1st Apr 2011 | 11:28
HD video recording, gorgeous display - but can it justify the price?
Apple iPhone 4: Overview, design and feel
Update: read our full iPhone 4s review.
Apple's launch of the iPhone 4 has seen the greatest excitement for a new phone ever - and with HD video recording, a super high-res screen and ridiculously slim dimensions, it's not hard to see why.
But things are a little different now - not only was the iPhone 3GS something of a non-update to the iPhone range, but there are finally decent alternatives in the smartphone market, with the HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy S leading the Android fight right to Apple's door.
You can check out our iPhone 4 video review:
Add to that the first major leak of an Apple product a couple of months before launch, and suddenly the iPhone 4 has a lot to do to impress.
At least Apple has unleashed the big guns for this effort - before we get into the headline specs, the design itself is a massive talking point on its own.
Jobs' chats on stage to unveil a new iPhone might have got a little repetitive (best this, magical that etc) but this is the first time since the first iPhone way back in January 2007 that we've seen a variation on the standard iPhone design.
Gone is the traditional curved back and plastic exterior with slightly chunky dimensions; in is a chassis that's only 9.3mm thin at its thickest point and a new stainless steel and glass industrial design.
If you're an iPhone fan, there's a good chance you won't like the look of the iPhone the first time you pick it up - it's the same weight as the iPhone 3GS at 137g, but it's a lot smaller, with dimensions of 115.2mm x58.6 mm x 9.3mm, so it feels like a much weightier and compact model.
The edges are stainless steel, apparently forged by winged unicorns in an iceberg (or something) to be 10 times stronger than 'normal' steel.
The front and back of the phone are made of glass, which has also been treated to be a lot stronger than the normal variety we're used to seeing through and drinking out of.
This claim holds up - not only did we feel the need to drop the phone onto the floor a few times to test, someone nameless of the TechRadar team also knocked it out (an admittedly low level) window onto concrete - and not a scratch.
If you're the protective type, then you can buy an official 'Bumper' for the iPhone 4, which encases it in a small ring of rubber, if you haven't bought the handset only for its slim lines.
The chassis shape isn't the only different thing with the iPhone 4 - the whole ethos has been tweaked. For instance, no longer is there a slightly plasticky rocker switch to control volume on the left-hand side, as it's now two discrete metal buttons with '+' and '-' written on.
The volume silencer rocker switch is above too, but that has also undergone the uber-metallic treatment.
The top of the phone still holds the headphone jack, and the power/lock key. However, the 3.5mm port is now flush to the chassis, and the power button feels much nicer to hit than before.
There's also a separate microphone for noise cancelling next to this as well - we imagine a few people will be pushing paperclips in there before they realise that it's not for the SIM card slot.
The right-hand side of the chassis is still blank - no camera button sadly, which would have been nice given the extra effort Apple has clearly put into overhauling the photography system.
Still, sleek is clearly still 'in' at the Cupertino HQ, and we can't say we blame the designers when you look at the lines.
Actually, that's not true - the micro-SIM slot is hidden away here, rather than on the top. It's the same pokey key thing/slot system as before, but this time the SIM card is much smaller - Apple says to make more room for stuff inside, we say it's just to shake things up a little bit. Either way, we bet micro-SIMs become the norm before very long in all phones.
The bottom of the phone has the familiar Apple connector for charging and connecting and docking etc, and is flanked by another more microphone-y looking microphone slot and the speaker.
The front still has that one iconic button, which is much nicer to press in the new chassis, it has to be said.
Overall, the design might not impress some people the first time they pick up the phone - a number of people we showed the phone to grimaced a little bit the first time they handled it.
It's a sharp and weighty-feeling phone, make no mistake - and it doesn't sit as comfortably in the hand as well as other iPhones of the past have.
But it feels premium, and at up to £600, it had better - that's a lot to pay when you consider you could get a 42-inch 1080p LCD for £200 less these days.
In the box
At least Apple has remained consistent when it comes to the packaging - apart from a new graphic on the front to make the new iPhone 4 look more mysterious, there's not a lot different to the older iPhones.
So that means: a simple Apple USB cable, a three-pin plug adaptor and some headphones. The latter is the same old set from the year before: hands free and a function button on the cord, but slightly poor quality compared to a range of other buds on the market.
Oh, you also get that little tool for removing the micro-SIM card as well - but Apple should just save itself some money and stick a paperclip in there, as 99.99% of people will lose that little thing, panic, then improvise anyway. Well, we have. Twice.
