Last week, Steve Jobs released Apple's latest iPhone, the iPhone 4. It is without a doubt a stunning piece of engineering and design. I, for one, certainly find it the most attractive iPhone yet. The new iPhone has the same A4 processor as the iPad, and a "retina display" screen. The new screen has packed more pixels into it than early laptops, and is LED backlit. Shunning the 1 button approach of the past, the new iPhone has a couple buttons on the side, presumably to enable volume and camera shooting. It now has a 5MP rear camera with LED Flash, as well a forward facing VGA camera. A video chat application known as FaceTime is possible, albeit only when connected to Wi-Fi (I don't think AT&T is ready to handle increased video chat load). The new iPhone touts iOS 4 (formerly known as iPhoneOS 4), multi-tasking, 16 or 32GB internal storage, and a purported 7 hour 3G talk time battery life.
Yesterday, pre-orders lasted until 430PM EST, if you could even get them. With some server malfunctions, many were unable to place orders (50% of respondents on a Gizmodo server said NO). Some AT&T stores took to taking pre-orders by paper. There were also some pretty serious security issues (detailed here). All told, I think it is fair to say that a great number of people pre-ordered this phone. I do not believe anyone doubts that the iPhone 4 will sell record numbers, but a pre-order that sold out withing mere hours is a stunning fact.
Apple (and their marketing team) will try to convince you that EVERYONE must have the latest iPhone, without delay. I would proffer a few questions to ponder before you jump in with two feet.
1) Do you HAVE to have the latest Apple products as soon as they are released? If so, then yes, this phone is for you.
2) Do you have an iPhone 2G, or 3G and love it? These phones will not get the benefits of the iOS4 update (most notably multi-tasking). They also have a lot worse hardware, and you will see huge improvements if you upgrade. If you love the iPhone 2G/3G, the iPhone 4 will be the greatest thing since sliced bread.
3) Do you want to Tether? If so, the iPhone 4 is not for you. Check out AT&T's new data plans. They are not tethering friendly, limiting your data usage to a TOTAL of 2GB a month. If you are even an extreme data user, the iPhone 4 is probably not for you.
4) Do you have an iPhone 3GS? If you do, the iPhone 4 is probably not for you. The iPhone 4 is not a huge improvement in any area over the iPhone 3GS. It has been often stated that Apple is the king of incremental upgrades, and this upgrade is incremental in many places, but is not going to make the 3GS obsolete. Additionaly I suggest waiting until at least 2011 to sign a long term contract. This is for 3 reasons: to gain time to identify the strongest 4G network, to gain time to discern the best plan (one with more than 2GB of data!!), and to find the best handset (on the previously described network). Every time you extend your contract for 2 years (especially early) you get yourself behind the ball on handsets. Handsets often do not last more than year (at least their warranties don't!) and within 12 months, most are technically outdated.
5) Is the AT&T Network a deal-breaker for you? I put this in here to fight some FUD that is out there. The simple fact is that in 2007, when the iPhone was first released, no network was ready to handle the onslaught of data demands the iPhone levied against their networks. Almost overnight, 10M featurephone/"dumbphone" users were accessing an extremely large amount of data, at the same time. I have always been irritated by people who damned the AT&T network, while saying Verizon or any other provider was light years ahead. AT&T's data service has always been, and still is, faster than any other 3G option. Unfortunately, the over-saturation of around 40M iPhone users on their network has made it extremely difficult for AT&T to keep up with demand. I have my own qualms with AT&T, most of which center around their ludicrous data plans, and high prices.
6) You are interested in Android (or one of the other OS's) Google's Android has made huge leaps since the G1 was first released. I recently grabbed an Android 2.1 handset and am loving it. HP recently bought Palm, so webOS may find some legs in an HP handset. Also, the Nokia and Intel lovechild, Meego (optimized for Atom processors) will be coming out soon, and promises to offer a different take on mobile OS. Lastly, Windows Phone 7 should be appearing on handsets by Q3 2010, providing an additional choice for mobile devices.
My questions above are not to dissuade anyone from buying an iPhone 4, it is certainly the best iPhone yet, but rather to help consumers make informed decisions. The iPhone does not have a 4G option, whether it is WiMAX or LTE, and is not any more technically advanced than any of the current powerful Android Phones (Nexus 1, HTC Evo, HTC Droid Incredible, Motorola Droid X). If your current phone is serving you fine, it may not be worth it to extend your contract 2 more years. At the rate that mobile hardware and software are advancing, as well with the inevitable advent of 4G networks with large coverage areas, the iPhone 4 in 2010 may not be a wise purchase.
Thanks for reading and please share any comments below!