I'm not sure how this keeps happening. The first year I waited at a mall for 5 hours to get the original iPhone. The following year my friend Mark Rein convinced me to see a midnight showing of Hellboy II and then wait outside of an AT&T store all night to get the iPhone 3G. You'd think I'd learn by the third year but once more I was in line at the mall hours before the Apple store opened to get the 3GS. This year I thought it would be different. Apple offered free overnight shipping to anyone who wanted to pre-order the iPhone 4. Figuring everyone would go that route I decided to beat the FedEx trucks and just show up at the mall at 6AM. I'd be in and out in a little over an hour, which would give me a head start on battery life testing on Apple's 4th generation iPhone.

I promise that not all of my decisions play out this poorly. Those who pre-ordered the 4 and requested overnight delivery got their phones early and my one hour wait turned into six hours at the mall, for the fourth year in a row.


Apple's iPhone 4 with Bumper Case

It's a self fulfilling prophecy. Steve gets up on stage, proclaims the iPhone 4 to be the biggest introduction since the original iPhone, and the public flocks to Apple stores to fork over $200 on day one and around $2500 over the course of two years for the privilege. But this isn't 2007. Apple has real competitors in the smartphone space. Android phones have grown in features, polish and popularity. Even Palm entered the race with a competant offering, and Microsoft isn't far behind. It's easy to start a revolution when everyone else is doing the wrong thing, but what about when more companies actually get it? Was Steve justified in his excitement over the 4? That's what we're here to find out today.

Straight on it looks like just another iPhone. You get the black face with a shiny trim. From the side it is the redesign that Apple has needed for a while now. It’s not revolutionary but it’s the type of improvement that makes its predecessor feel old. And that’s exactly what this does. Have a look for yourself:


iPhone 4 (left) vs. iPhone 3GS (right)

The straight lines, smaller dimensions and lack of unnecessary bulk make the 3GS feel like a car from the 90s, unnecessarily curvy. The styling is now so much more compact. Compared to the iPhone 3GS the 4 is around 5% narrower (but no more difficult to type on) and nearly 25% thinner. It even makes the Nexus One look dated:

The iPhone 4 is slightly heavier than the 3GS (4.8oz vs. 4.7oz). You feel the added weight but I wouldn't call it heavy. The front and the back of the iPhone 4 are both made out of glass, and they protrude beyond the stainless steel band that wraps around the phone (more on this controversial decision later). While this gives the 4 an amazing finish, it also makes carrying the phone nerve racking. Coupled with the smaller, more dense form factor I’m now deathly afraid of dropping and shattering this thing. Apple has done a lot to reinforce the glass, however there have been enough reports already of shattered iPhone 4s for me not to feel very safe. Only Apple would think to make the two surfaces most likely to hit something out of glass. It's like making mouse traps out of cheese, something bad is bound to happen.


iPhone 4 (left) vs. iPhone 3GS (right)

The physical buttons (but not their layout) have changed on the 4. The ringer switch has shorter travel and feels sturdier as a result. The volume rocker has been replaced by discrete volume up/down buttons, also very sturdy in feel. The power/lock button is also now made out of stainless steel. Only the home button remains unchanged, although it does seem to make a deeper click when you use it.

The speaker moved to behind the right grill at the bottom of the phone instead of the left. The dock connector thankfully remained unchanged. It looks like Apple is committed to maintaining this connector until it makes the jump to something wireless (or optical?).

The back of the phone is pretty. Apple broke with tradition and finally included a single LED flash on the phone. The flash comes on in low light conditions and is enough to take shots in total darkness.

The camera has been upgraded to a low noise 5MP sensor. It can shoot stills at up to 2592 x 1936 or video at 1280 x 720 @ 30 fps. We’ll go into greater detail on its quality in the camera section. The iPhone 4 also adds a front facing camera capable of shooting both photos and video at 640 x 480.

Apple quotes contrast ratio as 1000:1, in our measurements we got very close (952:1). A significant improvement over the 188:1 ratio of the 3GS. Apple achieved this by both dropping black levels and increasing the white levels on the display. Improving both is always fine by me.

Internally the iPhone 4 uses Apple's new A4 SoC, built around an ARM Cortex A8 CPU and a PowerVR SGX GPU. The new SoC is built on a 45nm process and features 512MB of memory on the package. Apple hasn't made CPU clock speed public, but I'm guessing around 800MHz compared to the iPad's 1GHz for reasons you'll see later. GPU clock speed is unknown as well. Having more memory on package is an interesting move by Apple as it makes the iPhone 4 better suited for multitasking compared to the iPad. Also implying that shortly after the iPad gets multitasking it'll be updated to a version with more memory as well.

