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iPhone 4

Wednesday 14th July 2010

To be honest, I was fairly sure that I probably wouldn’t get an iPhone 4 on release day. I know that stock was really scarce (and indeed still is), and I really couldn’t be bothered with getting up uber-early in order to go queue outside a shop for one. But I thought it was still worth going to the shops at 9 o’clock, just to see. It’s not as if I had anything better to do!

Sure enough, the first couple of shops I visited had about 5 each, and they were sold by the time I got to them. But one of the sales assistants tipped me off that the local Best Buy (!) had a decent number in stock, so I went down there. There were about 20 people queueing outside the entrance, so I thought “why not? Can’t take too long” and joined the line. And about 5 minutes later, an employee walked the queue to ask us what version we wanted, and to put our names on the list to allocate us phones. Yay!

I was somewhat wrong about it not taking long though. It was taking an age for the sales people to process each order, so I still had an age to wait. I really didn’t think I’d be there for more than an hour, but in fact I ended up spending 2 or so hours in the queue, then another three quarters of an hour with the sales assistant actually buying the damn thing. Because of course, there were 4 assistants dealing with iPhone sales, and each sale was taking ages because O2 was initially taking ages to sort out upgrades and the like.

Anyway, 3 and a half hours after I set out to get one, I returned home with a shiny new iPhone. I’ve had it a few weeks now, so I’ve had a decent amount of time now to get used to it.

The phone I traded in to get this was an iPhone 3G. I’d had that for a while and I really liked it, but this is definitely a massive step ahead. The software is obviously mostly similar because it uses the same OS. That said, there are obviously new features to iOS 4 and some of those aren’t available to the 3G. Multitasking is the most obvious thing, and it works really well on the iPhone 4. I know it’s taken ages to come to the iPhone in comparison to other platforms, but one of the things I like about the iPhone platform is that once Apple implement a new feature, it works really well. The implementation on the iPhone may not be “real” multitasking, but it works well for the way most people use their phones, and that’s the main thing. For instance the new version of Spotify for iOS 4 is excellent, and runs really well in the background without noticeably slowing things down.

Also, this iPhone is much quicker than my 3G. For instance, I always found that the Spotify app would take forever to load on the 3G, and is pretty clunky to use too. On the new iPhone it opens pretty much immediately, and is extremely responsive when you navigate around the app. The camera is also much better. The 3G camera was ok, it was usable for most things (indeed, the picture in the header of this page was taken with my old iPhone), but it was always a bit hit and miss as to whether the pictures would be any good. The new camera is much better in this respect; even low-light pictures are pretty good. Oh, and it records 720p video, which looks pretty snazzy.

I’ve not tried FaceTime yet because I don’t know anyone else with one of these phones, but I’m pretty keen to give it a go.

This is all pretty much peripheral though, because in my opinion there is one thing which really sets this phone apart from anything else: the screen. It wouldn’t be exaggeration to say that it’s pretty much the best screen I’ve seen in any device. I can’t see the individual pixels unless I hold the phone about a 20mm from my face, so everything is incredibly smooth. Reading on the old phone used to tire my eyes after a while, but this is much more readable because the text is so much smoother. Oh, and it’s brilliant for watching videos on. HD videos from YouTube look really, really nice. In fact the other day I did a comparison with a 3GS, both showing the same video from YouTube, and it was surprising how much clearer the new phone is. Honestly, this thing has to be seen to be believed.

I would love an iPad with this screen… (but that’s probably quite a way away)

I also think that the phone looks absolutely gorgeous. Photos don’t do this thing justice, I reckon. It’s pretty understated, but quite classy. That said, it’s also pretty badly designed.

Mobile phones are portable. In the real world, they get exposed to a pretty hard life, and in fact it’s more than likely that the typical phone will be dropped several times over its lifetime. So good phone design would look good in 12 months time as it does when it’s new. It should be able to weather the inevitable scrapes and knocks. Glass screens are pretty unavoidable on phones like this, but this has a glass back too. You don’t need me to tell you that glass shatters, so this phone is pretty damn fragile. That’s bad design.

