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iPhone 4 - The Bottom Line

By Edward Chester

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

iPhone 4 - iOS 4 Interface

In case you were wondering where all the talk of this phones software features has gone, we already covered all the new features of the latest Apple mobile OS, iOS4, so we refer you to that for the full low down. The big headlines, though, are support for multi-tasking, the introduction of iBooks, the ability to group apps into folders, and a unified mailbox.

Running backwards, the unified email allows you to view all your emails from multiple accounts in a single mailbox. Meanwhile, grouping apps into folders enables you to cut down the number of pages of apps you have to keep things neat and organised. The big two, then, particularly with reference to the new hardware of the iPhone 4 are iBooks and Muilti-tasking.

iBooks

With its superb new screen, the iPhone 4 really shows the electronic books of iBooks off at their best. Certainly our caveats about the size and glossiness of the screen still stand but otherwise, reading books on the iPhone 4 is a very nice experience. Not that we feel it will replace a proper printed novel or e-ink ebook reader for reading comfort, especially when on the beach or anywhere outside, but for a twenty minute read on the daily commute it's a very real option, and with out-of-copyright books being free, there's plenty to get you started without spending a penny.

iPhone 4 multitasking

As for multi-tasking, we've again already covered the fact that it isn't true multi-tasking – as you can't have two windows open at once – but for a phone environment it's perfectly adequate, and the speed and massive 512MB of RAM of the iPhone 4 means you can run a huge number of apps before performance is affected and you need to close a few. Having to double tap the Home button then swipe along the row of icons along the bottom isn't perhaps the best way to manage your open apps, and we do wonder whether Apple needs to have a fairly major rethink of its UI in the near future because of this, but for the time being the overall ease of use of the operating system still puts it well ahead of most of the competition (watch out for our upcoming video review for more of an idea of the interface if you're unfamiliar).

iPhone 4 - Price and Value

So, as with all these things, we eventually come down to price and here's where much of the gloss of the iPhone 4 starts to come off. Laudable, it is, that for the first time the iPhone is available direct from Apple completely unlocked, so you can put whatever (micro) SIM you like in it and away you go. However, with the 16GB version costing £499 and the 32GB one, an almighty £599, you have really want one to justify the cost. To put these numbers into perspective, the HTC Desire (which incidentally has shot up in price since it was released) is around £380 SIM free. It doesn't have much internal storage but you can add a 16GB microSD card for £20 or a 32GB one for £100.

iPhone 4 front angle

The real kicker, though, is contract prices are still pretty darned high. About the cheapest going (though all the networks are much of a muchness) is O2, but even it can only offer the 16GB model for £179 on an 18 month £30pm contract while it asks £279 for the 32GB model. Move up to £45 a month and prices start getting sensible at £59 and £149 but you're paying £45 for 18 months! The only consolation here is that subsidies for competing handsets seem to have dropped significantly, so the gap is greatly reduced. For instance you can get an HTC Desire for £60 on an 18 month £30pm contract on T-Mobile. Still cheaper, but not such a crazy margin as SIM free.

Verdict

Ultimately, though, while our reflections on price - and this review in general - may have a slightly dour tone this is largely because the iPhone 4 looked to be something truly amazing and has only proven to be a solid improvement. But, be under no illusion, the iPhone 4 is still far and away the best smartphone on the market. It's build quality puts others to shame, it has a style all of its own, its operating system is still the easiest and slickest to use, its app store is unsurpassed, and it has some class leading features.

The only real sticking point is price. So if you can take the extra £200 or so that it'll cost to get an iPhone 4 over any other smartphone then you'll almost certainly be happy. If, however, you're really scraping your pennies together for an upgrade (especially if you're already an iPhone 3GS or other top-end smartphone user) then we think you'd be better off sitting tight for a while, especially as the new version of Android has just arrived.

Looking to upgrade from the iPhone 4? Check out our iPhone 4S review and iPhone 5 preview.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Greg17b

June 25, 2010, 2:53 am

The other benefit is that whilst they're still out of stock, if you have one like me you can sell it for £400 profit and move on...

Sleeper

June 25, 2010, 2:55 am

Great review. After some initial grumbles I always look to TR for the definitive verdict. Also, I realise that £499 is a lot for a 16GB phone but I'm pretty sure that I'll get a good bit of that back if I sell it on when - and that's the great part now rather than 2008, it is a when, not an if - a better handset comes out.





Think I'm sold on this. Time to join the herd.

Lord Comben III

June 25, 2010, 2:56 am

Nice review, balanced on the good points but remembering the bad :)


Seems like a good enough phone but I'm happy with my Desire for the next 16 months.

rav

June 25, 2010, 3:00 am

A good, fair review Ed!





