A Long-term Review of the iPhone 4

A Long Term Review Of The iPhone 4With 30 million plus users (and still counting), the iPhone 4 is one of the most popular phones not only here in the United States, but in the world. Despite being mass produced in such sheer numbers, Apple definitely did not skimp on its fit and finish. Quality is a word that succinctly describes my thoughts on the fourth iteration of the Apple iPhone. I still remember the day I saw one in the Apple Store, immediately beckoning me to get one for my birthday. The next day, the iPhone 4 became my first iOS device in addition to being the catalyst that sparked my love for technology. Throughout its two years of service, it has been dropped, sat on, and exposed to extreme temperatures, which it has endured with no complaints and nary a scratch. iOS has been a pleasure to use, and it’s no surprise that it’s the perennial benchmark for operating system simplicity, reliability, and (arguably) design. The iPhone has also been the bookkeeper of many memorable moments through its tenure, offering a reliable way to snap photos and record videos in addition to being a hub to contact family, friends, and girlfriends.

Design

Upon (gingerly) taking it out of the protection of my pocket, I quietly unveiled the iPhone 4 to my closest colleagues. Nobody else on campus owned one at the time, and my friends (who consider themselves avid tech geeks, not unlike myself) let out muffled squeals of excitement. The industrial design of a naked (without a case) .37 inch thick iPhone 4 is truly a sight to behold, and it still impresses two years later. The feel of it in your hand definitely lets you know that it is a quality piece of design, because its mostly glass construction lends it a very premium feel. The Retina display was way ahead of its time two years ago, and still is among the best in screen quality today — but I will elaborate on that later. The aluminum band surrounding the device, which also serves as the device’s antenna, also adds to the rich feel. However, I can nitpick about a major flaw in the almost-perfect phone: the loss of reception when you hold it along the antenna. This can be mitigated through the use of the free bumper case given by Apple, or any other case for that matter (my iPhone has worn a Bumper, an OtterBox, and an Incase Slider), but it detracts from the rich feel of a plain iPhone. The same goes for screen protectors. My verdict: great build quality, but it is hampered by the death grip and the mandatory application of a case.

Performance

In 2010, the 1 GHz A4 was blazing fast, and the efficiency of iOS further assisted the iPhone to be one of the smoothest and quickest phones of its time. Safari was buttery smooth, and it loaded pages in a snap. The OEM applications opened without any perceivable lag, and any other applications opened quite quickly. Fast forward two years, and the iPhone remains a solid phone, although highly outclassed in speed by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S III as well as the HTC One X. The iPhone has seen its better days, becoming less and less responsive with each subsequent update. The Camera app takes an eternity to launch, displaying the shutter screen for 10 seconds before finally displaying the viewfinder. However, this is not to say that it is completely slow. The iPhone is surprisingly brisk, handling newer games such as Infinity Blade 2 with relative ease and updating my Twitter feed quite quickly.

Operating System

This iPhone 4 of mine was purchased with iOS 4.12.1, running with nary a hiccup. Loading was never an issue, except for those times when I had a spotty 3G connection. Hop in Marty McFly’s DeLorean and set the dial for two years to the future: the now-dated iPhone 4 is running 5.1.1, and it has reduced its total available storage from 15 GB to 13 GB. I wonder why each new OS eats up that much storage, which could be utilized for applications, music, photos, etc. When using the device, I see greater amounts of lag; each application takes two to 10 seconds longer to load and open up. Miraculously, scrolling around through application grids displays no lag whatsoever — the same as when the device was new.

Battery Life

Endurant is the battery life of the iPhone 4, for it consistently lasts a good 10 hours until bingo fuel. I managed to pull out 36 hours (!) on one charge of the iPhone about one year ago, when the OS wasn’t too intensive on the processor and not too many applications were running. Since its purchase two years ago, the OS has been updated many times, and after each update, the battery life takes a hit. A good two hours separates the battery life of the iPhone with the original iOS 4.12.1 and the current version, 5.1.1. The actual health of the battery pack is currently well, and it has lasted two years without any major malfunctions.