But there’s another problem, and this one is amazing. The aerials for the iPhone have been placed on the outside edge, in order to save space and move them outside the case. Good thinking? No. There’s a point on the bottom-left corner of the phone, which if touched causes the network signal to be severely attenuated. You can literally place your finger on this spot and watch the phone signal decrease. If you hold the phone naturally, it’s easy to inadvertently touch this part of the aerial and have this effect. There’s no excuse for this, it’s just really poor design, and could have been easily sidestepped by applying a transparent coating to the aerial.

Steve Jobs’ response of “just don’t hold it like that” is really unhelpful as well…

Anyway. These problems are mostly solved by a case, which is something I would get anyway (and that doesn’t in any way excuse Apple for shockingly poor design, it just means that it doesn’t affect me massively). So I really like the new iPhone. Unless you’re still tied into a contract for a while, I think it’s an absolute no-brainer for current iPhone users to upgrade. Especially if you’re still using a 3G (or earlier)… Obviously if you don’t like the general iPhone model then this isn’t going to do anything for you, but lots of people just want a smartphone that’s powerful yet really easy to use, and the iPhone 4 does that brilliantly.

As long as you don’t hold it wrong.

Posted at 3:01 am | Posted In: Technology Tagged:

24 Comments:

Jenny

Wednesday 14th July 2010, 6:29 pm

I’m planning on not upgrading until I reach the end of my contract, by which point it’ll be even better – and hopefully won’t have that awkward aerial issue, because I am the kind of person who, whilst on the phone, goes in for tidying up, walking along whilst eating and trying to carry a week’s shopping, or if all else fails contortionist gymnastics whilst lying on my bedroom floor. I need something that is not going to lose signal when I decide to do something mildly daft.

Also when I go to buy a new Apple device, be that iPod or iPhone (not that I think I’ll ever need to buy an iPod again, though I guess as a storage device for lots of music and with enough room for high quality recordings the Classic is a Pretty Good Thing) I buy the device and a case for it absolutely simultaneously. It might be the most minimalist black leather case I can lay my hands on, but it’s something. No way would I ever let my iPhone out without its case. Perhaps I’m just paranoid, but like you say… all that glass. Not practical. And as a student I simply can’t afford to replace the thing just because it’s become aesthetically challenged after a careless encounter with the pavement.

Flix

Wednesday 14th July 2010, 8:25 pm

Oh dear. Srsly. I love how you start off trying to justify your obsessiveness, though “Oh, I just went along at 9am sharp, you know, just to see, and oh, just a little queue, oh well, I do love to queue, I’m British, you know” IT’S JUST A PHONE!?

“As a student” Don’t buy an iPhone? I have a severe dislike for the item in question, so I suppose my opinion won’t be very welcome here. Yes, it’s a cool little gadgety thing, but I require my phone to uh, phone and text, call me old-fashioned. So I hold my retro style slimline button-adorned device in any which way I like and it works. I throw it across the floor, and it works, I drop it out of my pocket, and it works. That’s all I look for in a phone, really.

Dickie

Thursday 15th July 2010, 7:35 pm

@Jenny:
Yeah, if I had a while left on my contract I’d do the same as you and wait. When I got mine there were people buying themselves out of contracts that end in like October 2011, which seems really mad tbh.

I did actually buy a case with it, but it turned out to be rubbish so I returned it. I’ve ordered one that looks better, but it’s on back order. I’ve got an Invisible Shield on it though, so it’s not completely unprotected.

@Flix:
It’s not *quite* “just a phone”. In fact the phone feature is probably the one I use the least.. Compared to using it to listen to Spotify over my car speakers using Bluetooth, or using it to get my gown hire details when I realised I’d forgotten to bring the printed receipt, or looking up directions to somewhere that I didn’t know the way to, or killing a bit of time by checking Twitter/Google Reader, or looking up the train times (and how delayed they are)… It’s pretty useful.

And yes I’m a geek and like technology, and I was due to upgrade and so didn’t mind spending a bit of time queuing. Like I said, it’s not like I had anything better to do :P

Flix

Thursday 15th July 2010, 10:21 pm

Well of course. But the point is, it’s principally a phone, with other gadgety things which I’ve no doubt are useful and everything in certain circumstances, but it annoys me that people think they can’t live without a screen in front of them. TALK TO PEOPLE. I have a problem with the iPhone in that I feel it has the potential to kill discussion and hinder interaction (in a “you’re wrong and I’m right and I can prove it cos I have an iPhone, bam! goodbye interesting debate that may lead to other conversational topics if we didn’t whip out our phone to check every fact immediately” way), largely, but also people’s ability to remember things and organise themselves. Yes, it’s a cool gadgety type thing, but try not to overuse it, yah?

