iPhone 4 review from an Android user

Any Friday that precedes a holiday weekend where things are legally blown up should be considered an "off-topic" Friday. With all of the new iPhones floating about the office and soaking up all the buzz, it seems like the perfect time for an independent, objective, and trustworthy review of Apple's latest creation by an ardent Android advocate. My personal phone of choice is the G1, which I've used since it was released, running CM 5.0.8 utilizing the Eclair build. He (my G1) likes long walks on the beach, people who aren't afraid to turn their GPS on, and would like to meet a FroYo ROM with working camera drivers. That being said, we're here to talk about the iPhone 4.

The phone's appearance is pretty sweet. It looks like a giant iPod, but it's not so big as to be problematic for smaller hands (like the Droid X might be). It's lack of a curved back undoubtedly increases the space inside, so it's slimmer than the 3GS while weighing the same (4.8 oz). The sharp edges give me the feeling that I should hold it like a dainty cup of tea while making calls, perhaps even lifting my pinky a little to avoid the no-signal strip at the bottom of the phone. One of our designers, who demanded anonymity if he were to critique the new iPhone, said that the design seemed incomplete without the bumper. Speaking of coworkers that have experience with this new iPhone, here are some testimonials from around the office today:

"It's so awesome that it's hard to put down!"

"It's friggin' awesome."

"I feel as if I have a relationship with my phone... there is bad and good, but I would never want it to end."

While I am completely in love with the open approach to technology that the Android employs, I cannot deny what a thing of beauty the iPhone 4 is. The new display is shockingly clear. I can read news sites on it without zooming in. The 326 ppi makes it seem like it's beyond high definition. The A4 processor, while reportedly a bit slower than the iPad's A4 (so somewhere below 1 gHz), is nothing to complain about, being noticeably quicker than the 3GS that runs at around 600 mHz. With the new iOS 4 and multitasking, loading applications seems even faster than the processor alone merits. The iPhone 4 is sickeningly smooth, responsive, and interested in your every click. If the phone lagged, I was too busy being enchanted by the magically clear font resolution to notice.

So before I become too ensnared in my love for the iPhone 4, let's talk about some of the weaker points where Android has been flexing its muscles for a while.

  1. Multitasking - Android has had a nearly hands-off approach to what applications can do in the background. Pandora's been able to run in the background since Android dawned, or at least close to it. My wife and I leave our Google Latitude widgets running, which run the GPS just long enough to geotag our locations. Most apps limit their resource usage while not being used, though I suspect there are limitations in the OS itself. 
  2. Folders - The iPhone 4 folder system is static, and there's absolutely no way to visually differentiate between folders. Instead, their "icon" is made of smaller icons of the first four apps enclosed. Ew. Android has folders that look like folders, and you also have the option of using any icon you want through the use of 3rd party applications.
  3. Notifications - The iOS has always been criticized for how it handles notifications. Nothing's more annoying than a popup that stops whatever you were doing. And if you're socially active and work through your phone, that can be a big, big problem. I've heard that if you get ten notifications, you have to click through all of them individually before you can even pick up an incoming phone call. Android, like others, has developed a really nice and non-obtrusive notification system that utilizes a pull-down menu at the top of the screen.
  4. Widgets Android has widgets, which are basically mini-apps that run on your home screen. For example, I have my calendar, my tasks, and my weather all on my first page, which allows for quick interaction and at-a-glance reminders. I can even quickly post a tweet without even opening up my Twitter application. As far as I can tell, this is a totally alien concept to many iPhone users.
  5. Customization - By using a 3rd party launcher, Android users are able to choose how many screens their phone has, how the application drawer works, and even how their wallpaper works. Android users can even install "themes," which change how all system graphics are displayed.

In conclusion, I can't say I'm not insanely jealous of my coworkers that are touting about their fancy new phones. The video is amazing, the battery life is exceptional, and the features really do push the limits of what I thought was possible with a phone right now. But to be fair, most of the things that impress me about the iPhone are hardware related. Like the Android Market, the potential is there... it's just up to users and manufacturers to make the right combination of elements happen. The CEO of Google may have recently stated that Apple and Google aren't in competition with each other, that they occupy very different positions in a vast market. But Apple really knows how to put hardware together, and a small, bitter tear leaves a glistened trail down my cheek whenever I see that beautiful display resolution.

How much is it to break a contract with T-Mobile again?