Apple iPhone 4: Retina Display
Another big feature of the Apple iPhone 4 is the new high resolution display - Steve Jobs has decided the best name for this is a 'Retina Display' by dearth of the fact it's meant to be so high-res that it's actually more than the eye can cope with. Read more about what we think of that.
But the main point is the screen is so packed with pixels - we're talking 326 pixels per inch, and a 960x640 display, making it ridiculously high resolution for a phone with a 3.5-inch display.
This beats the Nexus One, iPad and pretty much every other phone on the market at the moment - it's immense and we can't really do it justice by describing it; essentially you have to see it to believe it.
The idea is that the days of pixellated images are over - now it's all smooth and sleek lines for everything.
This claim is certainly shown when looking at a web page on maximum zoom; sure, the old iPhone 3GS' effort looked a little ragged, but we accepted it because of the high zoom level and the fact that, well, we didn't care.
But when you see things like that on the Retina Display, things just change completely. It's crisp and pure the whole way in, and while we're not saying that it's the most necessary thing out there, it's really cool and adds an element of wow-factor.
It's not just the smoothness that impresses either; it's the contrast ratios and overall image processing that comes to the fore when you see the iPhone 4's Retina Display for the first time.
Video looks simply sublime on the 3.5-inch screen, and while it's not an OLED (rather a TFT LCD with IPS backplane switching - here's a dull link to an explainer if you're into that kind of thing... and we sadly are) it still looks every bit as good as the display on the HTC Desire.
We might argue that the 800:1 contrast ratio, while stunning, isn't better than an OLED version, which has the advantage of no backlight so the blacks will always be that little bit purer.
We also think that perhaps the colour reproduction isn't as saturated - but given that some people claim that OLED screens are a little too colour heavy, this may not be a bad thing.
Overall - Retina Display is a great thing, although not necessarily better than WVGA OLED screens we see in a lot of high end phones these days; but we can only hope that it's a trend that's followed by more manufacturers in the future.
Apple iPhone 4: Interface part 1
When Steve Jobs releases a new phone, it always comes with an updated firmware too - and the iPhone 4 is no different. The new iPhone OS has been dubbed iOS 4 now, seeing as it's being used on the iPad too, and it's bringing a lot of upgrades that people have been hankering for for years.
But we'll quickly run through the high points of the iPhone for the uninitiated: the same iPhone home screen is offered, where it's a simple grid of icons to select applications.
If you want to re-order these, simply long press on any one, and they all start to wobble around, allowing you to flick them in whichever order you like or if you want you can delete them by pressing the X.
You can't delete the pre-loaded applications though: for instance, nobody cares about Stocks, but you have to have it there. We'd love to know if anyone has ever created a decent portfolio based on the fact they had to stare at the Stocks icon all the time and finally cracked.
Most applications, like Settings and Contacts, take you to a menu-based system, with list options to tap and drill down to further things you can interact with. All very simple really.
But this is one of the key places the iPhone has always excelled - little animated transitions make things look so cool when they flick around under the finger, and it really makes people that try the phone for the first time think it's awesome.
iPhones of old have often struggled to keep up with these animations - talk of 400MHz processors should tell you why. But this is an ARM Cortex-A8 Apple A4 1GHz processor running things here: we're sure Apple is underclocking this to save on battery life, but it doesn't matter - each change is seamless and that's what we want.
And of course, Apple's simple way of navigation is still present - simply tap the home button at any point and you're back to the familiar home screen. Simples, as a certain member of the mongoose family may or may not say.
The main change with the iPhone 4 is the fact multi-tasking is now on offer, something that has put Apple behind the smartphone competition for many years.
Want to listen to Spotify and browse on Safari? Nope, not possible previously - but now it is, and that's what we call a Good Thing.
Of course, Apple being the gleaming machine it is, we couldn't have simple multi-tasking like on other platforms - Jobs has apparently 'solved' things with this cunning new method.
We mean cunning in an ironic, Tony Robinson-way, because essentially all that has happened is Apple has decided to control this element as well: only certain applications which have been verified to not eat all your battery and then kill your pets (well, the first one) will be allowed to run in the background, rather than all and any third party applications.
This is slightly annoying when you have things like social networking options that you want to be able to leave and come back to, and see all the updates without waiting.
But overall: Apple's way of multitasking is the right way - you simply double tap the home button, and a little row of icons at the bottom of the screen pops up, with the most recent application opened on the left.
You can scroll along to choose the running application you want and go right back in where you were before. This means an open email you're writing, a web page, video, or something like a third party internet radio.
Scrolling to the left of the icon dock again will offer two more options - music control with basic commands, and the chance to lock the orientation - handy if you need to keep twisting the phone when watching video for some reason.
