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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  • Griswold - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Lets be honest, he has only very limited means to meassure the problem. To get to the bottom of this, it needs to be meassured in a HF lab. Reply
  • samspqr - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    "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."

    I find it really funny that they would never catch this specific problem because of them just being apple: if their engineers are not as good as anand is (as in thinking "that's gonna be a problem" right after hearing the description of the antenna), and if THE FIELD TESTERS HAD THEIR PHONES DRESSED AS A 3GS BECAUSE OF PARANOID ISSUES, this kind of problem can only slip through
    Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    I think Anand was a little light on this topic. As an multi-discipline engineer myself this type of problem with the Antenna SHOULD NEVER had happened. It can only happened due to decisions that did not properly address it. This is not rocket science to engineers. If anything, testing WOULD HAVE discover the problem and yet it's in the finish product. Quite sad if you ask me.

    For example, why put a ferrite clamp on the end of the cable instead of designing it into the PCB . The only reason I can see why we did this was due to lack of time and we severely paid for it by having products become defective because the ferrite would pull the cables loose from the connectors.
    Reply
  • deppbv78 - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    I'm really disappointed at the lengths taken by AT to justify that iP4 losing signal as not a big deal...If it was any other product from any other manufacturer, I'm sure you'd not have gone to such lengths to justify the signal drop and just concluded that the phone has serious antenna problems. I'm not understanding why is it so difficult for anyone just provide an unbiased view of the product.

    I have HTC Hero & Touch Pro both of which lost a bar or two (with fluctuations) when cupped tightly. However, it was always just 1-2 bars and never went down like iPhone 4 does from 5 bars to 0. This continuous loss of signal is the problem. Justifying it telling that all phones lose signal is not right, as every other phone (including 3GS) loses signal temporarily and then stabilizes unlike iPhone 4.

    No wonder the iPhone 4 is engineering marvel, but that set aside it is also true that the design has created issues as well and the reviews need to acknowledge it and not justify it
    Reply
  • geniekid - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    HTC Incredible owner here. I think AT successfully showed that the antenna issue is NOT a big deal and their methods for doing so are sound. I share your suspicion that maybe they wouldn't have made such a significant investigation if it had been another phone, but let's not accuse them of mistakes they haven't made yet. Reply
  • bplewis24 - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    I have a sincere question though. Does this test really successfully show the antenna issue is NOT a big deal, or does it simply show that it's not a big deal in the utmost ideal conditions?

    Sometimes the article is difficult to decipher in terms of understanding who is saying what, but upon my initial reading I take it Brian did the testing of the antenna in Arizona. By his own admission (from my understanding), he lives there because the reception is absolutely stellar and about as good as it can possibly be.

    Again, from what I can tell, it is under those conditions that he conducted the attenuation signal loss comparisons. If it still drops down to 1 bar and comes reasonably close to dropping calls under the best possible conditions, how does it react under "average" conditions? Other people are reporting dropped calls for a reason. Is Brian's test the norm or an outlier?

    Please correct me if I've read this article wrong.

    Brandon
    Reply
  • anactoraaron - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    My understanding is you are partially correct in assuming (which is what I interpreted from your post) that under "normal" or "average" conditions you will go to one bar - which with the improved reception even at 1 bar you are still fine - OR will drop signal completely.

    This is also the reason why they say "At the bare minimum Apple should give away its bumper case with every iPhone 4 sold."

    Again, fantastic in-depth review.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    Well, he said the location he lives in has stellar reception. But he also said he drove around for a day testing, which implies to me that he found somewhere with a stable, "average" signal and did some testing there, then probably went somewhere with a "poor" signal and did some more, etc. Reply
  • bplewis24 - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    @strikeback03

    Correct. And in driving around to the less-than-stellar areas showed the phone dropping down below -107dB for reception when showing less than 2 bars. And this is on the low end of the reception spectrum as described earlier in the article. So it's pretty clear that the antenna does INDEED show poor signal strength in average or less than average areas when the "death grip" is applied.

    That is the determining factor. That determines that the design is defective and flawed. If it was not designed that way, when in average or below signal areas, the reception would still be average or below, and not well below because of the way you hold the phone.

    However, the article skirts this and attempts to present it in a way that shines the best possible light on Apple and their defective design. Big disappointment in terms of an objective review.

    Brandon
    Reply
  • geniekid - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    The article made it clear that bars are a misleading way of measuring call quality/reception. In practice, it was noted that call quality/reception is improved/equal to the 3GS on the 4, regardless of bars (raw signal power).

    Who cares if you have 1 bar all the time if you're still making calls better than someone with 4 bars?

    HTC Incredible owner here.
    Reply

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