The Apple iPhone 4 finally made it to India after having been announced nearly a year ago. The previous generations have enjoyed quite a bit of attention and needless to say, the community has been waiting eagerly for the handset to launch officially. Of course, it has been here, through ‘other’ means, so most Apple fans have already gotten comfortable with it and the scenario of getting Apple mobiles a bit earlier than when it officially launches. The iPhone 4 has been made available through two carriers – Aircel and Airtel. However, don’t fret, it’s also available unlocked through the same stores as well as Apple affiliated dealers like the Imagine and Maple stores as well as places like TATA’s Croma stores.

iMovie will be handy for editing 720p video

iMovie will be handy for editing 720p video

This is the fourth-gen model and Apple has been constantly setting a standard for touchscreen smartphones and let’s face it, as good as the competition may be, they’re still playing catch-up to the overall UI experience. If you’re still in a quandary about buying the iPhone 4, my review below should help you make up your mind whether or not it’s worth spending the kind of money required.

Form Factor
This time Apple has gone with a slab design. The iPhone 4 measures in at 4.5-inches in height and 2.31-inches in width. The iPhone 4 comes in two versions and in two colors: 16GB and 32GB, both capacities are available in black and white. It’s made up of two glossy panels of aluminosilicate glass, one in the front and the other at the back; this is the same type of glass used in helicopter and train windshields so we’re talking about serious durability. Apple claims that this glass is chemically strengthened to be 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic.

A secondary mic at the top to help suppress ambient sounds for voice clarity.

A secondary mic at the top to help suppress ambient sounds for voice clarity.

As with all iPhones, minimalistic is always in and Apple has deployed the same options with this version. The iPhone 4’s primary characteristic that sets it apart from any and all other mobiles out there is its 3.5-inch ‘Retina Display’ which sports a resolution of 640 x 960 pixels. The display has a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch which is four times more than the iPhone 3GS.

While the front and back of the phone are made of glass, Apple has used a brushed stainless steel band along the sides of the phone. This has helped in making the phone noticeably thinner than the 3GS. The depth of the iPhone 4 is 9.3mm which would have made it the slimmest smartphone available except the Galaxy S II is actually a whole millimeter thinner at 8.5mm. The plastic buttons seen on the 3GS have been replaced with the same brushed stainless steel of the sides and have been separated now – circular as opposed to the linked slim form keys.

FaceTime for video calls is a one touch operation.

FaceTime for video calls is a one touch operation.

Apple has upped the camera to a 5MP (autofocus) version with an LED flash that can shoot HD videos in 720p. In addition to the rear camera Apple has added a VGA camera in the front for making video calls, using Apple’s FaceTime or shooting self-portraits. The iPhone 4 has two microphones. The secondary mic is located near the 3.5 mm jack at the top of the handset and is used for noise cancellation. The sleep/wake/power button on top also has a brushed stainless steel finish to go with the rest of the handset. Apple’s proprietary USB/power adapter port is located at the bottom as usual. Although it looks like a set of stereo speakers on the bottom on either side of the connector, one is actually a microphone.

Overall, the iPhone 4 is one of the most brilliantly designed handsets to date complete with scratch resistant display. While the iPhone 4 is quite stylish in design, the only downside of it is its weight. It weighs in at 137g, which is slightly heavy for a mobile phone and about 20 grams more than the Galaxy S II.

Features and Performance
Interface
The iPhone 4 ships with the latest version of Apple’s iOS. Apple uses a 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor and an Apple A4 chipset. That translates to a smooth functionality with a slick UI and quick activation of features. This also means you’ll be able to do quite a bit of multitasking and high end mobile gaming without noticing any lag. The option to create folders also makes the UI look less cluttered. This gives the whole user experience a much simpler feel. The onscreen keyboard is still one of the most responsive and well laid out in the smartphone genre and the handset’s smoothly delivered auto-rotation is something that even high-end Android devices are not able to duplicate too well. The gyroscope is added to enhance the gaming experience on the iPhone 4. While the iPhone 3GS was a great device, the iPhone 4 just about manages to beat it with its retina display.

With the A4 processor, multitasking is going to be a cinch.

With the A4 processor, multitasking is going to be a cinch.

Media
The iPhone 4 supports audio playback in most formats. The iPhone 4, like other Apple media enabled products, with displays, has a Cover Flow feature that has the ability to toggle between a variety of albums with swipes. The speaker on the iPhone 4 has been improved with a noticeable increase in clarity as well as volume. The bundled earphones still do the job adequately but invest in a better pair and you’ll really enjoy the experience. The iPhone 4 still comes with the same old EQ presets and still no manually customizable option.

Once again, it's Apple’s retina display to the rescue as the videos tend to look extremely clear with this technology behind them. When, or rather ‘if’, iTunes is able to read your videos, since it depends on the coding, 720p HD videos will of course look the best on the iPhone 4 after being processed and transferred. This is the one hitch that Apple should deal with. Your only reprieve from conversion and then transfer of files is to buy a third party video player like ‘AV Player’ to read any and all file formats that can be dragged and dropped onto the device.  Still, colours are well defined and native video playback is supported for codecs such as mpeg 4, m4v, mp4, as well as .mov.

The individual volume keys look conventional and stylish.

The individual volume keys look conventional and stylish.

