Living with the 4

Thus far the majority of this article has focused on the technical details of the new iPhone both in its advancements and shortcomings, but what is it like to live with?

As I implied in the introduction, the 4 makes the previous iPhone feel very old. But in day to day use it doesn’t feel much different. It uses the same iOS that iPhone 3GS users get access to so with the exception of FaceTime and camera improvements, the iPhone 4 is functionally the same as its predecessor. That’s an important thing to keep in mind because to a 3GS owner it makes the iPhone not feel any different.

We've already covered iOS 4 extensively so there's no point in rehashing that here. The only new experience we have to add is our time with tethering.

The option to enable tethering is unfortunately buried in iOS 4's settings. You need to go into general settings, then network and then Internet tethering. You also need to either have Bluetooth enabled or be connected via USB to the computer you wish to tether.

You of course need to have tethering enabled on your plan, which you can't do from the settings menu. You either have to call AT&T or add the plan via attwireless.com. From there just connect to the 4 and you can use it as a modem. The phone can even be locked while tethered. Once enabled it ranges from a lifesaver to a total waste of money depending on AT&Ts coverage.

Getting used to the size of the new iPhone isn't hard at all. The device is a lot thinner which makes two handed portrait operation more strenuous especially if you're typing a lot on it. The 4 is going to be one great gaming device because holding it in landscape mode feels awesome. Overall I'd say the size feels right.

The glass everywhere is nice. It does make it impossible to quickly tell which side is front when you're fumbling around your pocket looking for it though. And I still feel like I'm going to drop and break the thing in no time at all. While not as slick as the 3GS' plastic, the stainless steel and glass aren't exactly the most grippy surfaces.

The higher res screen makes even sending text messages clearer. Everything is just so much more crisp.

Browsing the web is more pleasant as well, but tiny text is still tiny text regardless of how sharp the display is. You'll still need to zoom in on regular sites.

You do get used to the screen though. It's only when going back to the 3GS that the 4 feels new again. It's sort of like an SSD, you miss the retina display when it's gone.

The seat of the pants feel has definitely improved thanks to the A4. Although, I'd say its subtle. Web pages load quicker, animations are smoother. It's not perfect however. There are still some choppy animations and pauses from the scheduler giving too much CPU time to a hungry process. In general though, the phone feels like it was designed to run iOS 4 while the 3GS can get a bit overwhelmed at times.

The OS improvements, although not specific to the 4, are still lacking in two key areas. Apple still hasn't implemented a good notification system ala Android or webOS. I expected that update with iOS 4 but I guess we'll get it next year instead.

Secondly the multitasking interface is nice but still not quite perfect. I am still holding out for either an improved webOS or for Apple to do it's own take on the card system.

How does the 4 compare to Android? The same differences are still there. Currently there is no Android phone quite as sleek as the iPhone 4, although I expect that could change in less than a year.

The latest Android phones have had better cameras and higher resolution screens, so the iPhone 4 doesn't have as huge of an advantage there.

Apple still has the UI polish down pat. Scrolling is far smoother and performance more consistent, although I believe Google isn't far away from fixing this. The Froyo update alone does wonders to performance. If Google could fix the scrolling issues I'd say a number of iPhone users would for sure be fine with switching.

There is this more open, more configurable, more capable feel you get with Android that you don't with the iPhone. That can be both a positive and a negative. Android phones feel more like computers while iPhones have more of that appliance feel. It still boils down to personal preference, the 4 won't change that.

