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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  • bplewis24 - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    Consumer Reports confirms what I have commented on earlier about this article: that the "best case scenario" testing of one phone is clearly an attempt to excuse away this clear design flaw in a biased review. See the article here: http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2010/... .

    And watch the video. This testing was done in a controlled environment with an RF Isolation Chamber that is impervious to outside radio signals. I suggest you guys stop misleading the tech nerd population with this review now, and revise it.

    Brandon
    Reply
  • plastic_avatar - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    How can you not respect the research of someone who slides in an apt geek reference? Reply
  • zholy - Tuesday, July 13, 2010 - link

    Only Apple can release a product with such a design flaw and respond to complaints with either "you're holding it wrong" or "buy another product to make it work correctly". Any other company would have their product returned in droves, Mac fanatics just say "ok" Reply
  • Hengie2000 - Saturday, July 17, 2010 - link

    Help! I am a wireless tech that uses field test daily to survey in building wireless projects, but the iphone 4 or 4.0 upgrade lost that capability. I am willing to pay for someone to make a field test app or follow the steps that Brian and Anand have listed in this story. Is there any way to reach these guys for more details to get field test running on the iphone4? Does this give full field test menus or only replaces the signal bars with decibels? Reply
  • Stang289 - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    It would be great if you had Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus performance numbers included in smartphone reviews. I would like to see how they stack up against other smartphones. Reply
  • marxster - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    ...after all that, I'll give you my real world experience. We have a 3Gs and a 4 in our household. The 3Gs always shows more bars and does not drop calls at all while my iPhone 4 does drop calls and has less bars.

    We live far away from the closest tower and the iphone 4 doesn't ever get better reception here than -103db.

    I'm now afraid to receive calls because I know they'll be dropped. Makes my phone useless.

    I should say that both phones are on the latest iOS version and there isn't much of a difference whether I use a case or not.

    By the way, please explain this to me. Why did Apple bother to spend millions of dollars shipping out cases when they clearly don't get rid of the problem. When I cup my phone with the case on, the bars drop just the same as without.
    Reply
  • MisterQED - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    I am not a member of the “tin foil hat” crowd, I’m a guy with a physics degree and a Ham license, so I know a bit about radios. What I am about to point out seems so obvious to me, but I have never heard it discussed anywhere. Your article discusses the effects of having a exposed antenna as it effects phone reception, but that misses the main point, this is a receiving and transmitting antenna. Having skin contact with a transmitting antenna is not safe. Allow me to explain my thought process and tell me if I have a flaw in my logic.

    1) Constant irritation causes cancer. Whether it is fiberglass fibers, silica dust or coal dust in our lungs, to UV radiation from skin exposed to the sun, if you irritate an area consistently for long periods of time, you are just asking for cancer.

    2) RF radiation from most phones is a subject of worry and present discussion, but it doesn’t worry me. RF radiation is a worry because it will cause electrical conduction thru body tissue. This would be an irritation and consistent irritation can lead to cancer. RF radiation from most phones has two methods of conduction, capacitive and inductive.

    a) Capacitive needs: a sizable area, small dielectric distances and high frequencies. Cell phones have the high frequencies, but all other designs keep minimal gaps between antennas and the operator’s skin. Also the operator’s finger tips provide a rather small area to support capacitive conductance.

    b) Inductive conduction needs frequency matched radiators to allow conduction i.e. a good antenna on each end. Body parts make poor antennas, and bodily dimensions generally don’t match the proportions of ideal radiators, so inductive conduction isn’t really a worry.

    3) iPhone 4s, unlike any previous device, allow a third and a magnitude more effective connection between an operator and a transmitting antenna, a resistive connection. All a resistive connection needs is a low resistance, which skin has when sweaty or damp and the antenna has if it is not covered by a non-conductive coating. To add insult to injury, this contact de-tunes the antenna making it less efficient. This inefficiency causes the transmitter to up the power output as cell phones work on a “yell loud enough to be heard” system, so the worse the reception the more power the phone will pump into the antenna to be able to communicate with the cell tower.

    So unless you can show me where my logic has lead me astray, I would expect that in the future some percentage of the population that use an iPhone without a case may find a small possibly cancerous mole forming on one of their fingertips.

    That is a bigger problem than some dropped calls, so why didn’t you mention it.
    Reply
  • smithpercy - Sunday, November 14, 2010 - link

    Does this mean that I could cold weld a suitable socket to the gsm antenna side strip to allow a patch cable to an external antenna and get reception in the very marginal areas that I spend most of my time in?? I know that the shield would have to be grounded but that could be done thru one of the other connectors. I understand that would void the warranty, and give apple a conniption fit but that is their problem. Reply
  • keri - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    serious question here. Reply
  • jessicacoles - Saturday, December 12, 2020 - link

    https://reviewsicon.com/ Reply

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