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IPhone 4 Review

(Updated Jun 30 with iphone 4 bumper strip review)

I was one of the 600,000 people who managed to get in their iphone 4 orders on day one, before all the servers collapsed.

So anyway, I got my iphone 4 yesterday (Fedex dropped it in at around 11:30 in the morning). Here is my brief review so far:

(These are just my observations as a user. For a more indepth review, read Engadet’s iphone 4 review. )

Unpacking and Activation

The box it came in is pretty much the same as the 3GS. Same stuff included too.

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Bootup:

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liking the new industrial design. I put the 3GS and the 4 next to each other. 4 is a bit heavier, but thinner (don’t have a picture as I was taking pictures with the 3GS)

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It asked me to connect to iTunes and activate (as usual). I was expecting some delays and/or screwup here, considering the past melt downs.

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But hey, got activated in less than 30 seconds

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Handling

  • It’s thinner both in width and depth compared to the 3GS. Because  of the 3GS’ curved surface, many think the i4 is fatter. Most of my friends did, till you put them side by side
  • It’s heavier, though marginally so (from a use-and-feel perspective)
  • Overall feels more solid than the 3Gs in hand. Somehow I feel it is more rugged (even though I know the ifixyouri folks showed it breaks too)
  • I may be premature on this, but I found the angled edges can sort of ‘poke’ against your ear when you are talking compared to the 3Gs. I found the curved sides of the 3Gs more comfortable against the ear. Maybe its just me.. (jun 30): The bumper smoothens the edges again, so I like it better on the ear.
  • (jun 30) They did a better job with the headset jack slot – it seems to have some rubberized element inside it – if you use 3rd party headsets, it slides in and out smoother.

Using the device

The iphone 4 says it supports 802.11 a/b/g/N

Well, I have both a g and an N network in my house. The iphone did not detect my N network (I have a netgear dual range router). Here is the iphone 4 against my ipad – as you see, my ipad detects N, not the iphone. Hmmm. What’s up with that? (Update 6/24 3PM ET): looks like i4 does not support 802.11N in the 5GHz band – thats not nice and explains why it failed to detect my N network)

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Really really excellent screen (the retina display) – I was happy with the 3GS till I compared it with the 4. (Note some of the icons look hazy – those are the apps that have not yet updated their code to use the high res display.

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For example, if I load up the iphone Facebook app, you will notice the text font looks great, but the images are hazier (the facebook logo for example). That also shows you how the i4 and 3Gs displays compare.

Here is the facebook app  on i4:

retina example

And here is the same app on 3GS (original size, I did not resize – its smaller because of the lower res camera too)

3gs facebook

The ibook text just looks fantastic. I agree that it doesn’t hurt my eye to read a book

Picture

Battery Life and unit heat

Well, I just got out of a 30 minutes conference call. My battery went to 86% and the unit heated up as much as my 3GS. So I will have to see how that goes and if it is practically and noticeably better than the 3GS. It probably is (I think my 3GS would go to 70% or so after one 30 mins call) [Update: 6/25: I think the battery has significantly better life - been testing it with some long conference calls]

Experiences with iOS 4.0 – the cool (I’ll find out more later)

(Note, I don’t plan to cover everything. Others have done a great job)

  • of course, multi-tasking (pseudo/restricted) is nice. Being able to listen to Pandora in the background is pretty much all I need
  • Folders is very useful – I just bunched my son’s apps into one folder called ‘Education’
  • Very cool subtle feature which intelligently detects key words in emails like “Thursday Afternoon” and clicking in takes you to being able to create a calendar event on that day!. Here is what I mean:

Note the email I received (test email). “Today at 5″, “day after tomorrow at 8pm”, “sep 15 2010″ and “10/14/10″ are hyperlinked but 3/12/10 is not. That’s because 3/12/10 is a past date. I was pretty impressed with this as well as “day after tomorrow at 8pm”

calendar

So what happens if I select “day after tomorrow at 8pm”?

calendar 001

Very nice.

calendar 002

Experiences with iOS 4.0 – the not so cool (I’ll find out more later)

  • (Figured out a week after I bought the phone – after I realized I can’t be making the same mistake over and over again) – the damn proximity sensor. If I hold it to my ear, and wiggle it a wee bit, the screen comes alive and my ear presses either the mute, the hold, or add call button. Supreme nuisance. (Update: Does ios4.0.1 fix this?)
  • Limit of 12 items in each folder. I understand why – beyond a point its ‘that app you can never find’, but heck, I’d like to keep more icons. Example, I have 16 apps for my 3 year old son – I’d like to bunch them all into his folder – not create another “folder 2 “
  • My company uses Lotus notes and Lotus notes traveler for iphone. Works well but with one irritating part: I cannot have an option where a calendar reminder makes a sound, but no sound when I receive the invite. Why is this important? Because I work with teams across time zones. I often get invites at 2AM my time and I don’t want to be bothered by them. But I’d like to be notified by a sound when the meeting is about to start. The old iOS 3.3 did not have it. Nor does iOS 4. Shucks. (note: for those using traveler  and are facing the “cannot connect to server” problem, I noticed that it ‘self-resolves’ in a few hours – I also had to reboot my phone – it seems to  be a combination of both actions)
  • The orientation lock (software) – you can finally lie down and read stuff without it switching to landscape mode! (you access it by double clicking the home button – its next to the ipod controls.

