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Regarding the iPhone 4

iPhone 4

It’s been almost 2 weeks since the iPhone 4 was announced at WWDC, almost a week since pre-orders started (a fiasco that probably deserves its own blog post), and with launch only a few days away, I wanted to share my thoughts on Apple’s latest object of desire…

The design

The iPhone 4 is the first phone design from Apple I’m truly impressed with. I’ve always felt that the iPhone design was somewhat boring and generic, with the original iPhone being a bit more inspired (albeit cosmetically less durable) than the 3G/3GS – as if Apple wanted the hardware to dissolve into a puddle of meh.

This new design is a timeless tip-of-the-hat to Dieter Rams – excellent proportions, fine materials, and great craftsmanship. The degree of manufacturing precision exhibited with the iPhone 4 is unrivaled for a mass-produced mobile device.

From an engineering standpoint, the use of machined stainless steel for the structure/antenna is particularly brilliant. I hope the iPhone 4 radio performance is actually better as a result.

The display

With 960×640 pixels and a 3.5″ diagonal, the iPhone 4 display beats every existing phone in resolution, and almost every screen released to date (mobile or not) in pixel density. In addition, the IPS TFT panel combines wide viewing angle, excellent contrast, and outdoor readability.

But what’s definitely clever, is that by quadrupling the resolution vs. the old iPhones (doubling the height and width), Apple makes it trivial for developers to take advantage of the improved pixel density. Fonts and user interface elements are automatically sharper, and only the graphic content requires an update.

Of course, now that I’m regularly using devices with 3.7″ (and even 4.3″) displays I’d prefer to see a larger screen on the iPhone 4.

The camera

The iPhone 4 features a 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash, and supports 720p (HD) video recording. These are not really unusual specs today, but it’s the details that are interesting.

In addition to being the first iPhone with a flash, the iPhone 4 uses a sensor with backside illumination and larger 1.75 micron-sized pixels, which is rare on point-and-shoot cameras, and virtually unheard of on cameraphones. As a result, I’m expecting low-light performance to be pretty amazing for a mobile device.

Furthermore, Apple promises a steady 30 fps when capturing video at 720p (HD), something few (if any) other phone is capable of. The iPhone 4 also allows touch-to-focus while shooting video and offers full video editing on the device itself via the iMovie app.

The rest

Both the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS now finally support (pseudo) multitasking with the latest version of iOS. The iPhone 4 also features a front-facing camera for video calls via the FaceTime app and open protocol. Welcome to 2005, Apple :)

The iPhone 4 is one of the first devices to incorporate a pentaband 3G radio, along with the Nokia N8. Unfortunately, (and unlike the N8) it drops the 1700 MHz band (T-Mobile in the US and Wind in Canada) in favor of the 800 MHz band (DoCoMo in Japan).

Once again, the new iPhone will not be available unlocked in the US. Why prevent interested customers from buying the phone unlocked at full price? The exclusive agreement between Apple and AT&T is already painful enough. Oh well, I’ll just have to visit Canada!

The verdict

I think the iPhone 4 is the most significant update to come from Apple since the original iPhone was introduced in 2007. The only major pieces missing from the iPhone puzzle now are non-intrusive notifications and proper cloud syncing, and both can be added in software.

13 thoughts on “Regarding the iPhone 4 Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for this thorough and thoughtful review!

    And with no disrespect to your homeland or my other Canadien friends, why is it unlocked up North and not here in the States? I would buy one if that was the case! Is there any drawback to getting one in Canada, with the exception of returning it if need be?


  2. Just wondering if you’ve experienced, or know anybody who has, the receptions issues that seem to be affecting the device.

    • Yes, I’ve experienced this, but it’s not a major issue with my iPhone 4… WiFi signal is weaker than with my iPhone 3GS though!

  3. Any comments on the camera shake removal / stabilization at HD resolutions?

    This will be key at these resolutions IMHO

    • There is no stabilization, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue. Here’s a video I shot and edited on the iPhone 4 (be sure to switch the player to 720p):

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