Jun 10

Finally, at long last, iPhone 4

Past midnight, June 24th. I’ve been playing with my new iPhone for a few hours now. Almost as long as I waited in line for it earlier in the day. Some quick thoughts on the challenge of getting an iPhone and the glory of playing with one.

The line. I thought I was so smart choosing an Apple Store that couldn’t possibly be as crowded as the others. Poor, deluded me. This was my first-ever Apple line experience, and it was a whopper. It ended up costing me almost four hours of my life, but I have to say — it was kinda fun. My new friends and I had a jolly time as we inched ever closer to the door.

Why I had to get in line in the first place. Don’t remind me. I would have had a home delivery if it weren’t for the server overloads on reservation day. The only way I could get a reservation was through the Apple Store app, and in-store pickup was the only option there. Please, Apple, no more fiascos like that, okay?

Apple Store staff. I can’t say enough about these guys. They were professional, enthusiastic, fun and seemingly stress-free, despite the thousands who descended upon them. They frequently patrolled the line, offering candy, bottled water and free touches on a new iPhone 4 to whet our appetites. Once inside, I expected to be shuffled through quickly — but instead I was treated like royalty. They explained every detail, answered every question, and just wanted to help in any way possible. They seemed as happy to give me an iPhone as I was to receive it. Kudos to Ron Johnson and the whole Apple retail group.

Retina display. Somehow even more stunning than expected. The on-screen images really do look like they’re floating on the glass. Type is impossibly crisp. This is the most important feature of iPhone — it’s what you see every second you’re using it. And it’s extraordinary.

The antenna issue. I’ve experienced nothing out of the ordinary. We’ll have to see how this one unfolds. But Steve’s “don’t hold it that way” remark isn’t helping.

The bumper. I don’t like cases. I like a phone that easily slips into my pocket, wear and tear be damned. If it turns out that the bumper is required to overcome the antenna issue, $30 is an insult. In fact, if it’s required, I’d like my money back please.

The dock. Are you kidding me? I have to take off the bumper to use the dock? Now I remember the other reason I don’t like cases. Okay, so I need a bumper… pretty sure I need electricity… looks like a lot of bumpering and un-bumpering ahead.

The form factor. Gorgeous. Feels precision-built. Without the curvy backside, I can’t tell which way it’s facing when I reach into my pocket. I’ll get over it.

Sveltness. I know iPhone 4 is 24% thinner. I can see it when I put the two phones side by side. I appreciate it. I just don’t notice it much in use. Probably because weight-wise, it has some heft.

Where’s FaceTime? I tried FaceTime with two people. In both cases, there was confusion about how to get it going. That’s because it’s turned off by default. You have to first turn it on in Preferences. Huh? If this is iPhone 4’s killer feature, shouldn’t it be turned on by default? I imagine a lot of people were searching for it today.

Oh. There’s FaceTime. Astounding. Makes you feel like you just landed in the future. Front and rear cameras are totally cool. Obviously needs to work over 3G as well as wi-fi, but that’s coming. One horrifying omission: you can’t record a FaceTime chat. If you can record a video using the camera, why can’t you record a video chat using the same camera? Imagine if you could do an interview on FaceTime and post it to your web gallery or blog in seconds. Developers to the rescue?

Camera. Yes, it’s true — Flash on an iPhone! Definitely helps in low light. I would rarely use the old camera. This I will definitely use more.

iMovie. Very limited in its tools — but then I’d never criticize Tim Lincecum because he only has three pitches. The fact that iMovie has any pitches at all in this microscopic format is pretty astounding. Just the ability to stitch together your individual video clips is a mini-revolution. (And mini-magic.)

Speed. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Not once did I wish it were faster. I’d really grown weary of the many delays built into previous iPhones. They’re gone.

Last thought. iPhone does more than one can imagine, and excels at virtually everything. I’ll try to remember it’s just a piece of technology. But for now, I’m making sure its screen is sparkly clean and tucking it in for the night.

