Apple iPhone 4: A weekend's worth of impressions

Noah Kravitz
 from  Oakland, CA
| June 28, 2010

I've had an iPhone 4 for about three days now, though the first day and a half didn't really count because I'd also just received a Motorola Droid X and Samsung Galaxy S and was too busy making videos of all three devices to really sit down and test any one of them out. But starting Friday at Happy Hour I starting using Apple's newest iPhone as my personal device, and after a weekend with it I've formed some pretty definitive impressions:

- Best iPhone to date. By a wide margin. Worth upgrading from a 3GS? Tough call, since 3GS will run the same iOS version 4 with no problems. Then again, call quality on the new device has shown some huge improvements over the 3GS I'd been using.

- The "Death Grip" reception bug is for real. And yet I didn't drop any calls or have any other noticable reception issues with the device, save for the signal bar indicator sometimes showing zero or one bar. Call quality on iPhone 4 has been head and shoulders better than it was on the 3G/3GS - I've been using the new phone on the same AT&T account in many of the same places that I used the old phones, and the improvement in voice quality was apparent from the first call I placed.

- That said, Apple's response to the Death Grip problem has to date been infuriating from a customer service perspective. No, this isn't the first cell phone to come with a "avoid holding it here" disclaimer, but Steve Jobs & Co. should know better when it comes to issuing terse, non-apologetic statements on issues like this. Apple's become way too high profile to run the risk of arrogance-fueled backlash that they've been running as of late.

- iPhone 4's display is utterly fantastic. I was very skeptical of the whole "Retinal Display" thing even after getting a quick hands-on at the launch event. But after a weekend of taking and viewing lots of photos and videos on the device, I'm a believer. Quality content looks absolutely fantastic on the 960 x 640 display, and it's a decent performer in direct sunlight because it's an LCD - not AMOLED - screen.

- Speaking of photos and videos, iPhone 4 is a marked improvement from previous models in the imaging department. While I've yet to do any real head-to-head tests with the likes of HTC's Evo and Incredible, Moto's Droid X, and Samsung's Galaxy S, my first impression of iPhone 4 is that it's a contender for the titles of best cameraphone and best mobile camcorder on the market. The camera is "only" five megapixels, but images are sharp and rich, and the inclusion of a flash is welcomed. HD video quality has been quite impressive, as well, though it's somewhat annoying direct uploading to YouTube does not support full 720p resolution.

- All of that said, an HD cameraphone dogfight is definitely in the works!

- iOS 4 runs quickly and smoothly on iPhone 4. I haven't really done much in the way of multitasking just yet, but plan to get to some serious testing this week.

- Build quality feels great and the industrial design is growing on me. The device feels solid and somehow smaller than it is. I am concerned about the heavy use of glass increasing the chance of scratching and shattering, though.

- FaceTime is slick and fun. Apple's choice to make video calling another form of calling was a wise one; Android OS carriers and manufacturers would do well to adopt this strategy as opposed to the current "Download and install and run a separate app" design of video chatting on Sprint's HTC Evo 4G. Integrating video calling into the core Contacts/Phone system is just much easier for the average user to deal with.

- That said, it's a drag that FaceTime only works via WiFi and with other FaceTime devices. Makes me wonder if the novelty will wear off after the first month or so.

- I hear tell upload speeds on AT&T's 3G network have improved as compared to the 3GS. As I write this I realize that I haven't really tested that out yet. And so I'd better get back to testing ... 

- And, oh yeah, I tried cutting a full-sized SIM card down and putting it in iPhone 4's micro SIM slot. It works. 

More soon on iPhone 4, for sure. In the meantime, hit me up in the comments with any questions or testing requests you might have and I'll do my best to accommodate!

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