Apple's iPhone 4: Thoroughly Reviewedby Brian Klug & Anand Lal Shimpi on June 30, 2010 4:06 AM EST
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.
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.