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The personal site of Jamie Knight, a slightly autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

iPhone 4 Review

6 months ago Apple released the 4th iteration of the iPhone. Apple’s industry changing iconic handsets latest incarnation brought with it a redesign of the hardware and a new name and update to its software. Having purchased the iPhone 3G 30 months ago it was time for me to upgrade my handset, my 3G had served me well, however it limitations were becoming frustrating. The opportunity came up to upgrade to the iphone 4 for a good price so i took it, this review is based on 4 days of use. I will be comparing the latest iPhone to my 3G and i hope this comparison is useful for people looking to upgrade.

Hardware

The iPhone 4 represents the first major facelift of the Apple’s phone platform since it was launched in 2007. The 3G tweaked the designs of the original iPhone, then the 3GS the following year only made minor changes and performance improvements. For the iPhone 4 Apple changed the look and the feel of the iPhone completely. While it retains much of its original size, the new phone is a few mm thinner, the way its built has been completely changed. The iPhone 4 has a steel band around the outside, with all the other components secured internally to it. This band also acts as the antennae for the radios inside the phone.

Apart form the new shape, the two other main changes are the screen and the processor. The new screen (named the retina display) has twice the resolution of the older iPhones. This means that where there use to be a single pixel, there are now 4 pixels with the associated increase in image quality. The new screen is stunning, from the look of the icons through the to rendering of text. The new clarity greatly improves the visual experience of using the phone. Compared to the 3G the new screen makes a huge difference in day to day use. I feel less eyestrain when reading in bed and photos looks much sharper than before.

Another huge change in the iPhone 4 is a new generation of processors. The iPhone 4 shares the same A4 CPU as the iPad. This quicker CPU matched with a huge increase in system memory has had an astonishing effect on performance. Switching applications, moving around the phone and manipulating web pages is seamless. This added grunt also contributes towards the smooth experience when running multiple applications. Compared to the 3G this performance increase has made the largest difference day to day. Where as the 3G had started feeling slow (waiting for form elements to focus, items to load, the phone to unlock etc) the iPhone feels instantaneous. I intend for the iPhone to last as long as my last phone so future proofing is important to me, i expect the iphone 4 to last this period admirably.

Other changes to the hardware from the 3G include a much improved camera, a digital compass and quicker GPS. These hardware changes have had no effect for me so far, but its nice to see progress in these areas.

Software

With the iPhone 4 comes a new name for the iPhone OS. Now renamed iOS its the 4th version of the iphone software. The biggest most noticeable change in iOS 4 on the iPhone 4 is the introduction of multitasking. I have used multitasking before on my iPad, but it was new to have it on my phone. The way it works is that applications join a bar along the bottom of the phone screen pulled up with a double tap of the homepage. This tray then shows a list of all your recent applications. Aside from the bar apps also retain their states, such as you can open one app, switch to another, then switch back to the first app to see it finish what it was doing. Im using the wonderful reeder application and im very happy with how i can load Reeder, switch to my email, then switch back to see my new feeds reading for my perusal.

So how does the multitasking effect the day to day usage of the phone and how does this compare to the 3G? In the first case it makes the phone feel more fluid, compared to the 3G its a welcome change. The multi tasking is very useful for applications dealing with communication, for example, IRC and text messaging. The ability to hold a conversation while dipping in and out of IRC is very useful.

The 3G’s in then out approach was fast, but not as quick as the switching on the iPhone 4, this small difference is appreciated but the saving of app states is a more readily useful feature. While the speed helps to keep the experience seamless, being able to pick up where you left of makes the experience a single action. A subtle but important difference.

Living With the iPhone 4:

So, after all those changes what is the iPhone 4 like to live with? In short, more of the same, only faster, and with more polish. While others have had problems with reception i have seen a marked improvement in call quality with the iPhone 4 in my lo-signal flat. Day to day the phone is much quicker to use and feels more solid in my hand. It a pleasure to use the phone and in my opinion Apple have kept ther lead in the smartphone game.

Published: 1 January 2011 | Categories: , Permalink

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