June 15th came and went and still I had no pre-order. I was ashamed to call myself an Apple fanboy. My not getting a pre-order wasn't for a lack of trying, mind you. I'd been online refreshing the Apple store since early in the morning and continued pretty much all day. The servers were overloaded, other mouse fingers quicker and luckier than mine, I was going to have to wait in line!
So imagine my dismay and shock when AT&T announces that they won't have any iphones to sell to walk-ins. Then Radio Shack announces the same. Then Best Buy. Then the rumor mill has Wal-Mart with only one phone per store. Things were not looking bright for our hero.
Thursday the 24th, launch day. I've got a business trip to New Orleans. I pack up and hot the road bright and early knowing that hundreds of thousands of Apple fans are celebrating with their new wonder phone and I'm stuck driving to NOLA with my 1995 Magnavox Brick. The drive is uneventful. The business trip successful. I enjoy a night out in New Orleans and a wonderful hotel room. I awake Friday morning and wander the Quarter before heading home.
I miss New Orleans a lot and in my nostalgia I decide to stop at the Lakeside mall on my way out of town. I can browse a bit then maybe even play with an iPhone 4 on display at the Apple store there. But then, a glimmer of hope. There's a line in front of the Apple store. "Pre-order pickups," I tell my self, not daring to hope. "No way they've got any left in stock." "Looking for an iPhone?" the kind salesgirl asks as I take my place in the back of the line. "You have some?" "I'm out of the 16gigs," she says, obviously a little overworked. "But you've got 32s for everyone in line?" I can't believe what is about to happen. "Yep. Want one?"
Perhaps you think I'm overblowing this whole ordeal. "It's just a phone!" you might say. You, sir or madam, have never had an iPhone. I sold my 3G the week before. By Friday morning I had been using a dumbphone for 10 days. I was literally going into withdrawals. This salesgirl telling me that I was about to walk away with the newest and shiniest iThing was like winning the lottery. Everybody wanted one, nobody had one and I was about to get one.
So, is the phone itself worth the hype and hullabaloo? I'll spoil the ending for you and say yes, without a doubt. The iPhone has redefined the smartphone category and the iPhone 4 has redefined the iPhone.
It literally does change everything.
It's incredibly slim. Just the appropriate amount of heavy and shiny. Oh, it's shiny. It's the kind of gadget that you want to pull out and polish every few minutes so that the next time you show it off it'll be even more pristine than the last. The new industrial design is gorgeous with nothing to take away from that bright brilliant screen. And oh what a screen it is.
The "Retina Display" has been much debated. Is it really higher resolution than the human eye can see? Maybe not, but you won't ever hear me complaining. Everything looks wonderful on it. I own and use an iPad and find myself watching videos on the phone for the first time in forever just because I'm ecstatic about how good they look. Text is sharper and pictures don't just pop, they explode in your eyes. Steve wasn't blowing smoke about how good this screen is.
The speaker is also much improved. I find speakerphone a viable option for the first time since purchasing my 3G. Music sounds better, if slightly lower than before. Ringtones, notifications and game sounds are all clear and crisp. The primary mic seems to be of higher quality, but it's the noise canceling mic at the top (next to the headphone port) that really makes the difference. Call quality (or recording) is significantly clearer and more "ambiance free".
If you watched my video (and if you've read this far, how have you not watched the video?) then you know the iPhone 4 now comes equipped with a 5 megapixel camera on the back with a flash for both video and photos. Video resolution can be as high as 720p, although you should leave plenty of room on the flash drive if you plan on taking much video. There is also now a front facing camera that shoots in VGA quality. It's noticeably grainier but does very well for the obligatory Facebook profile photo. It's also used for FaceTime. FaceTime is Apple's answer for mobile video chat (although, since it's currently limited to wifi use, I wonder how "mobile" it really is). I don't know anybody else that has an iPhone 4 yet, so I haven't been able to try that out. Apple has set up a hotline 888-FACETIME that you can call and test the function. Video Chat with Tech Support, that just sounds a little creepy to me.
The video and photos that the back camera are capable of are genuinely surprising. This camera is not transcendent or revolutionary, accept that it is always on you. It doesn't matter how great your point and shoot or DSLR is if it's back at the house. This camera is definitely good enough for me to forget carrying another one...pretty much ever.
So, the hardware is lovely. But let's face it, Motorola has made some pretty fabulous phones lately. The reason that is just quite nice and this is the iPhone is because of software, starting with:
Apple has re-branded their mobile operation system from "iPhone OS" to "iOS" the latest is the 4th iteration, hence iOS4. It's available for the latest couple of iPod Touch models and for the iPhone3G and iPhone 3GS, however only the latest iPod and the iPhone 3GS are capable of all the major features, so we're just going to talk about the features available on those models.
