An iPhone 4 Review Roundup
“This is really hot,” Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs said of the iPhone 4 when he unveiled it at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month. And the pundits seem to agree. The first reviews of the device began rolling in Tuesday afternoon and they are largely glowing, despite some expected complaints about the device’s performance on AT&T’s (T) network. Below, excerpts from a few of them.
In both hardware and software, [the iPhone4] is a major leap over its already-excellent predecessor, the iPhone 3GS.
It has some downsides and limitations–most important, the overwhelmed AT&T network in the U.S., which, in my tests, the new phone handled sometimes better and, unfortunately, sometimes worse than its predecessor….But, overall, Apple has delivered a big, well-designed update that, in my view, keeps it in the lead in the smartphone wars….
The most important downside of the iPhone 4 is that, in the U.S., it’s shackled to AT&T, which not only still operates a network that has trouble connecting and maintaining calls in many cities, but now has abandoned unlimited, flat-rate data plans. Apple needs a second network.
Both Apple and AT&T told me they worked to make the iPhone 4 do a better job with AT&T’s network. For example, the phone itself is surrounded by a prominent stainless-steel trim piece that acts as a large antenna. And Apple said it also tuned the phone to try to grab whatever band on the network was less congested or less affected by interference–to stress the quality of a signal over its raw strength. AT&T said it, too, made some changes to its network with the new iPhone in mind.
But, in my tests, network reception was a mixed bag.
[The iPhone 4] is not the first phone with both a front and back camera. It’s not even the first one to make video calls. But the iPhone 4 is the first phone to make good video calls, reliably, with no sign-up or setup, with a single tap. The picture and audio are rock solid, with very little delay, and it works the first time and every time….Now, the iPhone is no longer the undisputed king of app phones. In particular, the technically inclined may find greater flexibility and choice among its Android rivals, like the HTC Incredible and Evo. They’re more complicated, and their app store not as good, but they’re loaded with droolworthy features like turn-by-turn GPS instructions, speech recognition that saves you typing, removable batteries and a choice of cell networks. If what you care about, however, is size and shape, beauty and battery life, polish and pleasure, then the iPhone 4 is calling your name.
The new iPhone 4 I’ve been testing for about a week and a half–along with the major refresh of the mobile operating system software at the core of recent models–demonstrates once again why Apple’s handset is the one to beat, even as it faces fierce competition from phones based on Google’s Android platform, among others….Critics are left with reasons to whine. Apple’s public dissing of Adobe Flash means you’ll still come upon Web video sites that don’t make nice with the iPhone. I had a few dropped calls. The battery still isn’t user-replaceable, and there’s no slot for expanding memory.
We’re not going to beat around the bush–in our approximation, the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone on the market right now. The combination of gorgeous new hardware, that amazing display, upgraded cameras, and major improvements to the operating system make this an extremely formidable package. Yes, there are still pain points that we want to see Apple fix, and yes, there are some amazing alternatives to the iPhone 4 out there. But when it comes to the total package–fit and finish in both software and hardware, performance, app selection, and all of the little details that make a device like this what it is–we think it’s the cream of the current crop. We won’t argue that a lot of this is a matter of taste–some people will just prefer the way Android or Symbian works to the iPhone, and others will be on the lookout for a hardware keyboard or a particular asset that the iPhone 4 lacks–but in terms of the total picture, it’s tough to deny that Apple has moved one step past the competition with this phone.
The fourth incarnation of Apple’s iPhone is an incrementally improved, familiar device–not a new kind of device, as was the case with the recent introduction of iPad. Yes, the notable features with iPhone 4–both the device and the iOS4, which came out yesterday in advance of the iPhone itself–are mostly tweaks. But what tweaks they are: Apple’s focus on improvement is as much key to the quality of its products as innovation. But there’s one flaw it doesn’t improve: the poor quality of calls placed over AT&T, which remains the iPhone’s only U.S. carrier….AT&T still sucks, and the best engineering out of Cupertino won’t change that.