Final Words

The iPhone 4 is a tremendous improvement over the previous phones from Apple. Battery life alone is enough to sell a brand new notebook, there's no reason the same shouldn't apply for a smartphone. Being able to deliver real world battery life use of between 5.5 and 10 hours on a single charge is quite impressive. And if you aren't using the phone nonstop? Expect even longer battery life.

On top of the battery life improvements Apple finally plays catch up and surpasses the technological advancements in its Android competitors. The 4's camera is as good as it gets today and the screen is a beauty. I don't believe this advantage will last for the lifetime of the iPhone 4. The phones that are in development today at least surpass the 4's specs in terms of raw CPU speed. Given that Apple's retina display is in high volume production already I'd expect other manufacturers to pick it up in due time.

And believe it or not, even if you upgrade to the iPhone 4 today in another 12 months it'll most likely be replaced by a dual core version that you'll want even more.

The lower clocked A4 was most likely a result of wanting to save battery life, a tradeoff I'm willing to accept. The 512MB of RAM was an unexpected surprise, and a giant disappointment to iPad users. The extra memory comes in handy while multitasking, something the iPad won't be able to do until this fall. By then it's probably only a few more months until updated iPad hardware, which will almost certainly feature the same 512MB of RAM as the iPhone 4. It does mean the early iPad adopters got shafted a bit. They got a much lower density screen and less memory than the iPhone 4, despite a higher upfront cost. 
 
I'm not terribly happy with this but I suspect the best move at this point is to hold off on buying an iPad until you see what the next generation will offer, If it's anything like the 4, it'll be worth the wait.


HTC EVO 4G (back) vs. iPhone 4 (front)

The main downside to the iPhone 4 is the obvious lapse in Apple's engineering judgment. The fact that Apple didn't have the foresight to coat the stainless steel antenna band with even a fraction of an ounce worth of non-conductive material either tells us that Apple doesn't care or that it simply doesn't test thoroughly enough. The latter is a message we've seen a few times before with OS X issues, the iPhone 4 simply reinforces it. At the bare minimum Apple should give away its bumper case with every iPhone 4 sold. The best scenario is for Apple to coat the antenna and replace all existing phones with a revised model.The ideal situation is very costly for Apple but it is the right thing to do. Plus it's not like Apple doesn't have the resources to take care of its customers.

As for the iPhone vs. Android debate, the 4 doesn't really change much. If you're not a fan of iOS 4 or Apple then the 4th generation iPhone isn't going to change your opinion. If you're an existing iPhone user you'll want to upgrade. It's worth it. The 4 simply makes the iPhone 3GS feel dated, which it is. It's a mild update to three year old phone vs. the significant redesign that is the iPhone 4. If you're married to Android, in the next 6 - 12 months we should see feature parity from the competition. And if you're a fan of Palm, let's just see what happens when the HP deal closes.

There's another category of users who are interested in the iPhone but simply put off by AT&T. While enabling HSUPA and the improved baseband make the iPhone 4 more attractive from a network standpoint, if you hate AT&T's coverage there's nothing Apple can do about it. I do get the feeling that the AT&T exclusivity will be over sooner rather than later. The iPhone and iOS are soon to be a mobile advertising platform, which means Apple needs as many users as possible. This is in direct contrast to the Mac strategy which purposefully didn't focus on volume to maintain high profit margins. Ultimately it means that AT&T either has to grow to be much larger than Verizon, or Apple has to embrace both carriers in order to fend off Android.

Living with the 4
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  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, July 6, 2010 - link

    How does international work? Are other parts of Europe covered by that as well or are they all additional? Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    Theres way WAY less options for network and internet providers in the U.S, especially compared to here in the U.K..
    So less competition means higher prices. And of course the size of the U.S/Canada is a problem.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    Some friends who have been living in England say that cell usage over there is way more expensive. They claim the only affordable way to do it is with pay as you go SIMs and just not use them much.

