Talking tech since 2003

This past Thursday, Apple released their latest iteration of the iPhone deemed iPhone 4.  In spectacular launch fashion people all over the United States as well as a couple of other countries lined the parking lots, sidewalks, malls, and streets of Apple stores across the world.  Does the iPhone 4 fulfill the hype?  I’ll be breaking down the features, functionality, and more in this iPhone 4 review.  I will have the full video review up soon. Stay tuned for that too!


Retina Display: The Retina Display is one of my favorite new features of the iPhone 4.  It’s a beautiful display.  You cannot tell the difference without seeing it first hand in person.  The difference is there.  The most noticeable differences in the display occur when viewing text and comparing optimized app icons to non-optimized ones.  However, that being said, the Retina Display’s ability to produce high density pixel output will make everything look better.  The fact that the glass is bonded to the LCD panel also helps as compared to older generation iPhone’s where the glass was not bonded to the LCD panel which led to blurriness.

FaceTime: The iPhone 4 introduced a front facing camera primarily geared towards to the new FaceTime feature which allows you to video conference with other iPhone 4 users.  The only catch is that as of right now both users need to be connected to WiFi to initiate FaceTime.  I will admit that FaceTime seemed like a rather pointless feature (to me), however, after using it with several of my friends I’ve since changed my tune.  FaceTime is perhaps one of the coolest things to come to the iPhone to date.  Granted the idea and concept is not new, I think the execution by Apple is excellent.  It’s seamless to setup (press of a button) and easy to use.  I expect to see other applications like Skype take advantage of the front facing camera and would love to see the ability to video conference with people who are using Skype on desktops or laptops.

5 Megapixel Camera with LED flash: Apple has implemented a new 5 megapixel camera into the iPhone 4 with a 5x digital zoom.  While other phones out there such as the EVO may sport higher megapixel camera, the iPhone 4’s sensor is far superior.  It handles low-light situations effortlessly.  The LED flash can turn a dark setting into a fully lit one – it works wonderfully.

HD Video: The iPhone 4 can shoot full 720p HD video (see the video I shot in 720p here).  The only draw back here is that if you want to upload 720p HD video to YouTube you must first import the video onto your computer and then upload it to YouTube via your computer.  The reason for this is two-fold.  First, the current way the iPhone handles uploading video to YouTube is by using a compression tool to compress the video and then upload it to help lessen the strain on whatever network you are on.  And second, a short 2 minute video can be over 100MB in 720p.  I’d like to see the option to upload HD video directly to YouTube from the iPhone 4 even if you were required to be on WiFi.  Hopefully that will come in a future update.

iMovie: It’s great that Apple brought iMovie to the iPhone.  The app costs $4.99 and is definitely worth it.  Once you figure out how to use the app, it’s pretty easy, however, it is not as intuitive as I would have wished.  I hope Apple releases some more documentation and user guides soon.  I wouldn’t expect to make a full production with iMovie for iPhone, but you can definitely spruce up what may be a boring video with the effects provided.  I expect to see more effects and options provided later on.

Apple A4 Processor: Designed by Apple, the A4 processor is an amazing piece of technology.  It clocks in at 1Ghz with 640KB L2 cache.  The beauty of this processor is that it’s super fast while minimizing battery usage, which needless to say, improves the overall battery life on the device.  The iPhone 4 also has two 256MB RAM modules for a total of 512MB of RAM which is greatly enhances all tasks including video editing, multitasking, and gaming.

Bigger battery & improved battery life: Apple was able to implement a larger battery into the iPhone 4 and it’s definitely noticeable.  Battery life is a huge improvement.  I no longer have to worry about having my brightness too high, using push notifications, enabling bluetooth, etc.  The battery improvements are also apparent after FaceTime sessions which seem to minimally drain the battery, even after long sessions.  Even exporting HD video in 720p doesn’t affect the battery too much in my experience.  If I left my 3GS unplugged at night, it would lose at least 5-10% of its charge.  I left my iPhone 4 unplugged the other night and I woke up to a nearly full charge.