Camera

I really do not have anything special to say about the iPhone’s camera. It is a reliable, 5-megapixel shooter, but I would only use it if it were the only camera at hand. Pictures taken on the iPhone look great on its screen, but once uploaded to a computer and viewed on a larger screen, you can see the wild saturation and graininess of the photos. These parameters are not adjustable on the device, sadly. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the camera is lacking other features such as ISO adjustment, a panorama mode, a macro mode, or filters. Not to worry, however, for there is most likely an app for that. HDR is a gimmick that very rarely ever produces favorable photos, otherwise it makes everything look as if it were radioactive (imagine glowing t-shirts in odd hues). This camera is reserved for apps such as Instagram only.

Display

The display was quite simply the best of any phone at its time, offering 960 x 640 pixels (that’s 614,400 pixels right there) with a 326 ppi pixel density. Its clarity was unmatched by any smartphone at the time, and nowadays it still sits amongst the best. Some may say that its 3.5″ screen is lacking in size, but I personally believe that it is perfect for daily use. Its smaller size proves useful when you only have one hand available, and your thumb can reach any given location at the screen without fear of dropping your phone. This is a polar opposite to the Galaxy S III that I currently own, and while that screen is much better for viewing pleasure, it proves to be inconvenient for everyday use. I actually longed for the 3.5″ display on the iPhone 4 after using the 4.8″ (1.3″ bigger) screen. The colors are geared towards warmer hues, and this is highly evident when using the camera next to an Android phone such as the S III or the DROID RAZR. The ambient light sensor usually takes its time adjusting, which is one thing about which I can nitpick. Example: when using the phone in the sun, you have to point the screen at the sun as to make the screen brighter and, therefore, viewable. Over all, this phone has a great screen (in my opinion), which is the perfect size for usability.

Applications

With over 500,000 applications on the App Store and growing (it is projected that it will hit one million applications this year), it is hard to get bored of the iPhone. The selection is mind-boggling, and many applications can truly assist you in daily life. After downloading quite a few (350), I can say that I cannot live without most of them. Each day, I have to check my Facebook feed on my iPhone, get my fix from Engadget, see what friends are up to on Instagram, post a vlog on Viddy, dock the iPhone, play Pandora, and check Reminders for tasks to do. It is amazing how phones like the iPhone have revolutionized how we accomplish tasks via applications, and how the App Store has become a such a giant business in such a short time.

Evaluation

The iPhone 4 has proven itself to be a spectacular phone. It is almost perfectly designed, the performance remains solid after two years, it provides spectacular battery life, it has a camera when you need it (albeit delivering relatively poor picture quality), the display is just the right size for everyday use, and has applications that expedite daily tasks and provide entertainment in ways that have never been done before. It has been a great two years with the iPhone, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been impressed by its capabilities. Thank you for your service, iPhone.

My name is Chris Reyes and I hail from Sacramento, CA, and I am a high-schooler in the International Baccalaureate Programme, enrolled in the National Forensic League, Future Business Leaders of America, VEX Robotics team 2095, and the school’s track team. I have a passion for cars and great industrial design. I love technology and its potential, and it is evident in the excitement I display when it is mentioned by a colleague. I love fiddling with computers and programming in HTML, Robot-C, and C++. I am fluent in Tagalog and English, and I am currently learning French and Korean. I am looking forward to writing more articles for LockerGnome.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dspector32 David Spector

    I could not agree more with you. My first iPhone was the 3G and then I got the 4s and now I am waiting for the next version to come out next month. My only complaint is the battery life. Even if I turn off the location services on almost everything I am not getting the life that I used to. I hope they fix this with the next version.

