Apple iPhone 4 blazes exciting new trails

14 Sep

With the iPhone 4, Apple has taken its greatest technological leap since the iPhone was introduced. (Image courtesy of Apple)

September 13, 2010

By Geoff Meeker

Wouldn’t you know it? Just months after I finally buy the iPhone 3GS, Apple releases the iPhone 4, rendering obsolete what had been cutting edge the day before.

That’s the way it goes, of course, with technology. There is never a perfect time to adopt the latest thing.

I’ve already inquired about purchasing the iPhone 4, but it’s too soon for an upgrade. In telling you about it, I have to rely on the experience of friends, and the Internet. However, I’m already plotting a way to purchase this device, and when I do, you will be first to know.

The iPhone 4 had a rocky start. Problems with the built-in antenna resulted in lost calls, depending on how you held the phone. Apple denied the problem, causing a public relations backlash that gnawed holes in the company’s reputation. Finally, Apple offered a short-term fix, in the form a slipcase, and the flaw was fixed on later models.

That said, the iPhone 4 is a remarkable device; a genuine triumph in innovation.

Let’s start with the FaceTime feature. There are two cameras on this phone – one on  back, for shooting photos and videos, and another on front, to capture the person holding the camera. The front camera enables live video calling, a first for handheld phones. It only works with other iPhones, but it’s easy to use – during a call, you just tap the ‘FaceTime’ button, and you’re connected.

If you are at a family gathering or enjoying the view, you can switch, mid-conversation, to the back camera, to show the other party what you see. There are many things cool about FaceTime, but the best thing is how it enables deaf people to ‘talk’ on the phone, using sign language.

The phone’s five megapixel camera is a major improvement over the 3Gs, which is three megapixels. The quality is superb. You can view a gallery of supposedly unretouched photos, at apple.ca. The sharpness, resolution and colour are breathtaking – the best, by far, of any smartphone camera I have seen. The iPhone is pre-loaded with an HDR application, which I won’t explain here, but, suffice to say, will dramatically improve the quality of your photos.

The video camera has also been enhanced. I read a review in which all phone video cameras were tested, and the image quality of the iPhone 4 was second only to the Flip HD dedicated video camera. That’s impressive. And the optional iMovie app enables on-the-spot editing, so you can send finished movies to your friends – or upload to YouTube – minutes after shooting.

The so-called ‘Retina’ display is also extremely sharp. Apple claims the “pixel density is so high, your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels.” In other words, the human eye can’t distinguish between the screen and the world around it. I’ve read tech reviews that were skeptical about that claim, but there is no denying that the phone sets a new standard for sharpness.

There are more features than I can list here. Again, go to apple.ca and browse them for yourself.  You can’t help but be impressed. Oh, and all these features are available on the iPod Touch, including FaceTime (you connect with others via email addresses, not phone numbers).

“I have the iPhone 4 and love it in all ways,” says Jenn Deon, a public relations professional, who lives in St. John’s. “It has changed how I both work and recreate. I no longer need a myriad of other tech gear – it’s my phone, camera, video camera, electronic book reader, GPS System, alarm clock, game player, portable video player, MP3 player, and most-often used web browser and email system. And I had to pay top dollar for it, as my plan wasn’t up for renewal. But it was worth it!”

Deon says she is constantly finding “quirky” new ways to save time with her iPhone.

“For example, voice memos replace shopping lists (hey, that’s environmental too). My husband and I even like ‘bumping’ – that’s using the Bump App to easily exchange calendar items and pictures. The iPhone made our family vacation a lot easier this year –  weather apps, checking flight status, Google-mapping our way around cities – and the most used app of all on vacation, one that advised us regarding the current wait times on the rides at Walt Disney World!”

The iPhone 4 has also improved its multi-tasking capability, allowing users to switch instantly and seamlessly between applications. For example, you can use Skype to make  phone calls on the Internet (saving your cell minutes, another plus) while other applications are open and functioning. This is an important detail because, with so many different applications, you are bound to want to use several at once.

I will get this phone someday. And you can bet that, the day after I do, they will release the iPhone 5.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at www.thetelegram.com.



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