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  • I feel exactly the same on all points…..except one. I really think the design, as AMAZING as it really is and as great as it feels. I think that broken screens are going to be a huge problem. There’s just no getting around it. I ordered my bumper and it’s on it’s way, docking be damned.

  • ken segall

    Funny, but I never even realized how big a deal broken screens were until I hung out with my fellow iPhone owners in line yesterday. I saw quite a few. But there is one bright side. The woman in line next to me had a screen so broken you could barely see through it (her kid had slammed it to the pavement) — and amazingly, it still worked. Touch and all.

  • rd


    apparently you did a restore from 3GS with iOS 4
    which turned off FaceTime. So it is a feature not a bug.


    Antennae is not a flaw.
    Any other gripes.

  • ken segall

    It wasn’t exactly a gripe-filled post. I love my iPhone. However…

    The jury is still very much out on the antenna. Though it is unfair, iPhone is under so much more scrutiny than other phones, even insignificant issues get blown out of proportion. Whatever the facts, I wish Steve Jobs did not respond to a customer’s email by saying “Just avoid holding it that way.” That sort of thing only adds to the perception of many that Apple is arrogant.

    About the Facetime default. I did a restore from an iPhone 3G running 4.0. I don’t see the logic in the Restore process turning off a feature that doesn’t even exist in the 3G.

    This is John Gruber’s take on “the bug” today in Daring Fireball:

    Theory on the bug: my iPhone 3GS had already been updated to iOS 4.0, which perhaps meant the preference setting for this toggle was turned off because that phone isn’t FaceTime-capable. I’ll bet if I had restored from a backup of a device still on iOS 3, the FaceTime setting would have stayed at the default value of “On”. UPDATE: Based on comments from several readers, that’s not it — some have restored from a 4.0 backup and FaceTime was on by default, and others have restored from a 3.1.3 backup and had it off by default. Best guess now: it depends whether you restore from backup the very first time you connect the phone to iTunes. If you do, FaceTime is on by default; if not, it’s off. (I didn’t restore at first, because I wanted to use it right away.)

    Unfortunately, my own experience is contrary to Gruber’s “update.” I didn’t touch my iPhone until I got home and restored from iTunes — and FaceTime was off by default. It remains a mystery — but I definitely wouldn’t call it a “feature.”

  • rd

    logic is simple. the preference file is shared across different phones. it probably says off the FaceTime. unless there is new preference file written which has new timestamp so some people are lucky. It is no big deal but Apple customers are bunch crybabies when it comes to perfection. The bug is not worth fixing but I am sure you want some convoluted code just to fix this problem.

    Well may be Apple should start selling aluminum gloves for those who want even better reception.
    I guess you guys want more microwave radiation just to use your phone. Call the FCC.

  • ken segall

    Not asking for anything convoluted on the FaceTime default, just common sense. When you Restore, your old settings should transfer to your new phone. If a feature didn’t even exist on the old phone, that default should remain unchanged on the new one. That sound too taxing?

    And you did hit the nail right on the head. After a while, Apple customers get used to things working right, so we get cranky when we see something that needs fixing. It’s part of our charm.

  • I remember my first iPhone – it was three weeks after its first release. If you had one, you were one of first. When people asked what I thought, my comment was the same:

    “I’m holding the future.”

    After three years, no one has once come close to that sentiment, but it sounds like Apple has done it again.

  • and they’ve managed to sell 1.7M units … add that o the over 3M iPads in under 90 days and the kids are doing alright … bugs and all …

    hey ken, any news on the next generation Pads? is the Retina Display porting over to the new models? and what will this mean for the screens on next years iMacs?

  • ken segall

    I know nothing. I’m just a civilian now. I assume that the new iPod lineup in September will be all decked up in Retina. Who knows how big they can make those things at this point…

  • well, assuming that the big hurdle was actually making a Retina Display work, and that’s proven to be done and dusted, i assume the next hurdle will be power consumption?

    for an iMac, not that big a deal … for an iPad? possibly a smaller big deal …

    i think xmas will an exciting time for Apple, yes?