iPhone 4 – Has Everything Changed Again?

The Apple iPhone 4 blurb says “This Changes Everything. Again.” This only proved half-true for me but it’s certainly another step in the right direction.

So what hasn’t changed? O2! They remain as useless as ever! OK, it’s not O2’s fault they didn’t have any iPhone 4s in stock to deliver to their existing customers on release day but getting my iPhone working with my existing iPhone tarriff proved to be a right PITA.

There was no way I was going to stand in a queue outside an Apple Store, effectively working as an unpaid Apple extra, just to get an iPhone 4 on the release day so the only way I could get my gadget fix was to buy a SIM free iPhone 4 from the online Apple Store UK and that’s an expensive option at £599 for the 32Gb model.

I planned to swap my O2 pay monthly SIM from my existing iPhone to the iPhone 4 until I found out the iPhone 4 utilises a “Micro SIM” format and after some delving around online these were my options:

1) Buy a new contract SIM with any iPhone carrier – ruled out because none of them had stock and my existing O2 contract has over a year to run.

2) Wait and hope O2 sent me a new blank micro SIM. The O2 website said they would do this but to date nothing has arrived.

3) Trim my existing SIM with a pair of scissors to the size of the Micro SIM – apparently the only difference is the amount of plastic surrounding the chip, but I decided to hold this option in reserve as a last resort.

4) Get a blank Micro SIM out of O2 and swap SIMs. I read O2 stores would give existing iPhone O2 pay monthly customers a free micro SIM on production of their AppleStore order confirmation email so that’s what I did and, apart from dealing with a numptie O2 sales droid, this part of the plan worked.

I kept my blank O2 micro SIM ready to roll as soon as iPhone 4 turned up which duly arrived around midday 24th June on launch day.

iPhone 4 Migration

The major software update to iOS 4 on my iPhone 3GS went smoothly and migration to the iPhone 4 was also straightforward – I just plugged the phone into iTunes, clicked a few options and that was about it. I had to re-enter a few passwords and Spotify seems to have got itself into an argument with itself about registered devices and offline playlists but apart from that I’m up and running without any significant problems.

Swapping the SIM via the O2 website failed miserably probably because the O2 site was broken most of the launch day and then I realised I could have swapped SIMs a few days earlier, avoiding the rush, grrrr – lesson learnt in case Apple opt for a nano SIM next time.

I finally managed to swap my SIM the following day after restarting the process on the O2 website and it worked within an hour.

iPhone 4 Unboxing

No Apple fanboy unboxing pictures from me. Of course I still enjoyed opening the packaging which is as slick as ever and fully recyclable but I don’t feel the need to share my excitement with you especially since we’ve all been bombarded by the adverts and the leaked iPhone pictures and the associated Gizmodo iPhone 4 saga. Suffice to say the iPhone 4 looks great so I’m going to concentrate on how the iPhone 4 feels in the hand and how it performs compared to my existing iPhone 3GS.

I was anxious to get the 2 big reported issues at launch out of the way as soon as I had the iPhone 4 powered up and connected to O2:

1) Screen discolouration: I don’t have any yellow tinges on mine.

2) Antenna problems: I can take my iPhone4 from 5 bars to Network lost in seconds [see my video below] holding the phone how I normally hold it so whatever Apple says about holding it differently it’s still a major design flaw and I’m not impressed to read Apple regard this as a non-issue! Rumours of free bumpers and a software update to fix the problem abound.

The flat slab design of the iPhone 4 looks stunning but it is less comfortable in my hand than the the iPhone 3GS. I do prefer the flat back of iPhone4 (and the original iPhone) to the curved back of the iPhone 3GS which scratches easily and wobbles around when placed on a flat surface. I will try one of Apple’s bumpers and see how that feels – and at the same time see if this alleviates my loss of signal problem.
[update]I added a Gelaskin and this makes it a little harder to lose signal but it’s not a solution[/update]

The iPhone iOS 4

It’s a bit of wet blanket really. With literally hundreds of improvements listed on the Apple website I was expecting to see more than the new folder feature and task-switching functionality – which is really just dipping a toe in the multitasking water. I accept that it’s a work in progress but task-switching is not multitasking as I understand the term and I’m really hoping we get proper multitasking features in future software updates.

The iPhone4 Screen

It’s a glass screen and yes it’s sharp, double the sharpness in fact, which makes sense because it now matches the resolution of the iPad which should mean running iPhone Apps on the iPad in x2 mode won’t be necessary so I’m putting this in the good column but I still can’t read the screen without my glasses on and there’s no option to globally increase the display font size which would be far more useful to me.

The iPhone 4 Camera

The uprated 5 megapixel camera and LED flash which can also shoot HQ video is perfect for snapshots and recording instant memories and the pictures I took outside look excellent on screen – definitely a step up from the 3 mega-pixels of my iPhone 3GS 3 (and the 2 mega-pixel camera in the original iPhone). Flash pictures taken in a dimly lit room are muddy but at least there is a flash and I can see what I was trying to photograph instead of an empty black rectangle with my previous iPhones and it really does now offer everything I want from a digital camera although I’d love a x2 or x4 optical zoom feature – maybe next year?

I don’t think I’m a FaceTime kinda guy (see picture top left) so the front facing camera and video chats doesn’t really interest me but I did notice it’s right next to the earpiece which always ends up covered in grease from my ear (eewwww) so if it could have been located further towards either corner that would have been better – for me.

iPhone 4 Dock Tip

Apple don’t usually miss any opportunity to sell us expensive extras and accessories so I’ll wager they didn’t notice the iPhone4 sits perfectly into the original iPhone dock so I’ll take the few quid I’ve saved and put it towards a bumper to fix the antenna issue Apple insists is a non-issue.

iPhone 4 Conclusions

Comparing my iPhone 3GS, updated to iOS4, with the iPhone 4 it’s hard to justify spending £599 to get a better camera and worse reception but this is the first no-compromise all-in-one handheld device that’s both fun and easy to use.

If you’re mid-contract on a iPhone 3GS I’d wait for a revision sometime next year but for anyone considering buying an iPhone for the first time or upgrading from an original iPhone or iPhone 3G this is as good as it gets – go for it!