Actually obtaining this thing was a little annoying, but my experience was a lot better than what most people had. I was able to reserve one using the Apple Store iPhone app so I had one waiting for me at the Apple Store. My first trip there was around noon during my lunch break and the line was still about 100 people long so I turned around and went right back to work knowing I’d never make it in time if I stayed. When I went back after work at 5:30, there were 3 people in line. Awesome. I was in and out in under 15 minutes with no activation issues. Unfortunately, for my friend, his experience was much worse. The line was hundreds deep when he went at 7am so he returned at 7:30pm to find 400-500 people still in line and saw a guy that was there 12 hours earlier just getting his phone. The Apple Store employees ended up cutting the line off at the 125th person because the mall was going to close before they could do the rest of the line. They told him he would have to go back the next morning to get his phone. He did, but still had to wait a bit.
Anyway, about the phone itself. It’s a phone, but it’s an incredible gadget. The design of this thing is beautiful. It looks futuristic, yet timeless, and feels great to hold. The phone feels much smaller and compact in your hand than previous generations and the flat back makes holding it more comfortable, especially while typing. Even though it’s only slightly heavier than the 3G and 3GS, it feels much heftier, but in a good way. The phone feels extremely solid, more so than any other gadget I’ve ever held, but because of the glass on both sides, I’ve been terrified that I’m going to drop it and break it. I need to get a case ASAP. The buttons feel great to use and the removal of plastic makes the phone look and feel much more elegant. One notable annoyance though is that it’s difficult to feel which way the phone is facing. You almost have to look. When it’s in your pocket, you have to feel for the buttons or the slit for the receiver.
Using the phone feels slightly faster and smoother than the 3GS running iOS 3.1.3. It’s noticeable, but doesn’t blow you away. However, when compared to my 3GS after I upgraded it to iOS 4.0, the difference is a lot bigger. Everything is smooth and snappy. Loading apps and using them feels snappier and more fluid.
There has been a lot said about the display on this phone and everything you’ve read is probably an understatement. I don’t know where Apple put them, but there are no more pixels. I can’t see them. I can’t focus my eyes at a close enough distance to be able to make them out. It’s glorious. Text is crisp and clear. Factor this in with the new snappiness and the device starts to disappear, if that makes sense. This screen is incredible.
The camera is something else that has gotten a lot of attention. This thing is really, really good. The pictures are detailed and clear and they snap very quickly. Low light performance is definitely improved to the point where you get usable shots in conditions that would have produced nothing but blackness on a 3GS. However, I don’t know how I feel about the flash. It’s great for use as a flashlight–even if it is a pain to get to. It’s plenty bright and supplies a lot of light, but the white balance seems to be a bit off, everything seems to have a greenish tint. Maybe it’s something I’m doing, but it’s annoying. Still, it’s nice to know it’s there. The 720p video is great. This is a nice feature to have and is more than good enough to cancel out that FlipHD purchase I was going to make. Tap to focus during video capture has been very useful for me so far. I’ve posted a few pictures from the camera here, but there’s another one to the right. Overall, the camera is good enough that I’ll be able to leave the point-and-shoot home more often than not.
The front camera is just fine. It’s just the front camera, what do you need? It would be sweet if Apple put the same camera on the front and the back, but is that really necessary? That might be helpful for self portraits, but one thing I’ve noticed is a bonus of having an all glass back is that if you use the back camera, you can use the entire back of the phone as a mirror to see what should be in frame for your shot. Works decently well.
Battery life is much improved overall. Light to moderate use seems to drain the battery much more slowly. Yesterday, I used 26% of my battery to get through 15 hours of the day using the phone lightly with push mail turned on. Under heavy use, the life is better than my 3GS and I feel like I can get through an entire day without too much worry. I like this.
Now, as for that “death grip,” that’s real. I can reproduce the bars disappearing relatively easily, but I’ll be honest about the fact that it hasn’t seemed to cause me much of a problem functionally…yet. However, this is definitely a design flaw on Apple’s part that they need to own up to. Simply saying that we should hold the phone differently is ridiculous. All phones may be affected by how you hold them, but none lose reception like this. The worst part is, the position that causes the problem is one that I use a lot when I’m reading things on my phone. Most of my web browsing is down holding the phone cupped in my left hand. Apple’s arrogance on this subject has been extremely annoying and it’s made me question them as a company. It’s been enough to make me consider returning the phone despite all of the other improvements. I almost want to switch to Android out of principle, but AT&T’s Android selection kind of sucks.
If you take away the death grip issues, upgrading for $200 to the iPhone 4 is a no-brainer for any current or wannabe iPhone owner. I like it a lot.
A short iOS 4 follow up…
After using iOS 4 a bit more, I’ve found that the fast app switching is definitely well done and my issues of ending up with a tray full of dozens of apps isn’t too big of a problem. The app I want is usually in the first 8. However, I would really like a quick way to clear everything out of there in one shot.
The saved-state is really nice for the apps that have included it so far, but I find that sometimes I prefer to start fresh. I wish there was a way to quit an app entirely right away. The default camera app is one of those situations, I’ve accidentally taken a few videos when I wanted to take stills because the camera was still in video mode from the last time I used it. Having Twitter and Facebook start where I left off is nice, but I miss the auto-updating on load, you end up doing it manually now. These are small problems though and will probably get worked out.