The iPhone 4 — Quick Impressions

I’ve finally had the opportunity to spend some time with an iPhone 4. I’ve got some quick initial impressions on the device coming up after the break. (To find in-depth impressions and run-through of the software — iOS 4 — click here).

  • Since the exterior of the phone is made entirely out of glass and metal, it really does have a higher quality feel than the plastic iPhone 3G and 3GS. That said, the metal and glass give the phone an unexpected heftiness. While the iPhone 4 is a smaller than previous iPhones (particularly in width), it is not any lighter, which makes it seem surprisingly heavy for its size. The weight won’t be a problem for those used to the previous iPhone models, but those coming to the iPhone for the first time may need to adjust to carrying a heavier phone.
  • The phone is really thin. Apple says it’s the thinnest smartphone out there, and while that may or may not be true, it’s more than svelte enough to fit into narrow pockets. It’s not as astonishingly thin as the iPod Touch, but, then the iPod Touch doesn’t have to fit cellular antennas inside or include as large of a battery to make them run. Without a doubt, the iPhone 4 is extremely attractive and sexy device.
  • The iPhone 4 has an amazing screen. The clarity, resolution, and brightness surpass any display I’ve ever seen. Everything is spectacularly sharp — it makes the screen on my iPhone 3GS look fuzzy and pixilated by comparison. Having a screen like this makes using the phone a real pleasure, since text is easier to read and everything on the phone just looks fantastic.
  • The new 5 megapixel camera seemed to take really nice pictures. That said, the iPhone’s screen will make any picture look good, and I never had the opportunity to load pictures onto a computer. But, there seems no doubt that the iPhone 4’s shooter is a nice improvement over the fairly mediocre cameras of the previous iPhones. Video looked good too, and played back smoothly and stutter-free on the phone.
  • After reading the reviews online, I was expecting Facetime to produce crystal clear video calls. My expectations probably shouldn’t have been so high — after all, the resolution of the iPhone 4’s front camera is VGA so the quality can only be so good. In my experience, calling from one iPhone 4 to another in an Apple store, video looked compressed and pixilated and often stuttered and froze. This was true when using both the front camera and the rear camera, though the rear camera was, as you would expect, better. For comparison, the video and audio performance seemed of comparable quality to a medium to low-quality Skype call — not spectacular, but certainly usable, and making out the image of the other person and their surroundings isn’t a problem. However, it definitely does not compare to a high-quality Skype video call using nice webcams and high speed internet connections. It should be noted that Facetime performance will likely better over a faster and less-crowded wifi connection than that found in the Apple store, but in the real world people are often going to be making Facetime calls from mediocre wifi connections like those found in coffee shops, airports, and hotels.

Keep in mind, these are all first impressions, and I reserve the right to change them once I’ve gotten to spend more time with the device. After I’ve had a chance to use an iPhone 4 at length (which may not be for a week or two), I’ll do a more in-depth post about the device.

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