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Friday, June 25, 2010

My iPhone 4 Review or Why My Apple Fanboydom is Now Complete

by Vernon Keenan

June 25, 2010
Berkeley, CA

Many years ago, in 1984 when the original Macintosh came out flying that pirate flag, I was what we call today an Apple Fanboy. I was young, and very much impressed with the GUI, the mouse and all that neat stuff the Mac brought to the world.

I would carry around my original Mac 128K in that huge duffel bag and hook up the dot matrix printer and gape in amazement when a halftone graphic printed. And after the original LaserWriter came out, it was off the races for the next ten years of my IT career.

Like I've written elsewhere, I have strayed from the Apple camp for a number of years. I only dabbled with learning OS X, but I felt comfortable since I use Linux professionally. I even bought a black MacBook in 2006 just for fun, but I was pretty much still not that impressed with Apple.

Boy, has that changed. It started in 2007 when I got the original iPhone. Not only do I think they are ready for world smartphone domination, see previous post, but this new iPhone 4 is a super product I don't have any trouble recommending to clients.

I did manage to get online after about 20 tries on June 15, the day of the pre-order online scramble. I think I managed to get through by using one of my cloud-based servers that gave me a significantly faster Internet connection than most other web users. I was lucky enough to be in the first batch of owners to receive their packages on Wednesday June 23.

That package is almost identical to the 3GS package; it only has a minimal instruction book, warranty information, the basic Apple Headphone earbuds with a mic, a basic iPhone-USB cable, and the two-pronged AC adapter. For me, activation was super-simple and simply took plugging it into my MacBook and syncing with iTunes. It loaded my old iPhone backup and I had everything on there but my iPod content.

The new size and design of the product is very nice, giving it a much more solid feel and heft than the 3GS plastic design. I can still hear the buttons rattle when giving it a good shake, but that noise is much less than before.

I like the new glass surface, but I am also a bit worried about marring or breaking it. I wonder how forgiving they will be at the Genius bar with cracked iPhones? The lack of curves and the tight corners between the glass and the metal band gives your fingers more to hold onto than the previous model. Even with the glass, it is less slippery than the 3GS model.

The most impressive new feature to me is Apple's new Retina Display, where they claim their 326 pixel per inch screen renders images so accurately the human eye cannot resolve the individual dots on the screen. I had to take out my over-40 special contact lenses to really see, but their claim is true. It is the finest computer screen I have ever seen, and you can actually read a full web page with no magnification. Although the type is only 5 or 6 "points" on the screen, it is totally legible and can be read.

Naturally, most of us won't be squinting at the tiniest rendering of text. However, the fine resolution of this screen makes it look as good as you would see in a fine art magazine. It certainly makes it more possible to watch movies, look at high-res photos, and read books on the iPhone.

After a few minutes of tapping apps, using the phone, doing texts, and using Safari, I was impressed with how much the new processor, more memory and the new multitasking capabilities speed up everything. Before it was quite painful to switch between any application and Safari mainly because you were actually re-launching the browser every time and it would re-load the page. Now, Safari runs in the background all the time, keeping track of its network connections and avoiding unnecessary page refreshes. Cutting and pasting between Safari and other apps just got a lot faster.

Another big improvement is the new 5 MP rear camera, the flash and 720p video recording. It is no replacement for a Nikon or Sony Handicam, but does anyone want to buy a Flip video recorder?

My call quality seems to be up, but that's is super-anecdotal on my part. I've only had it for two days now, and I can't tell if what I'm seeing is a reliable pattern.

I must say, though, that my personal experience with AT&T signal quality has been good, even since my original iPhone in 2007. I pretty much stay in the Berkeley/North Oakland areas, plus southern San Diego county, so I don't go to the bad zones very often.

But, I have had all sorts of problems with my iPhone 3GS in downtown San Francisco, including getting dropped calls when I have four bars of strength. The worst is 3G data performance in San Francisco. I haven't run any serious tests, but loading web pages on an iPhone in downtown San Francisco sure feels like it's going at quarter speed compared to downtown Berkeley.

There are a bunch of iOS 4 features I haven't used yet, such as FaceTime, but I have instantly grown used to the new dashboard folders and the multitasking. The new combined inbox and email threading is nice too. The multitasking works by double-tapping the menu button and a list of your active applications pop up. Swipe to the app you want, and you've just saved about three taps and five seconds of another application launch.

I could drone on, but you get the idea. Here is the bottom line. If you have an original iPhone or 3G, you should upgrade right away if $250 is in your budget. The new iOS 4 update doesn't work on the original, and it will go much slower on the 3G. Just order the iPhone 4 from the Apple Store online and have it delivered. That's the simplest.

If you have a 3GS and aren't tempted to do it for fashion's sake, then first try out the new iOS 4 free update. That will give you 80% of what iPhone 4 owners get. You can wait and see about price drops or easier availability later this summer.

If you are on another smartphone, especially a Windows or another bad design that hampers your use, then I guarantee you'll get more use out of your mobile device if you switch to the iPhone. Note that I'm not talking to the Blackberry or Android Fanboys out there. We'll talk another time...

In any case, Apple has another real winner with the iPhone 4. And, yes, I confess to being an Apple Fanboy reincarnated.

1 comment:

Vernon Keenan said...

Here is the link to my video test on the iPhone. Pretty sharp!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWGwL3fqNcE