I don't think it's the best phone around but it's no doubt a very good phone.





I do think that iOS4 is the big deal here and the fact that it works great on the 3GS kind of lessens the impact of the 4 for me. Apple have maybe kicked themselves in the foot by giving the 3GS all the (important) features although good for them for not just thinking about their bottom line (for once!).





iOS has hit a point where it now has most of the features that a smartphone should have and implements them very nicely. There's only minor nitpicks missing which are by no means deal breakers.





I'm looking forward to getting the new iPod touch when they release it. Probably around September.

GoldenGuy

June 25, 2010, 7:13 am

@ravmania





I second the great anticipation for the Touch. Since we're doing minor nitpicks : for all the fuss they made about multitasking, you'd think they'd have bothered to turn the icons the right way round for landscape view. It'd be really annoying shuffling through eight or so apps, and having to tilt your head round to read the less intuitive icons.

Kaiser202

June 25, 2010, 8:45 am

Ok I actually want someone to explain something to me!





I have an iPhone 3g. Its an alright phone, mostly I keep it for the games and the ease of texting with a keypad but I don't love it as much as a lot of people.





This new iPhone looks pretty enough, and I know everyone liked a higher resolution display and better camera and whatever. But my issues are thus. 1) A small issue really, but why do you give it 7/10 for value when for that price I could buy myself and my little sister each a CAR! Granted it wouldn't be a Mercedes but I could get a nice oldish but workable machine to learn how to drive on (she just turned 17). The point is £600 is a TON of money, a lot more than everyone in the UK except the wealthy or stupid can afford.





Secondly, why is it that when high tech Earphones, TVs and Cameras come in the TR shop, they get shooed away because if you listen close, adjust the brightness or zoom in 600x magnification you can see a little bit of noise if you're looking for it, but the iPhone camera gets an A-OK from the team when anyone with a brain can see that its CRAP! I had a better camera on my cheap ass K800i when I got my contract on O2 in 2007! This is a joke and I throw shame on all of you so called reviewers for putting aside your normal and healthy doubt and scepticism whenever you see something shiny shiny that Apple has made.





This is the problem with the world of technology as I see it. Apple, in a genius scheme, has branded itself remarkably well, so now that you're hooked they feel that they can sell you 5 year old tech for more than the current higher tech competition. Buy any laptop over an iPad and it will do everything the iPad can do and more for half the price, but it isn't shiny shiny apple and you cant "flick" the menus. The fact that you think a £600 phone is 7/10 for value (by the way at degree level 70% is a first, the highest honour you can get!) just shocks me to my very core.





I don't think I can trust TrustedReviews anymore, even though you steered me right in getting my nice 24" BenQ monitor, and my Logitech Wave keyboard and my G500 mouse and my Creative T80 speakers...


Because... Apple just owns your soul, and they barely even hinted that they wanted it...

Ironduke

June 25, 2010, 11:56 am

The Lord of all Phones!





who now can beat this?

McPlopp

June 25, 2010, 12:34 pm

Picked one up yesterday. It's simply the best phone I've ever owned. It would take something monumental to move me away from iPhone to another platform, such as Android. As has always been the case, the real trump card of the iPhone isn't in the techie details, it's the beautifully simple and elegant interface that is so easy to use.

Greg Shewan

June 25, 2010, 12:55 pm

@Kaiser202 - I have to say I agree about the price, especially here in South Africa where the 3GS was retailing at almost £800 at release (sim free of course), which is just plain insanity. I can't imagine what the 4 will demand.





I also have to agree/and disagree with you on the review. I think that it was a review that did highlight some of the flaws of the handset, most notably the antenna reception issue, but did also show that it was an updated device and not the revolution most fans expected. So once again the iPhone plays catchup and re-markets some older features seen in 3G phones for nigh on 5 years (FaceTime anyone *cough*).





On another note I wish you guys (TR) would be a little more thorough with your other reviews of handsets, a quick view of the X10 and Desire reviews shows that they only have 4 dedicated pages and yet the iPhone gets the usual 1 million (excuse the hyperbole). I know you have to market yourself and give the people what they want, but remain unbiased... please.





I follow your website because it is the best review site, but I slowly am starting to see


Kaiser202's point. Apple this, Jobs that... I think I'm growing a little weary (as I'm sure others are too).

Cub

June 25, 2010, 1:22 pm

Wow, I'm the first to point out a spelling mistake!





"over site" - Page 2, I think it was... ;-)





I would request a couple of test shots from the camera, maybe even a video too, but with mine being delivered any moment now I'll be finding out for myself soon!

