The two year lock cycle of phone operators is as good as any other measure for the passing of time, as I have come back to Switzerland since four years, I now have my third phone. I have been using an iPhone 4 for a few weeks, replacing the venerable iPhone 3G. I had to annoy the Swisscom people to get the previous one SIM-unlocked (they should really do this without you needing to ask for it), and had to transition to a new, micro-SIM card, but the transition was quite smooth. The only thing that got lost in the transition is the layout of my apps on the screens, but everything else went fine.
Physically, the new phone is only steel and glass, the absence of plastic make it feel like a luxury object, it is really a nice piece of hardware. After some use, I see tree big improvements over the 3G:
- The screen. I can’t see the pixels. There is something sad in having a phone break a limit that I always hated in desktops and laptops: resolution. At 360 DPI, the screen has the resolution of an early laser printer. This makes reading a delight. I’m not sure I would read a full book on the device, but for notes, references, or mails, this is a very good improvement. I very often use the excellent kotoba application to study kanji (now called imiwa), the quality is really good, click on the screen capture on the right to see how large the actual screen is.
- Speed. There were many justified complaints that iOS 4 was slow on the 3G, and while performance improved somehow with the subsequent releases, it still felt sluggish. On the iPhone 4, the system feels much more responsive.
- Camera. During my Kraków trip, I did not take along my Sony camera, and took all pictures using the phone. Picture quality has been generally comparable, the phone can’t match the camera’s speed, nor its optical zoom, but I really like the HDR mode, and having the pictures geo-tagged immediately is nice.
It took me some time to get used to the new tasking UI, while it is nice to be able to switch between applications faster, I can’t say that it impressed me that much, but then I was never really convinced by the need for multi-tasking on a phone. As for printing, I’m waiting to see what will come out, will Apple finally add support for Airprint to OS X? Will brother roll out a firmware upgrade for my printer? The hardware is capable of handling PDF files, so this should be OK. If not I suppose that eventually support will come into my Synology NAS.
I must say I’m impressed with the speed with which the smartphone is converging to a single, clean, design. All newer smartphone seem to have a form factor like the iPhone.