Wherefore art thou, iPhone? (Part I)

Alternate title: iPhone 4 review. ‘Cos this is what this is.

It’s just a phone, guys.

Aha, but you see, dear reader, that is where the distinction ends. It’s a phone, but it’s also a gateway to the Internet. An incredible communication device. An excellent media player. A brilliant email client. And even a capable games console.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the iPhone 4.

As I stood outside T-Life Northgate, eagerly lining up for the midnight launch of the most anticipated smartphone yet, some Optus-reseller employee comes up to us. After a short chat about mobile telco’s (there is no comparison between Telstra and Optus, especially in Tasmania), he decided to give us a sneak-peek at his stores’s demo unit. A couple of hurriedly-tweeted TwitPics later, some Angry Birds launch-time speed tests between the 4, a 3GS and a 3G, and not a few “oohs” and “aahs” at that gorgeous retina display, and our iPhone 4 lust hit fever pitch.

That last hour was the longest hour of my life. But it was cool, because I got to spend it chilling with some very cool Apple camaraderie – who provided an ample supply of entertainment, gummy bears, and decent conversation. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

After what seemed like an age (but in reality was only five hours) I was second into the store, behind the very nice man who had provided my night’s transport – I felt I owed him that much, at least. Out again not 20 minutes later, one 32GB iPhone 4 in hand, I was the first out – beating the first guy in by mere seconds. The front half of the line (which by now spanned more than 100 people, easily) applauded me as the first to emerge from the T-Life gauntlet, and I was the first person in Tassie with the Apple’s most highly-coveted offering so far.

Bringing it home later that night (or early that morning, as the case was) and setting it up from the comfort of my own bed was an absolute joy. Downloading my most frequently used apps, setting my email, Twitter, Facebook, IM accounts – the first thing I noticed was how much faster the thing was. Downloads, installs, any operation at all, just flew along. Sheer unadulterated speed oozing from every animation, every transition, every app launch, every fast app switch. And no keyboard lag!

Early the next morning I took out my cut up SIM (that I had converted from a mini-SIM to a micro-SIM the night before with my handy-dandy SIM cutter), and put in the official micro-SIM that had been provided as it had been activated and was ready to go. No dramas there.

Spent the whole of Friday babying the thing – the whole experience wasn’t as “wow” as it was when I originally got an iPhone almost two years ago now, but it was still a worthy upgrade (thanks in part to iOS 4 suffering serious performance issues on an iPhone 3G). Again, speed was the most noticeable thing here – the phone was markedly more responsive. It kept me entertained through dull Games Physics lectures, and was an excellent public-transport companion thanks to the small music selection I had synced on earlier that morning.

The camera is nothing short of amazing. The colours of any photo just “pop”, and it’s nice to finally have a camera that has an autofocus that actually works – which means macro photos are now able to be taken without any of that blurriness the 3G camera exhibited. While I haven’t yet used the video camera for any serious purpose, I’m sure the opportunity will eventually arise.

While the screen is the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever laid eyes on (if I had a girlfriend this sentence would read differently), to be honest you have to be looking pretty hard to notice the difference in everyday things (typing out messages, – maybe it’s because I’m using it with an anti-glare screen protector (which sacrifices screen clarity for a more matte look [as opposed to the glossy]), or maybe it’s because my eyesight is¬†absolutely¬†terrible. Either way, the difference is figuratively night and day when placed to a previous-generation device like the iPhone 3G or 3GS (as they have the same screen). Text is one of the things that benefits the most from the much higher pixel density and improved screen tech (IPS vs traditional TN) – increased contrast and no more jagged edges means text is now clear as, well, crystal. The new font is a welcome change as well!

Technologically, it’s very impressive – the best mobile display on the market paired with an impressive (but not exhaustive, Apple aren’t known to have features for the sake of it) feature list, and one of the best smartphone platforms on the market today? A winning combination, indeed.

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