And just ask for directions, man. :P

Flix

Thursday 15th July 2010, 10:25 pm

To be honest, I don’t have an issue with the queueing. I mean I think it’s sad, but only in the same way that queueing up for Harry Potter at midnight is, it’s just a generally geeky thing to do :P I just thought it funny that it seemed like you had to justify the act ;)

Dickie

Thursday 15th July 2010, 11:15 pm

But no, to me it’s sort of not principally a phone. It’s more like a mini-tablet that’s connected to the net, which also happens to work as a phone. And it’s not as if I feel I can’t live without a screen in front of me, it’s just something which makes life easier. I don’t find that it kills discussion either; mostly when I use it to look something up, it’s because someone genuinely wanted to know. Not being able to look it up wouldn’t (and hasn’t) hindered the discussion, really, because debate is generally about things that can’t be looked up, rather than plain facts.

And yeah, I could organise myself without having an iPhone, but that sort of defeats the point. Generally there’s something I forget to do, and having a smartphone means that I’m not screwed if/when that happens.

Basically, smartphones FTW :-P

Flix

Friday 16th July 2010, 8:55 am

iPhone. iPHONE.

You wouldn’t own it if it didn’t have a phone feature. Or at least, you would, but you’d also have some sort of device that does minor things like, call people.

So don’t pull your “phone” out in front of me to check facts, plz. Wait until we see each other next, or look it up at home, or ask someone else if they know, because some people carry their brains in their heads rather than their pockets, crazy as it sounds.

Dickie

Friday 16th July 2010, 10:26 am

I generally don’t like to stop talking to someone to look stuff up, but 9 times out of 10 these days, people ask me to look stuff up if it comes up in a discussion…

But most times I use it, I’m on my own. If you carry live, updated info in your head (like live train times) or info you’ve never actually read before, then that’s very clever. Alas, my brain doesn’t have an uplink, so I’ll stick to my iPhone. :-p

Flix

Friday 16th July 2010, 5:17 pm

Cool. I’ll stick with my imagination and interesting conversation and use my computer for everything else. And I’ll be that one person who asks you to tell me what you think rather than what you’ve looked up.

Luckily, I don’t travel on trains very often. Thank goodness, otherwise I might get bored for a second, as I don’t have an iPhone to occupy me!

Dickie

Friday 16th July 2010, 8:38 pm

You do get that most iPhone users (or me personally, anyway) aren’t usually constantly glued to it 24/7? It’s never hindered imagination or interesting conversation. It doesn’t stop people asking me what I think, because that’s not something that can generally be looked up on the internet. I do get asked for train times, or “oh who was in that film?”, or “open Google Maps, I want to show you something”, or stuff like that. Not having an iPhone wouldn’t make a conversation any better (as having one doesn’t make it worse!), it’d just mean that when someone wanted to know something that none of us knew, we’d sit around racking our brains, instead of looking it up, mocking someone about being wrong and then moving on.

It’s a tool. A very useful tool, but that’s it. You seem to be making out that it’s the destroyer of our social fabric, that having access to information somehow makes us less likely to talk to people, and that’s just not the case. Like I say, the most frequent use of mine is when I’m out somewhere on my own and need to quickly look something up.

SO THERE :-P

teacherface

Friday 16th July 2010, 9:01 pm

Chill doodz

Jenny

Saturday 17th July 2010, 1:57 pm

I am writing this comment on my iPhone. I find it a very useful thing to own, actually – I don’t get it out and use it when I’m talking to friends except very specifically for fact checking eg of maps, train times and bus timetables, weather, etc, all of which would be useful to know now and would be otherwise unavailable. Or the odd bit of fact checking – ‘who played that girl obtuse film with the sword and the weird yellow jumpsuit’ type questions. I am not the kind of person, nor, I hope, will I ever be, to have her phone out on the pub table. But I am the kind of person to own an iPhone. I find, actually, that I use the Internet less rather than more now that I have this device. Furthermore I find that I can do internetty things in in-between time which means that I get to spend more of my actual free time doing things in the real world – reading books, watching films. Because I’ve already been notified of what’s changed on facebook or my blog, I’ve scanned through the few webcomics I read, read my favourite blogs, and that’s just on the train on my way home from work – which means my Internet time has a natural life span and I get my life back. Meanwhile I am far more organised using this device – and it has free out-of-copyright audiobooks which means I get to listen to The Classics whilst looking out on the view from the train. Lovely. So no, I love my iPhone. I think it’s made my life easier, better, and if anything *less* technodependent. Xxx

