Apple iPhone 4 review: Love it or hate it

GSMArena team, 01 July 2010.
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Unboxing the Apple iPhone 4

The new iPhone comes in a tiny white box with not much in it. Underneath the phone itself, we found the usual set of accessories: a charger, a USB cable and the same set of earphones with a 3.5mm audio jack as the one of the 3GS.

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Nothing surprising to see in the Apple iPhone 4 retail package

Amidst the booklets (an iPhone 4 brochure and product guide) we came upon the SIM eject tool and a couple of stickers with an apple on them. That’s that. No free bumper case, no polishing cloth, no dock. You’re buying a 600 euro phone SIM-free – and you’re supposed to be able to afford some extra accessories.

Apple iPhone 4 bumper case

We finally got out hands on the iPhone 4 original Bumper case. It turned out pretty much what we expected it to be.

The Bumper case is made of high quality rubber with external buttons for the volume and lock keys, duplicating the iPhone 4 ones. They are made of the same metallic material as the iPhone's own keys and leave the impression you are actually using the real keys instead of external replacements.

The only exception is that the top side of the Bumper case had the nasty habit of pressing the Sleep/Wake button on the iPhone 4 no matter where you touched it.

The Bumper case tightly sticks to the metallic iPhone frame. Thanks to it the iPhone 4 has now much better grip and feels secure when held in hand.

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Apple iPhone 4 with bumper

As for the most important question - the iPhone 4 bumper case solves all antenna issues you may be having. It successfully prevents the attenuation and you will be safe from dropped calls.

The iPhone 4 bumper case is definitely a looker, but it conceals all metallic elements on the iPhone 4 (the frame) thus toning down the looks of the phone. The black variety that comes free from the Apple bumper case program is no match for the iPhone 4 stylish personality. A brightly colored case would have been much better.

Apple iPhone 4 360-degree spin

Three generations and an iPad later, the iPhone finally looks different. Better. At 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm the iPhone 4 is impressively slim and obviously less curvy. The weight has stayed almost the same at 137 g, an emphatic statement of the newly found poise and presence.

The metallic frame around the body actually consists of two separate parts and both are individual antennas. You probably have heard by now, that this design is reportedly causing some reception issues. Well, we're about to test that further down in the Telephony section of this review.

Apple iPhone 4
Apple's external antenna detailed

The new materials used on the iPhone 4 account for much of the weight. A stainless steel band frames the handset top to bottom, scratch-resistant glass covering both the front and rear. The trademark curved back is now gone and it’s not the phone’s loss but the user’s. The iPhone 4 looks great but just isn’t as comfortable – and secure – to handle. It just feels way more slippery to hold in hand than the previous two generations.

Design and construction

OK, a new look for the iPhone does sound risky. After all, they didn’t bother to change the design for three generations and still sold ship loads of the thing. The Number 4 is here to open a brand new page in the iPhone history but a complete departure from the original styling could’ve been way too adventurous.

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The all-new Apple iPhone 4

To be honest, Apple simply nailed it. Some will tell you the Number 4 has just about nothing in common with its predecessors. They may be right. We wouldn’t call it a complete overhaul though. You know, one of the things that made iPhone what it is, was the belief that no design is the best design.

When all you have is touchscreen and an interface that sets the standards for user-friendliness, you don’t need to put the focus elsewhere by getting too fancy with the finish. The iPhone is one of the most minimalist phone designs out there and Number 4 knows better than to try anything stupid.

So, Apple had no design to start with, made very little changes to it and ended up with a brilliant new design. What do you call it? Here’s one – magic. The iPhone 4 is thinner, sharper, more advanced, refined. The one thing to note probably is that it somehow feels more delicate than the older versions. This has nothing to do with the build and finish – we wouldn’t call the iPhone 4 fragile (despite glass being inherently quite easy to shatter).

If you put a 3GS and an iPhone 4 side by side on the table, you may have a hard time noticing a profound difference. That’s when the screens are off though. Once that gorgeous Retina Display powers up, you will want to turn off the 3GS and put it hastily away to save it the embarrassment. Hard to believe it was considered one of the better phone screens out there.

At the rear, the new styling is way more prominent. Instead of plastic there’s glossy glass surface that is said to be scratch-resistant and quite more sturdy than plastic. But as it turned out, if you want to get it scratched or broken, you’ll succeed.

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Future meets past

The oleophobic coating – both front and rear – is supposed to reduce fingerprints but there isn’t much you can do to keep the high-gloss surface clean. The special coating at least makes sure smudges are easily removed.

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Fingerprints get on easily but are as easy to wipe off

Up front, the newly added secondary camera is located right next to the earpiece, on the left. Above the display we also find the proximity and the ambient light sensors. The round Home button is all there is at the bottom.

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The iPhone 4 front • Earpiece and secondary camera • Home button

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