iPhone 4

· technology ·

If you've been following my rather over-excited tweets, you'll know that I recently got a new iPhone 4. I might not have bothered to upgrade, but for the fact that Mr. Bsag's phone (a Palm Treo) was failing rapidly and he was very keen to have my old iPhone 3G. Since I was outside my contract with O2, it seemed a good time to upgrade. I'm really glad I did. I bought it direct from Apple (unlocked), and just continued with my Simplicity tariff from O2, which is a rolling monthly contract you can cancel at any time. I was lucky to order before the rush, and it was delivered on Thursday, so I didn't even have to queue to get hold of it.

There have been many excellent reviews of the new iPhone over the past few days, so I'll just give you my initial impressions after living with the phone for a few days.


The new design is rather lovely. When I saw the photos of it, I wasn't sure whether I liked the rather square, flat shape, but as with many Apple products, it's much nicer in person. It feels solid and high quality in some indefinable way, and though it takes a little while to get used to holding it after the curvier shape of the 3G, it is very comfortable. Before anyone asks, I do tend to hold the phone in my left hand (though I'm right handed — not sure what's going on there), and no I don't get the reception problems many people have talked about. I find myself polishing it quite a bit in a rather obsessive way, but I haven't felt the need to keep it in a case all the time, as it does give the impression of being able to handle life au naturel.


The so-called 'retina display' is really amazing. It may have a slightly daft name, but the clarity and sharpness is astounding. Even tiny thumbnails have all their details visible^1^, and text is really easy to read, even at small sizes. As many people have said, it looks as though the display is printed on the front face of the glass. I'm sure that the novelty will eventually wear off, but for now, every time I turn it on, I utter an involuntary, "Woah!". I quite enjoyed reading books on the 3G (in Stanza) before, but now it is a real pleasure. In fact, reading anything (or viewing photos or videos) is a pleasure.


The camera on the 3G was pretty awful: it really failed in low light, it was low resolution, and the shutter lag was so bad that it was practically impossible to get a good shot. The iPhone 4 camera is really very impressive on all counts: I would never have been able to get a shot as good as this on the old phone. I have my Canon PowerShot G10, and will always prefer that when it comes to taking 'serious' photos, but sometimes you need to grab an image quickly with the camera you have to hand, and the iPhone 4 now produces really nice images in that role, rather than consolation prizes that make you wish you had your 'proper' camera with you. I haven't tried out video recording yet, but expect a flood of mind-numbingly boring cat videos from me any time now...


If you have previously owned a 3G or an original iPhone, the step up in speed is incredible. I didn't feel that the 3G was slow exactly, but the iPhone 4 makes it seem like a tortoise. Jumping between apps, browsing the web and moving around in email all happens so instantly that you forget you're doing all this on a phone. The whole UI is much more responsive, and therefore feels more immersive, as people who have tried the iPad have also noted. The faster processor and increased RAM speeds up synching over the air for those apps with that feature, and even synching with iTunes seems to happen much faster.


I have loved my iPhone to bits. I had owned several PIMs (a very outdated tech niche now) and smartphones, but the iPhone was the first that I actually ended up using all the time, for many different purposes, and the first to actually make syncing data with my computer effortless. If you can't sync contacts, calendar entries, email and bookmarks effortlessly^2^, you don't do it, and so you end up not using the device because you're not confident that you've got the latest data. They are expensive devices, but I definitely feel that I get value for money out of them because they replace so many other devices, and open up opportunities for activities on the move that would not have been possible previously. When I bought the 3G, I wasn't certain that it was going to end up being worth the investment, but after living with it for a couple of years, spending money on the new version — and having the pleasure of introducing Mr. Bsag to my much loved 3G — was a very easy decision to make.

^1^ I can now read all the letters on the 'index' of the address book depicted in the Contacts icon.

^2^ I use Mobile.me to sync all this stuff over the air, and wish that Apple would include a free account for Mobile.me with each iPhone and provide an easy way for third party developers to sync their data over the air.