Review: iPhone 4 First Look - InformationWeek

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Mobile // Mobile Devices
09:29 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

Review: iPhone 4 First Look

Our expert believes the iPhone 4 is the fastest, most responsive device in the market and he didn't drop any calls during his 30-hour test. Still, he warns that Android might be gaining on Apple.

The iPhone 4 is the best iPhone yet, but that doesn't mean Apple's latest device scores high marks across the board. The hardware is outstanding, but iOS doesn't enjoy the lead it once did. Slab-style touch phones are so prevalent now, standing out from the pack takes effort. Apple no doubt put a lot of effort into the iPhone 4. It does stand apart from the pack in many ways, though not all. For Web and media fanatics the iPhone 4 still reigns, but Apple needs to make more leaps with its operating system if it wants to stay ahead of Google, Palm, Research In Motion and others.

Image Gallery: Apple iPhone 4, A True Teardown
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)

The iPhone 4 is the easiest touch-phone to use. Because Apple hasn't changed the nature of iOS4 very much, veteran iPhone owners will have no trouble picking up and becoming an instant expert. Even newbies will have it easy, as Apple has taken all the complexity out of iOS and provides a polished, efficient user interface. iOS4 combined with the newer hardware makes for a powerful device that will surely make Apple richer than ever.

Hardware and Design

The iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS were identical in terms of shape, size and design. iPhone 4 is a radical departure from the smooth, curved lines of the iPhone 3G/3GS and favors a more industrial look. The iPhone 4 matches Apple's MacBook Pro and iPad design language much more closely than the previous iPhones.

The iPhone 4's main components are two glass plates that are rimmed with a metal band. The display is made from Gorilla Glass, which is tough stuff. The back plate is also made of what Apple describes "resilient" glass. Early user experiences show that casual drops -- even from one foot -- lead to shattered back plates on the new iPhone. Perhaps it isn't as resilient as Apple hoped. This is not a tough phone and certainly not MIL-SPEC certified.

It is thinner, but less comfortable to hold. The rounded lines of the iPhone 3G/3GS made it perfect for most hands, and slip in and out of pockets easily. The iPhone 4 has hard edges all the way around. It is much more noticeable when dropped into a pocket. The controls spread around the outer rim are all easy to reach and use. I had no trouble with any of the buttons. Some might complain about the lack of a dedicated camera key, but everything else necessary is present.

The iPhone 4 moves the SIM card tray from the top of the phone to the right side. A thin paperclip is still required to pop it open. The new iPhone uses a micro-SIM, which is a smaller version of the SIM card that AT&T and T-Mobile customers are already used to. Most people won't ever eject the SIM card. For those who want/need to, be forewarned: the micro-SIM won't work in any other phone (unless modified). It's too small.

The look and feel of the iPhone 4 is something that each user will have their own opinion about. To me, the metal and glass materials and they way they are constructed are elegant, refined, simple, and complex at the same time. Apple's minimalistic approach works.

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