Gadget of the Week: Apple iPhone 4

Just barely did the iPhone 4 manage to win our title as "Gadget of the Week." It was a close decision between it and...the particle transporter on Star Trek! Here is a biased and easy to read review from someone who, like Billy Gates, has admired the iPhone from afar but has never really been lured to buy one for personal use.

W H A T ' S - H O T :
+ My belief is that Apple's strongest asset for all of its touch devices is how well multi-touch works across the board, and the iPhone 4's touchscreen is more responsive and accurate than the competition.

+ The 960x640 3.5-inch Retina Display has stirred great controversy, but any way that you look at it, the iPhone 4's LCD packs the most pixels available on any smartphone, has among the best viewing angles and color fidelity and is a desirable IPS panel, which I agree is more suited for outdoor use than AMOLED.

+ Battery life is something that Apple is deeply concerned about for all of its products (see the MacBook Pro), and the iPhone 4's specified 7-hours talk time (6-hours over 3G) is almost achievable in real world tests.

+ iOS 4 is an improvement over iPhone OS 3 in every way, and many of the changes/updates are, in my view, welcomed. Apple's incorporation of multi-tasking is a compromise that allows for extended battery life and fast OS response. FaceTime is a boon for families who want to make video calls without a Mac. Have you heard about the 200,000+ titles in the App Store?

+ Apple's A4 processor is another controversial topic. Based off Samsung's ARM Cortex-A8 architecture at 1GHz, the CPU is fast, and with 512Mb RAM, the 4's hardware is ready for multi-tasking. Usually sluggish applications like the camera software are speedy on the A4.

+ Image and film quality through the integrated LED flashlight equipped camera is top-notch for a smartphone. Finally, iPhone owners can shoot 720p and even edit the footage directly on the phone.

+ The aluminosilicate glass is more scratch resistant than plastic. With careful treatment, so long as the phone does not get knocked about constantly, I can imagine using the 4 nude, sans casing that hides the phone's loveliness. Subjectively, the iPhone 4's shape reminds me of the first generation iPod Nano, and I prefer its appearance to the thicker 3GS.

W H A T ' S - N O T :
- A phrase that makes Americans shiver is "locked to AT&T." In the States, Apple will not sell the phone unlocked, so buying an iPhone 4 means being committed to AT&T for two years. Coverage varies nationwide, but millions of complaints about dropped calls cannot be dismissed lightly. For many people, AT&T is a deal breaker.

- As everyone knows, Flash is excluded on the iOS 4 handhelds and will never be included, so as long as Steve Jobs is at Apple's helm. I think that I speak for most when I say that including a bad thing (Flash) that is widely used is still better than not having it at all. In other words, I would opt for Flash 10.1 on the iPhone, even though I will hardly ever use it because it is a terrible plug-in.

- iOS4's multi-tasking is a compromise to maintain system stability and long battery life, but since third party applications are entitled only 7 total resources running in the background, some functions for "paused" apps are still unusable. In essence, multi-tasking on the iPhone 4 is not "true" multi-tasking in the computing sense of the term. As more developers update their apps for iOS 4, usability should improve.

- The antennae built around phone's rim have been a cause of signal loss when held the "wrong way" during calls. Apple says that it is imminently providing a software fix, so stay tuned.

- Although the pixel density is nice, the screen is tiny at 3.5-inches. Expect to squint when trying to view lower resolution images.

- While aluminosilicate is a substantially harder compound than plastic, like synthetic sapphire, it is also prone to shatter upon hard impact.

- For a multimedia player, the iPhone 4, like all Apple devices, is limited in video/audio codec support. True PMPs from Cowon and iRiver have Apple shamed.

V E R D I C T :
The iPhone 4 will annoy many Apple critics because it retains quite a few of the previous model's perceived downsides, namely AT&T and Apple's tight software and OS restrictions (no Flash). Voice quality and reception seem to have been improved, but the latter still depends largely on AT&T's unreliable network. People who like the Apple experience will love the iPhone 4 because it is a significant leap over the 3GS. With well over a million units sold in its first day of release, the 4 has already won over the hearts of iPhone aficionados. Those who were on the sidelines, like myself, may or may not convert. In Canada and other places outside of the States, the iPhone 4 is much easier to love because of the freedom to choose one's carrier. However, despite the new iPhone's numerous outstanding features, I will stay with Android for now due to the variety and lower prices with discounts, but Apple has definitely upped the game and has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet once again.

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