iPhone 4 Review Roundup: The Best and the Worst

Each reviewer has given Apple extremely positive marks, with both the Journal‘s Walt Mossberg and Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky saying the device is the best smartphone on the market. They all are happy to report that the phone is an improvement over the iPhone 3GS, but all of the reviewers were pretty harsh on AT&T’s service.

If you receive your unit today and have a chance to test it out, please let us know in the comments.

Reviews:
Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal

Best New Feature: FaceTime video calling
“Video calling is one of this device’s best features. As noted, it currently requires an iPhone 4 and Wi-Fi connection on both ends, though Apple says it is making the technology free to others and hopes to have millions of compatible devices. There is no setup and nothing to learn. You just press a FaceTime button, and if the other person accepts the invitation to talk face to face, his or her image appears, with your own image showing in a small corner window.”

Biggest Downside: AT&T

“The most important downside of the iPhone 4 is that, in the U.S., it’s shackled to AT&T, which not only still operates a network that has trouble connecting and maintaining calls in many cities, but now has abandoned unlimited, flat-rate data plans. Apple needs a second network.”

Bottom Line:
“In both hardware and software, it is a major leap over its already-excellent predecessor, the iPhone 3GS… Apple has built a beautiful smartphone that works well, adds impressive new features and is still, overall, the best device in its class.”

David Pogue, New York Times

Best New Feature: FaceTime video calling
“It’s not the first phone with both a front and back camera. It’s not even the first one to make video calls. But the iPhone 4 is the first phone to make good video calls, reliably, with no sign-up or setup, with a single tap. The picture and audio are rock solid, with very little delay, and it works the first time and every time. This feature, called FaceTime, is pure Apple.”

Biggest Downside:
None. It’s pretty much all good.

Bottom Line:
“Now, the iPhone is no longer the undisputed king of app phones. In particular, the technically inclined may find greater flexibility and choice among its Android rivals, like the HTC Incredible and Evo. They’re more complicated, and their app store not as good, but they’re loaded with droolworthy features like turn-by-turn GPS instructions, speech recognition that saves you typing, removable batteries and a choice of cell networks… If what you care about, however, is size and shape, beauty and battery life, polish and pleasure, then the iPhone 4 is calling your name.”

Joshua Topolsky, Engadget

Best New Feature: The new screen
“Steve made a huge point about the science behind this technology during his keynote, claiming that the resolution of the screen essentially tops what is perceivable by the human eye. There have been some debates as to whether or not this argument holds water, but we can tell you this: to our eyes, there has never been a more detailed, clear, or viewable screen on any mobile device.”

Biggest Downside: FaceTime’s limits
“Right now, there’s only one way to do FaceTime calls, and that’s via the iPhone 4… and only over WiFi, which means that the opportunity to make these calls is pretty limited for now. Additionally, in our testing, we found that you really need to have a good, strong, nearby WiFi signal to hang onto a connection.”

Bottom Line:
“We’re not going to beat around the bush — in our approximation, the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone on the market right now. The combination of gorgeous new hardware, that amazing display, upgraded cameras, and major improvements to the operating system make this an extremely formidable package. Yes, there are still pain points that we want to see Apple fix, and yes, there are some amazing alternatives to the iPhone 4 out there. But when it comes to the total package — fit and finish in both software and hardware, performance, app selection, and all of the little details that make a device like this what it is — we think it’s the cream of the current crop.”

Ed Baig, USA Today

Best New Feature: FaceTime video calling.
“The killer feature is what Apple calls FaceTime video chat. The promise that you and the person you’re talking to on a phone can gaze into each other’s eyes dates back to when LBJ occupied the White House. No one has really nailed video calling through the years, at least not the way Apple has nailed it here.”

Biggest Downside: A small grab bag of minor complaints.
“Apple’s public dissing of Adobe Flash means you’ll still come upon Web video sites that don’t make nice with the iPhone. I had a few dropped calls. The battery still isn’t user-replaceable, and there’s no slot for expanding memory.”

Bottom Line:
“As with previous iPhones, the latest model breaks new ground. FaceTime video calling on the iPhone 4 is one of those cool “seeing is believing” features, and it arrives on top of several across-the-board enhancements. And iOS 4 is a mostly terrific software upgrade. Cutting through the hype, Apple has given longtime diehards, and first-time iPhone owners, plenty to cheer about.”

Xeni Jardin, BoingBoing

Best New Feature: 720p video recording
“I’m very, very excited about the video capabilities in iPhone 4. I’ve spent the last few years of my life working in web video, so forgive me if I “squee” here. The higher definition video [720p] is spectacular, and far better in quality than what was possible with iPhone 3GS (or, as far as I’ve seen, with any smartphone).”

Biggest Downside: AT&T
“There’s one flaw it can’t completely eliminate: the unreliable quality of calls placed over AT&T, which remains the iPhone’s only U.S. carrier.”

Bottom Line:
“The fourth incarnation of Apple’s iPhone is an incrementally improved, familiar device—not a new kind of device, as was the case with the recent introduction of iPad. Yes, the notable features with iPhone 4—both the device and the iOS4, which came out yesterday in advance of the iPhone itself—are mostly tweaks. But what tweaks they are: Apple’s focus on improvement is as much key to the quality of its products as innovation.”

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