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A teardown of the iPhone 4 showed it to have been beautifully designed and packing a great set of hardware.  (Source: ifixit)

  (Source: Engadget)

iPhone 4 (left) vs. iPhone 3GS (right)  (Source: Engadget)

iPhone 3GS display resolution (left) vs. iPhone 4 "Retina Display" (right)  (Source: Engadget)
Reviewers say iPhone 4 beats Android sets hands down, but has flaws -- network, multitasking, and notifications

The iPhone 4 is launching officially tomorrow.  Pre-orders are arriving today and some lucky pre-order customers received their phone yesterday.

Every year the iPhone launch frenzy seems to only grow more massive.  This year pre-orders quickly sold out.  So what's the fuss about?  We're about to find out.  Today we present to you a pair of early reviews and the first teardown of the phone.  The overall message?  Most will be willing to put up with some minor software or network bugaboos in exchange for the iPhone's unparalleled hardware and packaging.

Without further ado, let's first begin with perhaps the first complete teardown of the phone. 
iFixIt has taken a shiny new iPhone 4 and torn it into tiny pieces.  

While the most expensive iPhone 4 has a capacity of 32 GB, the unit only has 29.06 GB of Samsung NAND, leaving you 28.77 GB after the 301 MB install of Apple's OS and supporting software.

According to the report, the case design's modifications mean that it will be easier to remove the rear panel (to replace the battery, for example) but harder to replace the front glass.  Moving on, there's a 3.7V 1420 mAh Li-Polymer battery, 512 MB of Numonyx RAM (as rumored), and an A4 processor with 1 GHz Cortex A8 Core onboard (although the final clock speed dictated by the OS is unknown).  Other previously mentioned improvements include dual microphones, a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, and a new screen made of Corning Gorilla Glass, a chemically strengthened alkali-aluminosilicate thin sheet glass that is reported to be 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic.

IFixIt seems pretty impressed with the design.  They write:

In what can only be described as a work of genius, Apple has integrated the UMTS, GSM, GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth antennas into the stainless steel inner frame.

The dual purpose stainless steel inner frame/antenna assembly addresses possibly the two biggest flaws concerning previous iterations of the iPhone: continuous dropped calls and lack of reception.

Meanwhile those who reviewed the phone had similar reactions.  All Things Digital and Wall Street Journal editor Walt Mossberg loved the Retina display, scratch proof casing (which survived several 3 foot drops on hard surfaces), and improved camera.  He says the multitasking might fall a bit short as only some apps are allowed to truly multitask, in order to save battery life.  He explains:

In fact, for many scenarios, such as games, Apple’s version of multitasking is really just fast switching among open apps that save their place. And, even to achieve this, the apps must be updated. For some users, this limited version of multitasking will be a disappointment.

Walt's biggest complaint, though was the network.  He states:

The most important downside of the iPhone 4 is that, in the U.S., it’s shackled to AT&T, which not only still operates a network that has trouble connecting and maintaining calls in many cities, but now has abandoned unlimited, flat-rate data plans. Apple needs a second network.

He concludes:

Just as with its predecessors, I can’t recommend this new iPhone for voice calling for people who experience poor AT&T reception, unless they are willing to carry a second phone on a network that works better for them.
For everyone else, however, I’d say that Apple has built a beautiful smartphone that works well, adds impressive new features and is still, overall, the best device in its class.

Engadget also reviewed the device.  Joshua Topolsky bragged about the iPhone 4's battery life and managed to squeeze out 38 hours on a charge.  The site was disappointed though at the lack of widgets.  The thing that most ticked it off though was notifications.  Topolsky writes:

We're at version 4 of this OS, and we're still plagued by these intrusive, productivity-freezing alerts. If you're as busy as we are, then you know what it's like to get invite after invite for your calendar, text messages, and push notifications that just stall the phone out. While every other modern OS-maker has figured out an elegant way to deal with notifications (including the forthcoming Windows Phone 7), Apple clings to this broken system. Why? We can't really say.

As to the hardware, Engadget showed the iPhone 4 a whole lot of love.  Topolsky says the camera works great in low light conditions, video calling is slick, and that you "won't find a better display on a phone."

