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September 13, 2010

Apple iPhone 4 Review

Apple has yet to release the iPhone 4 in the Philippines via its exclusive carrier Globe Telecom. Even before then, a lot has been said about this 4th generation iPhone — from the supposed antenna issues, the Retina Display, to Face Time and the modified form of multi-tasking feature. So check out our review of the Apple iPhone 4 after the jump.


The new design of the iPhone 4 represents the biggest departure from the original one when it first came out 4 years ago. The body is composed of two sandwiched pieces of high-grade glass and lined with two strips of aluminum that doubles as an external antenna — a design that became subject to one of the biggest controversy Apple has faced in years.

The size is still the same at 3.5 inches across but it’s thinner and a bit heavier on the hands. The back panel is now flat and made of a sheet of glass with 5MP camera and LED flash embedded on the upper section. A second front-facing camera is situated at the front for making video calls Apple refers to as Face Time.

The iPhone 4 is a smudge-magnet — not only in the front panel but the back panel as well. The glass plates in front and in the back attracts fingerprints like there’s no tomorrow.

The volume controls are on the left side along with the toggle that activates instant mute of the volume while the power button is on top just across the 3.5mm audio jack.

The iPhone 4 also features a new screen technology called Retina Display. Indeed, the display looks very impressive and the pixel density is so packed the images are very crisp and clear that rivals even the Super AMOLED screens used in other smartphones (like the Samsung Galaxy S and the Samsung Wave).

I’ve compared the display of the iPhone 4, HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy S — the Desire is bright and crisp, the Galaxy S is brighter and deeper contrast but the iPhone 4 definitely has better resolution and a more refined display. The 960×640 pixel resolution is among the biggest we’ve seen on a smartphone by far.

The choice of Retina Display over Super AMOLED could be a move by Apple to avoid production delays of the latter and eases up Apple’s dependence on Samsung which its biggest suppliers of displays (and also a competitor in the smartphone wars with the Galaxy S touted as its strongest rival).

Apple also introduced the new iPhone OS with the iPhone 4. Called the iOS 4, the new operating system finally includes multi-tasking, an important feature Apple shunned for years due to concerns on performance and battery life of the device.

With the Apple A4 chip running on the iPhone 4 (similar one used in the iPad), the device performs very well without any significant lags when navigating and switching between apps. The system feels very snappy and apps launch pretty quickly. It’s very noticeable especially when processing large files of photos or videos (and that built-in video editor works like a charm but you have to buy iMovie separately from the iTunes App Store).

Multi-tasking is also something very new to the iPhone 4, a platform feature introduced with iOS4. While others would argue it’s not really multi-tasking in its truest sense, it works as it’s meant to be. I’ve also noticed significant improvements on the speed and performance of the browser.

The camera on the iPhone 4 is among the best ones I’ve seen and used on a smartphone. It rivals that of the Galaxy S in terms of image quality.

The camera takes good to great photos that are properly focused, adequately exposed and saturated. The lens can focus on any subject by just tapping on the screen. It’s got a fast focusing speed and shutter speed to avoid blurry images even on low light conditions.


See the entire gallery of photos taken with the iPhone 4 here.

What makes it slightly better than the Samsung Galaxy S is the accompanying LED flash that allows for additional light source when needed. While the main camera is rated at 5MP, the secondary camera is only VGA which is used for Face Time.

Video recording on the iPhone 4 is another plus point for the phone. At 720p, videos are vivid and clear with no noticeable drop frames even on longer clips. Here’s a short video clip taken using the iPhone 4.

The lens also actively re-focus as the subjects on the frame changes. You can actually manually refocus the video by just tapping on the subject on the screen. The exposure also dynamically changes depending on the focused subject so you will notice some over-exposure when moving from light frames to darker frames.

Here’s an example of an active and manual refocusing of subject while recording the video.

In some respects though, I believe the Galaxy S takes a bit better video than the iPhone 4. On another note, I wasn’t able to do test out Face Time on the device.

One of the more controversial issues surrounding the iPhone 4 is the antenna reception. I’ve previously tested several smartphones (see here) regarding the drop signal strengths and they all behaved the same although at a slightly varying degree. While there’s a noticeable decrease in signal strength as indicated in the signal bar on the iPhone 4, I have not experienced a single dropped call.

The battery life is a little tricky to measure, which is true in all smarpthones in the market today. While the device can do over 2 days on a single full charge, you can also easily drain it in under a day if you’re a heavy user.

There are so many other features the new iPhone 4 had that’s well worth mentioning but the ones I’ve highlighted above are what makes this device really kick ass. It’s got a solid build and design construction, a very tight operating system, hundreds of thousands of apps (most of them free) and UI that’s simple yet elegant.

Apple iPhone 4 specs:
Apple 1GHz A4 chip
3.5-inch display @ 960×640 pixels
16GB & 32GB
3G/HSDPA 7.2Mbps
WiFi 802.11n
GPS w/ aGPS
Gyroscope
5MP camera with LED flash
2nd front-facing camera
2 mics w/ noise-canceling
Bluetooth 2.1 w/ EDR
iOS 4

The iPhone 4 official release is still at least a month away and Globe has not indicated the exact date. However, dozens of iPhone 4′s are being sold in the grey market everyday, some even reaching street prices of up to Php92,000. And yes, people still buy them at those prices. It has since gone down to about Php41k to Php78k, depending on the source and if it’s factory unlock or not.

The iPhone 4 is a great smartphone but we can’t really peg a verdict unless we know how much Globe will be selling it in the Philippines. I have a hunch it will be in the same range when the iPhone 3GS came out and if that’s the case, it’s going to be well worth the upgrade.


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  3. vectorinojr says:

    excellent review..

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