camera on the iPhone 4 is a definite improvement over the 3GS but I wouldn’t say it is amazing. It’s interface is dead simple, just point and shoot and photographs are taken very quickly. Although the pictures below look ok I found that the a lot of the photos I took with the iPhone 4 were slightly out of focus. This may just have been me but it is not a problem I have suffered from before with other devices.

The iPhone 4 has a built in flash and it does a great job. On the main camera interface you have the option to have the flash on, off or in automatic mode.

IMG_0292 IMG_0280 IMG_0297

Within the camera application you will find the camera roll. This is the gallery of photos and videos you have taken. You can scroll up and down the list and then tap the one you wish to view full screen. They look great on the phones display.

Camera Roll

The iPhone 4 records video in 720p HD and compared with some other phones that offer this it outperforms most, in my opinion. It is certainly better than on the Samsung Galaxy S that I reviewed recently. The quality is not outstanding and no match for a video camera but it doesn’t do a bad job and it is more than you need for recording video on a mobile phone. You can access the video camera from the camera interface. There is an icon which allows you to toggle between video and camera which makes a lot of sense.

I have put together a few clips using the iMovies app from Apple. This app is great as it allows you to roll together video and photos and then put music over the top. See what you think.

iPhone 4 sample video

iBooks is one of the new features in iOS4 and if you like to read on the go then iBooks is a great little app. To start you off you get Winnie the Pooh free of charge and already in the app. Pages are turned by dragging from right to left just like in a real book and once you are reading it feels totally natural. This is another place where the retina display kicks butt. The text looks so sharp. To be honest with you iBooks is not an app I will use as I tend not to read books very much. I am too busy doing phone reviews. The iBook store is pretty impressive. Prices really vary as you would find in a proper book shop. Would you want to spend  11.99 on a download for iPhone instead of a hardback book? I’m not sure. I don’t think I would.

iBooks iBooks 3

I had better not forget that the iPhone 4 actually makes phone calls. Using the number pad is as snappy as you would expect. At the bottom of the screen you have some tabs to enable you to achieve what you want to do quickly. First off is favorites. Once you have added a contact you can either press their name to call them straight away or alternatively you can press the arrow next to them and this will bring up all contact info in case you wanted to send them a SMS or have FaceTime with them.

Next is history which doesn’t need much explaining. Beside each name you will have a logo showing if the call was incoming or outgoing. Missed calls are shown in red to highlight the fact you were not quick enough at answering!

Voicemail is easily accessible as you can see. A single press of the voicemail tab will dial your voicemail and the onscreen keyboard appears to allow you to re listen, delete etc.

phone 1 phone 2 phone 3 phone 4

There are a few other applications pre loaded on the iPhone 4 such as stocks, voice recorder and weather. If you are not happy with these you can always download similar ones from the app store. I think at the moment the store contains about 200,000 applications. Be warned though. It is easy to spend money quickly here. Not because the apps are overpriced, as they are not, but with so many to choose from it is very hard not to find something you want to try.

Stocks voice rec Weather

FaceTime is another new feature on the iPhone 4. If you have not seen it in action it goes like this. FaceTime is video calling from iPhone 4 to iPhone 4. Now we have the front facing camera this is possible. At the moment FaceTime will only work over a WiFi connection but Apple have said they are looking at 3G options. I am not sure if this will be a short term option though. Our networks are pretty much overloaded as it is without a load of video calling to clog it up even more. The application works beautifully which is good news. Video quality is better than I expected and using the app is easy. You can either phone a contact and then switch into FaceTime of you can initiate a FaceTime call from the contacts contact page. You may need to check in the settings if FaceTime is switched on. Mine wasn’t when I got the phone and took me a while to work out why it would not work. It is not one of those apps I will use all that often but it may be in the future. Who knows.

 

Matt got his iPhone 4 on Monday having waited a little longer for a deal from Orange. Sadly the deal never came but when the iPhone did it arrived with an interesting fault; the LED flash seems to have a mind of its own flickering on and off at random even when the phone itself is turned off!

Orange had no problem in arranging the replacement for Matt but Apple were a little surprised with the fault report, so much so that Matt decided to record this little video of the problem to show them, and you!

iPhone LED flash fail

 

Conclusion:

Overall I absolutely love my iPhone 4. I always carry two phones as I have a work phone as well as my personal one so I currently have the best of both worlds. I use my BlackBerry 9700 for all email, instant messaging and Facebook/Twitter notifications and I use the iPhone 4 for using the web, sat nav, games, news, video and the list goes on.

The major threat to the iOS at the moment is Android and its marketshare is growing rapidly on a monthly basis. Which is best, Android or iPhone 4? Good question and i think the answer really comes down to personal preference as both platforms have benefits.

Android is fortunate to get regular updates and I feel this is its biggest benefit. If it was up to Google I am sure that all Android devices would get a software upgrade as soon as one is released but at the moment we are relying on carriers and manufactures as they all seem to customise the UI heavily. It also seems that not long after ‘the best’ Android device is released it is shortly replaced by another “best’ one so if you want to keep up with the latest specs it could be very expensive.

The iPhone updates are not as regular but the build quality of the iPhone 4 is better than any Android phone I have used to date. Combined with its easy UI and superb app store this is why I chose it over an Android device.

But with Samsungs Super AMOLED devices now available and HTC releasing some new Android devices over the next few months the decision of which phone to get will get harder and harder.

I am more than happy with my choice and if you choose the iPhone 4 I am sure you will be too. Apple have done an amazing job once again. It is just a shame we have had to wait so long for simple features such as multi tasking. They got there in the end.

 

Posted by: James

Posted in: Phones, Reviews
Tags: ,

About the Author:

Five year veteran of the site. BlackBerry specialist, but experienced in most operating systems. Enjoys flower arranging and cross stitch.
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