iPhone 4 Review: To Buy or Not to Buy

Featured | Gadgets | Mac | pc | Software
June 29, 2010

This past tuesday I got an email that told me I would be one of the lucky few to receive my iPhone 4 the day before it was released. I was more than a little bit pumped about that fact and waited somewhat patiently for it to arrive. Now that I’ve had it for a week, I feel fairly prepared to answer the question of whether or not you should rush out and get one.

The Basics
The phone is a substantial upgrade from the 3G, but far less of an upgrade from the 3Gs than apple would have you believe.

Topping the list of upgrades is the phone’s camera. Not only is it now 5 megapixels for stills, it added an LED flash. Video taken with the camera is now HD quality and can be illuminated by that same LED in dark situations. I will say that the camera quality is by far the best phone camera I have ever seen. It is on par with any 5 megapixel point and shoot I have used, and the video coming off is just as good, if not better, than any of the Flip models. AND, there is a smaller, lower quality camera that is front facing which will enable you to do easy self-portraits, video chat and FaceTime.

FaceTime is Apple’s video chat service that is built into the phone app, but it only works on WiFi.  In my tests it is good, but nothing to run out and buy a phone over.   As you can expect, it all depends on the quality of your WiFi connection.

One of the biggest updates is the processor. The iPhone 4 now has the same processor in it as the iPad which makes a noticeable difference in app performance and load times. It also ensures that when apps are running in the background that the rest of the phone doesn’t slow to a crawl.

The other big update is the display. It will blow you away. With a pixel density higher than the human eye can perceive at a normal distance, Apple’s “retina” display looks like nothing you’ve ever seen. Perfect shading, incredible viewing radius, and brilliant colors make it the stand out feature for me. I can’t wait until my laptop has one!

Good, Bad, and Ugly
All of those improvements are welcome and follow along with the rest of Apple’s excellence in implementation.  When you combine the video features with the $5 iMovie app, it becomes incredibly compelling.  I have been shooting short clips at our youth events, editing them in about two minutes with iMovie and uploading them to faceboook immediately.  That will rock your face off!  It will also allow you to make parents really feel like they know what’s going on at camps and retreats.

Though the phone is very attractive, it is glass on both sides, and that is a problem.  It will crack if you drop it on the right place at the right speed.  Since the screen is fused to the front glass, replacing the iPhone’s front glass will probably mean replacing the whole glass, screen, digitizer combo.  Pretty, but expensive.

There have been tons of reports about the iPhone 4’s antennae being able to be messed up by holding it a certain way.  That is 100% true.  Ask anyone with an iPhone 4 to hold it by cupping the bottom (usually using your left hand) and you can watch the bars drop to little or nothing at all.  However, you can do this same trick with the 3G or the 3Gs if you hold them properly.  It seems to be more pronounced with the iPhone 4, but is remedied by using a case that covers the edges (which you will need because of the glass design mentioned in the previous paragraph).

Should I Buy One?

Assuming you’ve got the dough, I would say it depends on two factors: what you are using now, and how much you want to use video.  If you, like me, had and liked the 3G and it’s time to upgrade, do it.  You will notice an amazing performance boost along with the incredible new features we discussed here.  If you really want to use video to up the communication in your ministry, do it.  The tools this phone has video-wise are incredible and will be worth every cent if you utilize them to communicate with your kids/parents.

If you have a 3Gs, I’d caution you to be careful.  This is not as much of a performance boost as you might need to justify the expense.  You can probably just update to iOS4 and download the iMovie app.  If you have a 3Gs or an 3G and will have to pay full price because you are not eligible for an upgrade, PUT THE CREDIT CARD DOWN AND STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER!  If you are patient there will be another revision next year, and you can save yourself about $400.


  1. Josh

    I have the 3GS and wasn’t going to upgrade, however… the camera upgrade and the fact that iMovie is only for the iPhone 4 is pushing me to upgrade. Oh, that and I can sell my 3GS for more than I’d pay for the 16gb iPhone 4.

  2. Jason

    I was considering the iPhone recently, but went with Android. Sony X-10 specifically. I only comment because you liked the IPhone 4 camera. The X-10’s camera is awesome. Not quite HD video, but close. That’s one of two things I see as lesser than the iPhone 4, the other being multi-touch.

    But, great camera, big screen, open source everything and no Apple dictatorship to deal with, I chose Android.

    I know, I know, I’m probably wading into the Apple fan system here, but that’s ok. People who don’t do Apple can still be geeks. 🙂

    Have a good one.


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