(Pocket-lint) - No phone has been as anticipated this year as Apple's update to its hugely popular iPhone 3GS, this time bringing in new hardware and a new design to complement a new operating system in iOS 4. We thought HTC Desire fever was big, but nothing can beat iPhone fever.
Apple's approach is clever, ushering iOS 4 across existing devices as well as the new model, so rather than leaving existing contract-bound owners looking enviously on, they also get in on some of the action. This point is more significant than it might seem, because whilst the iPhone on tech specs may be the best phone today, it certainly won't be come Mobile World Congress in February 2011.
But that doesn't necessarily matter, because before you even look at the hardware, the best thing about the iPhone is iOS 4 and the App Store. That's what the iPhone 4 really gives you. The hardware is merely a transitory state to carry that experience forward. Yes, there are hardware updates and it looks sexy, but it's the App Store and the user experience where it outshines its competitors.
iPhone 4 oozes Apple's industrial design, sandwiching the phone between layers of glass. The metal band offsets the gloss deep black of the front and back in a design that looks like it will be a classic. It is more interesting to look at than the last iPhone design, but it is slightly busier too: it looks more technologically sophisticated. Despite being glossy, fingerprints aren't a problem as it wipes clear in a second.
The result is a device that has a luscious feel to the front and back, but is framed by hard edges. It doesn't sit as nicely in the hand as the last iPhone or the HTC Desire with softer edges, but none of that will deter you from actually wanting one. Measuring 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3mm, it is slim, compact, and sturdily built, weighing in at 137g.
Buttons are still fairly restrained, but expanding functions means there is more detail around the device. The customary single home button sits bottom centre, a new forward facing camera (which gives a wonderful blue reflection) sits next to the speaker slot at the top.
Down the sides you have the silence slider and the volume buttons, all of which have a great feel to them, it really gives the impression of quality as a complete package. The top has the lock and 3.5mm headphone jack, and the bottom offers up the dock connector, external speaker and mic. Around the back is the 5-megapixel camera with LED flash.
Those hard edges are noticeable when you put the phone to your ear to make a call too, and like the past iPhone, it isn't the most comfortable for making prolonged calls. Much has been written about day 1 reception problems on the iPhone 4, due to the placement of the antenna in the bottom of the phone and your hand obscuring it when holding the device.
The problem manifests itself as a drop-off in reception when holding the iPhone 4 a particular way. We never actually dropped a call, or were left with no reception, but we did notice a dive from 5 bars to 1 bar when holding the phone with the bottom left-hand corner in the palm of the left hand - see the picture below. Being a left-hander, using it in the right hand isn't a problem, but holding it to the right ear isn't as natural, at which point that bottom left corner is more likely to be covered and closer to your cheek.