    But yes more competition would be nice. For me Verizon is the only carrier that offers the kind of coverage I need. So between the fact that I can't go anywhere and that they don't offer an off-contract rate I have no reason not to take the subsidized phones and contract extensions.
    Reply
  • Chissel - Sunday, July 4, 2010 - link

    I'm an American living in the UK. iPhone 4 rates here are much lower. The best I have seen is from Tesco (o2 network). Low cost no frills service. 750 minutes + unlimited texts + 1gb of data per month. Also, incoming calls do not charge minutes. 1 yr. contract 32gb iPhone 4 = £299/$450 + £35/$50 per month (all tax included). After 1 yr. they have to unlock your phone. After you unlock the phone you can drop down to £20/$30 per month.

    This means the 2 year cost of the phone + service in the UK is £959/$1,438. In the US the 2 year cost is $299 + tax and $105/mo + tax. Total cost over 2 years is $2,819 without tax.

    As you can see the UK has much lower price over the 2 years. Plus, after 1 year you 'own' your phone and can resell and buy iPhone 5.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, July 6, 2010 - link

    I think the unlock on AT&T can be requested after 3 months, definitely after a year as I had a friend do that. Reply
  • StormyParis - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    I've abandonned data plans, and switched back to plain voice, on my HD2. I get Wifi most everywhere (at home and at work for sure, and most places in between). I was simply not using data that much, it's not worth the monthly 30 euros they want for it.

    99.5% of the time, there's no difference at all. 0.5% of the time... i can survive...
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    I agree, but...

    "The fact that Apple didn't have the foresight to coat the stainless steel antenna band with even a fraction of an ounce worth of non-conductive material either tells us that Apple doesn't care or that it simply doesn't test thoroughly enough. The latter is a message we've seen a few times before with OS X issues..."

    Apple would just see this as another selling point for the bumper.

    Anand/Brian-
    I'm curious if you've had a chance to test with the microfilm covers like Bodyguardz or Zagg.

    I use these because of how thin they are and how great they are at protecting the device (scratch free even when dropping on concrete). They cover all points of the phone rather effectively. I'm curious if they would be beneficial to your testing.

    vol7ron
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    vol7ron,

    You're totally right, I need to test with a thin film or some heavy duty tape/invisible shield. I originally thought of doing that, but somehow it got lost in all that frenzied testing. I'll whip something up and see if anything changes. I mean that's a good point too, it might not do very much.

    I mean, ultimately there's a thickness you do need to achieve, and to be fair a lot of the benefit the case adds is that extra couple mm or two from the antenna. If the film is too thin, it might not do much. What makes me uneasy about saying anything definitively is that this is so near field - literally on top of the radiative surface. I'll admit I have only a basic level of understanding about what kind of interference happens in the very near field. I mean even at 1.8 GHz, one wavelength is 16 cm - the case and your hands on the phone is way inside near field.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • rainydays - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Agree. Outstanding review. The detailed analysis and level headed tone is excellent. Keep up the great work.

    Antenna section was illuminating. Good point about using SNR. I wonder if that number by itself is sufficient though. I guess signal power in dbm along with SNR would give the most complete picture of reception.

    At any rate, as is abundantly clear in the article, you never really know where you are till you see the numbers.
    Reply
  • John Sawyer - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    Yes, the numbers, details, etc. are more important than a lot of people realize. It often annoys me when I see people commenting about issues that involve actual measurement, technical facts, etc., without referring to any of those, and thus winding up with all kinds of conspiracy theories, bogus suggestions, etc. As applied to hardware problems from any manufacturer, generally many such commenters, in their understandable desire to just see a fix for a problem, wind up suggesting the only important thing is for the manufacturer to set up a return exchange program, which would be nice if it were always that easy, but it doesn't address the details of the problem that are often quite interesting, and can be very useful for people trying to learn from the situation. Reply

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