iPhone 5, the iPhone 4 killer: First impressions… wait, the 5?!

First impressions of the iPhone 4

Yeah, just kidding.  It’s only the iPhone 4, alas.  But here’s my relatively informal review, 24 hours in.

While standing in the “reservations” line yesterday morning for 3.5 hours, seeing many happy customers coming out sporting the  new fancy gizmo, I looked at it and wondered if I was going to have buyer’s remorse.

I mean, it looks sort of the same…  It’s about the same size, seems like the same screen size (still has a good amount of real estate devoted to the home button and earpiece), and it’s still black (as is the soon-to-be-sold 3Gs I have).  And with people immediately buying/placing the iPhone’s “bumper”, the iThingy 4 didn’t look to be a smidgen thinner.   (In fact, that condom… I mean, “bumper”, makes the phone look a bit plump.)

Well, I have no buyer’s remorse.  The above were just observations from afar.  The damn thing is quite lovely in hand.


iPhone 4 Screen resolution

Here is likely to be the first improvement you’ll notice. And here’s where you simply need to look at the screen to appreciate it.  The increased resolution is nothing short of predominant.

[Shoot, sorry, Michael Scott reference.]

Really, though, unlike my dry humor, the iPhone 4’s resolution is remarkable.  “Retina Display” may be marketing speak, but in the real world it translates to “Holy effing cow.  I can’t resolve the pixels apart one bit.” Just look at the Compass icons.  More detail, now evident.

Above you can see pixel for pixel what it looks like.  Screen capture of the 3Gs = 320×480.  The 4 = 640×960.  Doing some math… [multiplying by Pi, squaring the inverse of gravity…  and carry the 6… ]: the screen shows 4 times the detail of its lowly, pixelated predecessor [I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that, 3Gs.  I can has much love.]

Just look below to see the screens, compared at their native resolution.  Now just imagine the screen to the right, shrunk down to the left’s size.  All that details is packed, and visible!

I know, right?!

iPhone 4 screen resolution vs 3Gs compared


It does indeed have a noticeable speed improvement.  What may be a slightly beefed up processor, is couple with [what seems anyway] an improvement in the slide movements due to better algorithms, touch interface sensitivity, or something both…  Nonetheless, the screens just seem to slide with more fluid motion.

Camera and Video

This is just crazy.  Recording videos in HD, on this thin handheld device, is just crazy.

Crazy, I tell you.

The quality in playback is pretty stunning, even on this small screen (let alone the resolution, discussed below).  Yes, I know the Flip video camera has been doing HD capture on a small device for a while, but the fact is I didn’t buy one of those. I bought the iPhone 4.  And it does HD video.  And it’ll do it before, or after, I make telephone calls.  Or listen to music.  Or surf the net… Or read NPR…….  [Or play Angry Birds.. ;) ] Or do any of the other 1,256,547 things you can do on this 16MB-packing, elegance-in-black, what-the-hell-is next smart device!!!!

I mean, seriously, can we just stop for a second and realize how many things can be done on one exquisite device?  iPhone, Android, Evo 4G, Blackberry (well, I mean sort of…) it’s just a bit wacky how fun and utilitarian these things have become.


The actual camera has 5 megapixels (which is just loopy given the small size of it), but the quality is pretty good.  I mean, a low light shot had very little noise!  Now, normally I shoot with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III.  And just to sound extra snobby about quality [ahem], I also place L series lenses on the front of that camera body.

And if none of that makes any sense… just know that my camera costs more than my car, so I do indeed have a little perspective on what quality imagery looks like.  The iPhone 4’s camera is something I’d gladly use for street shots while out and about.

Oh, and the capture process is actually faster than the 3Gs.  Hit the button, and the iris closes immediately and swiftly, then re-opens hungry for more (“settle down you beast!!”).

What about the front camera, you ask?  [Thanks for asking, by the way.]  It’s low res, but it’s capture rate is as fast as you can hit the button!  Take many images in quick succession if you like (though that’s a bit vain if you’re just pointing the damn thing at yourself.)

And yes, the new 4 has a flash…. big deal.  But what’s surprising is that it actually helps!  Friggin’ bright LED that gets doubly bright at the moment of capture!  So cool.

Ok, fine. But what about the dang antenna problem rumors?

It’s not just a rumor.  If you hold the lower left corner of the phone, specifically making the point of touching the little black slit on the side, you can honest-to-goodness see the reception bars drop from 5 to 4, 3, 2…  Let go, and they slowly creep back up the incline of cellular-ness.

I can definitely see that it may be more of a problem for left-handed folks.  A deal breaker, though?  Hardly.  Just don’t touch it there.  It’s a small price to pay for fantastic-ocity in antenna elegance.  [Really, the bevel on the 3Gs was always beautiful, which is largely why I’ve remained an iPhone nudist since inception.  But the bevel-less, stainless-steel-antenna-sporting 4 is just plain sharp.  Yet another example illustrating Apple’s rarely-matched blend of software and hardware.]

Let’s see… what else?

Where does all this come from?  Do I work for Apple?  No.  Do I use a MacBook?  No, in fact – I use a tiny but featured-filled Sony Vaio with Windows 7 (which rocks, if you didn’t know).  But I do own an iPad, and I’m a fan of the simplicity and utility Apple packages together in its lovely gadgets.

So what I’ll say in closing is that the iPhone 4 is a treat to hold.  The new external design is enough to make it feel [nearly] like a different phone.  It feels more solid as well.  I would agree with Steve Jobs in that this thing is likely one of the most beautiful things Apple has designed.  Kudos for doing it again.

But a note to the peeps in Cupertino: please don’t release the damn iPhone 5 anytime in the next year.  a.) I can’t fathom what the heck will be packed into that thing (“The only 35 megapixel electron- microscope-carrying, 1 terabyte packing, Hulu-streaming, Bose-iPod sound system with a satellite phone on the market.”), and 2.) I have work to do instead of standing in line waiting for hours, then writing touchy-feely reviews of it.


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