Published June 24, 2010
Now that I've spent some quality time with the iPhone 4 I can safely say it's by far the best smartphone on the market — it's even better than other overhyped phones slated to be released mid-summer! And I say that with a brand new Motorola Droid X (coming out July 15) in one pants pocket and the just released HTC EVO from Sprint in the other. The iPhone 4 beats them all.
Let's start with the screen, which Apple has branded a "Retina Display." It's the most crisp display I've ever seen. Reading books via the newly launched iBooks app is stunning. Yesterday, Amazon released an update to their popular Kindle app to take full advantage of the new display. Once you step out of the Apple PR cocoon, you really do need to hold the new iPhone in your hands to see how remarkable it is.
The most marketable feature is FaceTime, which is what Apple is calling the new video call feature. Sure, others have tried to do video calling and have succeeded, but it's never been this easy to do. On the iPhone 4 all you have to do is tap the FaceTime button next to a contact you want to call and voilà! A video call between you and grandma is underway — granted grandma also has an iPhone 4 (otherwise she's out of luck). Bonus: video calls won't use up your AT&T minutes.
However, I'm disappointed that it's not yet ready for use on 3G networks right now because it's restricted to calls placed over Wi-Fi networks. I liked how it worked, but when I moved to a spot that didn't have strong WiFi it tended to freeze up and stutter a bit.
Don't get me wrong, the FaceTime feature is beautifully conceived — but I want to be able to stand in Central Park when I have a newborn and make a video call to my mom and say, "Hey mom, take a look at this." That just can't happen yet.
What about the biggest complaint of all? You know what I'm talking about — dropping all those AT&T calls. Well, Apple redesigned the phone so that the antenna is built into the stainless steel body. Does it work? In the dozen or so calls I made with the phone in New York City, both indoors and outside, I didn't drop any calls. That's a huge improvement. I had trouble connecting on at least three occasions and that may have been typical New York City cell traffic. The real test will come with long-term use.
Speaking of design, the form factor of this phone is super thin and incredibly solid. It makes my current iPhone 3GS look bloated and old. The new Droid X looks like it was designed by a committee that couldn't decide on one design — so they combined two of them. Everything about the build of this phone feels solid — even the stainless steel buttons.
The speed of the operating system is apparent in every app I launched — particularly in the camera app and the new iMovie app, which lets users shoot, edit and render full movies on the iPhone. I shoot and edit a lot of video and the experience of editing on this phone does take some getting used to. But to Apple's credit they managed to make a robust video editing tool on a smartphone that doesn't feel sluggish in anyway. Not to mention shooting video in 720p quality ... basically HD quality in non-techie speak.
If you had asked me two years ago whether I'd be editing an eight-minute movie on my cell phone, I'd have said you were insane. Yet when I first played with the iMovie app earlier this month, I couldn't help thinking that Apple just turned everyone with an iPhone into an amateur movie producer.
A big complaint about the iPhone 3GS is battery life. With the new iPhone 4, Apple's boasting a 44 percent increase in juice. I haven't had the phone long enough to drill that deep, but my friend Joshua Topolsky over at Engadget.com put it through its battery paces and found it lasted a stunning 38 hours: "Yes, 38 hours."
Sure, there are great alternatives to the iPhone on other carriers like the aforementioned EVO and Droid X, but none are as polished as the latest creation from Apple. A remarkable display, beautiful hardware and intelligently designed software all add up to now make iPhone 4 the phone to beat.
Clayton Morris is a Fox and Friends host and the tech godfather behind the Gadgets and Games show. Follow Clayton's adventures online on Twitter @ClaytonMorris and by reading his daily updates at his blog.