Only those living in a plastic bubble over the past few weeks will have failed to notice the hype and excitement around the release of Apples new iPhone, the iPhone 4; and more importantly the fact that I got my hands on one on release day (24th June). As previously mentioned I awoke on pre-order day and pre-ordered the 32gb model sim free direct from Apple, and being the tech enthusiast I am that day took the release day off from work so that I would be able to great the UPS delivery man with a warm welcome, and of course play with my new phone un-interrupted.
To say that the arrival process was a little nerve-racking is the understatement of the year. My mother also pre-ordered the same model, at the same time, to be delivered at the same address; so when she logged on to UPS the night before to see a change of status, whilst mine remained as ‘billing information received’ I started to get a little worried. However I went to bed knowing full well that these things don’t normally get updated as often as we would well like.
I awoke far too early on launch day for my own good, jumped onto the internet and checked my status, no change. A quick phone call to UPS confirmed my worry, they didn’t know if had been collected from Apple, or if was on the delivery van. A shiver went down my spine, ive taken the day off work to play with my new phone and what for? UPS suggested I rung Apple, who all credit to them were very helpful indeed. I spoke to two Apple reps on two separate occasions, Justin and Michael who comforted and reassured me. They confirmed that it was highly unlikely for my iPhone to not be delivered and the cause of its location not being logged was simply a case of the box not being picked up by scanners. This reasoning sounded logical, so I made myself a cup of tea and took up a spot surveying the driveway to insure that I wouldn’t miss Mr UPS.
At 12:07 a UPS van shot round the corner and parked outside my house, the driver emerged a few minutes later carrying one box in hand. I remained calm, and thought that it was possible (but highly unlikely) that mine would be on a separate van. Mr UPS scanned my mother’s iPhone with his delivery unit which duely beeped at him ferociously, as if to say “you have another one to deliver here”. Mr UPS then uttered six words that will stay with me forever. “I’ve got another one for you”. I was a happy bunny once more.
Having calmly taken the boxes inside, opened mine, restored from backup (so that all apps and settings were transferred from my 3GS), it was time to investigate and take a look at the new hardware.
The first thing one notices about the iPhone 4 is that it is incredibly well-built, feels solid in the hands, and has a decent weight about it. Personally I would rather have a phone with a bit of poundage as you feel as if you are getting something for your money and slightly less worried should the odd bump occur.
Switching the unit on reveals the new retina display. There is no way of portraying how clear this display is either in picture form or graphical from, you have to see it to believe it. The only way I can describe it is an HD display on steroids. Text looks sharper than any print material I have read, movies emerge you into the action, and photographs look more lifelike than the people in them. I really hope that Apple not only use this display on future mobile platforms such as the iPad; but release a monitor which has such a dense pixel content.
The second hardware improvement is of course the 5MP, 720p camera, which is a huge improvement from the 3MP contained on the 3GS. The improvement of camera hardware on the iPhone was the decision maker for me to upgrade my phone, and if the pictures/HD video are anything to go by I have made the right call. Pictures and video are crisp, and whilst are in no league to that of my professional SLR, they are more than adequate for the quick snap of that magical moment.
Steve Jobs first demoed FaceTime at WWDC, and I was instantly sceptical of its use. I had in the past a Nokia N95 and a contract with free video minutes. Yes I used them at first, but the quality was blotchy, slow and unreliable; all adjectives that are not in Jobs’s dictionary. FaceTime is perfect, it connects quickly and the quality is fantastic, I have spoken to people in Manchester and London using FaceTime and it is exactly like speaking to them face to face. The critics will say that this is because it’s over wifi, however with HSDPA and HSUPA allowing lightning fast data transfer, I see no reason why a 3G call would be any different when supported by carriers. Will FaceTime take off where previous attempts of video calls have failed? My first thoughts are if anyone can make it work Apple is the company that will. They have got a winning combination of ease of use and good user experience. The fact that it only works on wifi at the moment is not an issue to me, as I would never video call whilst walking down the street regardless of whether it was free or not, and places such as work/home where I would want to video call family and friends are covered in wifi. Personally I believe that Apple may do to video calling, what they did to the iPod, success where other companies have simply failed.
iOS 4 was released three days before the launch of the iPhone 4, however speaking to a work colleague he correctly suggested that I wait until I have my iPhone 4, so that everything was new. The first feature that makes a difference are folders. This allows groups of apps to be placed together, allowing the easy location of the app you require. This could also work if you want to hide an app, I use Evernote as my note application rather than the Apple alternative ‘Notes’. With folders I can move the Notes app into a folder with other Apps that I rarely use and bury it within a screen. Folders have allowed me to condense over 7 pages of apps down to just 3, drastically reducing app clutter.
Multi-tasking was the second big feature to hit iOS 4, and I think its wise to think of it as App switching to avoid confusion. The reason for suggesting this is that unlike desktop versions of multi-tasking the app on the iPhone doesn’t fully run in the background once closed. Developers have to specifically code their application to allow certain features to run in the background, for example audio or location services. When an app is close its current state is logged so that when the app is re-opened you can continue as before. This isn’t the traditional sense of multi-tasking, however from the speed the apps switch, it might as well be.
What Do I Think
There are of course many other features of the new iPhone which I havent touched on in this post. I wanted to get my first thoughts down so that any of those amongst you that are undecided can use my advice and that of previous iPhone posts.
My initial thoughts are that it’s a beautiful piece of kit that really fits in nicely with my other Apple hardware. Yes there are some flaws with the reception (but this is the case with all embedded antenna’s), however these are rumoured to be fixed in a couple of days with a software patch, however if not, they can be easily removed with a bumper or case at minimal cost. The display blows any media out of the water, and with Apple’s A4 processor its snappier than any phone on the market.