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    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Assimilation: A Review of iPhone 4

    On my birthday, September 9, I walked into an Apple store and asked to be assimilated.

    It was a truly magical event.  As I walked down the long hall of aluminum, surrounded by cheering Geniuses in their blue shirts, my heart beat furiously.  Soon, oh so soon, I would have within my possession the grail of all phones, the beautiful and sleek iPhone 4, that phone which makes all other phones seem as pale imitations of phonedom.  I approached the counter, stated my case, laid out my credentials, was judged worthy (after a slight Apple network hiccup) and proceeded out the door carrying the fabled device.  The universe was right and good, a thing of majesty and beauty.

    If you've never been in an Apple store, you may scoff at this account, but I tell you, this is exactly what Apple is trying to foster in their stores.  A land of sleek industrial design which seeks to pull you, atom by atom, into a world where the coveted fruit of their hard work is your only goal, idolized and adored by you to the exclusion of all else.  They go a long way to accomplishing that goal.  Hold fast your soul should you ever tread these hallowed halls!

    It's been a week since I purchased said device, so I'd like to give you my impressions.

    Syncing and Upgrading

    I brought my iPhone 4 to work, hooked it up to my computer and synced everything that had been on my tired and worn out iPhone 3G.  Apple has really nailed it, here.  It was a painless process.  In less than half an hour, I was holding a device that seemed identical in OS to my iPhone 3G (besides hardware differences, mind).  It was faster, sleeker, but every single piece of data had transferred.  I was almost disappointed that I wouldn't have to crawl through the depths of the device to set anything up.

    Design


    It is truly a sleek device.  When I got my iPhone 3G, i thought I had never seen a more beautiful piece of hardware, but the 4 makes the 3G/3GS design seem cheap and plasticy, utterly devoid of inspiration.  This glass and aluminum idol is a thing of utter beauty to behold, I have to say.  All other phones come up short, so far as I can tell, in comparison.

    That's not to say that it's without flaws.  Being all glass on front and back, it makes it hard to hold.  Often when I'm talking, I feel the phone start sliding around in my hand.  I keep having to rearrange my grip to keep it from sliding out of my fingers.

    I'm also extremely nervous about it, in general.  I know that the glass is hardened, but I can't help but be concerned that I'm going to shatter it.  In fact, when I went into the Apple store, the geniuses at the bar were mulling over an iPhone 4 with a shattered back.  These things can be broken, and I'm much more cautious about using this phone than I was about my 3G.  When I used to place my 3G in my pocket, I would always put the glass against my leg, hoping to protect it to some degree.  No matter how I put my iPhone 4 in my pocket, some glass is going to be exposed to the outside of my pocket.

    I've also noticed some slight hairline scratches on the back of the device already.  As I've stated, I've been extremely careful with it, so that just goes to drive home the point even more:  despite hardened glass, it should be handled delicately.

    I've already put my order in for my free case, and I can't wait for it to get here.  I'll feel a bit better about things when I finally have this thing at least moderately protected.  Such a shame, though, to cover up a beautiful device.

    Speed


    Compared to my 3G, this thing is a rocket!  There is now very little lag in the OS.  I can move between apps quickly and things like diving into the texting client take only a fraction of a second.  On the 3G, this was a particularly onerous task, taking up to a minute to fully load.  It's nice to have a usable phone again.

    Antenna and Reception


    I've experienced the death grip one time and one time only.  My hands were slightly damp from washing them and when I held the phone in my left hand the cell radio suddenly went into searching mode.  If I really squeeze down with the death grip (holding the phone in the left hand with the black bar on the lower left of the phone in the palm) I can see some signal attenuation, but by and large it has not been a problem.

    I also experienced another issue I've never seen with my 3G.  Over a period of about 15 minutes, while driving down the road, every call I made dropped suddenly.  The person I was calling wondered just what the heck was going on, as I kept dialing and redialing them.  Whether this was due to the phone or the network, I can't say, but that never happened with my 3G.

    Other than those two times, the reception has been fabulous.  Call clarity and quality are awesome.  Folks are telling me I sound better.  The noise cancelling mic is truly awesome.  This is a great phone to make calls on.

    Pictures and Video


    The camera on this device is amazing.  The stills it takes are phenomenal and with the addition of HDR photos in iOS 4.1 you can really get some amazing shots.  The flash also adds a new dimension lacking in the previous models.  I am starting to think that I might be able to leave my point-and-shoot behind in favor of my phone, and that's an awesome thing, indeed.

    This is a silly little picture of a kids toy, but it really serves to illustrate how sharp these photos are.  This was taken with the flash.



    But as good as the stills are, video is even better.  The 720p video this iPhone takes is smooth like butter.  The details are crisp and there's almost no jelly-vision, even if your hands aren't too steady when you're filming.  Add in the capability (at the premium app price of $4.99) to edit movies on the device with iMovie, and you really have an awesome deal.

    Here's a movie shot with my iPhone, put together with iMovie.  It's of my son's soccer practice.  Such a simple little thing, but it really is an amazing to have done this on a phone.  (Looks like Blogger really compressed the mess out of the movie, here's the original on YouTube)

    video

    Conclusion


    This is truly an awesome device.  Despite some minor complaints, it is both beautiful and functional.  I will be able to leave behind both my Flip and my point-and-shoot.  I can edit video on it and upload that video to YouTube without a problem from the device.  It's snappy and runs iOS flawlessly.  Upgrading from a previous iOS device is painless.

    Truly, I can't recommend this phone more.

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