iPHONE 4 PREVIEW
Let’s step back for a minute from the hype, the flashy presentation and the fanboy wars that all naturally precede the launch of an Apple product and take a first look at the iPhone 4.
Look and Feel
Even though I am sure you can still find people who hate the iPhone aesthetic, there is no doubting that looking at it objectively, it is a lesson in minimalist, sleek design. While previous iPhones have delivered solidly, if unspectacularly in the looks department, the iPhone 4 is both beautiful to look at and sits excellently in the hand.
Gone is the somewhat fragile and slightly cheap-feeling plastic finish of the old iPhone generations, and instead the new iPhone is encased in a combination of aluminium and glass. Together these provide a body that feels satisfyingly solid, but manages to avoid being too hard or cold in the hand.
The other main redesigns of the iPhone are in slimming it down and a squaring off of some of its curves. Both of these give it a more compact feel. Even though this is a very subtle change, it manages to achieve the same as HTC have delivered in the Desire, which is creating a design that tricks you into thinking your giant smartphone is a lot smaller than it is.
Finally, that screen. It is a thing to behold. Even though it is debatable whether the stratospheric resolution that can be found on the iPhone 4 is truly necessary, there is no doubting that it makes just about everything you do on it look stunning. Whether you are browsing the internet or just reading an email, everything is very easy on the eye. Backtracking slightly, it is noticeable that longer sessions of staring at the screen, such as on a train journey, are made a lot more tolerable with the ramped-up resolution, and so this is a definite plus for the iPhone 4.
The functionality of the iPhone is the bedrock upon which it has built its dominance of the smartphone market. But with the likes of HTC and Sony Ericsson now providing stiff competition, it is interesting to see if Apple have managed to once again nudge ahead.
The first thing that must be acknowledged is that for all of the reports claiming that developers are migrating from the Apple store to Android as a result of the perception that too many avenues are being closed off to them, the Apple store is still the king of app stores.
With iAds being launched with the new iPhone, expect there to be an even greater range of apps to choose from. Beyond this though, the big revolution on the apps front is the introduction of multitasking. Admittedly, ‘revolution’ was probably the wrong phrase to use, as many other smartphones have had multitasking functionality for a while, but it is good to finally have it on the iPhone. Something to be aware of though, is that according to some reports, existing apps will need to be updated with multitasking before you can actually multitask with them on the phone. Already some developers have said they will not be building it in to their apps and so you may not be able to start multitasking straight away, if at all on some of your applications.
The other major new feature on the iPhone 4, is ‘Facetime’. Many different companies have tried to get video calling off the ground, but all have been unsuccessful. However, if anyone can get such an apparently unpopular activity to work, it will be Apple. ‘Facetime’ seems to be extremely simple to use, and the fact that it will provide free iPhone-to-iPhone calls alone may mean that it gets some use. Being limited to just Wi-Fi use could harm its chances of taking off, as if people have access to their computers, the likes of Skype provide a more tried-and-tested alternative. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens.
Another feature that I felt was a bit of a gatecrasher on the iPhone launch was iBooks. Apple have created a very nice interface for browsing, downloading and reading eBooks, but whatever the resolution is of your screen, when it is still only smartphone-sized, you will only find people will superhuman vision being able to read whole books on their iPhone.
The camera on the iPhone 4 has been beefed up from the previous version. As well as producing great still images, the headline of the iPhone 4 camera is HD video recording capability. Although this is becoming more common on smartphones, it remains an excellent addition that will probably see smartphones further edge out dedicated digital cameras for the casual camera user.
The final point that must be made regarding functionality is that the iPhone 4 is as closed-off as any other Apple product. While 16GB and especially 32GB should be all you need for storing all your media, it is still confusing for me why Apple continue to refuse to include expandable storage in their devices. As well as limiting your storage capacity, it does make transferring things to and from your iPhone a hassle.
The iPhone will be an excellent addition to the smartphone market. With the Desire and Xperia X10, HTC and Sony Ericsson have stepped up to provide the first real competition for the iPhone. These first impressions suggest that Apple may have just done enough to push themselves ahead once again, but both Android phones will run the iPhone 4 very close. Things like battery life on the iPhone 4 pans out, how the apps markets shift and whether Facetime takes off are all things which will be interesting to follow and will go a long way to determining the success of the iPhone 4.