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Even though it’s costly, the iPhone 4 is worth it

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We have all heard so much hype around Apple’s latest iPhone 4. What, with its sexy new design, longer battery life and phenomenal display resolution. Well, Gadget American correspondent, CRAIG JOHNSTON managed to get his hands on one and gives us the low down on what this phone is all about.

Retina Display

The Retina display on the new iPhone 4 really is all its cracked up to be. If you use an iPhone 3GS, a current model BlackBerry, or other smartphone like an Android or Palm webOS phone, you will be struck by this display’s super sharp picture. At 960 pixels by 640 pixels, packed into a 3.5‚ (measured diagonally) area it delivers amazing images, graphics, and video. The resolution is the highest on any smartphone right now but it’s also the size of each pixel. The Retina display’s pixels are 78 microns (0.07 millimeters) in size.

1GHz CPU

The iPhone 4 has a 1GHz A4 processor. There isn’t much to say about it other than its fast and make the iPhone very snappy.

Cameras

The iPhone 4 has 2 cameras. One front facing camera that is at VGA resolution, and a rear-facing camera that is 5 megapixels.

The amazing thing about the rear-facing camera is that it uses a backside illumination sensor which allows the camera to pick up more light. This translates into much sharper pictures, even in low-light situations where traditional cell phone cameras fail miserably. The camera also includes an LED flash. I have really been amazed by the pictures I’ve taken on my iPhone 4 compared with pictures taken on my Google Nexus One and Motorola Droid which also have 5 megapixel cameras.

Both cameras can be used for FaceTime video chat, to take pictures, and to record video.

FaceTime

I was pleasantly surprised by FaceTime. I have had about 5 video chats via FaceTime and each time the call was flawless, and the video and audio quality were outstanding. FaceTime does not use any of your plan minutes since it uses Voice over IP (VoIP) which is essentially data. Today FaceTime only works when your iPhone 4 is associated with a WiFi network, but next year the cell phone providers may allow FaceTime over 3G.

FaceTime uses industry standard protocols like SIP and STUN to setup and conduct calls. This should allow developers to write version of FaceTime that work on other phones and desktop computers. I’m looking forward to that.

Some say that Apple wasn’t first to the game with video chat, and that the EVO 4G already has a front-facing camera and you can use the QIK application for chat, but it seems that people are having a lot of issues with this application. Lots of frozen video, digitized audio, and general flakiness. Not to mention that you have to download and install the QIK chat application yourself which is OK for tech-savvy, but maybe daunting for the regular consumer. The iPhone comes preloaded with FaceTime and it just works.

Multitasking

Apple was criticized for not allowing the iPhone’s 3rd party applications to multitask (or keep running in the background). The iPhone’s pre-loaded applications (like Mail) already multitask.

Apple came up with multitasking that doesn’t suck battery life out of your phone which is the case with Android, webOS, and other smartphones on the market today. Even the BlackBerry, which has had multitasking since the beginning 10 years ago, has major performance issues with it.

On the iPhone 4 (and indeed on the iPhone 3GS if you upgrade the operating system to iOS4) any application can run the following in the background:

• Play audio (meaning you can continue to listen to audio from one application while using other applications). Without switching to the application you can also interact with the audio.

‚ó¶ The iPod application has always allowed this on all versions of the iPhone, this new feature is for 3rd party applications.

• Listen for incoming VoIP calls. This means that applications that you run on your iPhone that use VoIP (like Skype for example) can keep listening for incoming calls and give you the ability to answer them.

• Utilize the GPS radio. This means that applications that use GPS for navigation will be able to continue giving your directions while you are using other applications.

• Push notifications to you on the screen. This means that applications that are running in the background can alert you. This would mean sports scores, weather alerts, new alerts, etc.

• Complete tasks. This allows applications to complete a task you asked them to do before you switched to another application. So for example if you started uploading a picture to Facebook, then switched to use Skype, the picture upload would complete in the background.

To switch between applications on the iPhone 4 (or iPhone 3GS running iOS4), double-click the home button. The screen that slides up shows all running applications. It also shows any application controls like the Pandora play/pause/jump buttons. You can also forcefully close an application by touching and holding on its icon.

This feature is very impressive and really does preserve the battery life. This is in stark contrast to Android, webOS, BlackBerry, or Windows Mobile where the more applications you have running, the quicker the battery drains.