Multitasking: A much anticipated feature of iOS4.  It’s finally here.  Multitasking on the iPhone.  I will be the first to admit, it will take some time to remember that I actually have multitasking on my iPhone.  We have been without it for so long I’m still in the habit of closing an app to launch another.  I think Apple’s implementation of multitasking is stellar (granted I haven’t had a chance to try it on an Android, but I plan to pick up an Android phone soon), it doesn’t seem to affect the battery too much even with a bunch of apps sitting in the background.  The battery drain that is usually associated with multitasking and background processes just isn’t true when it comes to multitasking on the iPhone and I’m very happy about that.

Unified Inboxes: In iOS4 Apple has implemented unified inboxes within the Mail client.  A much welcomed addition.  Unified inboxes allow you to view multiple inboxes at once, instead of having to view each mailbox individually.  I’ve added more mailboxes to my iPhone now because of it.

Portrait Lock: Finally. Tired of lying in bed with your iPhone and having it switch to landscape mode because you tilted your hand?  No more.  The portrait lock fixes this problem.  Now if only you could lock in landscape too.

Create playlists: Another Finally.  I’ve been waiting for this piece of functionality since the inception of the iPod Touch.  You can now create your own playlists on the fly.  Simple, easy, and it works.

Folders: A great way to reduce the number of application pages you have on your iPhone.  Additionally the smart naming mechanism works very well.

Note: This functionality is also available on any iPhone running iOS 4.

More on iPhone 4

A lot of people have complained about the iPhone 4 reception issues due to the antenna being placed on the exterior of the device.  Which is in fact true, the antenna is part of the stainless steel frame around the side of the iPhone 4.  As I documented both the iPhone 3GS and 3G (running iOS4) both experience the same signal degradation issues when firmly gripping the phone.  While there’s no doubt, the issue is more prevalent on the iPhone 4 due to the external antenna, it doesn’t appear to be iPhone 4 specific.

However, being that I picked up my iPhone 4 on Thursday June 24th at the Apple store, I took it upon myself to test the known issue with my 3GS when I arrived and then again with the iPhone 4 before I left the store.  The results?  Surprising.  At the Apple store neither the iPhone 3G, 3GS, or 4 experienced any signal loss.  That seemed odd, so I kept trying after I left the store and sure enough, the farther away I got away from the Apple store it started to happen.  At this point, I was starting to put two and two together, however, I wanted to be more sure.  I took my iPhone 4 to my parents house where AT&T service is exceptionally good and sure enough, no signal loss issues.  My conclusion?  This appears to be a software issue and the way iOS4 picks up signals from cell phone towers.  We all know how poor AT&T’s network can be (in many places), it seems more and more that this is related to poor cell phone coverage.  Maybe AT&T really is responsible for this entire disaster.

The iPhone 4 is super fast.  Much faster than its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS.  It is absolutely a noticeable speed increase.  The Apple A4 and 512MB of RAM effortlessly pump out HD video in minutes.  I was able to export a 2 minute and 30 second video in 720p HD in roughly 5 minutes.  That’s impressive, especially for a phone.  The iPhone 4 also sports a front facing camera which is wonderful.  The front facing camera delivers great quality video for FaceTime and will prove useful for people who love to take video on the go and switch between themselves and another subject.  I’ve also noticed that the keyboard is more responsive and perhaps a bit smarter with regard to knowing what words to recommend while typing.  iOS4 also adds spell-check, a much needed and welcomed feature to the iPhone.

The stainless steel frame on the iPhone 4 absolutely gives the phone a much more sturdy feel.  However, some may argue that the glass on both sides mutes that point, which I can understand, even though Apple claims the glass is very durable – glass is glass.  The iPhone 4 is also 24% thinner than previous iPhone’s.  The hump in the back on the phone is no more.

As I wrote on my Twitter, as someone who informs people about technology, I think I would be breaching my fiduciary duty if I told you the iPhone 4 is not a worthwhile upgrade.  It is without a doubt a worthwhile upgrade for all iPhone users.  If you have been waiting to buy an iPhone – now is the time to do it.

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