It’s Just a Phone, Right? The iPhone 4

By Ryan Shaw, SMC of SLC member

The Good

The first thing about the iPhone 4 that struck me was the heft of the unit. The new model weighs just two grams more (137 grams) when compared to the previous generation iPhone 3GS (135 grams) but the new iPhone has a more solid feel.  With a flat glass front and back and a stainless steel band circling the outside of the phone—the iPhone 4′s assorted antennas—there is a satisfying denseness to it.

The display is where the iPhone 4 really stands out.  The ‘retina’ display is truly beautiful. With a resolution of 960×640 pixels in a display measuring 3.5 inches diagonally the iPhone 4 display comes in at 326 ppi. (For a great technical and physiological discussion of whether the iPhone 4 is truly a ‘retina’ display go here)  Text on the iPhone is incredibly crisp and uncluttered.

The page scrolling is smooth and the phone is very responsive. The updated iPhone operating system—renamed iOS 4—has been updated with new features that really leverage the new hardware.

FaceTime is a new feature that allows you to have a two-way video call with another person using the new forward-facing camera. The caveat being that the other person also has to have an iPhone 4 and that you both have to be on a WiFi network. I’ve yet to try this feature as I hate talking on the regular non-video phone and I have no friends.

The iPhone 4 also will record video at 720p HD using either the front or rear-facing 5-megapixel camera. Apple offers a mobile iMovie app ($4.99) giving you the ability to edit your video on the phone. You can make cuts, add clips, add transitions and even add your own soundtrack from your iPhone’s music library. You still have the ability to export your clips and edit them on a PC or Mac so the iMovie app is not a necessity.

The iMovie timeline view

The iMovie timeline view

Bowing to pressure from customers and industry pundits Apple has finally added multitasking to the iOS. Honestly, this is one of those features that, as an owner of every generation of iPhone, I wonder how I lived without. Pressing the home button twice brings up a taskbar-like tray of running apps, allowing you to scroll through a list of running apps and gives you the ability switch to or kill another app. It’s really handy to be able to switch from Angry Birds to YouTube for hint videos without having to start either app from scratch.

iOS 4's Multitasking bar

iOS 4's Multitasking bar

The Bad

Apple touted the move of the iPhone’s antennas to the outside of the phone case as a bold move, intended to improve reception, a welcome thought for many users suffering under the anemic AT&T network. This move of the antenna however, has highlighted a problem plaguing some users. Holding the phone as you normally would, with the left hand covering a significant portion of the antenna, can cause the phone’s signal to degrade, even to the point of dropping calls. I have yet to see this on my iPhone, regardless of how I hold it. Your mileage on this may vary and is easily remedied with the use of a case to isolate the phone from your evil, signal-killing hands.


I drank the Apple kool-aid long ago so I feel pretty biased. I love this phone, as I loved its brothers before it. My advice, if you’re looking for a smart phone, is to find someone with every model of phone you’re thinking of buying and evaluate them yourself. And then just go buy the iPhone.

It really is a great drunk dial/tweet/Facebook your friends at 4 A.M. smart phone.

The result of a failed 1972 East-German experiment in eugenics, Ryan Shaw dreamed of a career as a professional skate-boarder. Unfortunately, on Easter Sunday of 1988 in downtown SLC those dreams were torn asunder, much like the ligaments in his ankle. He now does programming for Rio Tinto, makes fun of people, and sometimes cries at television shows. You probably should NOT follow him on Twitter.

Erica Brown

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