The Camera and Flash

A welcome upgrade. 5MP and an improved sensor shows in the quality of pictures. The small flash and its auto/on/off overlay is also convenient

flash

The video camera function

In general, the iphone 4 camera system is much better. Sharper pictures and videos. Here is an example of a full 720p HD video.

How nice is Facetime?

Very very nice. Well integrated into the call control. Handover seems very smooth to and fro between cellular and wifi.

If you want to try facetime but don’t know someone who has an iphone4, just call 1-888-FACETIME

Apple has set this service up for people to test and get used to video calling. That is very very cool. I was connected to a live person in less than a minute (though the prompt said “it can take upto 5 minutes to connect to an agent”)

Here, I get a facetime request from the apple person

And boom, we’re talking. Great quality. (I’ve masked his face out for privacy reasons)

Oh and ONE MORE THING – iphone 4 and the Leftie Saga!!

This one is sucks. I’ve been noticing my calls dropping soon after I pick up the phone to respond. As it turns out, due to the location of the GSM antenna (lower left), if you are a leftie (which I am), you will likely cover the lower left part of the iphone while talking and that seems to mess its antenna. Well heck. Engadget covered this succintly, and Gizmodo in great detail.

Incidentally, I’ve perfected the ‘disconnect hold’ – I can now disconnect any iphone cellular call by holding it just right :-) Now I’ve also been practicing – its not hard to hold it a different way either. This does not affect facetime calls as the wifi antenna is not there.

Apple says a case will solve this as it breaks the connection of the hand to the antenna. Will the iphone 4 bumper solve this issue? I sure as hell hope so, or from all the lefties of the world, apple you’ve got oa get a better answer. I pre-ordered the bumper, shipment says Jun 30. Maybe till then, I’ll wear a rubber glove :-)

The iphone 4 Bumper

I had also pre-ordered the iphone  4 bumper. Not because I thought I needed it to correct the antenna, but because it really looked like a very sleek protective strip. It arrived a day early yesterday, like the iphone 4 arrived a couple of days early too. Oddly, just like when they delivered the iphone 4 earlier, Fedex did not update its status.

Anyhow, the iphone 4 bumper is very nice to look at. Typical apple. Its made of a combination of plastic and rubber – and snaps right on. The packaging was minimalistic – just the bumper in a plastic bag (inside the fedex box)

The phone looks good with it. It has buttons for volume and power which overlay the actual buttons on the phone. Good design.

But does it solve the “dropping calls” issue?!?

Well, I need to test more, but it seems to address the issue to some degree but not fully . I’ve been trying all sorts of monkey grasps while talking on the phone with this cover and the calls still go on. However, the signal still drops.It just seems to drop less compared to no case. Read this for the most indepth insight I’ve found so far.

The bumper adds a sturdy frame around the i4 and in the process, gives it a little ‘lift’ when resting on a flat surface – which means the glass is not touching the resting surface. Now I am certainly not going to voluntarily throw my iphone to test if this will protect it, but I get the feeling it will.

And now, the 3rd party charger issue

Remember the belkin chargers that AT&T sold you? THEY WON’T WORK with the bumper on. The cut out hole in the bumper is too narrow and you don’t want to start cutting the bumper!

(Photo source: Amazon.com)

So till I am forced to buy a new set of chargers for my home and office (and I liked these belkin ones because the cable was longer), I need to do this…. Yeah, break the white cover out.

 

5 Responses

  1. Rahul VermaNo Gravatar

    Nice review Arjun. !!
    I wonder why I phone has been a great failure in Indian market, even though the share of smartphones in indian market has been rapidly rising.l

    - Rahul

  2. [...] (for my user review of the iphone4 and bumper read here) [...]

  3. ArjunNo Gravatar

    @Rahul, I can think of two reasons:
    a) Cost of iphone in India is ridiculously high.
    b) I am not convinced that there is a large enough market for data-centric apps in India (browsing, etc) beyond sms

  4. astbnboyfree1No Gravatar

    @arjun You wouldn't consider android a "data-centric" device?? The current cost of a iPhone 4 is 21,899.00 INR which more than here in the US on amazon so you may have a point about the phone cost but I don't think the price difference is "ridiculously high" by any means.

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