The Memeburn iPhone 4 review: Please just go get it

I’m no Apple fan boy. I’m a Vaio user and a big fan of Windows 7. In fact on a philosophical level I dislike Apple, the company. It’s a company that is terminally arrogant, and increasingly shortsighted when it comes to building business ecosystems. (Read: Why the iPhone is in trouble)

But you know what? I don’t care. They make brilliant products. The iPhone 4 is an uber gadget. It’s a future device that doesn’t quite belong in today’s world.

I often wondered whether Apple could keep raising the bar with every iPhone iteration. But they seem to do it almost effortlessly. Previous iPhones were paradigm-defining. They made the world gasp and wonder. The iPhone 4 sees this and raises: It’s just spectacular. In fact it has contributed positively to my endorphin levels. I want to play with it all the time. It makes me happy to use it and I clutch it like My Precious. I’d give up my wife for another one. (My long-suffering wife rolls her eyes and calls me sad, but she doesn’t get it).

So let me qualify the gushing. It starts with the stunning resolution. The phone’s high-resolution screen is crystal clear, brilliant and without an errant pixel. Text and images are smooth and polished. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen fonts on a digital device this smooth. It’s like a high-definition glossy magazine, but in digital — giving the screen a slightly surreal look.

The phone is fast. Previous iPhones suffered from speed issues, which created an irritating lag when trying to access functions like your calendar or contacts. On the iPhone 4, there are speed issues no longer. This baby is fast, which makes multi-tasking a breeze. The faster startup time is also a major improvement over the iPhone 3G.

The iPhone 4 is as close to a desktop substitute as a smartphone can get. The phone’s speed, stability and intuitive iOS4 interface make it easy to do complex desktop-like tasks on the small screen.

In fact, I managed to hurriedly organise one of our US-based writers an invite to attend the recent Facebook mail announcement in Silicon Valley — all on my phone while lying in bed on a Saturday morning in Hout Bay, Cape Town. It’s a strange world. It involved looking up numbers, emailing, tweeting, facebooking, searching, browsing… and it was all surprisingly easy.

The HD video and camera is equally as stunning. It looks pixel perfect and there is none of the lag that you often find on other cellphone cameras. The first time I tried facetime, it just worked without a hitch and without any errors. And this is the great thing about Apple products: They just work.

The phone’s shell is punctuated by clean, square lines, minimalist beauty and simplicity. The weight feels good. Overall the iPhone 4 feels solid and substantial. The designer-like look of it makes it feel precious.

The back of the phone, like the front, is glass-based. People have criticised the iPhone for this, pointing out that it’s vulnerable to getting smashed. But the glass back was a stroke of genius. The glass is less prone to scratches than the usual plastic found on practically all cellphones. But, obviously, if you drop it from a height, it will smash.

The phone’s sharper lines means that it doesn’t fit as snugly in your hand like its 3G predecessor. And it feels like it could slip out of my hand if bumped at the wrong angle. It’s an area where the iPhone 4 can improve and I predict a return to the softer back for upcoming versions.

As a point of comparison, I’ve played with the Samsung Galaxy — prematurely billed at some point as an “iPhone killer”. But compared to the iPhone, it’s just a piece of plastic. It’s like Lego compared to a Rolex. These are pretenders, and they’re still just playing catch-up. I wish someone would get it — we want competition for the iPhone and maybe then prices will come down.

The phone’s reception does appear to be an issue. My reception bars seem to jump up and down frantically depending on which way I hold the phone. It looks a little strange and can be distracting, but I haven’t yet had any noticeable reception issues or call quality problems.

The verdict? It’s worth an upgrade. Cast your 3Gs into the ocean and upgrade. If you don’t have an iPhone, then throw that phone away. There’s really nothing to think about or talk about. You’re just wasting precious me-time you could be spending with one of the best gadgets in the world.

Matthew Buckland: Publisher


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