The iPhone now has an gyroscope as well the rotation sensors of its predecessors. Developers are given full access to the gyroscope making the iPhone 4 capable of becoming a very expensive Wii-mote.

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4 Apple iPhone 3GS HTC EVO 4G (Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8650) HTC Droid Incredible (Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8650) Google Nexus One (Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250)
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 115 mm (4.5") 121.9 mm (4.8") 117.5 mm (4.63") 119 mm (4.7")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 62.1 mm (2.44") 66.0 mm (2.6") 58.5 mm (2.30") 59.8 mm (2.35")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 12.3 mm (0.48") 12.7 mm (0.5") 11.9 mm (0.47") 11.5 mm (0.45")
Weight 137 g (4.8 oz) 133 g (4.7 oz) 170 g (6.0 oz) 130 g (4.6 oz) 130 g (4.6 oz)
CPU Apple A4 @ ~800MHz Apple/Samsung A3 @ 600MHz Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz
GPU PowerVR SGX 535 PowerVR SGX 535 Adreno 200 Adreno 200 Adreno 200
RAM 512MB LPDDR1 (?) 256MB LPDDR1 512MB LPDDR1 512MB LPDDR1 512MB LPDDR1
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 16 or 32GB integrated 8GB micro SD 8GB micro SD micro SD
Camera 5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 3MP 8MP with dual LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8MP with LED Flash 5MP with LED Flash
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 3.5" 320 x 480 4.3" 480 x 800 3.7" 480 x 800 AMOLED 3.7" 480 x 800 AMOLED
Battery Integrated 5.254Whr Integrated 4.51Whr Removable 5.5Whr Removable 4.81 Whr Removable 5.18 Whr

The iPhone 4's logic board shrinks in size thanks to further component integration, making room for a much larger battery. The 5.25Whr battery in the iPhone 4 is a 16% increase from what was in the 3GS, and 95% of what HTC put in the EVO 4G. While raw performance improved, it's clear that Apple's focus this time around was battery life. Again, we'll dive into specifics later in the review.

Moving back outside Apple surrounded the phone with a stainless steel band. This band doubles as the 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth antennas. And if you hadn't noticed, it also moonlights as a giant elephant. Let's talk about it.

The Real Story on iPhone 4's Antenna
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  • Spoelie - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    You have to understand that that list was NOT originally compiled as a comparison to Android but was the negative part of a "what can you expect with this upgrade" (positives vs negatives) list. The iOS4 upgrade is offered on the 3G and that's why the point has merit: what does the upgrade mean for 3G users?

    However I concur it can read as a comparison since most of these points are Android features on SOME phones (social networking integration for example is mostly part of the proprietary custom UIs like HTC Sense and TouchWiz and not part of Android itself).

    Personally, since I do have an Android phone, it reads more like a "what would I miss if I made the switch" list. But only some of the points.
    Reply
  • darwinosx - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Thats a really idiotic list composed by someone who knows nothing about iPhones.

    -Anyone who wants flash on a mobile device is not paying attention.
    -Comments on IOS4 on the 3G are silly. Especially since Apple says its not supported except on the 3GS and 4. Funny how they don't comment on how many Android phones are still on 1.6 and will never be upgraded including some pretty new phones.
    -"True' multi-tasking? I don't think they understand how Android multi-tasking works. It's certainly not "true" multi-tasking as on a desktop os. It's also highly inefficient and a major cause of poor Android phone battery life.
    -Android phones have widgets, which are intrusive and resource consuming because the stock Android OS UI is so awful.
    -There are plenty of ways to USB mass storage with the iPhone.
    -You can mass mark e-mails as read.
    -There are plenty of ways to access the file system not that 99% of users will ever want to.
    -You don't need vibration feedback when touching the screen because the iPhone screen, unlike many Android phones, actually reacts easily to touch.
    -You can do bluetooth file transfers.
    -SMS/MMS has multiple delivery notifications.
    -I play Xvid and Divx all the time and there are multiple third party apps for that.
    -You can add to the iPhone from other apps including Double Twist and others.

    Truly an idiotic list.
    Reply
  • bplewis24 - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Whether or not the list is idiotic, you just solidified your own standing with this post. I'm not sure why I even bothered posting to such an idiotic retort.

    Brandon
    Reply
  • mesiah - Thursday, July 01, 2010 - link

    lmao, not to sound like an android fanboy, or even an apple.... haterboy (hmmm new term there.) But your reasoning for alot of those missing features just further backs up the apple fan stereo type.

