From San Francisco: Hands on with the iPhone 4
There’s a theory that Steve Jobs has a reality distortion field around him that makes so-so products seem astonishing, that his compelling personality suckers you in and you end up buying something you frankly don’t need.
So the chance to grab some hands-on time with his latest product, outside the distortion field, is invaluable. Of course, it’s not enough to form a final opinion. After all, there’s a lot of new stuff here. From June 21, the new software will add multi-tasking to the iPhone so you can, for instance, listen to music on Spotify while checking your email – previously you could only do one at a time. The speedy processor in the new phone – identical to the one in the iPad – showed no sign of slowdown even with several apps running and programs launched nippily. But it’ll take a longer test to see how much multi-tasking affects battery life. Well, at least there’s a bigger battery this time, promising up to 40 per cent more talktime.
But the key advances on the iPhone 4 are the look and feel. The new handset is solid but light, noticeably slimmer than earlier models. Apple’s claiming that at 9.3mm it’s the world’s thinnest smartphone which makes the previous slim title holder, the Palm Pixi Plus, seem plump at 10.9mm. It has a glass front and back, giving it a unified, flat and stylish appearance. The stainless steel band which runs round the edge of the phone is definitely cool, with its three tiny slots which, Jobs explained, improve the antennae inside. If this is true, this is a big plus as the current iPhone sometimes struggles to find its network, though whether this is down to the hardware or the carrier is a moot point.
Again, a room with phones in wasn’t the place to test the network. Besides, who could concentrate on making a call when the blisteringly sharp, bright Retina Display is in front of you. This screen is essentially the same size as on last year’s iPhone but with four times as many pixels making up the display. So many that the human eye can’t see the join. The result is that reading words onscreen is a smooth experience with rounded instead of blocky text.
The iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash. A huge improvement on last year’s model and images on board looked spectacular. The fact that the phone can shoot HD video was also welcome, and the results similarly striking.
The new operating system software has lots of other extras which are immediately impressive. If you’re an app fanatic you may find that you’ve filled the screens. Once you’ve reached the maximum number of apps displayed it’s still possible to add more, but they’re not displayed. Now, with iOS4, as the new software is to be called, by simply dragging one app’s icon onto another, a folder is created where you can store multiple programs.
The phone’s price has yet to be announced but some networks are going to make upgrade easier for customers still under contract. The new micro sim card means you won’t be able to have one phone for weekdays and one for evenings out as the iPhone 4 will be the only handset to use the tinier sim.
There are few other disappointments, though, at first glance. It would have been nice to have extra capacity (like the previous phone the new one has 16GB and 32GB storage). And the fashion with smartphones now is that they aggregate your emails, tweets and Facebook updates in one place. But then, Apple will probably tell us, there’s an app for that – or there will be one day.
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