The Apple iPhone 4 is everything that a new piece of technology should be. It's innovative, attractive, and ahead of its competition. In comparison, previous iPhone upgrades seem inconsequential - that's how much iPhone 4 brings to the table.
Apple iPhone 4: Premium Look
We spent some hands-on time with the new handset at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). We'll start with the visuals: It's stylish. Whereas the iApple iPhone 3GS looks and feels plasticky, the Apple iPhone 4 is svelte and has a premium feel. Surprisingly, it achieves that impression while retaining the same general design, although the edges appear a bit more squared than before.
The Apple iPhone 4 is noticeably slimmer than the iPhone 3GS, measuring 9.3mm deep versus the iPhone 3GS's thickness of 12.3mm (that translates to around 24 percent less). The iPhone 4 is also slightly narrower, 59mm to 62mm. The weight stays the same at 136g, but the tweaks to the dimensions make the current iPhone 3GS seem downright kludgy in comparison. (See all iPhone 4 specs.)
However, it's the aesthetic design touches that make the Apple iPhone 4 stand out. The overall design screams elegance - from the rounded, individual volume up and down buttons that replace the plastic volume rocker on the iPhone 3GS to the ring/silent switch and the power/sleep button up top. The face and back are made of glass that is specially treated to withstand scratches and oily fingers, according to Apple. The side edging is aluminum, and doubles as the device's three cellular and wireless antennae.
Apple claims the glass is 30 times stronger than plastic and rivals sapphire crystals for strength. One side effect of making both the face and the back of the phone glass is that, at last, the differences between the white and black iPhone models now really mean something. In the iPhone 3G and 3GS, white and black models looked pretty much the same when viewed from the front. That’s not true anymore: if you’re using a white iPhone, you’ll know it—it’s white front and back. With the product’s straight edges, stainless steel sides, and round, dimpled home button, the white model especially hearkens back to the original iPod.
The buttons are nice, in that they require firm pressure to activate and they give a pleasant response under your fingers; it feels less likely that you’ll hit one by accident or that the volume will get changed when you slide your phone in a bag. They also have subtle + and - symbols engraved in them, letting you identify them by feel. The mute switch has also been changed; no longer the angled switch of previous iPhones, it just slides up or down; when it’s on mute, there’s a thin orange line to let you know that it’s on silent mode. Like the volume buttons, the new switch seems less likely to get triggered by accident, a problem we’ve even had when just slipping a iPhone 3GS into a pocket.
Apple has also moved the SIM card to the right side of the phone, and changed it from the full-size card found in previous models to the micro-SIM used in the iPad. According to Jobs, this was done largely out of space concerns.
Besides the usual Sleep/Wake button and headphone jack on the top of the phone, Apple’s also added a second microphone for noise canceling.
See all pictures of the iPhone 4
Apple iPhone 4: Sharp Display
Of course, the Apple iPhone 4 isn't just about cosmetic enhancements, pleasing as they are. What makes this phone such a technological improvement is what's inside the handset.
Like its predecessor, the Apple iPhone 4 has a 3.5-inch display. But the new phone's display doubles the resolution to a 960-by-640-pixel IPS display. At 326 pixels per inch, this is the highest resolution available on a phone to date.
That display truly makes a difference. Whereas the iPhone 3GS's text - in the menus, in apps, or on web pages - appears thick, fuzzy, and undefined, the Apple iPhone 4's text is razor sharp, even when enlarged (as we tried doing when viewing a PDF).
The new "Retina display" - so named because it surpasses the number of pixels the human retina can process - also greatly improves the sharpness, clarity, and visible detail of images.
In both cases, we'd liken the magnitude of difference to that between a standard-definition 80p DVD and a high-definition 1080p Blu-ray Disc: When you view both on an HDTV, the differences are striking. And once you see them, you can't go back.
The real value of the new display will become evident for people who spend time reading on the Apple iPhone 4. We expect the display will make reading a more pleasurable experience (although, clearly, limits will remain given the inherently modest screen size - modest, at least, as compared with handsets such as the Sprint Evo 4G, which has a 4.3-inch screen, and the much larger 9.7-inch Apple iPad screen).
The screen uses the same in-plane switching (IPS) techniques used on the displays in all the iMacs and in the iPad. As a result, the display is bright and colorful, with a massive viewing angle that really does look great, no matter which way you hold it.
Apple iPhone 4: iBooks Goes Mobile
The high-res display, coupled with the addition of iBooks on the iPhone 4 (and with iOS 4 upgrades), makes the iPhone a more relevant e-reader. iBooks retains its structure, appearance, and function from what we've already seen on the Apple iPad; and with this OS's ability to sync the iPad, desktop, and iPhone, readers gain the flexibility to move seamlessly among devices. This capability is available for Amazon's and Barnes and Noble's respective e-book readers, as well, but not for other competitors.
iBooks also gains a few new features previously unavailable on the iPad. You can now create notes and bookmarks, and see those notes, bookmarks, and highlights in the table of contents. We suspect that the notes remain trapped in line - for example, there's no way to create cheat sheets, summaries, or other such personalized shortcuts that you could then utilize on your computer or elsewhere - but these new functions are a step in the right direction.
The major new feature in iBooks is its native support for PDFs. You'll find tabs for both books and PDFs. Each one gets a bookshelf or list view (your choice). You can add PDFs via email or Safari, and PDFs can sync back to iTunes and to other Apple devices such as the iPad or Apple iPod touch.
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