Kaurisol

June 25, 2010, 1:23 pm

Probably a good phone for people that want a good UI with easily downloaded apps, don't mind being tied into itunes and don't want/need true multi-tasking or the ability to customise the phone etc.





I've suggested it to my wife and daughter, but I've also suggested an HTC Desire (or other Android phone) or blackberry / nokia and tell them to form their own opinion rather than just buying it because of the hype.

Stelph

June 25, 2010, 1:30 pm

@Kaiser202 - My thoughts on your comments:





Price - You are right, the pricing that Apple have come out with does seem to be very high, as I mentioned on another thread it occoured to me yesterday that it seems crazy that Apple have essentially priced the iPhone and the iPad the same (16gb iPhone £499 - 16GB iPad £429 or £529 for 3g) when the iPad has a much larger screen. Also the Ipod touch 32gb is £239 so it shows you how much of a mark-up Apple are making on the phone! Really it should be between £300 - £350 IMO





Camera - Cant say myself as I havent compared the two but TBH cameras in phones are and always will be a bit dodgy, good for point and shoot as opposed to getting excellent shots. Sont had the advantage of working with a proper camera manufacturer I believe to sort out their lenses, but Apple probably didnt want to go that far! The 3GS still had a good camera in comparison to most smartphones IMO





Essentially you are correct, Apple realy have mastered how to make things easy to use and pretty, and they really did see that to appeal to the "casual tech" market they had to focus on user interface as opposed to all out power and adjustability and its worked really really well, A lot of my friends have had ipod touches and now they are looking at getting a new phone/smartphone, dont want to switch to android or alternatives, and would rather stick with what they know. Steve was very clever with the touch in that respect.








Personally I think the scores are mostly fair, the design is beautiful (assuming they havent seen the yellow screen and reduced signals that others have seen holding their phones) and the new features and processer make it a worth upgrade for the apple faithful. Its just hard to look at the prices of the iPad/iPod touch and the iPhone and accept that its worth spending THAT MUCH more just so you can use it as a phone!





I think ill stick with my Nokia mobile running Joikuspot and my iPod Touch for now, please bring out an iPod touch with a camera (with video) and an A4 processor in september Apple!

Matt

June 25, 2010, 2:15 pm

@Kaiser





Don't hate Apple, hate everyone else for not being able to make products that are as well thought out. I'm certainly not in the market for a £600 phone, but I disagree that Apple are trying to flog 5 year old technology. In fact, pretty much everything - screen, processor, wireless connectivity, construction materials etc. are state of the art. The camera may be crap compared to a proper camera, but compared to other mobiles it seems fine.





The gripe against Apple is always along the lines of "I want Apple quality, fit and finish, attention to detail and thoughtfulness, but WHY CAN'T IT BE £200 CHEAPER?". Because you get what you pay for. The alternatives are cheaper, but they're not as good. That's why people talk about Apple so much, and not HTC or whoever. Techies always like to think they're smarter than the other 'idiots' who are 'brainwashed by clever marketing', that for some unknown reason put stuff like aesthetics and ease of use over minor differences in hardware spec.

Brian

June 25, 2010, 2:17 pm

I'm not an apple fan and hate there marketing.





And i must admit the site is coming across as very apple biased. The phone looks ok, like a small screen to me, And the camera is still way below standards, but the its phone not a camera.





But the point about price and a 7/10 is a joke. I can build a pretty solid PC box for that much and have way more power on tap, and with the left over cash buy a cheap phone. It is like most apple products rediculously over priced, and designed to tie you into staying with Apple.

AJ

June 25, 2010, 2:25 pm

Price..? Come on guys, if it's too expensive then just leave it alone and go buy something cheaper if you feel that way, but is it really bad value for money. I don't think so.





1) 16Gb = £500. Significant outlay, but only a few years ago you couldn't even dream of phone like this. 10 years ago Motorola sold the first SmartTag tiny phones for well in excess of £1,000. People who read this site are supposed to be tech-lovers. This is pure tech heaven whether you like apple or not.





2) In a year or two you will get £200 back when you sell it, so therefore the cost is only £300. And selling phones now is very, very easy.





3) Because you bought it SIM free and Unlocked you can put it on a one year contract with o2 for £20 instead of paying £40 a month for the same thing with an 18 month normal purchase.





4) Next year you have flexibility to sell and move on to ip5 or any other phone that takes your fancy.





All this sounds very sensible value to me and I would personally have awarded it higher than 7/10.





Is it more expensive than an iPad ? Yes. Can an iPad make phone calls ? No. Can an iPad fit in your pocket ? No. Hard to compare the two devices.

