Early adoption is fun. Sure, there are plenty of negatives and risks that come with being an early adopter, chiefly long lines, terrible hours, and generally products at their most expensive. But you get a fancy new gadget before everyone else has one. When it is a big deal to have one. When the future of that product is yet to be written, and the critics haven’t had a chance to destroy your fanboyner. Is it worth spending a night, or possibly longer, camped in front of your favorite store? No, probably not. And yet every time a new Harry Potter, Call of Duty or Apple product comes out, people still line up.
And now I’ve done it three times. Only one time really counts, when I bought my Wii – after spending my birthday camped outside the Redmond Target with my friends. My first time was also for a Nintendo product, the GameBoy Advance SP. I was really excited about a Nintendo handheld finally having a backlit screen, and I got my dad and brothers excited enough to head over to Circuit City before it opened and get in line with like one other person. My experience with the iPhone 4 was similar to the SP, in that I showed up shortly before the AT&T store opened, at around 6:30. The phone came out a week earlier, but Tuesday was the first day AT&T was selling them. I didn’t want to spend the night in line, but I felt it couldn’t hurt to show up and press my luck. It paid off: I missed the first shipment of phones but scooped up a voucher for the second shipment, which was due to come in that day at noon. So after battling falling back asleep for a few hours, I returned and claimed my prize: a 32GB iPhone 4.
And what a prize it is. When the first iPhone came out, I thought it was a neat device, but wasn’t quite sold (very much like the current iPad). Then the iPhone 3G came out, supporting some noteworthy improvements that pushed me over the edge in mid-2008. 2009’s iPhone 3GS never seemed like much of an upgrade, adding only one letter to the device’s name (and a compass app!) – I prefer they add at least two letters when I buy the new versions (ie Advance SP, DS Lite). Well Apple dropped two letters this time, but added a beautiful new screen, sleek design, and terrific camera and significant increases to the processing power of its flagship device.
The design of the iPhone 4 is the first thing that stands out when you see it. Gone are Apple’s trademark smooth curves, replaced with shocking hard lines. The volume bevel is gone, replaced by two circular buttons. Aside from that, the elements of the iPhone remain the same, its just prettier. It looks so sleek that I immediately ordered a new case for it, I don’t think I could live with myself if I damaged it. The downside of the new look is the antenna, that metallic strip running along the side of the phone can lose its signal if you hold it just right. Hopefully this will be fixed down the road and for now I’m fine holding it differently. I think you can argue against many aspects of the iPhone 4, but the one thing I can come up with no defense against is the beauty of its shell: this is simply the prettiest mass-produced handheld device I’ve ever seen. And of course Apple paired these gorgeous aesthetics with some incredible hardware.
The iPhone 4 screen is called the Retina Display, because Apple claims the phone is so dense with pixels the human eye cannot distinguish between them. Basically, they’re saying looking at the Retina Display is comparable to looking at print. In practice, I have a hard time disproving them. I can definitely read small text that would have been significantly less legible on my iPhone 3G. When I hold the phone close to my face, all I accomplish is hurting my eyes. So I’m pretty happy with the screen. The speakers also sound a lot better than the 3G’s, although I hear they’re comparable to the 3GS’s. And behind the scenes is a processor that is close to as powerful as the iPad’s, and twice the RAM of the 3GS. The speed increase is very noticeable coming off the 3G, especially being able to quickly launch apps that would crash my old phone. The battery seems pretty great too, I used my phone for over 12 hours; listening to music via BlueTooth, making calls, wireless N and 3G web browsing and playing games, and only drained the battery to around 60%.
Today, the smart phone has to do a lot more that make calls. Like its predecessors, the iPhone 4 can run a ton of great apps, play music and video and make good calls (as long as AT7T will allow you). But the kiddies need it to be a camera too. And I’m finally willing to admit I wouldn’t begrudge someone who used their iPhone 4 as a camera. Sporting a 5MP lens and flash, the iPhone 4 does a good job shooting even in low-light situations. It can record video in 720p as well, and you can even edit video on your phone, using iMovie. There’s a lesser front-facing lens that you can use to take pictures of yourself, like a scrub, or, much more interestingly, use to make video calls using Face Time. However, Face Time requires two iPhone 4s and a WiFi connection, so I probably won’t ever use it.
Is the iPhone 4 worth it? That depends on you. I’ve just barely gotten the device, but I’ve been very impressed by it. For me, someone who is already locked into the Apple world, this felt like a substantial upgrade that hopefully will keep me satisfied for another two years like my 3G did. For a 3GS user, you’d be mainly getting a better screen and camera, if that’s worth it, then by all means. For those poor souls without an iPhone, this is a pretty good place to jump on in. Your missing out on a whole world of portable fart sound effects.