Switching between the applications spins the chosen application into view in a very pleasing fashion, indicative of the way Apple does things with the iPhone.
Apple iPhone 4: Interface part 2
Legacy iPhone users will be used to the plain old black background – so now being allowed to customise however they see fit is going to be a real treat.
There's no reason Apple hasn't allowed this so far, and it feels a little childish that this has only popped up (unless you were one of the unruly kids and jailbroke your iPhone – perfectly acceptable then).
However, being able to have it as both the lock screen image and the background is a nice touch, or to have two separate images if that's your bag.
The only other new and interesting feature to the interface is the addition of folders – if you're fed up of being forced to see row after row of icons you're going to find life just got a lot simpler.
Simply long press an icon, and rather than moving that little picture to a new place, dump it on top of another one, automatically creating a folder with the two applications in there.
You can even name it whatever you want – Apple is really letting you go nuts here.
Of course, there are older elements from previous iPhones on offer as well swiping left to access Spotlight search for instance.
This offers the chance to simply type in a search term, and Spotlight will search out messages, applications, contacts or media files containing that name.
If it can't find them then it will offer the chance to hit up the likes of Google or Wikipedia to get more information – but you can probably work out how to do that yourself.
It's not the most intuitive search – other platforms will let you perform functions like sending a message reply from the search results, but it's still jolly handy for things like finding a certain song.
Voice control is also on offer too – hold down the home button and a little blue screen pops up.
The idea is saying things like 'Play Album Immersion' or 'Dial Marc's Mum' will do such a thing – in reality, it was useless.
We swear it's worse at working out what we're trying to say than the iPhone 3GS – so many times it decided to dial a random number instead of playing a song.
But the schizophrenic robot voice control aside, iPhone 4 interface is simply immense – from the super-smooth and responsive swiping to the instant opening of applications and animations, the reasons so many people like the iPhone is evident under the touch.
It doesn't have the instant zip of the Desire or Samsung Galaxy S, but that's more to do with the animated transitions than any kind of judder.
We're still gutted that elements like widgets aren't present – you don't hang a picture of a fridge in your kitchen to keep your milk cold, so why should you have to open an icon to access information from an application?
Apple iPhone 4: Calling, FaceTime and contacts
The Apple iPhone 4 is still meant to be a phone first and foremost, no matter how many applications you put on there or how much the internet experience is optimised.
Previous iPhone incarnations have struggled somewhat to offer the best telephony experience, so has Apple failed to deliver a decent calling experience again?
The answer is no and sort of... no in the fact that the call quality and stability has been jolly improved, but only sort of because the iPhone 4 has some very worrying coverage issues we'll come onto.
We mentioned the noise cancelling microphones earlier, and these really do work nicely. We wandered all through London and we were able to hear our friends in all kinds of places easily, so the earpiece is nice and clear.
The friends we were chatting too also reported a very clear and non-call-dropping experience as well - we purposely didn't tell them we were using the iPhone 4, and those that had prior iPhone use were genuinely surprised.
The speaker is also nice and clear too - the distortion we've heard on other phones wasn't present even at the loudest points - in short, perfectly usable as a conferencing device.
However, there's a major issue brewing here: the iPhone 4 loses signal if you hold it in your left hand.
Yes, we know, it sounds odd, but bear with us, there's a reason for this. Apple has been fairly ingenious in the design of the iPhone 4, and in getting it so thin, it placed the antenna, Bluetooth, GPS and other radio receivers on the stainless steel band running around the edge.
But it appears contact with the palm on the bottom left corner, the most natural place to hold the phone for many, results in bars falling quickly - see the video we shot as proof.
We were initially unconcerned, as we've seen the issue before on the iPhone 3GS, and calls didn't drop out no matter where we held the phone or how few bars we had.
But when running a speed diagnostics test using SpeedTest.net, things were very different: the average speed at 3G is around 500Kbps. With the iPhone 4 in the left hand this dropped to just under 10Kbps on the EDGE network.
If you use the Bumper, the shorting doesn't happen and there's no signal loss - on the contrary, things are very good on the signal and data front.
Apple has responded by simply telling users not to hold the phone this way – so it seems there's no fix on the horizon.
However, we'll be honest: while you shouldn't have to put up with such a major flaw in a mobile phone, it's not as much of a big deal as you'd think, and we couldn't make it drop calls even when the palm was heavily pressed on
It is very wrong that you can only either browse the internet using your right hand or holding the phone a little differently.
It's not a deal breaker if you're thinking of getting the iPhone 4 – but it is very annoying and does border on the ridiculous for a company that prides itself on such intense quality control.
