I’ve received my first iPhone 4 not as a gift, but rather as a coincidence, as it is actually a workphone. Nevertheless, one does not simply refuse an occasion like this, considering the eye candy offered.
Having tried to resist using Apple products, I find them slowly creeping into my life. First The New iPad, and now the iPhone. So let’s dissect this baby:
Which IPhone again?
White iPhone 4 (no siri), 16Gb – contracted to Softbank Japan. It’s delivered to me brand new.
I have used HTC, Nokia and Motorola devices, old and new – but this iPhone 4 is a joy to hold. It is a product of beautiful engineering and craftsmanship. The device feels like a good marriage of glass, steel, and modern art. Build quality of the iPhone 4 is stunning – I have never hold a phone so beautiful.
The speakers have a fuller, rounder sound (to my ear) – not sure if they have great hardware or if they enhanced it with software too. The placement of the button is very well thought of. I’m a right handed person, I tried using the iPhone for a full day only using my left hand – and I find that the button positioning works as well for the reverse positioning. Which is not the case with some of the other phones I have had in the past. The lock/power button, the mute flick thing (and I love it that it is something you can flick quickly, very well thought of), volume up and down, speaker and mike, all are in perfect position.
Looking at the screws on this device, you do get the message: “the devices of the gods are not to be tampered with by mere humans”.
Especially if the phone does not belong to you. I wonder if the inside of this thing is as beautiful as its outside. But nevermind.
As much as I hate the walled garden philosophy, I would say that the iPhone gives a narrower, but much, much, much more refined experience than other phones I have had before. I don’t like having to enter my password every time the app store lost its session though. But on deeper thought, if I have small kids, and I’m trying to shut them up on a roadtrip by giving them an iPhone to play with, I also don’t want them to return my iPhone to me with 100 other games that they’ve found OR purchased from the app store.
The Retina display makes so much sense in an phone device as our eyes are able to pick up all the fine small letters – it makes reading on this small device very comfortable. On the iPad, I find the retina display a nice to have. But having experienced retina display on a phone device, I would say this is a MUST have.
I also liked the dimensions very much, actually it s beauty reminds me of the golden ratio – a suspicion that many other shares (like this guy). I find the dimensioning of ipads and iphones are perfect – they are very easy to handle, very pleasing to behold. Without first hand experience, it is easy for one to dismiss that one devices are similar to another, they are electronic gadgets with buttons in slightly differing placement. But these small things do matter. Once you’ve experienced it first hand, it is very hard to un-see it.
The camera is not as good as I thought it was – but the way it captures the color, and the way the images are being displayed in the phone, led me to believe that the picture looked better than it actually is. Also i find the way the graining is optimised seems to gear towards viewing of the picture on low to medium resolution. When you view pics outside the phone you do see its imperfection quite galringly. This is the exact opposite of the experience I had with my Nokia n900 – the pics on that phone looked like shit until I uploaded it, then I realized its not half bad! That being said, application like instagram does plays with the subtlety of coloring, downplaying this weakness and turning it into a strength instead. I’m also digging the small animations – such as when I am trying to send a picture. These things adds to the apple experience.
The battery is phenomenal – or at least that is the impression that I got out of this device. I would say that actually the sleep and resume mechanism is what pulls that illusion off. The device sleeps and suspends its state of operation, and wakes up from its slumber in such speed and ease that I didn’t even notice it is performing this miraculous duty so well ( a sign of a perfect function is, no one knows that it is there and take it for granted ). we all know when phones are not doing hard work, its battery will last longer. On this device, I find the sleep & resume mechanism to be… well, miraculous. So much so that I didn’t notice it and attributed the long-lasting usage of iphones to its awesome battery. The sleep mechanism is also smart enough to allow periodic checking to still be in play – in coding sense, this is a very grey area, as no one can tell you how much asleep must the device be for it to be loved by consumer – and this level of seamlessness could be augmented by choice if hardware and firmware too. I don’t think you can pull off this effect by just relying on hardware, or software alone. It must work in unison to pull off this smoothly. I would say that this is actually one of the features in iPhone that REALLY, REALLY impresses me. When the phone is on sleep, it is almost like it is in a zen meditation: calming down all bodily function, reducing consumption to absolute minimum, but retaining enough consciouseness to not fall asleep. It is uncool to say that the phone is meditating – but I suppose if I were to explain it to a fellow buddhist in simple terms, I would say, iphones battery seem to last longer because it knows how to zazen.
I don’t find task switching to be all that special as I come from android / n900 – where task switching have been around for ages. But my friends told me how awesome this is. I don’t like that I can only see the icon of the running apps as opposed to the thumbnails of the running window, but when you enter the apple land, you follow the apple way. The icon looked more minimalist and blends better with the phone’s style.
as for typing – iphones are not made for it. Typing long e-mails or messages just doesn’t compare to blackberry, n900 or other device with physical keyboard. I did get used to it though, I used to think that hard keys are a must, as I used to use my n900 to connect to servers via ssh and run check commands, issue configuration commands and so on. But this need is fulfilled by my tablet now, and I find that a phone stays better as a phone, rather than your swiss army knife. That place of the swiss army knife, is now taken by my TF101 Transformer tablet now.
So far I am still sticking to the Apple use cases – of course it doesn’t handle edge cases for oddball phones like n900 can, but the intent is clear: iPhone is targeted for the average joes. It optimizes its use for effective use of technology to everyday life. I know this is an obvious thing, but seeing such focus materialize into a refined product is so refreshing to see.
I haven’t used the 4s yet, nor have I used the previous incarnation of iPhones, which I know does not support task switching, and have less beautiful design compared the iphone 4. Who knows how much of an improvement iPhone 4 is to the previous iphones, or how much iPhone 4S is a successor or a letdown to this one. But this iPhone 4 here is very well balanced, beautiful, functional, and most importantly – a joy to use.
Let’s just say that when the time come for me to let go of this device (as it does not belong to me), I will be considering a phone from the Apple side.