I'm not sure how this keeps happening. The first year I waited at a mall for 5 hours to get the original iPhone. The following year my friend Mark Rein convinced me to see a midnight showing of Hellboy II and then wait outside of an AT&T store all night to get the iPhone 3G. You'd think I'd learn by the third year but once more I was in line at the mall hours before the Apple store opened to get the 3GS. This year I thought it would be different. Apple offered free overnight shipping to anyone who wanted to pre-order the iPhone 4. Figuring everyone would go that route I decided to beat the FedEx trucks and just show up at the mall at 6AM. I'd be in and out in a little over an hour, which would give me a head start on battery life testing on Apple's 4th generation iPhone.

I promise that not all of my decisions play out this poorly. Those who pre-ordered the 4 and requested overnight delivery got their phones early and my one hour wait turned into six hours at the mall, for the fourth year in a row.


Apple's iPhone 4 with Bumper Case

It's a self fulfilling prophecy. Steve gets up on stage, proclaims the iPhone 4 to be the biggest introduction since the original iPhone, and the public flocks to Apple stores to fork over $200 on day one and around $2500 over the course of two years for the privilege. But this isn't 2007. Apple has real competitors in the smartphone space. Android phones have grown in features, polish and popularity. Even Palm entered the race with a competant offering, and Microsoft isn't far behind. It's easy to start a revolution when everyone else is doing the wrong thing, but what about when more companies actually get it? Was Steve justified in his excitement over the 4? That's what we're here to find out today.

Straight on it looks like just another iPhone. You get the black face with a shiny trim. From the side it is the redesign that Apple has needed for a while now. It’s not revolutionary but it’s the type of improvement that makes its predecessor feel old. And that’s exactly what this does. Have a look for yourself:


iPhone 4 (left) vs. iPhone 3GS (right)

The straight lines, smaller dimensions and lack of unnecessary bulk make the 3GS feel like a car from the 90s, unnecessarily curvy. The styling is now so much more compact. Compared to the iPhone 3GS the 4 is around 5% narrower (but no more difficult to type on) and nearly 25% thinner. It even makes the Nexus One look dated:

The iPhone 4 is slightly heavier than the 3GS (4.8oz vs. 4.7oz). You feel the added weight but I wouldn't call it heavy. The front and the back of the iPhone 4 are both made out of glass, and they protrude beyond the stainless steel band that wraps around the phone (more on this controversial decision later). While this gives the 4 an amazing finish, it also makes carrying the phone nerve racking. Coupled with the smaller, more dense form factor I’m now deathly afraid of dropping and shattering this thing. Apple has done a lot to reinforce the glass, however there have been enough reports already of shattered iPhone 4s for me not to feel very safe. Only Apple would think to make the two surfaces most likely to hit something out of glass. It's like making mouse traps out of cheese, something bad is bound to happen.


iPhone 4 (left) vs. iPhone 3GS (right)

The physical buttons (but not their layout) have changed on the 4. The ringer switch has shorter travel and feels sturdier as a result. The volume rocker has been replaced by discrete volume up/down buttons, also very sturdy in feel. The power/lock button is also now made out of stainless steel. Only the home button remains unchanged, although it does seem to make a deeper click when you use it.

The speaker moved to behind the right grill at the bottom of the phone instead of the left. The dock connector thankfully remained unchanged. It looks like Apple is committed to maintaining this connector until it makes the jump to something wireless (or optical?).

The back of the phone is pretty. Apple broke with tradition and finally included a single LED flash on the phone. The flash comes on in low light conditions and is enough to take shots in total darkness.

The camera has been upgraded to a low noise 5MP sensor. It can shoot stills at up to 2592 x 1936 or video at 1280 x 720 @ 30 fps. We’ll go into greater detail on its quality in the camera section. The iPhone 4 also adds a front facing camera capable of shooting both photos and video at 640 x 480.

Apple quotes contrast ratio as 1000:1, in our measurements we got very close (952:1). A significant improvement over the 188:1 ratio of the 3GS. Apple achieved this by both dropping black levels and increasing the white levels on the display. Improving both is always fine by me.

