Top positive review
138 people found this helpful
Practically perfect converged device
on June 13, 2011
For the last 2 years I have been carrying a cell phone, an iPad Touch, an iPad Shuffle, and (when I thought I would need it) a camera. I was waiting for a device that would do it all in one, but without forcing me into an unwanted 2-year cell phone contract (I use an AT&T prepaid GoPhone account). The iPhone 4 is that device. For the most part, I adore my new iPhone. Only the substandard built-in software keeps it from being a 5-star product, IMHO. More on that later.
When I was reading reviews before my purchase I wanted to know if "factory unlocked" really meant what it said. Yes, I would have to say that it does. This was clearly a brand-new phone in factory packaging, not a phone that had been unlocked illegally. On the down side, because it had been packaged for the UK market, it came with a British-style plug on the wall charger! This didn't matter to me because I always charge my device from my computer, but the vendor should have mentioned it.
The important part was whether it was really mine to do with as I pleased. I took the AT&T SIM card out of my old Motorola phone, cut it down to size with a SIM cutter, and popped it into the iPhone. When connected to a computer running iTunes, the phone immediately started working with my same old phone number. It was that simple.
So now I have a $750 phone with a $100/year prepaid phone plan. But that's not as silly as it sounds, because I also have the following:
1) The world's best PDA. The high-resolution screen is so beautiful that I just want to sit and stare at it. The built-in apps are pretty lame, but the unbelievable bounty that is the iTunes app store more than makes up for that.
2) An astoundingly good camera. At 5MPs I expected it to be barely adequate as a camera, but I think it takes better pictures than my 10MPs point-and-shoot. Whatever it uses for a light meter is miles ahead of any camera I have ever owned. It takes the best low-light pictures I have ever seen, and when the flash IS needed it is never too bright. I love being able to operate the flash control, auto-focus point, and digital zoom right on the touch screen. The HDR feature is subtle, but amazing. And the 3rd-party apps (many of them free) - just SOOO much fun. This is not a professional quality camera, of course, but it just might be all the casual camera you will ever need.
3) An Internet connection device. Because I don't have a real phone plan, I mostly use wi-fi for my networking needs. But I also have a limited 3G data plan as a backup if I'm not in wifi range. Getting a prepaid data plan to work is a little tricky. You have to set the APN, and neither AT&T nor Apple will tell you how to do this. It's easy, though - just google it.
4) An OK music machine. It works as well as any iPod, but at 16GB it doesn't have the capacity to hold my whole music collection. If I'm just going to load music temporarily for on-the-go use I prefer my little Shuffle. If there were some way to pause the music on the iPhone with a single button press I would find it much more usable as an iPod.
5) An adequate phone. Honestly, the weakest function on the iPhone is the phone. The shape is awkward for a telephone and the sound is nothing to brag about. On the other hand, I have not had any problems with dropped calls or weak signal. I like the big lighted virtual buttons, and the fact that it integrates with my main address book. Mainly, as an infrequent cell phone user at best, I like the fact that I have a cell phone if I need it without having to carry an additional device.
6) A bright, directional LED flashlight. The LED bulb used for the new camera flash also works as a nifty little flashlight! How cool is that? Apple did not see fit to include a flashlight app as a built-in, so the first thing the new user should do is download the excellent free iLED Flashlight app.
7) A surprisingly effective eBook reader. Sure the screen is small but the resolution is so exquisite that you really can read on it. I read "Moby Dick" on my iTouch, and the screen resolution is even better on this device.
Downside - the built in apps are TERRIBLE. The contacts manager, notepad and calendar are primitive. There is no standard way to backup/restore application data, even for built-in apps. The built-in photo manager is jaw-droppingly bad. All pictures taken with the iPhone camera go into one huge folder called "Camera Roll." They can't be moved into sub-folders, renamed, sorted, or rotated if the orientation ends up backwards (which occasionally happens). And what excuse can there be for not including a flashlight app to go with the new LED light?
Fortunately, I had been through this with my iTouch, so I already had a nice set of apps for managing lists, contacts, appointments, recipes and so on. However, it took me a couple of weeks of experimentation and research, plus a small outlay of money for paid apps, to turn the magnificent iPhone4 camera hardware into a device that really can be used as a camera substitute. In short, the iPhone 4 is a device that is good but not great right out of the box. But if you are willing and able to spend a little time installing apps, it can be massively customized to make it the best electronic friend you ever had.