Connectivity
All the basic modes of connectivity are available on the iPhone 4; these include 3G, EDGE/ GPRS, Wi-Fi (with Hotspot generation) and Bluetooth. A while ago when the iPhone 4 launched worldwide, there was a lot of talk of call drops and the highly controversial ‘Antennagate’ scenario. The issue seems to have been resolved and after extensive usage, I can say without a doubt, there were no call drops because of how I held the device, but only when I was in a poor reception area. The voice clarity of this phone is decent on both ends. FaceTime is another major highlight of the iPhone 4. This feature is basically a video calling feature which only works over a Wi-Fi connection. The video calling quality is better than any other video calling apps like Skype or Vtok. Obviously it also largely depends on your connection speed. It’s a fun feature to have but very limiting since it’s only designed for the current versions of Apple mobile devices and MacBooks.

The camera has been upped to 5MP with an LED flash and front facing camera.

The camera has been upped to 5MP with an LED flash and front facing camera.

Apple’s AppStore is always showing a steady rise in the number of apps available for their products and they’ve only gotten better to accommodate the higher resolution display and graphics processor that the iPhone 4 is equipped with. From high-end games to business apps to some seriously irrelevant but sometimes entertaining apps, you’ll never get bored with the quality or genre of applications available for the iPhone 4. The email service on this phone is a breeze to set up but not altogether dissimilar from Android’s or Symbian’s offering. Enterprise services have been beefed up a bit, security-wise and as before the iPhone 4 also plays nice with Microsoft Exchange as well as other servers to deliver push email, calendar updates etc. while on the go. Apple’s paid cloud back-up service, MobileMe, will ensure you have all your important data available whenever you need it but doesn’t allow you to send emails via the same service.

Miscellaneous Features

Size difference between the iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S II

Size difference between the iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S II

Basic functions like an alarm clock with the ability to set multiple alarms, a calendar which can be synced with email address and contact information, a phonebook which can store multiple fields, a calculator, voice memos, compass, notes, maps, etc. are all present. Although there’s no native app for viewing MS Office files – Word, PowerPoint, Excel or PDF documents one can either view them in an email attachment or through third part apps. iBooks which can be downloaded for free over iTunes is the ‘native’ eBook reader for the iPhone 4 but there are plenty of other choices including Amazon’s Kindle app.

Camera
The best part about the iPhone 4’s camera is how simple it is. You’ll rarely feel the need for multiple settings like White Balance, ISO, Scene Modes etc. as it’s all pretty much automated. The only actual options are switching to the forward facing camera, to video and touch focus that works quite seamlessly in both video and photo capture, adjusting the flash (off or on) and selecting HDR (High Dynamic Range). If Apple were to include a shutter release for the camera on the body, it just might have made things more interesting.

The iPhone 4’s camera is definitely one of the best cameras on a mobile phone. The level of detail is quite clearly visible and natural colors are picked up quite well. Pictures shot during the day are crisp and clear.

Comparable to any mid range point and shoot camera

Comparable to any mid range point and shoot camera

Pictures shot indoors provide the same amount of detail and definition. Very little image noise is seen and the pictures do not appear too grainy. The flash works out quite well too in low lit areas. Macro images shot with the phone show a fair amount of detail and definition when kept at a distance of about an inch and a quarter away from the subject.

The front facing camera is pretty average. A lot of graininess was noticed while clicking self-portraits and the image quality was just average, then again it’s VGA. It’s great for FaceTime though.

Macro images possess a lot of detail

Macro images possess a lot of detail

The iPhone 4 can record high definition videos in a resolution of 720p. This can be really useful for those who want to shoot impromptu videos. The video quality is not the best in class but does a fairly good job with frame rate and overall reproduction.

The Galaxy S II is much taller

The Galaxy S II is much taller

Battery
The battery of the iPhone 4 is average at best. Using the phone with it being hooked up to a W-Fi connection, watching videos, streaming content over YouTube, listening to music, making and receiving calls and using it over all quite heavily it managed to last 18 hours. Apple rates the battery at a talk time of 7 hours over 3G, 14 hours over 2G and a standby time of up to 300 hours. Realistically, it manages to do just a little over half of that. That’s not too bad, either. 

Refurbished look with two color choices - Black and White

Refurbished look with two color choices – Black and White

Verdict
As of now the only real competition the iPhone 4 has is Samsung’s Galaxy S II that’s better priced. The 16GB version is available for Rs. 34,500 and the 32GB sells for Rs. 40,900. While it’s a well built, feature rich handset, it’s steep, then again most, if not all Apple products are. If you’re not one to spend this much of money and are still looking for a rich user experience you could consider alternatives like the Xperia Arc, the Incredible S or even the Galaxy S II. It’s no big deal and you will live without the iPhone – and as they say, if you don’t have an iPhone 4, you don’t have an iPhone 4, only I mean, you can easily have something else as good.

If you’re an Apple fan and money is no object, here’s a bit of free advice – this one’s one year late, like the previous model and Apple’s gearing up with the next-gen version already, so what you should ask yourself is – should I wait for what’s next or splurge now. Of course the Rs. 34,500 question to ask is: when will the next one be out?

Bottomline: Buy it, but only if you absolutely must.

Publish date: June 6, 2011 2:57 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 7:57 pm

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