The site concludes its iPhone love-fest commenting:

We can't overstate how high-end the design of the iPhone 4 is. The 3GS now feels cheap and chubby by comparison, and even a phone like the HTC Droid Incredible -- which just came out -- seems last-generation.
...
We're not going to beat around the bush -- in our approximation, the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone on the market right now. The combination of gorgeous new hardware, that amazing display, upgraded cameras, and major improvements to the operating system make this an extremely formidable package.

Is the iPhone 4 really the  "best phone" on the market?  That's up to you to decide, but that's the opinion being voiced by early reviewers.  And, hey, it even comes with free tracking.



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RE: Is it the best iPhone?
By finbarqs on 6/23/2010 10:55:19 AM , Rating: 2
I think the apple has a few superior things going for it: Battery life, Build Quality (Yes my EVO 4G has the light leak-screen rising problem -- so dust got under the glass), arguably a better design, smoother operation, BETTER CAMERA, and 24-bit coloring (16.7 million simultaneous colors as opposed to 16-bit coloring (65k simultaneous colors). Plus engadget's close up of the comparison between a nexus one screen and iPhone4 screen makes the iphone4's screen look godly.

In digital photography, higher megapixels translates to smaller pixels, given the sensor size stays the same. smaller pixels means a higher pixel density. That's why apple addresses this issue by saying "We've kept the pixel density the same, just made the sensor bigger to accomodate the 5 megapixels". More resolution just means that you can make larger prints. Doesn't translate to a more "detailed" picture. In fact, quite the opposite. Each pixel on a camera sensor is like a "light collecting bucket", where the bigger they are, the more information, more light they can gather. So larger pixels actually translates to more detailed pictures, and your lens (since they are using tiny lenses) will be able to resolve the sensor. Having such a crammed sensor might translate into the lens not being able to resolve the camera sensor, causing some cases of diffraction to occur.

I'd say iPhone 4's camera is superior to probably any camera phone on the market right now! Think of it this way:

it's like comparing a 5D Mark 2, to a 21MP Hasselblad or a PhaseOne.


RE: Is it the best iPhone?
By quiksilvr on 6/23/2010 2:13:26 PM , Rating: 2
They got INSANELY close to the screen. How about a nice side by side comparison of movies? Show us pics and then show us an HD video of side-by-side. A 32" 1080p will look better than a 40" 720p, but which one do you think you'd get if both were the same price?

And I need to see an extensive camera test between the Evo and the iPhone 4 to see which is better. And FYI, "The Best Camera on a Cellphone" title belongs to the Samsung Memoir.


RE: Is it the best iPhone?
By omnicronx on 6/23/2010 4:53:15 PM , Rating: 2
I see where you are going with this but your analogy is flawed . With a 40" TV, you will always be seeing a 40" image regardless of what resolutions it supports. In that sense surely people would pick the bigger screen.

Where your logic is flawed is the vast majority of people will never take advantage of an 8MP camera. 5MP is what is needed to blow up an image to around 8x10, with the average use being much smaller.(pictures on facebook etc).

Making matters worse as the OP pointed out, the iPhones pixel density has remained the same while upping the MP. I know for a fact that this is not possible with an 8MP part, sensors of the same density for that price point don't exist.(which is one of the main reasons they only jumped to 5MP). Cramming in all the MP's you can may actually have a negative effect. The lens does not get enough light, causing diffraction issues (among others) as the OP noted.

MP's are rarely equal and only a tiny piece of the equation, especially when talking about small form factors.


RE: Is it the best iPhone?
By maven81 on 6/24/2010 12:11:09 PM , Rating: 2
"Each pixel on a camera sensor is like a "light collecting bucket", where the bigger they are, the more information, more light they can gather. So larger pixels actually translates to more detailed pictures, and your lens (since they are using tiny lenses) will be able to resolve the sensor."

This is incorrect. Larger pixels most definitely collect more light, but they never collect more detail. The detail depends on the sampling of the lens/sensor arrangement. It's true that if you have a tiny lens that supports say 10px/mm at best and you stick a sensor that has 30px/mm behind it you're just wasting all those pixels. You'll get a photo that's 3 times larger but has the same detail as one taken with a 10px/mm sensor and is 3 times smaller.

But if we're talking a high quality lens that can resolve tiny details of course a sensor with smaller pixels will have a higher resolution. To achieve the same resolution on the sensor with bigger pixels you'll have to increase the focal length of the lens, and then you'll have a much smaller field of view.

There are other factors of course... signal to noise ratio, dark current, etc... but even then these effect the quality of the image, not the resolution of the image.


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