Andy

Monday 19th July 2010, 3:44 am

I’ve been checking out the stuff Apple have been saying about the iPhone 4 while I was on holiday; the videos of other phones losing signal when somebody was holding them wrong were bloody hilarious.

I honestly think too many people spend far too much time and enegy trying to find ways to knock Apple. A friend posted a link on Twitter to something which was basically someone knocking the iPad for having a 4:3 screen, using the frame from the movie Star Trek that Apple uses in its ads, showing it was framed slightly differently. People are weird.

Anyways, want one :( The issue seems pretty resolved to my satisfaction, and free case, score. I don’t make calls that often anyway, really! In every way apart from that increasingly minor-looking problem it’s a no-brainer upgrade from my 3G.

Might see if I can pop into that Best Buy before I head back to London tomorrow… Probably won’t happen, though.

@Flix It can get a bit anti-social with smart phones in general if people check them too often, but that usually only happens when people are deathly bored anyway. As a means to getting at facts and figures I find they help things along more than anything. I agree with Dickie that things like the iPhone are an enabling tool, not an end in themselves, and like any tool they can be both well used and misused.

I think if your arguments and discussions are inconvenienced by the easy availability of facts then there was something wrong with your conversations to begin with! I do wonder if you’ve actually had conversations killed that way by people reciting facts, or if that’s just a hypothetical scenario.

To me it sounds kinda like naïve criticisms of Twitter: that it’s just listening to the inane outpourings of narcissists, when the reality is actually very different.

Andy

Monday 19th July 2010, 3:49 am

Completely forgot to mention (as seems the fashion) that I wrote this on my iPad, which I love unreasonably.

Earlier my sister was using it to research our family tree, even though her Windows 7 netbook was all of 30 cm further away on the table. And switched on, in standby. 1911 Irish census returns look awesome on the iPad, incidentally.

Jenny

Tuesday 20th July 2010, 3:54 pm

In all fairness the one thing I don’t like doing on the iPhone, though I will do it, is sending long emails or blog posts. I like to be able to see most of what I’ve written in one go, see just how much I’ve written and whether I’ve started to repeat myself yet. So I do turn on my laptop reasonably often for that sort of stuff or to put something on on iPlayer. What really annoys me is that unless you’ve got wireless you can’t play things on iPlayer; furthermore I don’t see why they don’t make an app for BBC radio; I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to be able to listen to the Beeb as I go about my daily life.

Dickie

Tuesday 20th July 2010, 7:23 pm

@Andy:
I’m kinda surprised how many people bought Jobs’ spin. His explanation was just, well, bullshit really. But meh, free case!

@Jenny:
Heh yeah, I don’t generally write lengthy stuff on it either. I can only just tolerate writing stuff on the laptop, I prefer to have loads of space to see what I’ve written as well as what I’m responding to.

For BBC radio, there’s two ways apparently. Download an app called Wunder Radio, which has BBC and lots of local radio streams. Or download FStream, and then point it to one of these streams. I’ve not tried either of these methods, but they’re what Google suggests :-)

Andy

Tuesday 20th July 2010, 11:14 pm

Yeh, I wouldn’t blog on my phone either. Screen’s too small. I have indeed blogged on my iPad, though. Wrote a series about what I did in Ireland, which I’m going to polish up and then post in the next few days.

But yeh, I now have a new shiny iPhone 4 from Best Buy, that was an awesome tip, they had about a million of them. Traded in my 3G, ended up only £25 out of pocket for the iPhone 4, which I think is a massive win.

Anyways, try as I might, I actually can’t replicate the antenna problem. I’ve been properly death-gripping it, and absolutely nothing happens to the signal. So yeh, very happy!