An iPhone with Bumpers Final Words
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  • philosofa - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    This kind of in-depth and insightful review is exactly why I read pretty much every Anandtech article (that and a liberal workplace when it comes to browsing lol). Cheers very much Brian & Anand. Don't feel a huge urge to upgrade from my 3GS, but it does look like a pretty damn fine smartphone! Reply
  • quiksilvr - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Yeah, but he's holding it wrong :( Reply
  • medi01 - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    But guys, who do you pay a fortune for these phones? If you'd buy iphone or whatever phone with 2 year contract in most of Europe you'd pay just the price of the phone over 2 years (a bit more, in case of iphones it's about 700 Euro)

    I mean, aren't there cheaper contracts? I could imagine, that you can't buy some models other than from mobile providers, but hey, there are other countries with online shops.
    Reply
  • Snotling - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    In north America and even more in Canada, there is a lot of territory to cover and lower population density. Cellular networks need to plant antennas where there is theoretically too few users to pay for it. Reply
  • JimmiG - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    Sweden is kind of like a smaller version of Canada. Apart from the three major metro regions (Stockholm, Malmo and Gothenburg), the country is very sparsely populated. An average city is maybe 50,000 people. Yet we have extremely affordable plans by comparison.. I mean like less than $10 for a perfectly usable plan (1GB of data or so) and no more than $20 for 5GB or even Unlimited. Paying $100 a moth..geez. I barely pay that in a year. Reply
  • Ratinator - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    Sorry, I think that is a bad comparison.

    Sweden is 2/3rd the size of the province of Saskatchewan and 9 times the population of Saskatchewan as well. You can't even compare Sweden to the province of Saskatchewan let alone Canada. You have roughly 13.5 times the population density of that province. Mind you this is probably least densely populated of the provinces (not territories) Maybe not the best example, but lets look at a better one.

    You could maybe compare to Ontario (our most populated province) however, you are less than half their size with 80% of their population. When calculated out you still have almost twice the population density of our most populated province.
    Reply
  • ABR - Monday, July 5, 2010 - link

    It's pretty hard to find countries with similar population density to Canada, ranked 228 out of 239 in the world according to wikipedia. On the other hand, most of the country is inaccessible by road and I seriously doubt you are putting up cell towers in Nunavut. On the other hand Finland has half the population density of the United States and yet has similar cellular and broadband rates to Sweden. We don't know what it is with North America, whether a lack of competition, cartel agreements, or all the companies being weighed down by historical investments, but you guys do lead the world in what you pay for communications. Reply
  • Guspaz - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - link

    According to the CIA world factbook (yes, I use a foreign agency's site for info on my own country), 90% of Canada's population lives within 160km of the US border.

    If we make an estimated measurement and take the southern border's length at 6416 km, multiply that by 160 and you get an area of about a million square kilometres with a population of, adjusting for the 90%, about 31 million. That would be an actual density in that region of about 31 people per square kilometre.

    That puts us in 180th place, right behind the US in 179, which has a density of 32. This is close enough to say that, within our populated region, we've got about the same population density as the US.
    Reply
  • ripwell - Saturday, July 3, 2010 - link

    Are you comparing data plans to voice and data plans? Telia was blasted when the iPhone first came out with some of the most expensive plans in the world. It's pretty amazing if you're suggesting that you can now get voice and data for just $10 a month. Reply
  • JimmiG - Sunday, July 4, 2010 - link

    "It's pretty amazing if you're suggesting that you can now get voice and data for just $10 a month. "

    You rarely get pre-paid minutes here unless you really want to. You just pay about $6 a month and get billed for your minutes afterwards. In my case, it's about 10¢ per minute, but to phones on the same network, you get unlimited texts, mms's and minutes. Yes, for $6 a month. That includes most of my friends and relatives that's pretty much what I pay for voice and texts.

    Then on top of that, you can add your data plan, for example 1GB a month at 6Mb is $9 (add $7.8 for 5GB at 10Mb/s).

    -Or, if you really must go crazy, you can get 3,000 minutes for $65. Combined with 5GB/month at 10Mb/s, you're paying roughly $82. That's the absolute maximum. No subsidized phone, but you get over 3x more minutes than the iPhone deal and 2.5x the amount of data. The phones aren't really subsidized at all when you look at the total cost.

    "You could maybe compare to Ontario (our most populated province) however, you are less than half their size with 80% of their population. When calculated out you still have almost twice the population density of our most populated province. "

    But what about the US? Its population density is 32/km2 vs 20.6/km2 for Sweden. There are definitely states that are comparable in size and population density.
    Reply

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