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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  • metalev - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    I ploted the signal-strength-to-bars mapping for both Android and the iPhone 4 on the same axes:

    http://www.metalev.org/2010/07/android-vs-iphone-4...

    This shows that the iPhone 4 consistently reports a higher percentage signal strength (as defined by the fraction of bars lit) than Android GSM devices at the same signal strength.
    Reply
  • R. Johnson - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    I don't understand how Apple (Iphone4) can say the antenna issue is a math problem when I can sit here with all full antenna bars and then hold the phone with my left hand and get only half a bar within 15 seconds. I don't know what to trust anymore when Apple decides to use different math and different bars in an upcoming update. I am afraid they may now use different bars to have it APPEAR there is better reception than there really is.

    R. Johnson
    Reply
  • SunSamurai - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    You better hurry and put on the tinfoil hat too.

    Give me a break. The article already pointed out it was a simple error in how the bars were representing signal. The actual numerical signal is actually better. They basically did the opposite of what youre freak'n out about.
    Reply
  • navderek - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    @SunSamurai

    Plenty of reason to freak out. This is a very obvious design flaw that has been overlooked by Apple, and now denied by Apple. I am an RF Engineer and when I watched the Apple keynote presentation of the device I almost fell off my chair when he presented the antenna design...Then I thought, no it must have a light coat of something to shield the antenna....guess not.

    Apple is making profit hand over fist and paying sweatshop workers pennies to put these things together...the least they could do is provide free bumpers. No they won't though because they will open the door to legal issues...who cares, they can afford the legal costs and it would save their face and allow them to continue unscathed...Now they just look like any other greedy company out there. They've really lost there magic IMO. It's discouraging that profits > honor. They are a real good company and this will really hurt them.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    The article is very nice, but the conclusion lets us down and not gently by falling into the fanboi worldview. I'm neither an Apple nor Android nor Palm fanboi. I recently bought an HD2, and I'm definitely NOT an MS fanboi. I just wanted the biggest possible screen, and the HD2's is 40% bigger than the iPhone's... it's not about resolution, but size: I'm getting old.

    If the Dell Streak had been out in my country, I'd probably have gotten it instead. If palm had a big-screen, keyboardless phone, I'd have strongly considered it, seeing that right before the HD2, I was still using my Palm TX because it just works.

    Right now I wouldn't consider Apple because it's too closed, and too cumbersome to get content onto (iTunes crapped out on my PC every time I tried it). I'm not sure I could get winhttrack'ed sites onto it.

    I think most phones have reached the point of "good enough". On mine, I'm using a browser, an ebook reader, a media player... and that's about it. I don't game, I don't do social web things, I don't need a fashion accessory/personality crutch...
    Reply
  • SunSamurai - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    You sound bitter. Tell us where the iphone/droid touched you. Reply
  • btharms - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    My phone drops from 5 bars to 1 bar frequently. The way I comfortably hold the phone covers the black strip more often than not. I have run speed test after speed test, and what I have found is that while covering the strip, my 3g connection will drop to 0kbps! I can literaaly freeze safari while loading any web page by temporarily placing my finger on the black strip (it will continue to load a second or two after I remove my finger).

    I was achieving download speeds of around 1600 kilobits/sec with the phone in my hand without covering the black strip. When redoing the test while holding the phone normally (with my pinky finger covering the strip) the speed dropped as low as 0 (100 kilobits per second was the fastest). Actually, many times the test would not start until I removed my pinky from the spot. Then, after the test began I would softly place my pinky back on the strip - and instantly the speed drops near 0.

    So as thorough as your testing was, realizing that the phone misrepresents signal strength is really not a pertinent issue when you consider that the 3g signal virtually dissapears immediately on contact with the black strip.

    I'm basically demanding that apple comps me a free bumper or i'm returning my phone.
    Reply
  • navderek - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    The main point is that by Apple redoing the math on the signal bars...it will have no effect on the issues your seeing. Bars don't man a thing. Real life means everything and if the call drops with 5 bars or zero bars it does not matter - the call still drops!

    THIS IS JUST A STUNT BY APPLE TO PUT THE BLAME ON THE CARRIERS...OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE. Once the SW update happens then people will go back to complaining about AT&T and others...just like Apple wants it.

    Thing is, poeple aren't as dumb as Apple thinks. But I guess this is the most financially obvious thing for Apple to do. Shift the blame, it's not our problem!
    Reply
  • Mike Wadner - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    I started reading your review and stopped immediately upon seeing this statement: 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.

    What cave have you been in for the last year? Do you not have a F**KING clue what Microsoft just did with their phone this week - THEY ARE MILES BEHIND EVERYONE IN HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE. My 13 year old kid wouldn't even make a statement this stupid.

    Microsoft is stillborn when it comes to mobile. To even consider Microsoft a worthy competitor in the smart phone area is insane.

    You're credibility just went down the crapper with that statement.

    Reply
  • navderek - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    Agreed...the review may be good to the laymen, but for others not so much. I highly respect Anandtech's reviews but this is really the first one I've seen where they seem to have done the review just to get some of that Apple limelight without actually asking the tough questions like why Apple went and designed the antenna like this? What is the link between this poor antenna design and the sudden sale of bumpers by Apple? hmmmmmm Reply

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