Sticking with the iPhone 4: Pros and cons after four months

In September, the home button on my iPhone 4 failed after a month. I called Apple Support and got a replacement phone (with an annoying $29.99 overnight shipping fee). Of course, the company had to determine that I was warranty-worthy. Fortunately, I was.

So here I am, four months in with the new iPhone, with a tinge of Android regret. Some tweeps I follow are quite enamored of their Droid phones, and AT&T’s cell service is less than robust, especially when you travel. And Apple increasingly seems to come across as the Evil Empire, as Steve Jobs seeks to control everything.

Still, I remain satisfied with the iPhone 4.

My initial impressions still hold for the most part, with a couple of annotations:

  • Keyboard issues: It appears my space-bar problems were related to imperfections in my particular phone. I’ve not had  the typing issues with the new phone (although autocorrect still drives me — and apparently others — crazy.)
  • Battery life: For the most part, I can go an entire day doing what I need to do, unless I turn on all passive functionality (push notifications, location services, and wifi). I’ve tried various contortions and found that wifi is the biggest hog of them all; it’s best to keep it off unless you are in a wifi hotspot.
  • Video: I’ve experimented a bit more with the video camera and have been quite pleased with the results. I also bought a camera app (ProCamera) to add some video functions (such as a horizon finder). Here is a clip I shot at a Lifehouse concert in October and uploaded directly to YouTube from my phone.

  • Memory: I find that rebooting the phone occasionally helps flush out the memory. A couple of apps (such as the aforementioned ProCamera app) seem to get gummed up over time.

When I am in a 3G area, AT&T’s connection usually is speedy. I’ve been able to watch video when needed, and the Twitter and Tumblr apps connect quickly to their respective networks. And I’ve not had too much of an issue with dropped calls.

I did take advantage of the free Apple bumper program and recently switched from the cumbersome Rocketfish cover to the sleeker bumper. However, the free bumper program ended in September, leading Consumer Reports to maintain its “not recommended” rating for the iPhone 4.

Favorite iPhone apps

Over the past couple of years, I’ve also found my user habits changing some as apps have morphed and the iOS has changed. Here’s my top 10 list of favorite iPhone apps, in order of usage:

  • Twitter (free): I switched from Twitterrific to the standard Twitter app after a revision eliminated the ability to connect to multiple accounts. Twitter’s free app (originally Tweetie) offers the ability to connect to multiple accounts, save draft tweets, and pass links to Instapaper — all for free. I check Twitter more often than anything else on my phone.
  • Bejeweled 2 ($2.99): I played the Blitz version of this game, which allows me to compete against Facebook friends. You try to collect as many jewels in patterns of three, four, or five in a row in one minute. Warning: It’s extremely addicting.
  • Dungeon Hunter (free demo, $4.99): I was fortunate to have grabbed this swords and sorcery game for 99 cents. It’s every bit as good as Diablo, with a good storyline, intuitive interface, and superb graphics.
  • Tumblr (free): Tumblr is becoming the new geek spot as Twitter becomes more crowded. It’s a blend of blogging and tweeting, and the app allows you to check your account and post from the road.
  • Foursquare (free): Yes, I’ve gotten sucked into checking in like a lemming. The big advantage of this location-based app — which uses the iPhone location services to find you — is finding tips for various places, such as favorite menu items or hidden gems. It’s also geeky fun to earn a badge or become a mayor.
  • Netflix (free, with annual subscription): We already had a Netflix membership, and with the basic subscription, you get free instant streaming. The quality is surprisingly good, and I’ve watched several movies this way. It’s much easier to sit on the couch watching the iPhone than viewing on my laptop.
  • Shazam (free, five songs a month): This app will identify songs you hear. Just hit the button, record a 10-second sample, and in a few seconds, Shazam’s servers will identify the song. It’s pretty hard to stump. I just hate that they’ve now put a five-song limit on updated versions of the free edition.
  • ProCamera ($2.99): This app adds some nice functions to the iPhone’s camera, including image stabilization and lens-finder grids for lining up your images appropriately. It is a bit buggy, though, and has locked up on me a few times.
  • NanoStudio ($15.99): This app is the priciest I’ve bought, but it is worth every penny, unleashing the incredible audio power of the iPhone. It is a fully functional sampler and multitrack music studio, every bit as powerful as programs that cost four to five times as much. Its built-in instruments have extraordinary sound, and you can produce some amazing tracks using the app. It’s a great way to jot down musical ideas on the fly.
  • Ringtone Maker (free): This app makes it easy to carve up songs for ringtones. The only problem: The process of plugging back in to iTunes to get the ringtones is convoluted. But hey, it’s free.

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