The Apple iPhone 4 is the thinnest smartphone in the world with the highest resolution display ever built into a phone handset. Read our Apple iPhone 4 review to find out why it should be your next mobile phone.
Apple iPhone 4: A Computer in Miniature
The Apple iPhone 4 uses Apple's A4 CPU, the same processor powering the Apple iPad. And it runs the newly renamed iOS 4 operating system (which the iPad will also use, starting in the Autumn).
As part of iOS 4, the Apple iPhone 4 gains a bevy of capabilities. One of them - multitasking - feels long overdue, but as with Apple's long-awaited cut-and-paste feature, the company delivers on the promise of making multitasking work smoothly.
Quickly double-tap on the home button to pull up a pane that shows which apps are open. From there, you can swipe horizontally through the apps that the Apple iPhone 4 has retained in either a running or suspended state.
When you find the app you want, you just click on the icon. The app will then resume its activity, and, if written to take advantage of this new feature, it will pick up precisely where you left off. At the very least, reaccessing the app will be faster.Apple iPhone 4: Comparative Use Tests
Let's take the example of the side-by-side tests we did with an iPhone 3GS (running iPhone OS 3.1) and the Apple iPhone 4. We navigated between the Apple Safari web browser and the Photos application and back again to Safari, and then back again to Photos.
iPhone 4: On the Apple iPhone 4 using iOS 4, the phone jumped quickly and smoothly between the apps, with virtually no pause or hesitation. We left a fully drawn Web page in Safari to go to Photos, navigated to a folder within Photos, and then to a picture in the middle of that folder. When we popped back to Safari, we resumed at the fully drawn web page, and when we jumped back to Photos, we were looking at the same photo we'd left moments earlier.
iPhone 3GS: That same exercise on the iPhone 3GS required the web page to draw the first time. To change apps, we had to press the home button to exit Safari. We then went into the Photos app and found our image in its album. To go back to Safari, we pushed the home button to return to the home screen and then clicked on Safari. (On one pass, the page loaded immediately; on another, it did not). We then pressed the home button to return to the home screen, selected Photos again - and found myself back at the top-level list of Photo Albums, as opposed to drilling down to a specific image within a specific folder.
To close an app out of the multitasking bar, you click on the icon and hold. The icons then get a red button with a dash; touch there, and you can close the app.
Equally as elegant as multitasking is Apple's implementation of Folders, an increasingly necessary addition. To add icons into a folder, you simply drag one icon on top of the other to create the folder; the folder automatically gets the name of the category those apps share. Or, if you prefer, you can rename the folder on the spot. You can pack a maximum of 12 apps within a single folder (that gives you three rows of four apps across the home screen). And, thanks to the addition of Folders, you can now add up to a maximum of 2160 apps.
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Apple iPhone 4: Dramatic Camera Boost
The iPhone 4 brings much-desired camera and video recording advances, as well. The primary camera on the back bumps up from 3 megapixels to 5 megapixels, while retaining the same pixel size (which can further improve image quality). The camera also gains an LED flash, a backlit sensor, and an integrated 5X zoom. The camera now lets you shoot in high-def, at 720p, 30 frames per second; in addition, video gains the tap-to-focus feature already available on the camera.
The examples that Apple showcased during its keynote were compelling evidence that these upgrades are indeed worthy ones. There's also a front-facing camera integral to Apple's FaceTime videophone app, which works only for communicating between two iPhone 4 handsets.
We got to spend some time playing with the iPhone 4’s two cameras. The rear camera is a 5-megapixel model, up from 3 megapixels on the iPhone 3GS. But megapixels aren’t everything—in fact, the iPhone 3GS camera creates better output than many smartphone cameras with more megapixels. This new camera appears to follow in its predecessor’s footsteps, though we were only able to shoot in a controlled environment in Apple’s demo area. The photos we took looked great in preview mode on the phone; we look forward to doing a more thorough analysis when we get our own iPhone 4 and use it to shoot in more varied environments.
Also new to the rear-facing camera is an LED flash. When you turn the flash on and press the shutter button, the LED flashes once to allow the camera to meter the brightness, and then a second time to take the picture. The results seemed decent, though we’ve learned from other smartphones that an LED flash isn’t always the best choice if there’s enough light to shoot without. Still, for most people the LED flash means that you’ll always be able to take a picture, even if it’s getting pretty dark. (You can set the flash to never fire, always fire, or fire automatically when the camera senses that you need it.)
The iPhone 4’s front-facing camera isn’t a 5-megapixel wonder; it’s a 640-by-480-pixel camera (three-tenths of a megapixel, if you’re curious) designed to be used primarily with the new FaceTime video-chat system, though it will also work well as a way to take self-portraits. You can flip between the front and rear camera from within the Camera app, as well as when you’re using FaceTime.
FaceTime itself worked great in the demos we saw carried out by Apple’s employees. Video quality in the FaceTime chats seemed somewhat variable; it’s definitely not a high-def video experience, but it doesn’t really need to be. (But as we learned from iChat AV, the real test with video chatting is when you try to start a chat from various and obscure network conditions.) Starting a chat couldn’t be easier, however. You dial a friend with an iPhone 4, and then tap the FaceTime icon in the Phone app to initiate a video call. There’s no app to launch and no buddy list to configure. It’s a very cool idea, though it does make us wonder what will happen when other devices—those without phone numbers, for example—join the FaceTime party.
Once you’re in a FaceTime conversation, you can readily switch between landscape and portrait orientations, or jump back and forth between the iPhone 4’s front- and rear-facing cameras—in case you want to show your conversation partner what you’re looking at. As in iChat on the Mac, there’s a small window that shows what your camera is seeing, and you can drag that pane into any of the screen’s corners.
From our early look at the Apple iPhone 4, this handset appears to be a must-have for anyone with an original iPhone or iPhone 3G (the former won't get the iOS 4 upgrade at all, while the 3G won't support some features). And people who have an iPhone 3GS will find this a worthy upgrade, too. Unlike the previous jump, from the iPhone 3G to the 3GS - which focused on slight performance improvements - the Apple iPhone 4 bolsters the hardware's digital imaging capabilities and its display, making it a comprehensive and measurable upgrade over its predecessor.
Melissa J Perenson
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