Onto brighter things now, and Apple's odd choice to bring back video call with the new iPhone 4.
Basically, it's the same principle us Brits have been messing around with for nearly a decade - see your friends in real time while you walk around, and they can see you in turn.
There are many reasons why video calling has never taken off here, and one of them is the complexity of setting it up - at least Apple has removed that hurdle here.
You can choose to video call someone from their profile in your phone, or even switch the call to FaceTime halfway through to start up a video call instead.
A simple button press flicks between the front-facing VGA camera and the rear 5MP effort, and you also get the option to move the little pane showing your own face around the screen - although you can't put it right in the centre for comedy effect.
While it's true that the audio and video quality is much improved using the iPhone 4's FaceTime application, we still can't see why this will herald the second coming of video calling.
Sure, the likes of Skype have made video chat more popular, but sitting at your PC or in your living room and looking at a larger screen just seems more natural than talking to your phone.
Plus you can currently only use FaceTime over Wi-Fi, which surely needs to change very soon, as there's no way of telling if someone is going to be available or not when you want to chat, unless you're already on a call with them.
In our tests, we were overall nonplussed by the experience. The video quality didn't seem that different from front to rear camera, and the pictures were a little grainy, which we didn't expect over Wi-Fi.
One plus point – if you have two iPhone 4s, then you can FaceTime call yourself. If you've ever wondered what the back of your hair looked like properly, this is the way to find out.
The contacts system on the iPhone is a pretty standard affair - you've got all your friends listed in the way you'd imagine they would be, and a little column of letters on left allows you to quickly find a certain alphabetical group of buddies.
You can also easily search for your friends using the Spotlight application too, if you're a little lazy, and the whole experience works nicely.
Contact information is pretty sparse, but all the fields you need are there - IM handle is the most advanced offering you get when adding in new info.
We much prefer the simple awesomeness of the HTC Sense UI on the likes of the Desire and the Legend - the ability to sync Twitter and Facebook, see your call and messaging history and even browse their photos is an immense feature.
Still at least the iPhone 4 does things simply - apart from the fact it gets a bit too formal at times in the listing process.
If you have a friend on your SIM card or Google contact called Mr Sweatband, for instance, he would have previously been listed under 'M', but the iPhone 4 sees his last name instead and puts him under 'S'. Little thing, but annoying there's nothing you can do about it.
Thankfully you can synchronise contacts from Google or Exchange as well as searching the latter's online server if you can't find the person you're looking for straight away.
This makes the porting process from another smartphone so much easier if you're not a previous iPhone user.
Apple iPhone 4: Messaging
The Apple iPhone 4 follows its predecessors in offering a large amount of messaging options, and that number has been swelled since the introduction of iOS4.
The keyboard – both landscape and portrait – is eerily accurate, and if you've never tried it before you'll be dumbfounded at how quickly you get used to smashing out messages as fast as possible.
The main method of interaction is through email, and Apple now lets you have multiple Exchange accounts on the iPhone as well as Gmail, YMail... in fact all kinds of webmail is supported.
And getting involved with these is as simple as pie – for our Yahoo account, it was simply a matter of username and password and we were away – slightly disconcerting privacy-wise but a dream to set up.
Google Mail can be done in the same way, or you can channel it through the Exchange route if you want to sync the contacts or calendar - Google has a good explainer on how to do it.
Corporate Exchange is a little trickier, as it requires you to know the settings and domain name and mail address – you might be better throwing the phone and a couple of beer tokens at your company's friendly IT guy if you're struggling.
However, the push email works a treat and the iPhone 4's new iOS 4 offers unified inboxes – so you can get all your email in one place without having to jump in and out of separate accounts.
The email interface on the iPhone 4 is a dream too – simply swipe from the right hand side of the message you want to erase and a little delete button appears as if by magic.
You can also easily select multiple messages to erase at once by pressing edit – you can also move the emails to a separate folder using this method too.
Another new feature is emails are now grouped together – you know the situation: you're having a five person conversation and before you know it there are 33 emails in your inbox all entitled 'Is spin class for only women?'.
Now they're all under one roof – simply click in to the subject email and you can see the debate in all its glory.
MMS was nicely set up in the way we've come to expect from Apple, with the option to send a picture or video directly from the item, or by hitting the small camera icon in the MMS message to choose a photo or video.
Strangely, if creating a message using the MMS editor, we could only attach a video or picture, yet MMS supports contact cards as well as sound recordings too.
While both of these functions allow you to create an MMS from the actual item, if you want to combine audio and a contact card you won't be able to in the current MMS editor.
