Reviewing the iPhone 4 is not an easy task. In fact, it took me 2 weeks to fully test and scrutinize the device so I can write a balanced and unbiased review. Without further ado guys, here is my review of Apple’s biggest leap from the original iPhone, the iPhone 4.
The Apple A4 Chip
Speed and power is one of iPhone 4’s greatest assets. Thanks to the Apple A4 chip that is also found in the Apple iPad and latest iPod Touch.
[stextbox id=”info”]The Apple A4 chip Apple A4 is based on the ARM processor architecture.The first version released runs at 1 GHz and contains a Cortex-A8 CPU core paired with a PowerVR SGX 535 graphics processor(GPU) built on Samsung’s 45 nm process.[/stextbox]
The best thing about iPhone 4’s A4 chip is that it has more RAM compared to the iPad and the latest iPod Touch. The former’s RAM contains 2 chips of 256MB therefore doubling its read-access capability compared to the latter devices. Apple did a good one here because this device isn’t just a simple gaming/productivity device but it also doubles as a phone, thus beefing up the RAM is truly significant.
The upgrade to A4 chip is also material to the iPhone 4’s latest OS, the iOS 4, which has a multi-tasking function. Opening applications and “backgrounding” them is pretty smooth and I barely encounted problems while using the device. The iOS4 and iPhone 4 experience is indeed so much better because of the raw power (much like Naruto’s Kyubi) inside the iPhone 4.
One problem I encountered though – the phone tends to get too hot if 3G data connection is online. I do not know if this just normal but that kinda worries me a lot.
Design and Hardware Dedicated Features
There is no doubt that the design (art-wise) of the iPhone 4 is truly magnificent. Over-all, the design is totally different compared to the last 3 iPhones.
The design bid goodbye to the convex back panel and replaced it with a flat one made of aluminosilicate glass. Apple describes it as 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic. Holding the device kinda feels like holding an expensive slab of plastic crystal. I still found the device too fragile so I had to buy a protective cover immediately to shield it from potential end of my investment.
Dubbed by Steve Jobs as the thinnest smartphone on the planet, the overall dimension of the iPhone 4 is truly slimmer than any other smartphones I know. Compared to the last 3 iPhones, its overall dimensions are slimmer and lighter. The only thing that remains unchanged is the general layout of the device.
The only physical button in front is the signature iPhone Home button that also houses the microphone. At left side of the phone, you will see 2 volume buttons (volume up and down) and 1 mute/unmute button. On the right side, you only see the the micro-sim tray. A standard 3.5mm headphone socket, secondary microphone and the Sleep/Wake button are located at the top part of the phone. Meanwhile, the 30-pin socket and speakers are placed at the bottom of the phone. Contrary to some reviews, I find the design too awesome too look at. It looks so sleek, classy and totally a head turner.
The metal band which envelops the phone was thought to be a engineering design flaw because of the drop calls and signals brought about by the “wrong way” of holding it. It looks like Apple had finally fixed the infamous “Death Grip”. I tried the “wrong way” of holding the iPhone 4 and I never experienced any signal drops (or maybe I was not paying too much attention).
The Retina Display
When I opened my iPhone 4 for the first time at New World Hotel, I was amazed by the iPhone 4’s retina display. The stock iPhone applications are compatible to the retina display out of the box. Most of the applications that may be bought and downloaded from the AppStore have already been made compatible to the retina display as well.
With the retina display (with the help of the IPS display), the texts and pictures look crispier and livelier at any angle – a confirmation of what Steve Jobs said during the WWDC.
The latest iPhone 4 features a front-facing VGA camera and 5-megapixel rear-facing camera that is capable of shooting 720p video and HDR photos (iOS 4.1). Below are sample shots and sample video using the iPhone 4:
Click this link download the unresized copies of the photos above.
As mentioned earlier, the iPhone 4 is also capable of HD video recording. Check out a sample video below:
Since customers asked for it, Apple finally incorporated video calling through FaceTime. FaceTime video calling is available through Wifi connection this year and may be available through 3G in 2011.
I said what? Gyroscope? Simply put, the gyroscope complements the accelerometer by detecting 3-axis angular acceleration around the X, Y and Z axes. This means that the inclusion of the gyroscope would enable the device to approximately recognize its movement in a given space. If you face to the left with the iPhone, the latter would recognize its temporal placement in space through the movement of the end-user.
Here’s a simpler one: this would make gaming and navigating on the iPhone better.
The iOS4 is undoubtedly Apple’s biggest software engineering undertaking compared to the original iPhone OS in 2007. The new OS packs new features like multitasking and folders, which totally blew my mind away.
The iPhone 4’s raw power truly complements what the iOS4 can do. Without the fast A4 chip, I do not think that my iOS4 experience would be so amazing. Browsing through the applications I bought and downloaded is so easy now, thanks to the new Folders feature of the OS. It also intelligently categorizes the folder once you drag one application to another. Truly amazing. My only complaint: one folder can only contain a maximum of 12 applications. This is truly a pain in the ass especially when you’ve got a lot of applications.
Multitasking is one of the features I really appreciated in this new iOS. It made things easier for me to jump from one application to another, thereby making my phone experience more efficient and orderly; and yes, it makes me more efficient and orderly too at the same time. This feature may be accessed and used by double pressing the Home button.
Unlike the Nokia N900 where true multitasking happens (applications run on the background when switching to another application), the iOS’s multitasking feature only “saves” the state and data of the application when you switch to another application. It doesn’t suck actually and doesn’t hog much of the iPhone 4’s resources (unless there are too many apps “backgrounded”). Some applications have not yet been updated to take advantage of the multitasking feature of the iOS in iPhone 4 thus pressing the home button will not “save” the state of the application.
Additional new features of the iOS 4 is the unified mailbox and FaceTime, which I previously discussed. An in-depth review of the other software features will be covered next time.
Apple finally won my heart once again. My jump from the original iPhone (2G) to the iPhone 4 may be likened to someone who traded his Honda City 2007 to Honda City 2009. From the redesigned look to faster raw power, and from beefed up RAM to a more efficient operating system – owning an iPhone 4 is like embracing a world set in the future but made available today.
The iPhone 4 is not the best phone on the planet though. In fact, the “Antennagate” (death grip) cost Apple some troubles from June to September. But still, it is a fact for me that there is something about the iPhone (and other things that Apple created) attracts people… there is something about the iPhone that kinda makes it a “benchmark” of all smartphones. That “something”, for me, is simplicity.
Things are made easier and simpler with the iPhone 4. Return to homescreen by pressing the Home button; call someone by touching the call icon then dial;.control your favorite game easily using the gyroscope and accelerometer – no fancy physical buttons; multitask by double pressing the home button. Who needs a manual with the iPhone? Couple this simplicity with an elegant, minimalistic and clean design – then you are looking at the planet’s most efficient and attractive phone… PERIOD.
Giancarlo Viterbo is a Filipino Technology Journalist, blogger and Editor of gadgetpilipinas.net, He is also a Geek, Dad and a Husband. He knows a lot about washing the dishes, doing some errands and following instructions from his boss on his day job. Follow him on twitter: @gianviterbo and @gadgetpilipinas.