For all the buzz that surrounded the iPhone 4, Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs offered few surprises when he unveiled the device after details had leaked out last March.
On the plus side, it boasts a thinner design, a "retina display" that's so sharp that the human eye can't distinguish its individual pixels, and two cameras -- a VGA one on the front for video chatting, called "FaceTime," and a 5.0-megapixel one on the back for photos.
Also, Apple has updated its iPhone 4.0 operating system, dubbed iOS4, with hundreds of minor upgrades, but most notably the ability to now multitask. Something Google phones have been able to do for quite some time.
But there are minuses, First, FaceTime, unfortunately, is limited to only Wi-Fi connections and to other iPhone 4s. It also falls behind the Evo, which has better 8.0-megapixel camera and fourth-generation, or 4G, connectivity. Also, the exclusive U.S. carrier for the iPhone, AT&T, decided to discontinued its unlimited data plan, so new customers will have to pay by the gigabyte.
But when Jobs wrapped up his presentation, the biggest disappointment to many customers was that the event had come and gone with no mention of Verizon. Analysts has speculated that Apple may lose its grip on the iPhone by the end of the year, with new products slated for rivals such as T-Mobile and Verizon coming as early as the beginning of 2011.
When the original iPhone was unveiled in 2007, Apple reinvented the smartphone, combining three products -- a phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls and the Internet communication of a desktop device -- making competitors scramble to recover. But as many rivals catch up, the iPhone's dominance has began to wane.
Still, the iPhone 4 is impressive. It's worth a look for consumers who need a fast smartphone with robust features and cutting-edge design. The HTC's Evo 4G and Droid Incredible may offer more in terms of hardware and power but they still pale in comparison to Apple's distinctive styling and robust software.
The iPhone 4 is sandwiched between two glass panels -- the same material the company says is used in the windshields of helicopters and high-speed trains. Chemically strengthened to be 20 times stronger and 30 times harder than plastic, the composite is scratch-resistant, durable and a fingerprint-magnet. When it's kept clean, though, the glossy and sleek exterior gives a refined feel that Apple has come to be known for.
We dropped the iPhone 4 several times from a few feet onto a hard surface. There were no problems. And it survived without a single scratch.
Jobs likes thin. And taking a page from the MacBook Air, the new iPhone 4 is the world's thinnest smartphone, measuring a remarkable 9.3 millimeters thin -- that's over 25 percent thinner than its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS, and HTC's Droid Incredible and Evo 4G devices. Although they all weigh about the same, except the brick-like Evo, which is nearly 30 percent heavier, the iPhone 4 feels denser and sturdier -- more like a a quality product than a disposable device.
At first glance, the stainless steel band around the rim seems uncharacteristically Apple, but it's actually there for a reason. It not only offers a ridged structure to withstand the everyday bumps and drops, but also functions as a "multi-band" antenna for stronger Wi-Fi connections and improved cellular reception. The dramatic change represents a radical shift from its predecessors, which hid the antenna under the shell, but also puts out nearly 50 percent more radio-frequency radiation than the 3GS.
The iPhone 4, like the 3GS, has a large 3.5-inch touch screen display, much smaller than the Evo's 4.3-inch behemoth. But the iPhone 4 blows everyone away with outstanding picture quality. Its 640 by 960 resolution "retina display" is over four times sharper than the 3GS.
It has dual cameras -- a high-resolution 5.0-megapixel one with LED flash on the back for photos, and a second 0.3-megapixel front-facing one for "FaceTime" video-chatting. A backside illumination sensor helps capture beautiful photos in low-light environments.
Around the rim, dual speaker microphones -- one on the top and another on the bottom -- suppress unwanted background noise for improved phone calling. There's also a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. The side buttons are nice and tactile. And the center button feels snappier. Everything, on the whole, seems better put together.
The original iPhone had an aluminum back plate and felt like a quality product. The 3G and 3GS, subsequently, used plastic, which gave them a cheaper feel. Now the iPhone 4's shiny and beautiful materials brings back a standard that matches its hefty price.
It's shockingly thin and feels great in the hand. You really don't quite notice it until you hold it. It's another sexy design we've all come to expect from Apple and, hands down, the best looking phone of the bunch. But just be aware that you'll be constantly wiping it.
Out of the box, the Apple iPhone 4 comes with a standard battery, a USB power adapter, a dock connector to USB cable, earphones with remote and microphone, and customary documentation.