Text messaging is laid out in Apple's favourite 'conversation' balloons, with easy interactivity with your chats and message lists.
The other option to contact your friends with is that old staple: instant messaging. The advent of the newer versions of the Apple OS mean push notifications and background running make much more sense on this new iteration, and the likes of Windows Live Messenger now finally appearing on the scene mean IM is a very easy way of chatting to your friends.
If we had one gripe, it's that Apple hasn't taken a leaf out of RIM's book and allowed the inbox API to be opened up. Imagine being able to see not only emails, but text messages, Facebook messages, Twitter mentions... all in one easy to reach place.
Come on Apple; let's see that in the next update, shall we?
Apple iPhone 4: Internet
Another thing Apple has always excelled at is the internet experience on its phone – it used to be the leader in this area without a shadow of a doubt.
Then Android got its WebKit-browser together and with it came a real rival to the throne of best mobile phone browser – and we're not sure that Apple comes up trumps this time.
The Apple A4 processor under the hood certainly has sped things up though – the internet browsing experience is markedly improved from the iPhone 3GS, with web sites loading a shade quicker and scrolling through them a much more pleasant experience.
We're still 'limited' to eight open pages at once though – any more than that and you're not allowed to start up another window.
We can't see that being a problem though, seeing as nobody can need that much information on their mobile phone at once – plus the impressive thing is there's no slowdown in the operation either.
However, the same gripe is still there: no Flash video. Yes, we know the myriad reasons Jobs has for not putting Adobe Flash on the iPhone or iPad, but it leaves iPhone 4 users in something of a limbo state.
Jobs has stated that he believed HTML5 and other standards will take over from Flash video and be a better experience – which is a fine stance to take.
But in the meantime we're left heading to the official BBC site and being constantly exposed to the 'Flash not detected' messages strewn everywhere, which makes us feel like we've got an ancient device, not something that's supposed to change everything. Again.
On the plus side, embedded YouTube works on most sites, jumping straight into the dedicated iPhone client and playing back with minimal loss in quality.
Other little internet tweaks we like are the ability to turn a bookmarked web page into a home screen icon, offering easy access from the start, and the ability to easily email a link to your friends.
However, when you look at the browser on the HTC Desire, you can see it's probably ahead in the overall functionality stakes.
Firstly, when you zoom into text on the iPhone 4, there's only one size that fits all the text on the screen. It's perfectly visible, but if you want to head in further (using the excellent pinch and zoom) some of the text moves off the screen.
The HTC range will constantly resize text no matter how close you get, which gives you far more options, especially for the short sighted.
The Android browser also allows shipping links to Twitter, Facebook and SMS, as well as deploying the latest version of mobile Flash in version 10.1 – and doing it fairly well.
In fairness, the iPhone probably does copy and paste that little bit better, as the little green pins are very easy to grab and drag with the magnifying glass around to help out.
We never thought we'd say it, but the iPhone is no longer top dog when it comes to web browsing on your phone.
Apple iPhone 4: Camera
Last year the iPhone 3GS brought a 3.2MP camera when the world was readying itself for the first 12MP cameraphones – again, Apple seemed to be lagging behind.
So thankfully the iPhone 4 brings not only a 5MP camera, but also an LED flash and significantly upgraded sensors to improve picture quality.
And what a leap – this is so, so much better in terms of cameraphone quality. Any budding mo-phos out there (mobile photographers, in case you're wondering) will be very impressed with the quality of the camera on the iPhone 4.
For starters, Apple's overhaul of the sensor has done wonders for extending the light range of the snapper – now it can take excellent pictures in both low and strong light, even without the LED flash.
The options to mess around with are minimal – for instance there's no option to play with white balance or colour saturation, like that offered on the HTC Legend.
It's a shame because these little tweaks can really improve picture quality with little input.
But there is one ace up the iPhone 4's sleeve, in touch to focus.
Tapping an area of the screen not only brings it into focus, but also adjusts white balance and brightness very well, making the subject clear in any picture.
The LED flash is good, if not awe inspiring... it has a mid range throw that's perfectly fine for night pictures of your pals.
The digital zoom is silky smooth too, and it's dumbfounding how clear the pictures are at 5x zoom – take a look below to see how well they came out:
CONTRAST: The first image is taken with the focus on the leaves, and the second on the sun
DARKER CONTRAST: The same as above, but this time from a darker scene, which leads to a slightly less pure picture
DIGITAL ZOOM: The iPhone 4's digital zoom is top notch - at 5x closer the detail is preserved incredibly well
AUTO MACRO: There's no macro mode on offer here, but the iPhone manages to intelligently find the right level
TOO BRIGHT: However, if there's too much surrounding light it struggles to focus on the foreground
Apple iPhone 4: HD Video and iMovie
Another trick the iPhone 4 is packing is the ability to record and edit HD video directly from the handset, with the plan clearly to make it into the ultimate media marvel.
