Apple iPhone 4 most successful before launch yet, despite some bumps on the road. We've already seen Apple and AT&T's servers overloaded on the first day of pre-orders, the ship date for the next set of phones pushed back due to high demand, and die-hard fans in line outside of Apple locations a week before the phone is actually available. Perhaps the most notable change with the new iPhone is the drastic industrial design overhaul , Apple seems to have completely rethought its strategy on how the phone should look and feel, and the results are nothing if not striking.
The iPhone 4 is made up of three basic parts:
· Two pieces of smooth.
· Strengthened glass.
· Stainless steel band which wraps around the sides, top, and bottom of the phone.
We can't overstate how high-end the design of the iPhone 4 is. The backside of the phone is made from the same kind of ultra-strong glass as the front, interrupted only by the new five megapixel camera, its LED flash companion and, of course, the Apple logo.
Overall, the iPhone 4 outclasses pretty much every smartphone on the market in terms of industrial design. It's not just the face of the phone that's undergone a transformation, the iPhone 4 is all new inside as well. We would have liked to see it futureproofed with something like 1GB, but then again, Apple's got to sell a new phone in a year. In terms of wireless, the iPhone 4 is packed with an 802.11n WiFi radio, as well as a quad-band HSUPA chip and Bluetooth 2.1.
Apple has made the stainless band around the phone essentially a couple of big antennae, and they seem to be doing a pretty good job at hanging onto radio signals. The big question is obviously whether or not this fixes or helps with the constant dropped calls iPhone users on AT&T's network have gotten used to. Well in our testing, we had far, far fewer dropped calls than we experienced on our 3GS. Let's just say that again: yes, the iPhone 4 does seem to alleviate the dropped call issue. By now you should know that iPhone 4 has an all-new display, as well. Apple is calling the LED backlit, 960 x 640 IPS screen the "Retina Display" due to its high resolution and pixel density. It's impressive, and doubly impressive when you look at higher-res graphics or watch 720p video on the phone, the detail in moving images is particularly striking.
Because Apple is using IPS and LED technology for its screen, the iPhone 4 is mercifully visible in full sunlight, and performance in low light and at extreme viewing angles are favorable. The cameras on the new iPhone are going to be a topic of much debate, since this has been an area where Apple has been slow to innovate. So Apple's using a newer backside-illuminated sensor that's more sensitive to light in addition to upping those megapixels and we must say, pictures on the iPhone 4 look stunning. With the flash on, we managed decent if somewhat blown out results (fairly common with smaller LED flashes) though impressively, the iPhone 4 was usually able to take completely useable and even handsome photos in fairly low light without the flash. In general, we'd have no trouble using the iPhone 4's camera as a stand-in for a dedicated camera. It's pretty bare bones, and we wouldn't have minded a few basic options like white balance settings, this is Apple we're talking about. The video below was shot and edited completely in-phone, so enjoy and here's the raw output to download.
Around front, the VGA camera is.well, a VGA camera. We've never had a particular problem with the speaker or earpiece on previous iPhones (well, the speakerphone has never been loud enough for our taste), but it's obvious that Apple has done some work on getting both call quality and speakerphone quality up. Beyond making the phone considerably and consistently louder in both places, the clarity of the iPhone 4 is noticeably improved from the previous generation. If you read our review, then you know that we thought Motorola's original Droid had some of the best sounding components we've heard on a phone, and the new iPhone definitely gives them a run for the money. As with the other revisions to Apple's phone line, the hardware is only half of the story. Along with the iPhone 4 comes iOS 4, the re-branded iPhone OS which boasts loads of new features, most notably a very Apple-ized version of smartphone multitasking, a video calling feature dubbed FaceTime, folders so you can organize your apps, enhanced Mail, and lots of other nips and tucks -- both big and small -- that refine the company's growing operating system. Additionally, Apple has ported the iPad's iBooks to the smaller screen, and has created a new version of its popular iMovie just for the iPhone 4. Sure, you could keep Mail, Safari, iPod, and a few other Apple programs cranking while you used your phone, but those privileges were strictly off limits for third-party devs working on the device. Apple's argument has always been that multitasking causes an undue amount of battery drain from phones, and had to be approached with caution, lest we all end up with juiceless phones at high noon. Apple has "figured out" how to "do multitasking right" -- namely, the company isn't allowing full backgrounding as much as it's allowing a handful of APIs that mimic backgrounding. Fast app switching is essentially like toggling between "paused" applications. This combined with Apple's new app switcher (double tap the home button to bring up your most recently used apps) destroys that annoying iPhone feeling of going in and out and in and out.
Task completion: Basically, task completion lets an app do its thing even if you leave it. So if you're uploading or downloading a picture in Evernote or Dropbox, or saving an article in the New York Times app, even if you navigate away, the job is done when you get back to the app. The first allows for music playing apps to keep their stream running in the background (and even gives them little widget controls in the app switcher), and the second allows VoIP connections to stay active.
Background GPS: Basically, GPS apps can keep running in the background... for obvious reasons. Apple combines these heavy hitters with more familiar tricks, like push notifications, to excellent effect. If you didn't know anything about video calling, Apple would definitely have you convinced that they just up and invented the concept based on never-aired Jetsons footage judged too futuristic for TV. It does seem clear that the iPhone video chats are moving quite a few bits around, however. Technically speaking, actually making calls is straightforward; you can switch to a FaceTime chat while you're already connected, or you're given to option to launch right into a FaceTime connection. All said, it's a fascinating inclusion, and we've got a sneaking suspicion that Apple intends to do more than just basic calls with this. For a lot of us, the new tweaks to the iPhone's Mail app have seriously been a long time coming. There's not a ton to say about it, except that in addition to lots of other great book apps on the iPhone, Apple has now given you its own. We can't say we didn't see this one coming since Apple just added video recording and editing to its arsenal with the introduction of iPhone OS 3 and the 3GS, but this takes things one step further. The battery life on the iPhone 4 has been outstanding thus far, exceeding our expectations for longevity during testing. We've only had a short time to use the phone, but in the week or so we've been carrying the device as our main phone, we've had pretty amazing results under normal to heavy use. Once the rest of the team has their iPhones in hand, we'll do some hardcore battery life testing and see what we come up with, but we think under pretty active use, the iPhone 4 blows Apple's previous generation phone out of the water, and makes a lot of the competition look downright needy.
Yes, there are still pain points that we want to see Apple fix, and yes, there are some amazing alternatives to the iPhone 4 out there.