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Apple iPhone 4

Saturday, June 26, 2010

by Mark Spoonauer on June 25, 2010

This time it’s personal. No, we’re not referring to the increasingly testy rivalry between Apple and Google’s multiplying Android army. We’re talking about how much more personal a communicator the iPhone 4 is relative to its predecessor. For the first time ever you can have face-to-face video chats (though for now only with other iPhone 4 owners), and Apple has so vastly improved the camera on its handheld that you'll think twice about using that pocket-size digicam or camcorder to record precious memories. Even the relationship between you and your content—whether it’s the stuff you record, apps, websites, or iTunes videos—feels more personal, thanks to the ultra-sharp Retina display on this device.

When you consider that the iPhone 4 is also the thinnest smart phone on the market and it offers a considerably beefier battery than the iPhone 3GS, it’s hard to find fault with this sequel. Or is it? Monster-size competitors like the Evo 4G and Droid X are breathing down Apple’s neck, and one can’t ignore AT&T’s overtaxed network. Despite some flaws, the iPhone 4 does enough to stay slightly ahead of the superphone pack.


Not only is the iPhone 4 a vast departure from the 3GS’ bulbous plastic backside, it’s also the antithesis of the big Android slabs that have suddenly become all the rage. In fact, the two-tone black-and-silver design looks like a very slim and elegant pocket camera. And we mean slim. At 0.37 inches, no other smart phone on the market has a sleeker profile. The iPhone 4 is also thinner and narrower than the 3GS, though both devices weigh the same 4.8 ounces.

While devices like the HTC Evo 4G and Motorola Droid X have sturdy and functional industrial designs, we wouldn’t call them sexy. The iPhone 4, by contrast, screams luxury; between the chemically hardened glass and little touches like how the light reflects off the ridges of the stainless steel band, this device looks and feels more expensive than its price tag intimates.

This silver band, which Apple claims is forged to be five time stronger than standard steel, wraps around the whole phone. On top you’ll find the power button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and one of two microphones (used for FaceTime calls and suppressing noise). The second mic (for voice calls, memos, and voice commands) is on the bottom along with the speaker and dock connector. A ringer switch and two circular volume controls line the left side, and the hole to access the micro-SIM Card is on the right. The black chassis (white coming soon) has a glossy but classy look and houses the 5-megapixel camera and LED flash.

Too bad Apple didn’t see fit to include a dedicated camera button for launching the app and taking photos. You can’t even program a shortcut for double tapping the Home button, as that’s now reserved for multitasking/switching apps. You also won’t find an HDMI port, which would make it much easier to share the HD footage you record with the iPhone 4’s camera on a big-screen TV. (Here’s hoping Apple or someone else launches an HDMI dock.)

Retina Display

While other smart phone makers are touting larger displays that display more information at once or Super AMOLED technology that’s tailor-made for outdoor readability, Apple went a different direction with the iPhone 4. Its Retina display (so named because the company claims that consumers can’t distinguish individual pixels) emphasizes clarity and pixels per inch. In fact, this handset’s 960 x 640-pixel, 326 dpi screen doubles that of the iPhone 3GS. While the Droid X’s display is nearly an inch larger (4.3 inches), it has a lower resolution of 854 x 480 pixels.

The end result is that text reads as if you were out of a magazine, an effect enhanced by the fact that everything from photos to webpages appear as if they’re painted on top of the display. IPS technology (found on the iPad) delivers superb viewing angles, putting the 3GS and most other smart phones to shame.

Now, the effect isn’t exactly mind-blowing, but we could definitely notice the difference when we had the same New York Times page and weather widget displayed on the iPhone 4 and its predecessor. Text was much sharper, and we could make out more detail in the two same Flickr photos of the Eiffel Tower.

App developers have already started to write or re-write applications for the iPhone 4’s Retina display, including Twitter and EA Sports’ NCAA Football (even the logos seem to jump off the screen). Having said all that, there are some benefits to a larger-screen device. For example, we were able to make out more text on The New York Times homepage on the 4.3-inch Evo 4G without needing to zoom in, and watching movies and TV shows is a more immersive experience (despite the narrower viewing angles). 

Apple’s latest smart phone raises the bar for displays, camera quality, and two-way video chat in a remarkably slim and sexy design. (

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