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Review: iPhone 4

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The camera app on the iPhone has learned a couple of new tricks, but it still lags behind even high quality feature phones when it comes to shooting options. There are now two cameras on the iPhone, one facing forward in addition to the one on the back. I love that the forward facing camera is always available. Just press a button onscreen, and you're looking at yourself. Whether you're in a FaceTime video chat, taking a picture for an MMS message or just snapping a self-portrait, you can always activate the front camera quickly, or switch to the back for a high quality view.

The iPhone also has an LED flash, so you get a flash button onscreen, as well. You can turn the flash on, let the camera fire the flash automatically or keep it off. But that's all. There are no special shooting features, like a panorama mode. There are no fancy color options, no face or smile detection. The iPhone uses touch focus, and it works very well, so you can just tap the screen where you want the camera to aim and it will adjust lighting and color balance automatically for that spot. But I wish there were more manual controls.

The camera on the iPhone 4 is super fast. The Palm Pre is just a bit faster, but the iPhone 4 has one of the fastest cameras I've used on a phone. Even with the auto focus feature, the iPhone is super speedy, shooting pics faster than most fixed focus cameras. There is almost no lag time between photos, and it's almost be possible to take a couple shots in a single second.

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Image Gallery

The image gallery is competent, with a few unique features. It opens very quickly on the iPhone 4. You can view pics in a grid or flick through them one at a time. Pinch to zoom gestures work fluidly to get a closer look at your images. If you have photos geo-tagged, the iPhone 4 gives you a map screen called Places that drops pins where you've taken your shots. If you are using iPhoto, the iPhone will recognize the faces that you've tagged and, in addition to the galleries you've created, it will offer galleries based on the people in your pictures. There is also a slideshow in the gallery.

You can't edit photos on the iPhone in any way. You can't crop or rotate, and the phone can't enhance or adjust images in any way. You can share images from the gallery, but only via e-mail or MMS. You can't upload to online galleries or social networks without using a third-party app.

You also cannot create new photo galleries on the phone itself. You must sideload them to your desktop, create the gallery in iPhoto or your preferred photo app, then load them back onto the iPhone. This seems like an inelegant waste of time.


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