I bought an iPhone 4 in early June. Now that I’ve been using it for more than two months I’m ready to write a review. One of the things that makes writing a review tough is that I have not owned or extensively used any other smart phone models or operating systems. So I am limited in my ability to judge the value of this phone relative to other options. Two additional disclaimers I want to make are:
1). I am a PC user and I have limited experience with Apple products, so I may still be in an adjustment period and the communication between my phone and computer might be less than ideal.
2). I have spent some time looking at apps and figuring out how the phone operates, but I do not consider myself an expert with it by any means. I may be overlooking features and functions.
Enough with the disclaimers, let’s talk about the phone.
Aesthetic: I think we all know the iPhone is pretty. When I compared phones during my scouting and researching period the iPhone 4 was an easy winner. I use a black, sleek Body Glove case that compliments the phone nicely.
Size and Weight: When I was comparing phones I did my best Goldilocks and the Three Bears impression. Some models were too large, some too small. By my standards the iPhone is just right. Big enough to use as a reader and web browser, yet small enough to fit in a pocket.
Performance: The performance of the phone can be divided into categories.
Calls. It seems phones are rarely used for calls anymore–texting, email, and web use are my primary tasks—but I made this the first category because it is a phone, after all. I have found the connection quality to be very good. I have had no dropped calls. The speaker phone quality is very good, far better than any other phone I have had.
Texts. I transitioned to this phone from a phone that did not contain a keyboard or conversation histories, so I have been extremely happy with it. It was like commuting to work on a unicycle for years, then switching to a Lexus. While phone shopping I used many styles of keyboards, both virtual and actual. Before I looked at phones I had a bias toward actual keyboards, but that was dispelled by the iPhone virtual keyboard. In the end I found that I preferred the iPhone virtual keyboard to every other keyboard I tested.
Email. The email capability of the phone has met my expectations. I faced a dilemma with the “Sent from my iPhone” signature on messages. It struck me as pretentious. In a big way. I planned to remove it. And I did. But then I realized it has a purpose. Emails typed on my iPhone are a bit terse compared to those written on my computer (it is easy to compose a long message, but many times when I am writing email on my phone I am in a hurry). The signature helps to explain why my response was just one succinct line. So I put it back on.
Web Use. For basic tasks the web service is acceptable. I have been a bit disappointed with the processor speed, I have been conditioned to faster performance on computers.
Navigation: The touch screen is wonderful. It did not take long for me to calibrate my movements. The only problem I have encountered–and I’m sure there is a fix for this–is that my ear lobe sometimes places a second call or attempts to navigate while I am on a call.
I have three screens set up based upon frequency of use.
Camera: The 5 megapixel camera performs well in natural light. Here are some unedited (aside from shrinking the image size) pictures I took at the PSU Arboretum:
In low lighting it is tough to take nice pictures. Here is a picture of MONKEYS HERDING GOATS WHILE RIDING DOGS! taken at night, the quality suffers.
The video has similar constraints. Zooming is very limited with the video camera.
Applications: First, I must confess shortening application to app bothers me, but I don’t feel like typing application out continually, so I am going to use the shortened form. I have found the app store to be overwhelming. I still have not paid for an app, I’ve used exclusively free ones. Here is my top ten list, based upon usage and functionality:
1. Facebook – It’s the official app of FB and it gets the job done.
2. iBooks – I love having books with me all the time. The amount of free classics available is wonderful. I’ve liked the iBooks interface a bit better than the Kindle app, but I have both on my phone.
3. Twitter – A well designed app that really captures the full functionality of the website.
4. Merrian-Webster Dictionary – Conduct searches via voice or type. Quick and easy to use. Very helpful.
5. Sporting News MLB – A great app for baseball news, schedules, scores, standings, and stats. The in-game tracker is better than the MLB At Bat free app.
6. ShopShop – Makes and manages shopping lists.
7. Documents (free version) – Creates, reads, and edits both text and data files.
8. NetFlix – Connect to your NetFlix account and stream video or manage a queue.
9. Ricoh Innovations Image to Text – Scans a picture, either from file or taken at the moment, and emails a text file of the content. I’ve found it to be quite accurate, even when I used it on chemical labels that had some crazy words.
10. Gas Buddy – Reports gas prices based upon your location. Updated by users, so the info is current. I was able to find information on this app that I could not find doing computer web searches (specifically, between what hours the Atherton Exxon holds its rush hour discount).
Honorable Mentions: iHandy Flashlight, Instagram, ESPN Fantasy Baseball ’11, eBay, Skobbler, LiveTracking, Vevo, Wegman’s
Miscellaneous: I like the calendar and clock (even if the clock is reliably ONE SECOND SLOW, aarrrrggghhhhhh!). Calendar alerts are helpful and a great feature. I wish more flexibility existed in scheduling events on the calendar, but it works.
The Three Things That Annoy Me: There are three things about the iPhone that have become pet peeves, and the more I think about them the more they bother me. At times prompting me to say “Come on!” in Gob Bluth fashion.
1. Ring tones are not regular audio files. This seems like a blatant set up to sell ringtones. Why can’t regular music files be used as ringtones? They’re already on the phone. This is the one aspect where my previous phone, relic that it might have been, was far superior to the iPhone. It allowed many types of audio files to be used, as well as customization of what part of the file would play. For some reason the specific file type needed on the iPhone really bothers me. It is unnecessary and constrains the user.
2. Transporting files seems to be ridiculously cumbersome. There might be a solution to this, but I still haven’t found it. I would like to be able to drop files onto the phone and take them with me, quickly and simply. Basically like throwing a file on the desktop.
3. Managing the phone in iTunes is constraining. I find iTunes to be a less than ideal program to manage the iPhone. It is slow, a bit tedious in layout, and lacks many customization options.
The Verdict: I think the iPhone4 is a very good phone. I am convinced that there are Android phones available that offer similar features for a lower price, but the iPhone holds its value so well I don’t mind paying more for it.
I like my phone. I don’t love it, but I definitely like it. I would be inclined to recommend it, but if you are looking for a smartphone I would suggest going to a wireless store and playing with display models to see what phones you like. Try virtual and actual keyboards to see which you prefer. Hold the the phones to see what size and weight is your ideal. Don’t make your decision based upon someone else’s opinion.