iPhone 4 early impressions

The good:

  • FaceTime. It works. It is easy. Video quality is surprisingly good. Audio quality is excellent. The audio quality I’ve experienced is better than an iPhone call, Skype, or iChat AV.
  • The video camera does remarkably well in changing lighting conditions. I can walk around the house while on a FaceTime call and my image remains clear and well exposed as the lighting change. It’s far more fun to FaceTime my sleeping babies to a friend with an iPhone than a laptop.
  • Phone voice quality is improved. Callers sound better and they report that I sound better too. My buddy Mike, 2,000 miles away in Michigan, reported that the quality was as if I was standing next to him.
  • The Retina Display is amazing. After getting the iPad, I had reduced my  reading on the iPhone to those times when I didn’t have a computer or iPad. I still prefer reading on the iPad, but I find myself reading more on the 4. While the iPad is in arms reach. I am continually surprised at the rendering and legibility of teeny tiny type.
  • Speed. The 3GS was a huge performance boost over the 3G. While the 3GS was no slouch, I still saw occasional pauses and delays in responsiveness. I have yet to see any lags or pauses on the iPhone 4.
  • Reception. My experience has been entirely positive. I was able to drive all the way home from work while holding a call. For the first time. I explained the reception issue to a friend, “Imagine you have an AT&T phone with poor reception (nearly all of them, including iPhones) and suddenly you get one with very good reception. Except when you have poor coverage and hold the phone wrong. Would you be disappointed?”
  • Battery life is greatly improved. I’ve had my 4 for a week and have charged it three times. Every previous iPhone had to be charged nightly. I suspect that when the novelty wears off and I’ve beaten all the levels in Angry Birds, I may get 3 days of ‘normal’ usage from a charge.

The Bad

  • I love how pocketable the 3G is. I carried the 3G and 3GS in my front pants pocket, vertically, with the glass against my leg and the curved plastic back facing out. The curved back nearly matched the profile of my leg, and that position protected the glass screen. I rarely noticed its presence. Being narrower, the 4 likes to  slide down and ride sideways. That produces a larger and less comfortable bulge, which I regularly correct. While the 4 is thinner, it often feels thicker while pocketed.
  • The 4 is glass on both sides. When I heard Apple describe the glass as 20 times stiffer and 30 times stronger than plastic, warning bells went off. While working in mechanical engineering departments, I enjoyed spending time in the prototype labs. Especially when that time ended by filling out forms with the words, “consumed in testing.” Whether plastic, metal, or glass, harder materials are more brittle. I do believe the 4 will be more scratch resistant. And possibly more impact resistant. But it’s still glass. If I’m out rock climbing and drop it while taking a picture, I believe the 4 is more likely to be significantly damaged. This will be the first iPhone I buy a case for.

To Be Determined

  • I was able to get 8 hours of backcountry GPS use out of the iPhone 3GS. That’s with the 3G, WiFi, and Bluetooth disabled and occasional use of the camera. For comparison, my buddy has an Android phone that lasts 3 hours while using GPS. I’ll be trying out the 4 soon with the recently updated Motion GPS, updated for background use in iOS 4. It would be great if I can get a weekend of use from a single charge.

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