Internally the iPhone 4 uses Apple's new A4 SoC, built around an ARM Cortex A8 CPU and a PowerVR SGX GPU. The new SoC is built on a 45nm process and features 512MB of memory on the package. Apple hasn't made CPU clock speed public, but I'm guessing around 800MHz compared to the iPad's 1GHz for reasons you'll see later. GPU clock speed is unknown as well. Having more memory on package is an interesting move by Apple as it makes the iPhone 4 better suited for multitasking compared to the iPad. Also implying that shortly after the iPad gets multitasking it'll be updated to a version with more memory as well.

The iPhone now has an gyroscope as well the rotation sensors of its predecessors. Developers are given full access to the gyroscope making the iPhone 4 capable of becoming a very expensive Wii-mote.

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4 Apple iPhone 3GS HTC EVO 4G (Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8650) HTC Droid Incredible (Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8650) Google Nexus One (Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250)
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 115 mm (4.5") 121.9 mm (4.8") 117.5 mm (4.63") 119 mm (4.7")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 62.1 mm (2.44") 66.0 mm (2.6") 58.5 mm (2.30") 59.8 mm (2.35")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 12.3 mm (0.48") 12.7 mm (0.5") 11.9 mm (0.47") 11.5 mm (0.45")
Weight 137 g (4.8 oz) 133 g (4.7 oz) 170 g (6.0 oz) 130 g (4.6 oz) 130 g (4.6 oz)
CPU Apple A4 @ ~800MHz Apple/Samsung A3 @ 600MHz Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz
GPU PowerVR SGX 535 PowerVR SGX 535 Adreno 200 Adreno 200 Adreno 200
RAM 512MB LPDDR1 (?) 256MB LPDDR1 512MB LPDDR1 512MB LPDDR1 512MB LPDDR1
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 16 or 32GB integrated 8GB micro SD 8GB micro SD micro SD
Camera 5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 3MP 8MP with dual LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8MP with LED Flash 5MP with LED Flash
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 3.5" 320 x 480 4.3" 480 x 800 3.7" 480 x 800 AMOLED 3.7" 480 x 800 AMOLED
Battery Integrated 5.254Whr Integrated 4.51Whr Removable 5.5Whr Removable 4.81 Whr Removable 5.18 Whr

The iPhone 4's logic board shrinks in size thanks to further component integration, making room for a much larger battery. The 5.25Whr battery in the iPhone 4 is a 16% increase from what was in the 3GS, and 95% of what HTC put in the EVO 4G. While raw performance improved, it's clear that Apple's focus this time around was battery life. Again, we'll dive into specifics later in the review.

Moving back outside Apple surrounded the phone with a stainless steel band. This band doubles as the 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth antennas. And if you hadn't noticed, it also moonlights as a giant elephant. Let's talk about it.

The Real Story on iPhone 4's Antenna
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  • Stuka87 - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Yet another top notch, in depth review Anand. I love the amount of depth you add to any review.

    One question, on the first page you refer to the SoC used in many Android devices as "Scorpion" rather than "Snapdragon." Is there an actual difference, or just different names for the same device? Or perhap Scorpion is more specific to the revision?

    I am still thinking that for now I will keep my 3GS. next year when its time to upgrade, a new better iPhone will be out anyway.
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Scorpion is the CPU, Snapdragon is the entire SoC (with gpu etc etc) Reply
  • brandonicus - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Still reading the review, but from the first page pictures I have to ask...Did you already scratch your iPhone to hell? When seeing the front side comparison with the Nexus One I thought the iPhone looked terrible. Bad pictures? Or does it just scratch really easy?...I'm sure later in the review I'll read that you threw it on the ground a few dozen times :) Reply
  • ipredroid - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Many of your in-depth reviews have helped me decide on how to customize/purchase/learn about a product. Nevermind people saying you (Shimpi) are bias towards a product. People are just annoyed at anything Apple related because the media won't shut up about Apple. I realize you are smart enough not to respond to random haters and treat those here with respect and even respond to comments or questions. Thank you to the AnandTech team! Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Don't be a fool, many of us here are here at Anandtech because first many of us do like Anadtech ever since he started his site, secondly the reviews are good in general and lastly because most of us are either engineers or in the computer related field.

