The Verizon iPhone 4 is a much anticipated device and one that weighs in among the best we've ever had here at PhoneDog. While the iPhone 4 isn't exactly new, the CDMA version is. Some doubted it would ever happen, but after four years of sitting through the relentless rumors, Verizon customers can now purchase an iPhone to call their very own.
The iPhone may not have a dual-core processor or LTE connectivity like its upcoming Verizon Android counterparts, but it is definitely one of the best devices currently in their lineup. Weighing in at $200 or $300 (depending on capacity) with a two-year agreement, the iPhone is a little on the expensive side, in comparison. However, it is a wonderful device for those that seek a smartphone but don't have the time or will to dive into the complex nature of Android. Now that the long awaited CDMA iPhone is here, was it worth the wait?
Design & Features
One of the best things about the iPhone is the excellent build quality and design. The face of the device holds a VGA front-facing camera, the 3.5-inch display (960 by 640 pixel resolution at 326 ppi), the speaker, and the home button at the bottom. On the back is the 5-megapixel camera and flash, and along the edge of the device is the stainless steel antenna. The top edge holds the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack, and the left side has the volume up/down buttons, and ring/silent switch. Finally, the 30-pin, proprietary charging port and built-in speakers are on the bottom of the device.
In hand, the iPhone 4 is one of the best feeling devices to date. As far as look and feel goes, the design of the iPhone 4 is excellent, too. Although, I can't say I favor the glass back. That is simply asking for trouble. Not only does it make the device extremely slick in hand, it gives you yet another surface that can be shattered. I typically carry my phones without a case on them, but I feel like I'd be asking for it if I carry this phone without one.
Usability & Performance
Coming from an undoubtedly more complex and customizable operating system, I feared that iOS would bore me. Instead, I found that I'm rather enjoying the simplicity. The interface is one that we have all grown to know. It is simple, elegant, and pops with color. I have experienced absolutely no lag whatsoever, and nearly the entire experience with iOS has been great. It may not be the most amazing software out there, but it just plain works.
The iPhone's software does not come without its faults though. Thanks to iOS 4, multitasking is now present, but it isn't exactly the best implementation. Having used webOS and Android for quite some time, I've grown used to pressing a back button and resuming what I was doing. Double tapping the home button and selecting an icon is okay, but it could be better. On top of that, the notification system in iOS is horrid. It's obtrusive, archaic, and annoying. I also miss widgets from Android. Having live information on the home screen is much more quick an easy than having to launch an application. All in all, iOS is good software, but it's becoming a bit dated as the mobile platform race is heating up. It could use some pretty major improvements in some approaching updates.
One thing I was afraid of was the smaller display. Having large hands and having trouble typing on some devices with larger displays, I was skeptical of how I would cope with the smaller screen. Surprisingly, it hasn't been an issue so far. I've actually had less trouble typing on the iPhone than on my 3.8-inch myTouch 4G.
After the enormous antennagate debacle with the GSM iPhone 4, Apple redesigned the antenna for this version. This only relocated the problem area. It's still there, but it's out of the way and won't affect users who hold their phone in a typical fashion. I have tested it, and it works, but it shouldn't give users much of a problem.
Signal and call quality have been great. I have yet to drop a call, even in spotty coverage areas. The earpiece speaker is plenty loud. I've also had no problems with people hearing me, even when driving with the windows partially down. The speakerphone volume is loud as well. As I mentioned in my first impressions, I had a ticking noise that occurs when in call. Thanks to one of our readers (21stNow), I now know that the culprit was the Wi-Fi radio. I do find it a little annoying that when at home I will have to turn off Wi-Fi when making or receiving a call just to avoid that horrid ticking noise. It's no big deal, but definitely a nuisance.
After dealing with HSPA+ speeds on my T-Mobile phones and switching to Verizon 3G, I sometimes feel like I'm crawling when browsing the web, updating Twitter, checking Facebook, etc. For someone that is only used to 3G, this won't be noticeable. Speeds are par with every other 3G device I've owned, 4G has just made me impatient.
One thing I'm somewhat disappointed with is the battery life. Everyone has always bragged on the iPhone for its exceptional battery life. After purchasing this device, I assumed that I wouldn't have to worry about it. Battery life is good, don't get me wrong, but it's not nearly as good as I expected. This may be because I'm so used to BlackBerry battery life, or because I expected it to be much better than my Android handset. It wasn't. This shouldn't have been much of a surprise though, as I've typically had worse battery life with CDMA phones than GSM. Through two days of moderate use, I had no problem making it through each day. Yesterday though, I tried my best to kill the battery off as fast as possible. It came wheezing in at 15% left after about six hours of very heavy use before I plugged it up. Like I said, it's good, but thanks to it being CDMA, you can only expect so much.
The camera has been one of the most pleasing things about the phone. Auto-focus acts very quickly and rarely do the shots seem out of focus or blurry. In low light situations the flash works great, but sometimes it's just a tad too bright. My favorite part of the camera is undoubtedly HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode. Rather than simply taking one picture, when HDR is on, the phone will take three shots and stitch the best components of each exposure into one picture. Typically, these HDR pictures turn out nicely and look great. However, you can not use flash with HDR, so if you are in low lighting, it usually won't turn out the way you want. Recording at 720p, the video quality is great for a phone. Seeing that this version and the GSM version use the same camera, you can check some footage out here.
The Verizon iPhone 4 is a great device and it should fare well among its current competition. However, there are upcoming Android devices with dual-core processors, much larger displays, and LTE connectivity. I fear the iPhone 4 on Verizon may soon be forgotten. Then again, the iPhone line has a history of surprising us. The story may have been different if it had been released in a timely manner, or if the fourth generation device had been skipped altogether. Considering there should be a fifth generation on the horizon, with rumors of a much larger display, this new iPhone 4 only has a few months to really shine.
That said, I have thoroughly enjoyed mine. Coming from someone who wouldn't dare buy an Apple product a little over a year ago, this should at least say something. The device is solid and the software is extremely consistent and simple. It is a welcomed addition the Verizon family and to my own personal collection.
What's Good: Solid build quality; great camera; good battery life; slim for easy pocketing; simple and easy for new users to pick up and learn.
What's Bad: Very slick back; two slabs of glass versus one; larger capacity is a bit pricy at $300 on-contract; poor notification system.
The Verdict: After four years of waiting and relentless rumors, the Verizon iPhone doesn't fully live up to its hype. It is a very nice device that offers a consistent experience with very few hiccups and is great for smartphone newcomers and veterans alike. But it hit the shelves too late to sweep CDMA users off of their feet. I predict this iPhone 4 will face a short shelf life among countless, more powerful Android devices and the next generation iPhone.