First Look: Apple iPhone 4 review

0 out of 5
Dependent on contract

For

Display, design, seems speedy

Against

Too soon to tell

So the hectic fun and drama of DubDub DC is over for another year and, guess what, it produced another iPhone. One that Steve Jobs claimed would be as revolutionary as the first - hence the tagline: "This changes everything. Again."

So was it worth the wait? Well, despite those naughty things at Gizmodo trying to spoil Steve's party by showing pictures early, the announcements today really did make the new iPhone look much better than it had seemed from the leaked prototype. Once thing has become clear though: Apple's closely guarded secrets are finding a way out of late.

The iPhone 4 feels great in the hand. A good fit and a great tactile sensation. The glass on the back and front makes it smooth and appealing - no wonder Apple's own case is just a piece of brightly coloured rubber that covers the extreme edges, leaving the front and back exposed to the touch. And that stainless steel frame is pretty cool, too.

It measures 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3mm and weighs 137g. Average stats for a smartphone, although it certainly is thin. How these dimensions transpire into long-term use, and whether the phone is comfortable for calling, we'll have to look at when we get our hands on one for a full review.

But it's only when you try it out, as we did in the minutes that followed the keynote, that you get to see how fast it is. The iPad's speedy A4 processor does a great job, launching programs in a blink, whizzing you about impressively quickly. Will it work this fast when it's multi-tasking? We'll let you know, but initial impressions were very favourable, and of course, this phone launches into an existing eco system, with what we consider to be the best app offering currently around.

The screen makes iBooks look terrific - though whether you will really want to read anything more than a short story on such a small screen is another matter. The iBooks interface is as intimate and appealing as on the iPad. Just smaller, obviously, and now with PDF support.

The screen size is the same as last time at 3.5-inches. The suggestion from the leaked phone was that it had a smaller display but no. And that screen has to be seen to be believed, with a cracking 960 x 640 pixel resolution display. We've mentioned pixel density before and at 326ppi, the iPhone 4 really packs them in. Whatever the science (if anything) behind the Retina display, the pin-sharp images are startlingly, hypnotically, good to look at.

Steve's "one more thing" this time around was videocalling or FaceTime as he calls it. The iPhone is not the first to do video calling by a long shot and it's never taken off in Europe though, frankly, if anyone can make it work, it'll be Apple, and we'll reserve a chuckle if Apple once again make an existing, ignored, technology popular.

FaceTime looks tremendous - painfully simple to set-up and deeply effective in use. It's a shame it will only work on Wi-Fi connections at the moment (though maybe there's another use for the Mi-Fi dongles) but next year, maybe. Typically, Apple showed us why it's important in an emotional video with endless encounters between separated loved ones, culminating in a deaf couple signing to each other. Brilliantly moving.

All the connectivity you'd expect to find is here: HSDPA, Wi-Fib/g/n, Bluetooth. You get all the sensors including the three-axis motion sensor, proximity sensor and light sensor. You get the GPS and digital compass too.

Externally the design is squared off more than before, although the major controls remain the same. Around the back, however, you get a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash. You also now get 720p (HD) video capture, with the iPhone being one of a few phones that offers this option. A forward-facing camera, used for FaceTime will also offer 640 x 480 images and video. How these cameras perform will be put to the test when we get a full review sample - including things like the internal editing works.

The memory options come out at 16GB and 32GB and as we've become accustomed to, there is no option to add storage. Apple is claiming a longer battery life, but real-life testing will really show what the results are, and how well it handles calling and the like.

Verdict

Will this really be as revolutionary and game-changing as the first iPhone? It certainly puts Apple back at the front of the queue from a stats point of view, as it needed to since the 3GS was showing its age. 

But if history is anything to judge by, Apple will be looking for this iPhone design to last a number of years before they make any changes. It's the first handset to beat the original iPhone's styling in this reviewers opinion, and it is so beautifully engineered that it's bound to become an instant design icon. 

And yes, it still comes with those white hard plastic headphones.

The iPhone 4 will be landing on 24 June. Check out all the coverage on our iPhone 4 homepage.