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iPhone 4: Some Immediate Comparisons

July 3rd, 2010

So, after getting the call from SoftBank this morning, I quickly finished my morning routine and went down to their local branch to pick up the phone. It takes a while; there’s a lot of paper signing and computer data entry and so forth. But at the end, I walked out with the new phone.

Your first impression is that it’s somewhat more like a slab than before. Not “slab” in a bad way, just descriptive of the basic shape and feel to it. It feels heavier, and while it is, it’s just by 4 grams, not enough to account for the apparent difference. The heavy feeling probably comes from the same weight being in a smaller package.

You get the feeling that it’s taller than previous models, but actually it’s a shade shorter–but it is slimmer, by 1/10th of an inch (or 3.5 mm), so it just seems taller. and you will notice the lack of a curved back, losing about 25% of the phone’s depth. It makes you much more aware of the hard edges, but also makes it feel slimmer.

Another immediate impression: the screen shows better blacks even when turned off. When inactive, the 3G’s screen is noticeably lighter than the black frame; not so with the iPhone 4. And the increased contrast shows just as much when the screen is turned on.


The screen’s resolution is all that people have been saying, but here’s an odd thing that I noticed immediately: you don’t see the difference so much when looking at the phone casually. Without the two side-by-side, you might sometimes forget that it’s higher resolution. But when you do look, the differences pop out significantly. The images on the screen are much richer, finer, and more detailed. Text is not at all pixellated. If you look closely at the 3G’s screen, you can notice the screen-door effect of the pixel grid, especially in light areas; the iPhone 4 looks more like a seamless image, as if printed on glassy paper in sharp relief. Whatever the technical aspects of human vision may be, I’m certainly never gonna be able to discern pixels on the 4’s screen.

The difference is quite visible on the Calendar icon. First, here’s an image I shot with a DSLR camera, showing the same icon on both phones, shot at the same distance and under the same conditions:


Not hard to see the difference, is it? Here’s a different view of the same thing–a screen shot of the icon from each camera, with the 3G’s icon artificially expanded to match the 4’s icon size:


Nor is it surprising: the 4’s screen is essentially 4 times as many pixels. This stands out when you lay a screen shot of the 3G’s whole screen on top of a screen shot from the iPhone 4; the image below is reduced, but you can click on it to see a full-sized version:


Having just come from the 3G, I love the camera. It may be less impressive coming from a 3GS, but I have been stuck for two years with a lousy 2 MP camera which can’t focus closer than 8 inches away and can’t take videos at all. To be able to tap to focus, to take sharp photos of things just a few inches from the camera, to be able to take videos in 720 (and the video is very sharp, excellent quality) and switch between front and back camera… it’s all light-years ahead of what I’m used to.

Of course, the processor is fast, faster than the 3G was even before I upgraded to iOS4. While the startup (after shut down) times may not seem much faster if you’re not paying attention, they certainly are different–my 3G takes a full minute and a half to start up, while the iPhone 4 took just 30 seconds. Google Maps is almost as fast as it is on the iPad (which is really fast). Most notably, there’s no lag anywhere any more. For example, on the 3G, there was always a long lag when starting to type in Japanese. Most often you would see it by typing the first letter and having the typed key-tab freeze on the screen for 10 or 15 seconds; you could type more and have it show up later, but it would always freeze at the start. Not a split-second of hesitation on the iPhone 4.

My device has none of the “major” problems or issues so many people are reporting. No yellow spots or streaks, and no reception loss. Really, I have tried everything I could think of, and I can’t get the reception to drop. I have watched the online videos where they show how you hold it and how the reception drops–I couldn’t make it happen. When bars did drop, it was normal variation that would happen whether I held it or not. I even tried moistening my palms and fingers a bit before gripping the frame in many places, waiting the requisite ten or more seconds for the bars to drop–nothing.

So, so far, so good. It’s hardly a life-changing upgrade, but it is very nifty, and nice relief to finally lose many of the frustrating problems the 3G has always had since day one.

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  1. Troy
    July 3rd, 2010 at 03:22 | #1

    I have an iPod Touch GS or whatever but with my presbyopia the closest I can even hold the device is about a foot and I don’t see no pixels at that distance, though when playing with a friend’s new iPhone I was able to see the difference.

    The ID of the phone is killer. I disliked the rounded back of the previous generation, makes it harder to securely hold while walking.

    Apple’s going to sell hundreds of millions of these (!).

    Microsoft’s upcoming WIndows Phone design is obsolete months before it hits the stores. Sucks to be them.

    Android is the mystery piece of the puzzle now. The current rivalry strongly reminds me of the Commodore/Apple rivalry of the 80s. Both companies and communities would have been better off cooperating instead of allowing Microsoft to sweep in.

    The boot is on the other foot now, though, since the mobile market is still up for grabs and Apple has staked out a commanding presence in it.

  2. Geoff Kransdorf
    July 7th, 2010 at 22:03 | #2

    It’s a lot like the Microsoft/Apple rivalry of the late 1990’s-early 2000’s too. Mac-clean works well, easy to use, but very locked down and only from Apple. Windows–a little messier, but nice hardware available from a wide range of companies. There are a few differences (Android is *much* better technically than Windows is/was, and Apple has the applications advantage over Android for the moment, which is the reverse of the MS situation). Still, in the end, popular, widely available and cheap ended up beating stylish and slick by a wide margin.

    Will Android steal 90% of the smartphone market, like WIndows did to Mac? Probably not, but it is pulling ahead, and I don’t think iPhone will keep the lead for very long. Apple is advancing its HW and software nearly as fast as Google and it’s partners are. And something like 77% of the iPhone4 buyers were *upgrading* their older iPhone. If you’re not already sold on Appel, Android is very appealing.

    As for Windows Phone 7, yeah, too little, too late. It’s hard to see who it would appeal to. Not “techies” (Android), not artists (iPhone), not business (RIM/Blackberry). If thy port a lot of X-Box stuff, maybe gamers will latch on to it. I think that’s their best bet.

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