HD Video Recording

The iPhone 4 records 720P HD video. Combined with its amazing camera that lets in more light, the videos turn out looking great. By contrast most Smartphones record very low resolution video which is OK for uploading to YouTube or sending via MMS. While the iPhone 4 records 720P HD video, it will downsize it for MMS and YouTube.

Signal Issues

I have been able to reproduce the signal issue. I have to consciously do it because I am right handed and rest my phones on my pinkie. To reproduce the issue all I have to do is hold the iPhone 4 in my left hand and make sure the meaty part of my palm covers the bottom left of the phone. Within 10 seconds or so the signal strength drops from 5 bars to 1 bar. I can tell that the data speeds drop to nothing or very slow.

I cannot reproduce this effect all the time though. For example, sometimes when I’m outside and grip the iPhone 4 in the “death grip”” and the bars stay at 5. They refuse to drop. This leads me to believe that this only happens under certain conditions, but what those conditions are I don’t know. For me personally this “”death grip”” isn’t an issue because as I said I hold the phone in my right hand, and don’t typically cover the bottom left. When I’m driving I use my car’s built-in Bluetooth in-dash speakerphone, and otherwise use speakerphone while it’s resting on the table. Even holding it to talk doesn’t affect me because of my right handed usage.

I think that Apple needs to address this though. It’s becoming a bit of a PR nightmare for them. I’m quite sure that Apple’s engineers carefully considered their decision to move the antennas to the outside of the phone and all the issues that come along with that, so in my mind this is some kind of manufacturing mistake, or a radio software bug.

Out of interest, I am able to reproduce the same issue by holding my old iPhone 3GS, but on the bottom right instead. It has been upgrade to iOS4 and I never tried this before so I cannot conclusively say whether it only started happening once I upgraded.

Cost

Living in South Africa you need to be conscious of the cost of your phone and the monthly data plan. Sadly, prices and features are lagging the rest of the world. Lets start with iTunes.

For almost 10 years now, most people around the world have been using iTunes to purchase music online for 99 cents a song, or $9.99 for an album. They can purchase TV shows and movies in HD for a very low price. All of this content can be downloaded to your computer, iPod, iPhone, or iPad. With the iPhone, you can purchase applications using iTunes.

The local record companies have refused to allow iTunes to operate in South Africa, which means that there is no cheap legal music, TV show, or movie purchases. It also means that if you buy an iPhone, you will be stuck with the free iPhone applications since you won’t be able to buy any. There are hundreds of great free applications for the iPhone like Facebook, Twitter to name a couple, but there are thousands more applications that costs a small fee starting at 99 cents per application.

The cost of the iPhone 4 itself is a little high in South Africa. In the US for example, you can pick up an iPhone 4 16GB for $199 (that’s R1500) or the iPhone 4 32GB for $299 (R2300). This is with a 2 year (24 month) contract.

Even if you buy the iPhone without a contract, its full price is $599 (R4600) and $699 (R5400) respectively.

In South Africa a 16GB iPhone 3GS costs R13 999 and a 32GB iPhone 3GS costs R15 999. We can assume that the iPhone 4 will costs the same. If you convert these Rand costs back to US$, Americans would be much less likely to buy an iPhone at $1800 or $2100 respectively.

The cost of your monthly data plan can also affect your decision. In the US on AT&T, a typical iPhone 4 plan with 450 minutes and 200MB of data is $36 per month. That converts to R279 per month. AT&T data plans go from 200 MB, to 2GB, to unlimited.

In South Africa a similar iPhone plan that includes 400 minutes and 250MB of data costs R925 per month. Again converted to US$, that’s $119 per month. Pretty costly.

Still, if you want the best Smartphone on the planet, you may have to bite the bullet.

Conclusion

I try and use as many Smartphones as I can get my hands on. I write many of the books in QUE’s ‚ÄúMy‚ series and so I get to use each Smartphone intimately. Before 2007, cell phones in general were really boring. Smartphones were annoying to use because they required a stylus.

In 2007 Apple changed the playing field with the first iPhone. All everyone has been doing since then is playing catch up. In 2010, they haven’t caught up just yet. The iPhone 4 has really stepped up the game again with an outstanding camera, HD video recording, retina display, multitasking that doesn’t kill your battery, and built-in video chat.

If you are in the market for a new Smartphone, and don’t mind paying those South African premiums for Smartphones, I recommend picking up an iPhone 4.

