Phone Scoop

printed September 2, 2014
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Review: iPhone 4

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Is It Your Type? Body Three S's Touch  

 

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The iPhone 4 has gotten its second major redesign, and I’m not happy with the results. I prefer the iPhone 3G, with its curved back, seamless plastic and glass design and larger screen size. Compared to just about every other Apple product on the market, the iPhone 4 is a mess. There are endless seams, breaks in the metal band around the edge, and slabs of glass on the top and bottom that don’t line up with the thick waistband. It may be the thinnest smartphone on the market, according to Apple, but it’s also rather tall, with ugly, empty space above and below the screen.

Worst of all, the iPhone 4 is not comfortable to hold during calls. The edges are stiff, right angles, and the thin shell doesn’t sit comfortably in a tight grip. Apple has sacrificed some usability for design aesthetic, it seems.

The iPhone has few buttons on the exterior, it relies on the touchscreen more than almost any other tablet phone. There’s a home button on the front of the phone. In iPhone OS 3, you could set that home button to perform a few shortcuts, like jumping to your favorite contacts or opening the camera app. Not so on iOS4. Now it opens the fast application switch menu, and you cannot customize its function.

On the left side you’ll find two buttons for volume up and down. These were well raised and clicky. There’s a stiff switch to activate silent/vibrate mode. Maybe too stiff, because a couple times I thought I had deactivated the vibrate mode, but the switch had only been thrown halfway. On top is a power/screen lock key. Because of the height of the phone and the sharp angles, it was tough to press while holding the device naturally in one hand.

I’d like to see a two-stage camera button on this phone (on every phone, in fact). Everything else can be handled by the software interface, but a camera button is a necessity. Lining up self portraits with the five megapixel camera around back is nearly impossible, and since Apple removed the camera home button shortcut, it takes longer to start shooting.

There’s a small microSIM card slot on the right side; a tray pops out when you insert a paper clip. Usually this slot is hidden under the battery, but Apple remains one of the only manufacturers to seal the battery within the case, inaccessible to the user.

The glass top and bottom worry me. Apple has made valiant claims about its resilience, but I have a cracked iPod touch and a broken original iPhone that say those claims might be exaggerated. I actually prefer the hard white or black plastic of the iPhone 3G, since it didn’t show scratches or fingerprints nearly as easily.

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