The Teen Review: Apple iPhone 4

We know, we know– this has taken a little longer than we anticipated to get out, but hey– when your checking out a major product like this you need every base to be covered right? And boy do we got it all covered. So does this new iPhone 4 measure up as the best phone on the market? If you’re on a different carrier like Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint, is it worth switching for? For those answers and more, read on for our full review.

We’re going to break this review down a little differently than our KIN review, focusing on specific topics rather than just the good and bad (just trying out different styles of review).

Design and Screen

The new design and screen of the iPhone are simply fantastic. Pictures really can’t even describe it, this is something your going to need to see in person.  Obviously design is a personal thing– it’s really up to you in the end if you like it or not– but I really am liking this new all glass look. Not only does it look insanely nice, but the fact that it’s even thinner than the iPhone 3G and 3GS are also great touches.

iPhone 4 screen vs iPhone 3GS screen– click on pic for full res shot (you can actually see the diff in how clear text looks)

And as I said in the first look, the new Retina Display makes everything– and I mean everything incredibly nice and clear. This is the nicest screen I have ever seen on a phone yet.

Cameras and FaceTime

Beyond the new design and Retina Display, the other two big features on the iPhone 4 are the improved 5 megapixel camera on the back with flash, and of course that new front video camera for FaceTime video chats.

In terms of the back camera– the shots it takes are really crisp and clear. I was even shocked at how clear some came out– the pix are that nice. The flash also helps for those night or low light shots; and while it isn’t the greatest flash on a phone, it sure beats no flash at all. But back to pic quality, just check out these quick sample shots I took– the one on the left is from an iPhone 4 and the one on the right is from an iPhone 3GS (click on each pic to view it in its full size).

FaceTime to me however was a mixed bag. For now, the requirements that it be iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 and only over WiFi are brutal. I mean I honestly wouldn’t have been even able to test it out had it not been for Apple’s new dedicated FaceTime hotline (1888-322-3846, or 1888-FACETIM. Something Apple no doubt set up because it knew most people wouldn’t have enough friends with iPhone 4’s to actually use the feature and test it out for themselves). If Apple wants this to work it needs to either get other manufacturers and carriers to jump on board with their standard fast, push their new standard themselves through an update allowing for FaceTime to PC’s and Mac’s, or encouraging more third-party developers like Fring get their own apps out that allow video chat to people not on an iPhone 4 (which the new updated Fring does, albeit only right now to other people with the Fring app on their iPhone 3GS or Android phone. Oh, and Fring does allow for 3G video chatting and soon should allow for Skype video chatting as well).

When you do have another iPhone 4 to FaceTime with the experience is surprisingly nice and simple— all you got to do is dial their number normally and tap the new FaceTime icon on the in-call menu– and it does get points for that. That being said, it doesn’t hold a candle up to the current other US video chatting smartphone– the HTC EVO 4G– which not only has a much higher resolution front camera (1.3 megapixel on the EVO compared to the much lower VGA on the iPhone 4),  but you can also make video calls on 3G, 4G AND WiFi to people who don’t have EVO’s. This is the exact opposite of FaceTime, which isn’t even slated to get 3G video chatting until next year.

iOS 4

We know everyone’s pretty much been saying it, but the iOS is still the OS to beat in the mobile game. With over 225,000 apps in the App Store, a drop dead interface a grandmother could master, and the best web and multimedia software out there, how can it not be the top OS out there? Sure Android is on the rise and beginning to really give iOS a strong fight with 2.2 and all of it’s improvements along with custom software like MOTOBLUR and HTC Sense, and Windows Phone 7 does show a lot of promise– but for today, both still don’t have what it takes to dethrone the champ.

iOS 4 isn’t just multitasking (as seen in the pic above. And it works great, though if you don’t close apps every so often your iDevice will get hot really quickly), it’s also much faster particularly on the more high-powered iPhone 4. Opening apps fresh, doing functions like snapping a picture, or even multitasking is an extremely satisfying and quick experience on the new iPhone 4, with everything seeming to run just how it should. Sure it has some rough edges, like sending all group texts as an MMS (or picture message, something which can annoy your friends really easily), but overall, it still makes the iPhone 4 (and even older devices like the iPod touch 3rd gen and iPhone 3GS) an even better experience. Apple just knows how to do this part perfectly.

