Perhaps more than anything, the key improvement in iOS 4 is its better performance. Previous updates – particularly the last few – had made devices slower and slower. Now, across the board, apps load quicker and the interface just feels more responsive. This is particularly noticeable on the 3G, which thanks to its slower hardware, felt treacle slow on iPhone OS 3.1.4. It's still slow on iOS 4 but it's now not quite so infuriating.
What You Don't Get
So, we've covered what you do get in iOS 4 but of course there are still some major caveats to the iPhone and iPod Touch's capabilities. Foremost is Apple's continued lack of support for Adobe Flash, meaning a large amount of online video, online flash games, and Flash-based websites are not available on any iPhone or iPod Touch. Were the competition not to offer this, we wouldn't bat an eyelid but when other high-end smartphones have had support for this for a while it becomes unforgivable.
Other niceties to be found on other platforms but lacking here include free turn-by-turn sat-nav software on the latest Nokia and Android phones, much neater notification systems (i.e. they don't fill the whole screen with a message and interrupt what you're doing) like on WebOS, support for desktop widgets, and of course the big one which is no need for iTunes. While iTunes does a great job in many ways and is a simple one stop shop for novice users, having to use it is such a bind if you prefer to use other software to manage your music, photos, and videos on your PC.
Is It Enough To Put Off Upgrading to the iPhone 4?
Most of you will long since have made up your minds whether to get the new iPhone but for those still undecided, here's what we think. If you're an iPhone 3G user (or original iPhone user), you should be well out of contract so won't have to pay any extra to break contract. Also there are enough iOS 4 features disabled on your current handset that we'd be tempted to upgrade almost regardless of extra hardware features. Combined with the extra speed of the iPhone 4, and we would be inclined to stump up the cash. You could of course upgrade to the 3GS instead to save money but given the price of the 3GS and its low capacity we'd suggest you stretch to the newest handset.
As for 3GS users, the benefits are much less clear cut. Upgrading your existing phone to iOS 4 brings all the software benefits of the iPhone 4, leaving only the hardware as the deciding factor. And while the iPhone 4's glass and metal build, higher resolution screen, gyroscope, and higher resolution camera with flash certainly make for attractive features, we don't think there's enough there to warrant forking out so much money, especially if you need to buy yourself out of your current contract. Then again, maybe we'll change our tune when we actually handle the new phone. Regardless, for the final low down be sure to check out our full review coming very, very soon.