Alas, if I blog or tweet about it, people are going to be a pain about the “antenna problem”. Luckily, I’ve shown one twitterer friend of mine it today, and she too noticed how nothing happened, so with any luck she’ll defend me.

Andy

Tuesday 20th July 2010, 11:16 pm

Oh, and had a FaceTime call with my sister, as she got one too. It was actually really cool.

Dickie

Tuesday 20th July 2010, 11:46 pm

I forgot to say, I’ve heard from some other places that newer ones don’t have the antenna problem, I guess they changed the design or something. Mine certainly does it, although it drops fewer bars now that the signal display isn’t as… optimistic.

Dickie

Tuesday 20th July 2010, 11:47 pm

Oh and I still wanna try FaceTime, so I’ll call you tomorrow :-P

Flix

Thursday 22nd July 2010, 3:59 pm

I’ve no doubt it’s a very useful jewel. I mean, tool. And spending a few days without net, yeah, it would have been good to check transport, or opening times, or whatever. But in the end, you realise it’s a sunny day outside and it wouldn’t actually hurt you to take a walk, or call someone else to look it up. So it may make your life a bit easier just like comps, net, tech in general, but sometimes there’s some pleasantry in simplicity and while I appreciate y’all intelligent people with scope for deep thinking and ability to limit usage to when it’s appropriate, I think there is perhaps a tendency to take the path of least resistance and avoid using your brain, sometimes, simply because you become reliant on the machine. Problem solving is a good skill to have, yo.

The killing conversation is mainly hyperbole to put a bitter point across. I have had several instances in which people whip out the internet to check a minor detail which was really unnecessary, and really irks me, especially if it’s like, in a restaurant or something. They end up spending five minutes looking it up and not paying attention to what you’re saying and in the end it doesn’t really matter what other movies Quentin Tarintino has done or exactly how many counties there are in Ireland. Plus, there’s more merit in knowing something because you know it rather than because there’s a screen in front of you telling you so. Don’t make your minds lazy, kids, mkay?

My phone has the radio, though the old fashioned FM kind, but on a phone? OMGZ gogo gadget!

Andy

Friday 23rd July 2010, 3:12 pm

Free case! http://www.apple.com/iphone/case-program/

No idea which one to get though…

Dickie

Friday 23rd July 2010, 4:59 pm

@Flix:
“Plus, there’s more merit in knowing something because you know it rather than because there’s a screen in front of you telling you so. Don’t make your minds lazy, kids, mkay?”

Come off it. Having a smartphone doesn’t preclude you from knowing stuff! Partly it is about “taking the path of least resistance”. But if I’m out somewhere, 20 minutes drive away from my pc, and I want to look something up (such as the location of a shop, or some other equally inane piece of information), then I’m quite glad to have a tool which saves me that time. As to people taking 5 minutes to look stuff up and not talking to you, that’s not exactly the fault of the phone, and merely possessing one doesn’t make that scenario a certainty.

You say “problem solving is a good skill to have”, and that’s right. I choose to give myself a better scope to solve problems by carrying around a device which enables me to quickly access information. There may well be “pleasantry in simplicity”, and the iPhone is a device that can make life simpler. So what’s the issue?

/rant

@Andy
Heh, there’s an app for that… Actually that’s a remarkably clever way to do it. I ended up going for this one.

Flix

Sunday 25th July 2010, 7:16 pm

This isn’t a rant at you, or even the iPhone particulary. It is quite cool, I’ve no doubt and is indeed useful in making your life easier in some respects.

My rant is against those who spend five minutes finding the line-up of a festival they actually went to only a couple of weeks ago, in order to tell me who they thought was good. My rant is against those who will check what sushi means WHILST IN A JAPANESE RESTAURANT, being served by native, billingual waitresses. My rant is against those who, rather than speak to the many brightly t-shirted university students that are dotted around campus to ask for walking directions to somewhere nearby, will use GPS to get them there. My point is, depending on the person who owns it, the iPhone HAS THE POTENTIAL TO (BUT DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN THAT IT WILL DO) make people lazy, uncommunicative and unwilling to branch out of their comfort zone or think a little bit harder for a little bit longer, which can be good for the brain, as you well know. So I think, essentially, we probably fundamentally agree.

In summary: you’re right. Okay? Cool.

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