    What most of us criticized are valid to some extent. What I've criticized is immensely valid. Do the test and write the review without any type of unjustified opinions included. And if it's not too much trouble be CONSISTENT. I don't go around testing similar products every which way. I'm not saying Anandtech does this all the time but I get really annoy when things are not consistent from one review to the next; meaning testing was not consistent and thus results could be dark matter for all I know.
    Reply
  • ipredroid - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    You Proved my point, you randomly hated on a general comment I made, (which I made to no one in particular). No one here is a fool. Base your opinions off of facts not general assersens of which you are speculating. Misplaced criticism based on speculation is for tabloids. Which is unfortunately how you come across when you call people fools and bash with out facts. I'm sure you realize how Hypocritical you are being. You are entitled to your opinion of course but your ignorance shows when you don't base off of facts. (Referring to antenna issue) Apple and Google are both guilty of faulty antennas saying either company's engineers didn't test properly is just silly. Reply
  • The0ne - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    Your comprehension is misplaced. When I called you a "fool" it was in referenced to you saying.

    "Nevermind people saying you (Shimpi) are bias towards a product. People are just annoyed at anything Apple related because the media won't shut up about Apple. I realize you are smart enough not to respond to random haters and treat those here with respect and even respond to comments or questions. Thank you to the AnandTech team!"

    In short you are saying that some of us that have differing opinions on the subject matter are idiots and that Anand is smart to avoid us and our lame comments. That is pretty much your entire take on it. All I'm saying is that there are many professionals as members here on Anandtech, many of which are very intelligent. Assuming we're that dumb is foolish, and hence the use of the word "fool."

    I'm sorry, this Antenna issue is a laughing stock to any respectable engineer. If could have only gone into the finish product by decisions made against the respectable Engineer(s). Whether you choose to believe otherwise is irrelevant because the FACT remains the problem is a basic one. Whether it's Apple, Google or our company is irrelevant as well. The discussion here is Apple iphone, thus the blame is directed at Apple. That does not imply it is ONLY Apple that does this.

    And lastly where do you get off telling me I'm ignorant because of my "hate." Where is this hate you are talking about? You're making things up to justify your own means to have something to say to me, less the lack of comprehension in the first place. As for what I've said, that is very general. Why is asking "Do the test and write the review without any type of unjustified opinions included" full of hate?

    Sorry you got the wrong idea of my original response.
    Reply
  • ipredroid - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    I never said you were ignorant because of your hate... read it again... lol. Ignorant for calling me a fool and baseless facts (thank you for the apology). I even stated you ( everyone is) entitled to their opinion. Just stating some people comes across as "haters". People complain about everything, it is easier to see the bad rather than the good, human nature maybe.

    Anyways, I could careless, meant it as a thank you of sorts to the AnandTech team. Not to belittle other bloggers posts. To the overly negative with out sensible reasoning, yes. You, no. I enjoy reading others posts and rarely comment. I did this time because work put into the review by the AnandTech team seemed to be under appreciated in this review and I commented.

    Of course anyone that runs a business isn't going to respond to distasteful posts rudely that wouldn't be smart. Not that those who are "haters" are idiots, even though they certainly can be.
    Reply
  • IKeelU - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    I liked the review. It seemed objective to me and I appreciate that the phone and OS were covered separately.

    Something that wasn't addressed: will the straight edges of the iPhone4 cause damage to one's pants (or one's purse)? My old Sony Ericsson candybar phone actually caused damage to the lining of my left pocket after several months of use. It seems like the iPhone4's edges are the sharpest-ever in a phone...

    Though I must disagree about the iPhone 4 making the N1 look dated. In those photos, at least, the N1 looks way sexier to me.*

    * I own an N1 ;)
    Reply
  • tdream - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    First of all calling the iphone 4 styling uptodate just because its new doesn't make any sense. Jobs says its like an OLD Lecia camera... The 3GS doesn't look dated in the objective sense. If you were to place these two devices in a test, a control group and another which was bombarded with marketing spiel (like the world has) you would get a vastly different viewpoint. Sharp edges are out, just because Apple have run out of ideas decided to be different doesn't mean it's better. Eg glossy vs matte, Apple have made matte cool again... even though all of my monitors are matte. Apple will do anything to be different and stand out, doesn't make it better though.

    Once again you ignore your own data and say the IPhone 4 is better than the 3GS even though in every case you tested it CLEARLY isn't. It a problem, you know it, Apple knows it, and now everyone in the world knows it. You "feel its better", well then if you feel it then I must feel it too right. Glad we live in a world which values science and facts too. Sorry but you're falling into Apple's main ploy right here, it's magical...

    However the rest of your article remains fairly objective and up to your old high standards.
    Reply

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