The Antennas

The troubled left side of the iPhone 4

Ok so here is the big problem on the iPhone 4, and the sole reason I’d tell people to hold off on buying one now. While in the first couple of days I didn’t seem to experience any of the crazy iPhone antenna issues so prevalent on the news, over the last couple of weeks they have become extremely noticeable. Maybe it’s my particular iPhone 4 (though seeing as pretty much every iPhone 4 owner has this problem I’m guessing it’s not), but to me this seems to be more to me than just a software issue where the wrong bars are displayed.

The iPhone 4 with bumper– yes that thing on the right is all it is.

I have the Apple bumper on my iPhone 4 (I bought it on the first day with my iPhone as more of protection for my iPhone in case of a drop, not realizing the antenna problems that soon became so widespread), and I am still losing bars when holding in my left hand (the hand I use to hold and use my phone). I have even left my phone on a table, and with nothing touching it AND with it being in a bumper, and have watched the signal drop to one to two bars. And this wasn’t even in bad AT&T coverage— I was at my house where my old iPhone 3G and 3GS, my brother’s Samsung Impression, and my mom’s Motorola Razr 2 all get 5 bars. I even had it next to an iPad WiFi+3G, and it had 5 bars while my iPhone showed 1-2, sometimes even zero. And this happens all over, in places I used to get great coverage and a fast connection, I now have a spotty connection, at times even losing  internet entirely out of the blue while other AT&T phones are still blazing along.

I plan to take my phone to Apple to get checked out, and for the sake of the over 1.7 million people who’ve bought iPhone 4’s I’m hoping my problems are part of a small bad batch and the rest can be improved via this impending software update (which will also come to the 3G and 3GS and fix their signal displays as well– yes they’ve all apparently been showing too many bars).

Call Quality

Now assuming your iPhone doesn’t suffer these antenna issues, you’ll be happy to note the much improved call quality. I don’t know if it’s AT&T, the extra noise canceling mic, or better speakers and ear piece, but the iPhone 4 is the best iPhone I’ve ever used when it comes to being an actual phone.

Wrap Up

So if your on AT&T is the iPhone 4 the best phone for you? If you don’t mind springing for data (starting at $15 a month for 200 MB– if your mostly doing email, checking Facebook and just browsing the web but not watching a lot of YouTube or streaming Pandora over 3G this should be fine for you, or $25 a month for 2 GB– which is better if you plan to watch a ton of YouTube and stream Pandora over 3G– though you should still connect to WiFi as often as possible as it’s $10 for each additional GB once you go over your limit), and can wait a little bit for this antenna issue to sort itself out, then yes, I think the iPhone 4 is the best phone on AT&T today by far.

As for users on Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon? This new iPhone is still one of the top smartphones out there today, but a lot has changed since the previous iPhones, particularly in the rise of Google’s Android. Each of these three carriers offer some impressive iPhone alternatives (be it the HTC EVO 4G and Samsung Epic on Sprint, Motorola Droid X and HTC Droid Incredible on Verizon, or T-Mobile’s Samsung Vibrant and HTC myTouch 3G Slide), that definitely are on, very close or even better to the level the iPhone is at right now. And of course if your on Verizon, you can always hold off and keep that eternal hope alive for your turn at the iPhone.

All that being said, assuming Apple solves the iPhone 4’s antenna problems, this is by far the most impressive iPhone yet and one I would recommend to any one looking for a new touchscreen smartphone on AT&T.

So what do you think– if you’re an iPhone 4 owner, do you like it? You also suffering from the antenna problems even when your iPhone’s in a case? If you don’t have an iPhone 4, what phone do you want next and would you switch over to AT&T to get an iPhone 4? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted on July 12, 2010, in Apple, Cell Phones, First Look/Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Kiran Panesar

    Very nice review. Keep up the good work.
    Kiran.

  2. Hello Eli,

    This is a very informative and polished post. I am a fan of iPhones as well however, even though I had never had one, I was crazy over the release of the iPhone 4. On the other hand, there are certain aspects of the Android OS that I personally prefer of iOS. I have them all listed in my post HTC Desire vs. iPhone 4 at http://universalintel.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/desire-vs-iphone4/

    I hope you can go check it out and tell me what you think.

    Cheers!
    Int310p

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