Matt

June 25, 2010, 2:25 pm

@Brian





You can also build a V8 engine to leave in your garage, and have money left over to buy a bicycle. That's not the same as having a V8 motorcycle.

Keithe6e

June 25, 2010, 2:39 pm

@Kaiser202, @Brian: I believe the IPhone4 is not for you.





I'd suggest, @Brian go and build yourself a new PC (won't fit in your pocket of make phone calls) but it will make you feel better as your getting so much value for money.





@Kaiser202: Go and buy yourself and little sister a car, again not very good for making phone calls on etc, but it might make you feel like a bargain hunter. Surely you cars are going to get a 10 for value.





But for me, buying a second hand car or building a new PC holds NO value to me, they both would give me a value score of 0. On the other hand the IPhone4 if my current 3G is anything to go by is going to get a much higher score than 7. So I'm a little angry now, come on TR I used to trust your reviews, you've let me down how come you never give it 11.

Lantic

June 25, 2010, 2:42 pm

@ Brian. Sigh, where to start ... where to start? No, far too easy .. *makes a hasty exit*

AJ

June 25, 2010, 2:57 pm

@Keith. Well said.





I too am upgrading from a 3G to an iPhone 4 btw, so I'm hoping that the difference in speed is very noticeable. My only criticism of the present phone is the lag between switching apps and the slow down as it checks mail in the background. If the new one simply made it much faster and didn't add anything new at all I'd still be pretty pleased.





Next year though I really do hope they increase the size of screen a little to fill out the unit better and reduce the boarders.

rav

June 25, 2010, 2:58 pm

@Matt


One of the reasons I don't think that there's much to complain about is that for the first time Apple actually are offering cutting edge tech for the price. Up till now people have been paying well over the odds for old, underspecced tech. People can go on about UI and UX as much as they want but in my opinion the price didn't justify what you were getting. I still think it's too expensive but at least you're not being fobbed off with second rate internals now.





You were definitely not getting what you paid for up till now.

JohnH

June 25, 2010, 3:45 pm

Value for money is a FREE HTC Desire with a £25 18 month contract: 300 mins, 300 texts, unlimited internet. Plus you can sell it at the end as well.





I refuse to pay Apple prices on principle but if this new phone was a flawless product, without the iTunes baggage, I'd have to think hard. It simply isn't though.

KMJB

June 25, 2010, 4:26 pm

I'm really torn. I love(d) my iphone 3g and hate to admit that I do feel a little tied to apple since all my music is already organised in iTunes and I have invested quite a bit of cash on apps that I wouldn't want to lose. Therefore, getting the iphone 4 seems logical. However, as popinted out elsewhere I could get a nexus one or desire for free on a £30 18 month contract. Over the life of the contract that is quite a big difference.





Don't get me wrong, I think the new iphone is ace.

Jones

June 25, 2010, 4:56 pm

@Keith - why would a second hand car or self built PC have no value to you?!





Anyway, its a lovely phone with some nice tech. Is it pricey? Debatable and dependent on personal circumstances - why cant some understand that?!





When I got my "pricey" at the time 3gs I had recently crushed the screen of my iPod and was looking for a new mp3 player - back then the 3GS seemed almost in bargain territory. Now, if I was looking to upgrade Im not so sure. I primarily need more storage space so considering that isnt possible with the iPhone 4 I cannot justify the cost for me to break my contract and upgrade to the new model. Simply put, it's too expensive for, in my circumstances, very little improvements.





If we were talking a 64gb+ model then I'd be tempted... Cutting to the chase - I'd rather wait for the 5th gens arrival.

Nick G

June 25, 2010, 5:14 pm

Has the reviewer actually tried using the phone for more than a few minutes? Don't get me wrong - I have bought one and I like it a lot, but some of the points in the review is ridiculous. You've given it 9/10 when you can't make calls if you hold the phone in left your hand - WTF?! Unless they fix the massive cell reception problem and change the price it can't be any higher than a 7 surely? I can get it to drop an in-progress call just by switching hands, on cue, or put it into "No service" by holding it my left hand while playing a game with my right (a fairly common thing to do with an iPhone!). Yet you haven't even *mentioned* this problem in the review at all despite the fact that it's widely publicised and all other reviews I've read have mentioned it. Not exactly thoroughly tested then and not what I would expect from a site called "Trusted Reviews".

sockatume

June 25, 2010, 5:43 pm

I hate to say it, but the Desire's probably going to be this generation's N95. Everyone will have one in 6 months and the resale value will be terrible. Not that it detracts from the value for money that the Desire currently represents, mind. It's a nice handset.





I was conflicted on the iP4 until Three's deals came out. There's a price threshold at which something so nicely machined becomes eminently desirable.

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