This is the big one. Since the beginning of the iPhone (before 3rd party apps and the App Store) the iPhone could multitask but that function was only available to Apple created apps. Specifically, Mail, Phone, Messages and the iPod app. With iOS4, Apple has included the ability for (limited) 3rd party multitasking. Once an app has been updated to use the new features, audio can continue to play in the background, tasks can be finished, or the GPS can continue to be polled all while the app itself is "suspended". All apps are capable of "fast app switching" now, which means that when you exit out of them, they freeze in their current state and bring you right back there once you open them again. I've been playing with all of these features and so far, the apps seem to respond well. Battery life doesn't take a significant hit unless you are juggling several "real" mulitasking apps at once (Pandora, Mail, Safari, TomTom etc.). The "fast app switching" is brilliant and brilliantly implemented. Now, you can play a game, switch out to answer a call or respond to an email and immediately get back to where you were without going through the loading screens or intro videos again. It's lovely, and while it's not "real multitasking" as the geeks have been complaining, it's what the vast majority of us mean when we say multitasking.
Multitasking brings the Multitasking toolbar, summoned by a double click of the home button. Slide to the left once you've activated it and you'll find iPod controls and an Orientation lock button. For those of us that read in bed, or lying on the couch, this is a godsend. The iPad, of course, makes this a physical button but I'm just glad it's an option.
This is probably the second biggest change and one that is actually available to every device upgrading to iOS 4. Since the App Store first opened, people have been crying for a better way to organize their dozens upon dozens (and in some cases hundreds) of apps. Apple finally responded. Tap and hold on any app icon and they all start to "jiggle" move one app onto another and voila, you've got yourself a folder. Apple will name it automatically based on what apps are inside, but you can rename it to whatever you like. I personally went from ten pages of apps on my iPhone 3G running iOS3 to just two pages on iOS4. I thought it might be nice to include a few photos of my organization, but iPhoto isn't cooperating. Boo!. **Update** Now I've got photos, woohoo!**Update**
In my dock, I've got the Phone, Messages, Mail and Camera app. I never carried the camera there before because I had a double click of the home button set to launch it. With iOS4 that launches the multitasking toolbar, so I need it handy.
On page one, I've got my Address book, Calendar, Maps, Settings, Safari, Dropbox and iPod all out individuallly. These are my most used apps other than those on the dock. I also have a Utilities folder, News folder, Social folder and a "Must Play" folder of my favorite games. In Utilities, I've got Siri (a personal assistant app), Dictation, the Clock, Calculator, Weather, Notes, Voice Memo and Remote apps from Apple. Also, 1Password, Trip Cubby (mileage tracker), Adobe Ideas (sketchbook) and Prowl (desktop notifications).
My News folder contains Byline (an RSS reader), The Weather Channel and ESPN Scorecenter. My Social folder has Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, AIM, Pandora, Buzz, FML, Boxcar (a twitter notification app), GetGlue and Foursquare. I've just started using Foursquare and GetGlue so, these may eventually go away. We'll see.
My Must Play games are Angry Birds, Catan (Settlers of Catan), Plants vs. Zombies, Words with Friends, Peggle and Tris (yep. I got it way back when before EA shut it down. I love my free Tetris).
Second page I have the following folders: two games, financial, reference, reading, shopping and imaging. I'm not going to bore you (if I haven't already) with all the apps I've got loaded, other than the Shopping folder. I've got the App Store, the iTunes Store, the Apple Store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Craigsphone (Craigslist app), Walmart and Stubhub. Stubhub is new and might not last. Not sure how often that'll come in handy. I can't tell you the number of times I've been in a store looking at something and thought, "I wonder how much Amazon has that for?" and boom, been able to look it up on the spot. Price comparison for the win!
This one isn't really the iPhone 4 exactly, but the new app from Apple is only available (for now) on the iPhone 4 so I'm including it here. It's brilliant. If you've ever used video editing software on your computer, then you'll be right at home here. The video I linked to earlier (you know, the one you should have seen by now) was completely edited on my phone. I then moved it to the computer so I could post it in the higher resolution. You can import photos and videos from your iPhone library and even use music from your iPod app. It's handy, well built and just plain neat. The idea of shooting video, editing video and posting it online all from the device you carry around in your pocket is just awesome. It's the future, people, and we're living in it.
Honestly, if you've read this far, you either already know you want the new iPhone or you're a tremendous fan of me. Either way, here's my short-quote, tweet-able review:
iPhone 4 is simply the best version of the best phone ever made. Hardware, software and services combine to beat all rivals.
And if they ask who told you so, tell 'em the Rogue did. I'll be glad to debate it with 'em.