    Any time an apple device lacks a feature its because "That feature is not needed.' "That feature is useless." or how about "Anyone who wants ___ isn't paying attention."

    But when the next gen phone comes out, and it finally does have those features. You know, the ones everyone else already had and you said you didn't need. You know, like... a camera. You then talk about how your new feature reinvents the phone its self. How "no one has ever done it like apple did."

    Seriously, its pathetic. I know every phone out there has flaws. I also know there are plenty of things apple gets right with the iphone. I will even go as far to admit that smart phones wouldn't be where they are today if it weren't for the iphone. But you people need to admit when you are missing features you should obviously have simply because the all knowing Steve doesn't think you need them. But then again, coming from a company that can admit no wrong, even when their products have a serious design flaw such as the new antenna issue, I can't really expect the followers to act any differently than the ceo.

    "If you want flash you aren't paying attention. If your reception went through the basement you don't know how to hold a phone. And if the AT&T network sucks its because you and all the other people are actually trying to use it."
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, July 01, 2010 - link

    One of my friends on facebook posted a screenshot of one of iOS4's great new features...

    ...you can change your wallpaper. Really?
    Reply
  • bregalad - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    -There are two main reasons to keep Flash off mobile devices: battery life and mouse-overs, a commonly used Flash feature that doesn't work on a touch OS. Given the choice between incomplete support for a resource intensive plug-in and all-day usefulness I'll take that all-day battery life.
    -Multitasking approaches still up for debate
    -iOS 4 runs slowly and lacks features on older hardware - agreed, but does Android do any better? Does your carrier even allow you to upgrade your OS or do you have to get a new phone?
    -Given how much battery life iOS 4 stole from me I really wish there were quick toggles
    -I don't live in any social network. I rarely even launch the facebook app.
    -Something akin to home screen widgets would be very nice
    -Every iPhone and iPod touch has the same sounds, it's terrible in an office with lots of them.
    -Agreed on the mass marking as read
    -Access to the file system is another thing Apple is philosophically opposed to. The iPhone is supposed to be an appliance not a computer.
    -Early iPods had disk mode which was very useful. I wish Apple wouldn't be so inflexible.
    -You want tactile feedback and all day battery life? Maybe next decade.
    -File transfers assumes you have access to the file system and aren't trying to transfer DRM'd files. Not going to happen.
    -I don't know about you, but I've never needed to mass delete contacts from any phone or computer. Do you suffer from multiple personality disorder?
    -Better notifications of all types would be welcome.
    -Smart dialling would be a good feature addition
    -An app whose sole purpose is to play "illegally" downloaded files. Yeah, Steve's going to approve that one 'real soon now'.
    -The dependency on iTunes is a philosophical one. Steve believes your computer is your digital hub, that it contains the master copy of all your stuff. By definition your phone, with its limited storage capacity, contains a subset of that data. I think that makes sense for the vast majority of the public. You're a niche Apple doesn't want to deal with.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Must be nonsenseday today.

    And before you say it, yes I got a 3G and I will replace it with a i4 when they're available around here instead of an android phone as I originally planned, but for other reasons than the fictional ones you just stated.
    Reply
  • Bateluer - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Agreed, there are several Android phones that are out now that offer parity with the iPhone 4, and several within 2 months of release that will handily surpass it.

    As usual, Anand's reviews were very well written and detailed, but I'll still pit my year old Moto Droid against any iPhone product. :p
    Reply
  • JAS - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    As Anand pointed out in his review, the Google/Android operating system feels more like using a computer; and the iPhone (iOS 4) operating system feels more like an appliance. The Android OS is apt to appeal more to the geek than to the "normal mainstream consumer," just as Microsoft Windows is a favorite of people who like to tinker with their computers.

    For better or worse -- each person has to make their own judgment -- Apple's products are defined as much by features that are purposefully withheld as by the cool innovations that are added.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Actually, Anand likes the performance of the iPhone and i don't blame him. It is smooth, well implemented and thus makes using it more enjoyable, quantifiable or not. Features be damn, what counts is how a user perceives the device he/she is using. And once attached or rather use to them it's hard to like something that isn't the same or better.

    For the most part, android OS and WebOS are fine for the vast majority of users. The slight sluggish performance is really not hindering anyone from doing anything practical. It is really just a matter of perception.

    As for features and design, I can honestly say unless you been in the design phase yourself many decisions are made prior to production. Missing features such as Flash memory support is a choice left out purposely. Don't kid yourself they are doing it because they either can't or because of lack of money/resources.
    Reply

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