Recording 720p video isn't anything new, as the Samsung i8910HD, Vodafone 360 H1, Sony Ericsson Vivaz and Vivaz Pro and the Samsung Wave all have managed to show off that trick in recent times, with the Nokia N8 coming up to do the same.
But Apple isn't about doing things the same way, and once again the interface becomes a differentiator for the video.
While the sparse settings are on offer once again, there's not a lot here you'd need. The video light can be set to 'on', 'auto' or 'off' (that's the level of detail we provide here at TechRadar and even in low light, the frame rate seems to stay pretty constant.
However, under those lighting conditions, you couldn't really say the HD quality comes screaming out at you – looking at the same footage on the computer screen shows that the graininess is out in full force.
In outdoor conditions, things improve somewhat, although there is some distortion in the image quality that you simply wouldn't get with a standalone HD video camera.
But the frame rate is good; the interface simple to use and the constant auto-focus makes things very simple to see when looking through the iPhone's eye.
Adding to the HD video footage recording is the video trimmer we saw with the iPhone 3GS last year, and you start to see how Apple could get a real foothold in the phone/camcorder market.
Sure, it's just dragging and dropping the beginning and the end of the footage, but a home movie looks so much better when you don't have that bit where you've finished and are shaking the camera to find the off button.
While the video trimmer won't really make you into a movie producer overnight, well, neither will iMovie actually, but it will get you just that little bit closer.
Porting the popular Mac application to the iPhone 4, users get the ability to add music, photos and videos together in a 'project', with transitions when you want to move between each.
There are themes on offer as well, making it easy to create videos with text and borders and all sorts – we hope there will be more on offer soon, as the current crop is a little limited, as are the transitions.
It's a little basic, but for £2.99 it's not a bad little application if you love taking footage with your phone. If you don't, then you're probably better spending your £3 on something better. Like really fancy jar of jam – that'll last you ages.
Apple iPhone 4: Media
The iPhone has always been a good vehicle for digesting media - not least because it's the freakish offspring of an iPod and a touchscreen PC.
The iTunes interface is the best way to get media on your phone, and the 3.5-inch screen was always a good option for selecting music and watching a few bits of video here and there.
So you can imagine that if you take that, add in a much stronger processor and improve the screen quality, you're going to get a humdinger of an experience.
The music application actually hasn't changed that much, as it's still one of the most in depth music players on the market.
Cover Flow, where you can see all the album art of the records (yes, we're saying records) you've currently got packed on your iPhone 4, is much faster than before - the phone snaps between portrait and landscape in trice, and flicking through your albums is as fast as you want it to be.
Turn over an album cover, and you'll see all the tracks on offer listed there - it makes so much sense and really adds that cool factor other phones struggle to match.
Once in the song, you get the basic controls, such as repeat, skip, shuffle etc, plus the genius that is... well, Genius.
Simply press the swirly atom icon when you're listening to a tune you like and the iPhone 4 will take look through your library and suggest a number of songs that complement it well.
It's a really innovative feature, and when you're shown songs online that you might like to buy, often you find you do as you're more certain they're the right kind of thing for you.
Sonically, the iPhone 4 is pretty good too - the audio is rich and produces some decent sounds at the mid-to-low range, as well as handling vocals with aplomb - you can see the iPod heritage once again coming through here.
Also you can control the music from the phone's lock screen – simply double tap the home screen when the screen is in sleep mode and you can interact with the songs.
When the iPhone 4 is turned on for the first time, shake to shuffle is activated by default. Turn this off in the Settings menu, as it responds to the slightest quiver of the leg, meaning every time you walk your songs cycle fast than Chris Hoy when he's late for his tea.
As we mentioned a little earlier, video is also excellent on the iPhone 4, as the screen looks great even with lower quality footage - although that's as much to do with the 3.5-inch screen as it is with the pixel density.
The contrast ratio might be good at 800:1, but in all honesty some of the darker things we put on our iPhone 4 struggled to come through properly and we couldn't see some things; although this was rare and we're talking very dark scenes indeed.
The viewing angles are good, the refresh rate of the screen not too bad and the navigation is nice too - simply sliding your finger left and right along the time bar makes it very easy to find the exact spot you're after in the footage.
Other nice touches include the iPhone 4 remembering which videos you're yet to watch, and how far you are through those you're watching - allowing you pick it back up again when you re-open the file. Nice.
