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Friday Four: iPhone 4 Impressions

As if you haven’t heard enough out of me already on Twitter, I thought you’d enjoy a special Friday Four full of impressions from my newly acquired iPhone 4 (which I preordered and received it Wednesday morning). As the resident Apple fan at MediaSalt, I’ll try to give you a balanced critique of what I’ve discovered so far. Let’s start with the high points…

The High Points

That Rigorgeolous Screen

Let’s get this out of the way up front… the screen is absolutely the (secret) killer feature of Apple’s newest baby. Sure, FaceTime gets the most of the attention from Apple’s marketing machines, but the rigorgeoulous (ridiculously gorgeous) screen is what immediately gets the “ooohs and ahhs” when I demo the phone around the office. Pixels are indistinguishable, colors are rich and video is absolutely stunning.

It’s so good that it will make every other screen in your life (including the iPad’s!) look pretty awful. Expect Retina Displays to become the new hotness.

Too Too Too Fast

As someone upgrading from two generations ago (the iPhone 3G), the iPhone 4 is orders of magnitude faster than my old workhorse.

For example, the Analytics App that I use daily took about 20 seconds to open on my 3G and another 10 seconds to load a site. On my new toy, it opens in less than 2 seconds and brings up a site in 5. The raw horsepower is a huge productivity booster; it would hurt to go back to my 3G now.

Stellar Video Calling

Maybe I’m just a jaded technology blogger, but the concept of video calling just doesn’t excite me like it used to. We’ve had Skype and iChat for years now, and honestly, it’s just kind of awkward talking to someone by staring them straight in the face (try it in person… you feel like a serial killer).

With that said, using FaceTime makes you feel a little bit like we’re in the Jetsons. The video quality is excellent, there’s no delays in your conversation, and the ability to switch cameras to show off things your looking at is pretty neat. Yeah, the WiFi only limitation sucks right now, but I’m sure that will change in the future. You may not use it much, but it’s actually pretty cool when you need it.

A Camera Worth Using

This is the feature that excited me the most during the Steve-note a few weeks ago. Having a 10-week-old daughter, I’m constantly taking pictures and video on a whim with my phone (since that’s typically the only camera within reach). The iPhone 4′s much better sensor and 720p video capture are definitely welcome additions.

In my limited experience with it so far, the low light sensitivity is much better, and the video quality easily rivals my Flip MinoHD (mostly thanks to the tap-to-focus feature). It’s a tremendous improvement.

The Low Points

The Antennae Glitch is Real

As you may have read about already elsewhere, some iPhone 4′s (including mine) will drop signal by a few bars if you hold them with your palm in the bottom left corner. Unlike other users, this doesn’t effect my call quality at all, but it’s definitely an unwelcome defect that Apple needs to address. Free bumpers for everyone wouldn’t surprise me.

It’s Kind of Sharp in the Hand

This is a minor gripe, but if you’re used to the first 3 iPhone iterations, the iPhone 4′s square metal edges feel kind of sharp at first blush. It’s not digging into my skin or anything, but it’s slightly less enjoyable to hold.

I’m TERRIFIED of Dropping It

With glass on both sides and its general slimness, this thing just feels expensive. It’s also extremely smooth and easily slides off of surfaces that my 3G would happily rest on (the armrest of my couch, for instance). I’m terrified of dropping it, and will probably break my typical “no case rule” to put my mind at ease.

Some Glaring Holes

If you’ve spent any time at all with Android or WebOS, you know how nice a well-thought-out notification system can be for daily usability. iOS 4 is a terrific piece of software, but some of its features like pop-up notifications and an empty lock screen are glaring omissions in light of the competition. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these areas be the focus of iOS 5, especially considering that Apple recently snatched up Palm’s notification UI guy.

So, would I recommend an upgrade? Absolutely, but you may want to wait a few weeks to see how Apple addresses the antennae issue.

Have any questions or want more comparisons to a previous model? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Adam Houston (Reply) on June 25th, 2010

    My impressions exactly. Same here, upgrading from 3G to 4, so some of the “wow” is likely enhanced by the major jumps in speed and functionality vs. that aging model (in raw computing horsepower, in having a compass, in having voice control, video, etc.)

    The “terrified of dropping it” part is so true for me – unlike previous iPhone models I literally feel like I have a $699 fabergé egg in my pocket/hand. I realize it’s probably pretty rugged, but having a bumper or other case to ease my mind will be a welcome addition when one finally comes in. My 3G (wrapped in a hardshell case) took a flight from my hand at high speed, flying 30 feet away into a semi trailer and then falling 8 feet to pavement. It didn’t get a scratch. (But lesson learned – don’t hold your iPhone above your head to get a better angle at Mardi Gras parades…especially when all the drunks around you are pitching beads as hard as they can at the floats going by). I am worried that this beauty wouldn’t be able to withstand that type of abuse, case or no case. Hopefully I’ll never have to find out.

  2. Matthew Snider (Reply) on June 29th, 2010

    I must say I love it, except for the antenna thing, which reading the interwebs mainly calls out a software glitch. We shall see. I do want a bumper on mine and I must say even though this thing is gorgeous without it, the back glass just scares me to death.

    great write up, agreed with most of the sentiments. Not an Android person nor ever care to be but the lockscreen thing along with the notifications, all of that you can get if you want to. Just jailbreak it if you “need” those things.

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