A month with iPhone 4: Initial impressions

Groves and iPhone
The iPhone and I

Earlier this summer, I waffled on whether to stick with the iPhone or switch to an Android phone. After some handwringing, I opted for the iPhone 4.

A month in, I remain satisfied.

Before you scream “Fanboy!“, let me confess that I, too, fretted about the antenna woes, the battery life concerns that arose with iOS 4.0.1, the growing Apple empire. But I’ve found my personal experience differs somewhat from that of the early rush of bloggers and journalists.

Granted, part of my decision to stick with Apple stems from habit. I’ve had an iPhone since 2008, and I’ve grown quite attached to its functionality and a number of its apps. I didn’t really want to spend time fiddling with a new operating system and app store.

With that in mind, let me share a few good/bad observations from my first months with the new device:

The Good

  • The screen: The much-touted 960-x-640-pixel Retina display is beyond sharp. Even a month later, I’m in awe of the screen’s clarity.
  • Responsive OS: Compared with my iPhone 2G, this device moves silkily from screen to screen with little effort. I’ve experienced none of the chokes of my previous phone.
  • Solid structure: The metal frame and thick screen feel sturdier than just about any other phone I’ve felt. It almost dares you to drop it.
  • Improved audio: This improvement is not appreciated often enough. As an audiophile, I find the sound clarity (both through the headphone and charging jacks) much improved over my iPhone 2G: Fuller bass, better separation, sharper imagery.
  • Front-facing camera: I love this feature. It’s great for those pics you need when no one else is around to shoot you and your loved one, and you don’t want to resort to the “mirror shot.”
  • GPS: I love how quickly the phone responds when I’m lost. On a recent trip to Denver, the iPhone saved me from missing an important presentation. (Warning: Real-time GPS does suck up the battery power.)

iPhone coverThe Bad

  • The keyboard/screen: On my iPhone 2G, I became adept at tapping out messages with the on-screen keyboard. But I seem to make more mistakes with this phone, either because of the screen or the OS. The spacebar is especially finicky and often fails to register unless I really poke it.
  • The antenna: The first day I had the phone, I dropped a couple of calls, including one to AT&T Customer Service. As soon as I bought a $15 Rocketfish cover (see photo) — which I planned on buying anyway — I have not had a problem with dropped calls.
  • The forced obsolescence: I have a charging block from a previous iPod that will not work with this iPhone. Also, the cable on my car stereo — which works perfectly with my iPhone 2G and iPods — will not charge the iPhone 4.

The Undecided

  • Battery life: I’m still playing with the right mix of settings for optimal battery life. Most days, I can surf the Internet, listen to music, play Bejeweled 2, write e-mails, scan Twitter, take some calls, and shoot a few pictures — and still have charge before bedtime. The biggest issue I’ve found is that occasionally, an app (usually Safari with multiple windows) will remain open and gulp down the power.
  • Multitasking: You mean bopping back and forth between apps? Few apps truly operate in the background, and I find myself using the phone fundamentally the way I have in the past: One app at a time.
  • Video: I don’t like that you can’t zoom, and I have recorded a couple of loud events that seemed to overwhelm the microphone. But the HD video is extremely clear. At this point, it’s too early to judge because I honestly don’t use this function much. It is, however, good to have in a pinch (especially for those kid events where you don’t want to lug around a camera).

I know there’s been much made of the antenna problem, but those critics miss a major point about iPhone users like me: My iPhone is a personal media device, not a phone. The majority of my time is spent on the Internet, not talking on the phone. For $199, it was definitely worth the upgrade.

And when I use it as a phone, it works just fine.

What are your experiences with the iPhone 4? Am I abnormal?

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