  • Matthew Cheung

    Although the iPhone 4 is still pretty recent as a device (2-3 years), I feel that it is starting to get out dated. The CPU and GPU of the iPhone 4 is still pretty decent for everyday tasks especially on the light running iOS platform but I find it starts to lag when running heavier running applications and games. The screen is also starting to get small as the average size is now around 4.0” although the iPhone 4′s pixel density is still one of the best. One thing that I never liked about the iPhone from the start was the battery life. I would have to end up charging my phone constantly which is not always convenient. Overall, I think that the iPhone 4 is still a viable choice especially for the price now ($99 on contract) although there are many more smartphone options out there if you are looking for something more up to date and money worthy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beshoy.lovesjesus Beshoy Shafek Malk

    The iphone 4 was a huge upgrade to the iphone name especially because of its design, little disappointed at the 4s which is why this is a great alternative cheap model, next iphone is coming out next month thou woooho!

  • Ben Rupert

    I appreciate this story I know the Iphone 5 is or might be comming and as soon as I am eligible I have been considering a switch from my android phone. I love ios in other devices so what do ya think switch to the 4 or 4s or wait for the 5

  • Curtis Coburn

    I liked this article. I am running the iPhone 3GS, and still the performance is not as fast as the newer phones out there, there are some things that I love about the iPhone.

    The design is amazing. In my opinion, I like the iPhone 3GS design better than the iPhone 4/4S design.
    For as old as this phone is, it’s still really great. I can play games on it, and do just about everything the 4 can do. That’s something I really like about iOS is that no matter what device you are running, you can have the same operating system as the others.

  • http://twitter.com/uthmanbaksh Uthman Baksh

    I still have my iPhone 4. It’s still a great device. I do everything on my iPhone. Even though it is now 2 years behind the curve, it is still useful for what I do with it. I hope the new iPhone will be better though. 2 years with a phone is long enough!

  • Jesse Aranda

    This makes me laugh as I am running my 3GS and think “How amazing is this piece of hardware I have in my hand?” I like to re-watch the keynote when Jobs announced the 3GS and I look at the huge software leap it has taken. However, I am getting a bit bored with iOS as until recently it’s been the only mobile OS I’ve used. I’ve been saving for an upgrade for my phone and I’m patiently waiting for Apple’s next release. If that doesn’t “wow” me like my current one does a change to Jellybean for a year or two won’t hurt.

  • http://bkgcom.blogspot.in/ Bharat Kumar Gupta

    Instead of iphone 3gs i call iphone 4 more a gateway device because it really has everything you would expect in a smart phone, and Apple is really smart in not axing these models and make them av to the public, it has always been a good option and if i had a choice i would pick this one over 4s and save some cash. I see no lag in its CPU, the camera works great (for still images & some casual video recording), the beautiful retina display, great OS, decent battery life, a well proven device among consumers, hey i want one in white :)

  • KaPOWitsCHRIS

    I think the iPhone 4 picture quality is among the best out there.

  • Cworld01

    iPHONE 4 is better than iPOD Touch 4g because of several reasons like siri, camera quality but i am waiting for iOS 5 to coming out is Siri Available in iPOD Touch 4g or not.
    Technology forces us to buy new things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregory.alexander.568 Gregory Alexander

    I’ve only used my friends iPHONE 4 and I will say that every time I see an iPHONE I am reminded of my first experience using an Apple computer. Apple knows how to create a device that touches your spirit in a way that I think many companies miss.

  • Steven

    A major flaw is the fact that the aluminum band begins to spot and it’s “coating” begins to show signs of wear and spotting when a case is used. This needs to be addressed.

    • Abbas

      Apart from a few scratch like marks because of some bas choices in terms of cases I don’t have any problem with the metal band and I’ve had my phone since it released too…
      Maybe it’s a unique case?
      Oh and I can honestly say that while I have noticed the antennagate problem I could probably count the number of times on my hand that it has led to a drop call… Might just be due to the fact that I rarely call people though :P