We did run into one problem: while the file types supported is pretty impressive, there seems to be a quality level the iPhone 4 can't handle.
We encoded some home DVDs at a very high bit rate, and it refused to copy them across, stating the player couldn't use them. We don't know the limits of bit rate, but it's something to keep in mind.
Of course, you can always get your content from the iTunes library that comes bundled with the phone instead; it's as simple as clicking the application open and browsing for music you'd like, or movies and TV shows you fancy watching.
The prices are sometimes a little higher than DVDs, which is a little confusing considering you can't do a huge amount else with the file after it's on your iPhone - but for ease of use it can't be beaten, even offering little snippets of songs and video trailers to sample.
The other main media portal on the iPhone 4 is the addition of YouTube, which we mentioned in the Internet section of this review.
While it's a little simplistic, the YouTube client will buffer and play files easily, although there's no option to improve the video quality when out and about - it's always a bit too low-res for our liking, but it's one of the better YouTube portals out there.
The iPhone doesn't come pre-loaded with games, but it does come with something even cooler – the gyroscope.
If you're struggling to work out what this is, it's like the controller on the Wii – it can work out which way you're facing, or whether you're looking up or down.
It's early days to see applications making use of this, but there is one on the App Store already: Gun Range.
Instead of pointing the gun using your finger, you simply tilt the iPhone 4 instead and tap the screen – it's absolutely immense as a gaming experience, and nothing we've ever seen on a phone can even come close.
We're so looking forward to getting new applications that make use of this – this could change everything if it takes off.
Apple iPhone 4: Apps and Maps
What's one of the main things Apple is famous for other than all the other things you're probably thinking like Macs and iPods and Macbooks? Yes, that's right: applications. Not the Newton.
The iPhone 4 is only the start here - the phone really comes alive when you start filling it with simple to find applications.
For app-naive, the App Store has over 200,000 mini programs in the App Store portal - some are free, some cost as little as 59p, and some over £50. But the sheer range of options on offer is dizzying.
For instance, you can get a BBC iPlayer application, a camera manipulator to improve the quality of your photos, iMovie, addictive games like Angry Birds and RSS readers - all for next to nothing.
We can't really tell you how to use the application store, but go and have a nose around - the addition of iAds (which are advertising applications discreetly hidden within the apps themselves) will mean more money coming in, and therefore more applications in the future.
One of the big ones is the addition of iBooks - this turns your iPhone 4 into an eBook reader with hundreds of titles to work with.
Oddly this was one of the few areas of the phone that struggled to process quickly, as you often had to wait for the tomes to load if you want to see what's in your library.
But turning the pages is easy as pie and you can bookmark and annotate your pages as you wish - with all these features copies over the iPad and iPod touch range, so if you start reading Sherlock Holmes on your iPhone 4 you can finish it off on the larger iPad later.
Although you sound like you're probably rich enough to hire someone to read to you if you have both an iPhone 4 and iPad.
The other applications that come bundled with the iPhone 4 are pretty basic to be honest, with the Clock offering alarms and countdown timers, the compass pointing at things and the voice recorder making recordings of voices, and allowing you to share them as MMS files easily.
The Weather and Stock applications could do with being updated, if we're honest, as having to open up the application every time you want to see what's going on is a bit of a pain - that's what widgets are for.
The iPhone is only part phone, and the rest of the experience is application based - if you don't make use of all the cool things on offer, which will only grow larger as things like a higher-res camera and location-based services that can run in the background become more prevalent.
As we mentioned, the iPhone comes equipped with a compass as well as the second best representation of Google Maps we've seen on a smartphone anywhere. The phone is able to locate you via cellular towers or the GPS chip in a very quick time, meaning it becomes much harder to get lost when the compass is pointing your direction too.
Google Maps on the iPhone doesn't have the impressive feature list it does on Android, like free sat nav with Google Maps Navigation and transit maps, but it does work quickly and use pinch to zoom to move closer to the text or picture, which is a nice touch.
One of the more recent features in Google Maps for iPhone is the ability to assign a contact an address, and then direct you to their location.
You can't use Google Latitude natively on the iPhone 4, which is a shame as that kind of market penetration for a service like this could really help it take off.
You can share locations with someone via text or email though - this is really useful, and something we've used a couple of times already when trying to explain to someone where we were in London.
If only Google Maps Navigation would come to the iPhone 4, it would become an even better device - perhaps Apple has something of its own in the pipeline, as Google has said it would consider licensing the technology.
