The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – an iPhone 4 review from an Apple non fanboy.

Word count: 1005 | Estimated time to read entry: 14 min

It’s been a little over a month since I purchased my iPhone 4 and I have been giving many of its features a try. I didn’t want this review to be a comprehensive feature-by-feature rundown so I have kept this strictly to those features that jump to my mind when I ask myself, “What are the things that are great, not so great and pathetic about the iPhone 4?”. I also thought of including some philosophies of the iPhone because that is what makes this phone greater than the sum total of all its features (or less so), in my opinion. And this is what comes to my mind…

The Good:

  1. The form factor, touch sensitivity and screen resolution: Much has been said about this already by so many others and I completely agree with all the eulogies heaped onto the iPhone for this. These features are simply unparalleled.
  1. Utility: Of all the Apple devices, I find only the iPhone 4 worth its money for the sheer utility it has packed in. It is a one device equivalent to any device you need – a HD cam, a media player, a phone, a navigation device, a netbook, a portable gaming system and more.
  1. Attention to detail: Even seemingly small things have been given great attention on the iPhone. What impresses me most is the clicking sound that I hear when I lock and unlock the screen and also the fact that I just have to drag down apps like Twitter and Facebook to get fresh updates.

The Bad:

  1. iTunes UI: I just cant believe this software is from Apple, a company which stresses so much on UI. The prev page/next page buttons are 2 small icons on the top bar which is not very easy to operate. The software is sluggish and auto-suggest feature in the search bar works like it has a temper tantrum. And what’s more, the horizontal scroll of the 90’s is still seen on iTunes if you want to check the screenshots of an app you are about to install.  Unpardonable. Even the Windows 7 app store UI is far better compared to this.
  1. Music output quality: Somehow the quality of music on the iPhone’s iPod is drastically different, and for the worse, compared to the standalone iPod. I have tried changing the Equalizer settings but I don’t see much difference in the quality. The only reason I can think of why there is so much difference between these two products from the same maker is that Apple is deliberately underselling the iPod feature on the iPhone to keep up the sales of the standalone iPod and that aint fair.  That, together with the fact that FM is not enabled on the iPhone yet (but is already enabled on some iPods) makes the iPhone 4 a suboptimal choice for listening to music.
  1. Absence of Task/App manager: Of course multitasking came to the iPhone as a delayed boon but with that came the inevitable burden of managing the apps. Every time I shift to a different app, the previous one continues to run in the background for eternity consuming hardware resources and over a period of time slowing the phone down. The only way to kill apps is by a cumbersome method of double clicking the Home button and closing apps individually. Wouldn’t it be much easier to have an App manager like the Notifications menu, where I can turn off an app by a toggle button against each of the open apps??

 

The Ugly:

  1. The camera: This is a joke especially in the night. Small dark spots appear all over the snap when shooting in not-so-good light conditions. HDR on/off or for that matter Flash on/off makes no difference. The “HD” camera is a serious let down in iPhone 4.
  1. Geo discriminatory marketing strategy: iPhone 4 isn’t officially released yet in India, one of the largest market for mobile phones IN THE WORLD! Enthusiasts like me are forced to buy one from the grey markets and in the process pay upwards of $1000 for a device that is delivered without a receipt and without any warranty! Moreover, iTunes account geo isolates one on signup and if you aren’t in the US or Canada, apps like Yelp etc are not even seen listed in the iTunes app store! Maybe I will find very less utility for an app like Yelp here in India but I’d rather Apple let ME discover that instead of taking a call on that all by itself.
  1. Inadequate championing of the product: In India, Apple has never convinced  carriers to subsidize the iPhone so all versions till 3GS (as 4 is not yet available) were priced upwards of $800. And they were carrier locked all the same – that’s a double whammy!! Apple has till date not taken up the issue of mass adoption of 3G standards in India but has nevertheless sold 3G and 3GS phones. That is like selling a Ferrari to a village bumpkin knowing full well that the roads all over his village are bumpy and pothole ridden. Maybe the bumpkin got full value for his money for the Ferrari but imagine his delight when he hears that his car dealer is now taking up the cause of bad roads all over his village and trying to get that changed so that he has a great experience vrooming around in his new Ferrari! That’s what I call ‘championing’ and I have seen other great companies do it – not Apple. Not yet.

Apple is presently the best smartphone in the market, in my opinion. But considering the landscape, it can all change mighty fast. And I quote:

“There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend: Those with a rope around the neck, and the people who have the job of doing the cutting”. -Tuco, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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