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You will need to go back to Vodacom and ask them to perform a SIM swap. Basically this is where they transfer you current cellular number to a new micro-SIM. However, be aware that once you have done this you will not be able to use your new micro-SIM card in any other phone besides the iPhone 4.

An alternative is to get a dual-SIM. Vodacom will provide you a second micro-SIM for your iPhone 4. This may be a better route as you will still have your original should you decide to move over to any other handset. The downfall with this option is that you can only have one SIM card active on the network at a time. I.E, you can’t have both your micro-SIM card and your normal card in two phones switched onto the network simultaneously.

Vodacom will bill you for both the above mentioned options.

Hope this helps.

Regards

Sean

I am looking at buying a Iphone 4G’s but have been reading alot of complains about the Death Grip and most of all the “”Face censor”” that puts people on hold or mute or so on..

Can you elaburate on this or change my mind to rather buy a 4Gs?

Thanks

JJ

I am going on holiday to the US in September and was thinking to buy a iPhone. I read your articles and comments and just want to confirm, can you use your iPhone you by in US in South Africa? Any advise will be great.

An iPhone purchased in the US is SIM locked to AT&T and will not accept SIM cards from other carriers.

So if you plan on purchasing one in the US and try putting in any local South African carrier SIMs it will not work.

Thanks.

Craig.

Does anyone have any idea or educated guess/ inside info on when we might see the phone here in SA?

As the days go buy I’m more & more tempted to import!!

I can call all over the world’s any phone without any cost and usage of AT&T volume,3G and time.

Connect Wi Fi then just dial your contact.

Regards

Craig

Thanks for your comment.

I cannot say that I have ever had this kind of short battery life with any iPhone, including the very first one. This is not typical at all for an iPhone or any other cell phone. Only 32% battery with Wi-Fi only? That sounds like you either have a defective phone, or you are keeping the screen on way too long or something.

Trust me, if the iPhone had such terrible battery life, people wouldn’t be buying them like hot cakes. Now, when you use ActiveSync for push email, then your battery does take a knock, but it still lasts me at least 1 day.

Regards

Craig

We are able to purchase the paid apps from the SA iTunes store, and if you are prepared to pay a small premium you can get US iTunes vouchers and buy movies, music and apps off the US Store.

Also the pricing on the 3GS seems to be a little inflated. I seem to remember the 16Gig 3GS being closer to R10k .

Otherwise a great article. Can’t wait to get my hands on one!

Thanks for the comment.

As far as I know, iTunes does not allow purchases in South Africa. As you pointed out though, if you install iTunes as if you lived in the US, and know someone who lives in the US who can buy you vouchers, then yes you can work around the system. That kind of thing is always possible, but if you aren’t lucky enough to know an American who would be willing to buy these vouchers for you, you’d be stuck.

Regards

Craig

They are closer to R8 000 and R9 500 respectively.

Also, the US price is for a network locked phone, in South Africa they are unlocked, that is worth a few thousand Rands in my opinion. Likewise, for 599 Pounds you can buy an unlocked iPhone 4 in the UK, might be more expensive, but it is better than being tied to AT&T.

Thanks for your comment.

I used cacell.co.za which was selling iPhone 4’s at the prices I mentioned. You are correct that the iPhone 3GS is cheaper, and maybe my text was not clear enough on that point. Still, the iPhone 4 is selling for the prices I mentioned as per cacell.co.za

As for unlocked versus locked, in the US, there are 2 GSM carriers, T-Mobile and AT&T. T-Mobile’s 3G spectrum is on a different frequency to AT&T’s and the rest of the world, so even if the iPhones were unlocked, you couldn’t get the full 3G experience if you switched to T-Mobile. The other 2 carriers are CDMA, again not compatible. So the iPhone being locked is really not an issue for Americans.

The other deterrent is early termination fees. Again, even if the iPhone’s were unlocked, I’d have to pay about $175 to terminate my 24 month contract early.

If your motivation is to buy a US iPhone because its so cheap and use it in South Africa, then yes this counts against you. At the end of the day, South African iPhone prices are much higher than they should be.

I can get a BlackBerry unlocked in the US for about $15 so to me that is the value of an unlocked iPhone 4, about an additional $15-$20. I don’t think that thousands of Rands extra just because its unlocked is a fair “”premium”” at all.

Regards Craig””,””body-href””:””””}]”

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