Apple iPhone 4: Battery life and connectivity
Another big plus for the iPhone 4 is, despite being the thinnest smartphone ever created, the battery life hasn't suffered. Far from it, as Steve Jobs actually reckons it can last 40% longer despite the smaller chassis size.
And you know what - he may actually be (sort of) telling the truth here. Seasoned iPhone professional users will know that to use a couple of applications, watching a 30 mins of video, downloading new apps, run music through Bluetooth and also keep opening and closing it to perform other tasks is a real battery sucker, and usually means your iPhone won't see out the day.
Well, doing just that sat at our desk, we actually found that in a seven hour period, the battery only dropped 50%. It might sound a little drastic, but over the course of the day, when you're using the phone a lot less, this works out to be a much nicer figure to work with.
We actually found we didn't need to carry around a charger all the time when we were using an iPhone 4 - and even if you forget to plug it in at night, it won't be until sometime the following day it completely shuts down, which you have to applaud when you see how thin the chassis is here.
Of course, this isn't the all-encompassing fix we've all been waiting for in smartphones, as a simple hour's commute with push email, music and the camera all in use will drop things by about 10%, but that's not standard use.
This is helped by an all-new processor, the Apple A4 effort that's really good at not sucking down too much power even when performing those pesky multi-tasking tasks. We're impressed with Apple, as its iPhone range has gone from one of the worst on battery life to at least one of the better ones.
The iPhone is, as you'd expect, jam-packed with functionality. You've got an upgraded Wi-Fi chipset in there to now cater for the faster 802.11n hubs, and of course we're treated to GPS, Bluetooth 2.1 and A2DP as well as the normal HSDPA and 3.5mm headphone slot.
The Bluetooth is impressive as ever too - simply search for and pair with a Bluetooth headset, and whenever the iPhone 4 finds that unit broadcasting a signal in the future it will connect automatically - which makes it much easier to use.
The GPS, as we mentioned earlier is lightning fast, but it's a real shame about the reception issues with the data - we really thing the signal dropping is going to annoy a lot of people when they've shelled out so much money for a new phone.
Apple iPhone 4: Hands on gallery
Apple iPhone 4: Official gallery
Apple iPhone 4: Verdict
Well, there's been so much to talk about on the new iPhone that we're actually impressed Apple had that much to update on this iteration of the smartphone.
From HD video recording to a completely new shape, it's intriguing to see record-breaking numbers queuing up to pick up this device – but after playing with it for a few days, you can see why.
Well, we liked nearly everything on the iPhone 4. The main thing we enjoyed is the fact the interface is still so slick, as nothing beats the fact the phone reacts to your slightest touch.
The gyroscope is beyond awesome on a phone of this size, or on a phone at all come to think of it.
The battery life has been well extended to work long enough to not hate your phone any more, which is a welcome boost, and the camera and video recorder have been updated more than adequately to consider them actual replacements for the cameras and camcorders.
The Retina Display is really something else to look at, and we're even starting to like the sharp angles of the chassis – although we're still not huge fans.
The App Store is still brilliant, and will continue to get brilliant-er, and things like Google Maps offer a superb mapping experience.
Why, why did the reception problem have to happen Apple? If it wasn't for that, this would have been head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to smartphone functionality. Nothing can come close on paper.
The price is also ridiculously high - £600 for a phone is amazing, and more so when you think thousands, yes, thousands of people queued up in the UK alone to pick up one of these the second it was released.
The HTC Desire costs less than £400, is free on £30 a month deals, where the iPhone costs £170 plus the contract too.
We appreciate the sheer amount of tech and design packed into the iPhone 4, but that's still a LOT to shell out for a phone.
Trust us, we've gone back and forth over the star rating to give the iPhone 4 - it's been tricky.
Put it this way: if we didn't have to switch hands to browse the internet at any given moment, this phone would have been five stars, hands down. Apart from the fact your own skin makes you lose all 3G connectivity, there's pretty much nothing wrong with this phone.
And if you're still lusting after an iPhone, don't worry - this is by no means a reason not to buy it. Like we said, we had no dropped calls during our tests, and that's a big improvement on previous iterations - it was the internet browsing that got us.
Is it better than the 3GS? Yes - by a country mile. Is it better than the HTC Desire? In some ways yes, in some ways no... the iPhone 4 hits higher points but thanks to the reception issue hits lower points too.
Essentially it comes down to a straight choice: are you interested in the geek chicness of the rapidly-improving Android, or are you all over the slick iPhone eco-system?
You won't be disappointed by the iPhone 4 by any means - if you're happy to spend nearly £200 more on a phone and are willing to wiggle your hand a little bit then this phone will delight for the next couple of years.
Want to get rid of your old mobile?Compare and get the best price