First Sight: iPhone 4
Hallelujah! The new iPhone is thinner, faster, and easier to get a grip on – and the battery lasts
Thursday 24 June 2010
If you're an iPhone user, you'll probably have a love-hate relationship with the thing. It's cool, for sure, but it runs out of charge too quickly, making it through the day with alarmingly little juice to spare. And then there are the call-making issues: a few times a day it'll take a long time to connect a call. Is that always down to the network? And don't get me started on the humdrum camera without a flash, or curved back cover so that I felt it might slip out of my hand. Today's launch of the new model, iPhone 4, has a lot riding on it.
I managed to snag an iPhone 4 to bring you the first definitive review. It looks gorgeous, has an amazing screen and great operating speed. It's slim (9.3mm), chic and it feels secure in my hand. The front and back are made of tough glass, the edge of grippable stainless steel.
The screen is high-resolution, christened the Retina Display. It makes text much more readable than on other mobiles. The camera has been upgraded to a decent 5 megapixels. Other phones can beat this but the results here are sharp. The LED flash means I don't have to shoot in bright daylight any more. Even better, you can shoot high-definition video and even manipulate it on the phone using the neat iMovie editing app. Again, the leap forward from regular phone video is huge – so expect a surge in amateur video journalism.
This is the first iPhone with a front-facing camera, so video calling is now possible. FaceTime, as the feature is called, is intuitive to use and painless to set up. Video quality is strong, not least because it uses the entire 3.5-inch screen. Mum, you really can see me now.
But you can make FaceTime calls only through a wi-fi connection and while this means it's free and ensures decent video quality, it limits its availability. Still, it's streets ahead of other video calls and you can even switch to the rear camera with one touch ("See, I really am in Centre Court.").
Occasionally people would tell me: "I know you're on an iPhone, the call quality's less-than-perfect". The new phone has an extra microphone to cancel out ambient noise, and callers told me call quality was "fine".
The handsome stainless steel band that edges the phone works as its antenna, and I haven't had any problems with signal quality. But best of all, this machine has a bigger battery. Hallelujah! Daily charges are still best for peace of mind, but never did it drop below 60 per cent. I made regular and frequent data downloads and internet usage, made calls and checked emails, though only infrequently used GPS. New software, released earlier this week, means the iPhone 4 (and 3GS) now offer multi-tasking, which many phones already have. So if you want to keep hearing TomTom's directions while checking email, now you can.
I love the new iPhone: it's a massive improvement. It looks good and fixes previous problems. But should you trade up from your current phone to this year's model? It is not cheap: from £499 without a contract. Contract prices vary between networks, but a 16GB iPhone 4 on an 18-month £35-per- month contract costs £169 on Vodafone (300 minutes talktime, unlimited texts, 1GB data), £179 on O2 (300 mins, unlimited texts, 500MB data), and £229 on Orange (600 mins, 500 texts, 750MB data). Tesco Mobile will give you the phone on a shorter 12-month contract for £229 (750 mins, unlimited text, 1GB data).
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