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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  • Lemurion - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    I was disappointed that you they only compared the iPhone 4 screen to the 800 by 480 AMOLED screens on some of the Android devices. As far as I know, all those devices use the Pentile system, which reduces the crispness of text.

    I would have really liked to compare the new Apple screen to the Motorola Droid's 266 PPI screen and see how noticeable the difference there was.
    Reply
  • Matt Campbell - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    Nice investigation work on the signal strength. Just wanted to point out that AnandTech is cited in the Apple iPhone 4 software fix story on CNN today. http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/mobile/07/02/apple.ip... Reply
  • Bad Bimr - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    http://www.cnn DOT com/2010/TECH/mobile/07/02/apple.iphone.apology/index.html


    Apple admits iPhone 4 reception issues, says fix is coming

    After initially dismissing the reports about the iPhone 4 antenna reception issue, Apple has officially admitted it exists, promising a software fix in a couple of weeks. There's a catch, though.

    Apple's promised fix may not be good news for users experiencing the problem. Apple claims it has erroneously calculated the formula which displays signal bars on the iPhone, and therefore the iPhone has been showing too many bars in areas with weak signal strength.

    Here's how Apple explains it:

    "Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place."

    Unfortunately, this seems like Apple is only acknowledging one part of the problem. Anandtech's in-depth analysis showed that the signal drop when you grip the iPhone 4 by its lower-right side is very real.

    Therefore, Apple's fix probably won't fix that part -- arguably the biggest part -- of the problem, and will merely make the iPhone 4 display fewer bars in weak signal areas.

    Interestingly enough, Apple claims the miscalculation was present "since the original iPhone," so the fix will apply to older generation iPhones as well.

    Here's Apple's official announcement:

    Dear iPhone 4 Users,

    The iPhone 4 has been the most successful product launch in Apple's history. It has been judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever, and users have told us that they love it. So we were surprised when we read reports of reception problems, and we immediately began investigating them. Here is what we have learned.

    To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by one or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop four or five bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.

    At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?

    We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.

    Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays two more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display four bars when we should be displaying as few as two bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it because we are erroneously displaying four or five bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.

    To fix this, we are adopting AT&T's recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone's bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. We are also making bars one, two and three a bit taller so they will be easier to see.

    We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.

    We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same- the iPhone 4's wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. For the vast majority of users who have not been troubled by this issue, this software update will only make your bars more accurate. For those who have had concerns, we apologize for any anxiety we may have caused.

    As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.

    We hope you love the iPhone 4 as much as we do.

    Thank you for your patience and support.

    Apple


    Just like apple, finally admitting a problem, pleasing the fan boys by saying it will be addressed and doing nothing to fix it. I am so glad I never jumped on the apple bandwagon.
    Reply
  • fischerm83 - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    So i was reading various news articles today and saw that apple finally figured out/admitted to what you guys found out earlier this week...

    *quote*
    Now the company says its engineers have made a "stunning" discovery. Reception is poor and calls may be dropped because not only are people holding the phone wrong, but they also think they have a better signal than they do. In the statement, Apple says that it has made a mistake in the formula that calculates the number of bars that display the signal strength on all of its iPhones.

    "We were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong," it said in a statement.
    *quote*

    Full Article:
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-30686_3-20009564-266.htm...

    Nice work guys, keep up the amazing work!
    Reply
  • anandreader - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    Brian-
    I'm confused as to what had to happen to get Fieldtest onto the iphone 4. Understood the bit about jailbreaking the iphone3 but didn't understand how that information got transfered to the 4.

    Could you elaborate a bit there?
    Reply
  • Per Grenerfors - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the great review, AnandTech.

    In countries where 3G coverages isn't spotty like a teenagers face, the whole antenna/at&t/verizon debate is just utterly unnecessary.

    Apple is the only brand name in tech today that's recognized by the broader public. Their products therefore make a big splash in the media when they hit the market. But the bigger splash you make, the more mud comes floating up from the bottom. Like people complaining with a spec sheet in hand without ever having seen the device in real life. Or just plain old haters. This is the downside to fame. But I'm sure Apple's laughing all the way to the bank.
    Reply
  • Stokestack - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    A case isn't an acceptable workaround for this. I don't buy a thin phone to bulk it up and junk it up with a cheesy case or add-on of any kind.

    While I'm not planning on getting an iPhone 4, if I had one and wanted to keep it I'd try to spray a coating onto the antenna band. I'd mask the front & back, the buttons, and any seams, then spray with polyurethane or something. While it would be microscopically thin, there's be no direct contact with skin. And really, that's what you said you expected Apple to have done anyway. Let's see if it would work.

    Excellent review. The hack to get the numeric signal strength rocks.
    Reply
  • Fulle - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    Thank you for the review. It was useful to be able to look at something that was detailed, and included facts, good and bad, without a ridiculous amount of bias. It's obvious that Anand likes, or at least really wants to like most Apple products, but it was nice that that didn't get in the way of the review.

    The new iPhone seems to be an OK device that's on par with new Android smartphones in way of hardware... The screen's got 20% higher pixel density than the Droid, but 50% worse contrast ratio, and worse black quality... Java performance is clearly inferior to a Nexus One, but browsing performance is competitive (I'd say good, but I think all handsets have shit browser performance). Its sleak and thin, but it has no hardware qwerty. The 5MP camera produces low noise, but, the white balance is messed up, making it overall inferior to the camera in a Nexus One or HTC Incredible (or Moto Droid, even, IMHO... screwed up over-saturated colors with bad white balance are a big deal to me). Overall, it's an average device when put up against worthy competition (EVO4G, DroidX, HTC Incredible, Nexus One, or even a Moto Droid).

    But, that's before you have to deal with the obvious design flaws. Glass panels on both sides? WTF? Uninsulated external antenna? These aren't minor flaws here.

    So, overall I'd say that the new iPhone is inferior to at least 6 Android smartphones.... and at first I grin at that... but then I'm disappointed and mad. Apple has helped make the smartphone market the competitive environment it is today, and when they drop the ball like this, it means that other venders don't have to raise the quality of their devices to compete. It's just fortunate that Android has so many hardware OEMs, like HTC, Samsung, and Motorolla, all competing with each other... or else I'd be afraid the only thing the iPhone4 would push in competition is a higher ppi on the screens.

    Lets hope this helps push the Cortex-A9 equipped Android's this winter to include higher resolution in their displays... but, man, I'm disappointed with this device.
    Reply
  • tgibbs - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    Does zero dB represent a standard absolute signal strength or is it an arbitrary reference value that will differ for different phones? Reply
  • navderek - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    The signal is actually measured in dBm which means it is a reference to 1mW of power.
    For example -30dBm = 1000 times less that 1mW = 1uW
    1 microwatt does not seem like much, but actually this is a very strong signal for the mobile and you would rarely have that much power arriving at your handset from the tower. In good conditions, close to the tower or serving antenna with minimal obstructions you could expect about -50 to -60 dBm (-60dBm = 1nW (nanowatt). The system is designed to deal with such small signals...this is why I laugh when people are worried about cell tower "radiation" when actually 5 min. in the sun is a bazzillion times more radiation than what's coming out of a tower....cellular towers that is, broadcast radio towers or paging systems are another story!

    But I digress...to answer your question simply, zero dBm simple equals 1mW.
    Zero dBm signifies that there is no difference in ratio from the reference of 1mW.
    Reply

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