The arrival of a new iPhone can be likened to a major Hollywood film or blockbuster video game sequel: it’s preceded by rumors; an overstated announcement (usually by Steve Jobs himself, with black turtleneck and jeans, no less); endless hype; months of anticipation; fans camping outside stores a week ahead of release; and a launch day where countless devotees converge to purchase the device. Apple claims that the next iteration of its iPhone “changes everything. Again”, but does it? We get our hands on the iPhone 4 to find out.
The previous iPhone model, the 3GS, was an evolutionary release that improved on the features of its predecessors, but did not make a significant leap in terms of features. The iPhone 4 changes that with upgrades inside and out. The most noticeable, obviously, is the iPhone 4’s design. Gone is this iPhone’s curved plastic rear, replaced by a flat, shiny glass surface. A stainless steel band is wrapped around the four sides of the phone, but it’s not mere eye candy—it also serves as the device’s antenna. The iPhone 4 is perceptibly thinner but is said to weigh the same. The iPhone 4 looks and feels significantly more expensive than the original, 3G and 3GS.
The screen gets a significant upgrade as well. The iPhone 4 now comes with a 640 x 940 “Retina Display”, which is so sharp that the pixels are practically invisible to the naked eye. The web pages, videos, photos and menus are incredibly sharp. Paired with the sharp new screen are upgrades in RAM, providing the ability to record video in 720p at a smooth 30 frames per second. This improvement isn’t limited to video recording—the camera is now capable of shooting even better photos, thanks to an improved sensor that’s more sensitive to light. Apple increased the megapixels (from 3.15 to 5) as well.
The device also comes with a new front-facing VGA camera that can take 480p videos at 30 frames per second, a noise-cancelling microphone, multitasking (finally!), and an LED flash for the primary camera. The VGA camera’s primary purpose is to show a video of your mug in FaceTime, Apple’s video calling application. The application itself performs well enough, feels polished, and is incredibly fun to use, but it does have some a couple of significant limitations: you can only do FaceTime calls over Wi-Fi, and only with the iPhone 4. Other improvements like the welcome addition of folders, a unified inbox and threaded messages complete the iPhone’s Mail app.
The iPhone 4’s biggest fault is its controversial “Death Grip”, which degrades the phone’s signal when held a certain way. To be fair, not all units are affected by this problem, but it is quite a noteworthy blunder, especially for a company like Apple.
The bottom line: the iPhone 4 is the best phone right now, though it may not retain that title for long, thanks to the rapid changes in technology. The iPhone 4 is a huge leap from the previous 3GS, so if you’re looking to upgrade, now’s your chance. If you’ve never gotten your hands into an iPhone, consider this a compelling reason.