Friday, June 25, 2010

Review of iPhone 4 and iOS4

The friendly FedEx driver dropped of a highly anticipated package yesterday just before the 3PM deadline.  It was my new iPhone 4.  Several folks have asked about my opinions on it so here goes.

First off, if you have a 1st generation iPhone or a 3G, you can skip the rest of this review and just head down to your local Apple or AT&T store to try to get your hands on one.  You are now in the dark ages of iPhonery.

I was still on my first iPhone, a 3G which I've been using for two years, so this was my initial experience with migrating to new hardware.  It was a breeze.  Apple obviously has this right and the only delay was in getting the final activation from AT&T, which took about 15 minutes.  The migration is absolutely flawless--it even remembered what web page I had up on Safari. All of my settings are exactly as I had them on my 3G, except it added a new "lock" screen image and the Compass app.

I had upgraded my 3G to iOS4 last week.  The new OS is a much a part of the iPhone advance as the hardware of the 4, but it caused my 3G to run very sluggishly, almost to the point of being useless.  The 1st Gen iPhone will not run the new OS at all. My suggestion to those who plan to keep their old devices is not to upgrade to the new OS.  But the primary suggestion here is that you need to move to the 4.

If you have a 3GS and have not upgraded to iOS4, do so right away.  You'll love it.

When I unpacked my new iPhone 4 it was obvious right away it was a bit heavier.  Not clumsily so, but noticeable.  I think it must be the new longer-life battery that has added the weight.  In your hand it's also thinner on the edges as well as a bit so on the width, sort of like the Gen 1.  It feels good in your hand, very substancial, like a quality device.

The Retina display is fabulous, all that it has been puffed up to be.  But honestly, like most quality improvements, you don't really notice it after a short time.  I'm sure I would notice the difference if I had to go back to my 3G.  Looking at a book in iBooks, the text is crisp and readable.  Images look stunning but this is still a small device so nothing earth shattering here.

The new camera is great.  Users of the 1st Gen and 3G in particular will immediately notice no shutter lag time. The new zoom feature is great, and the focus select is new for me since I didn't move to the 3GS.  The image here was my first shot taken with my new phone.  I'm very happy with it,  plus it has an LED flash for low light situations.

Like any new iPhone, there are a lot of little things that have improved with the device, as with the new iOS4.  I'll let you enjoy those little surprises on your own.  But for me this is a major improvement and I cannot recommend it too highly.  A great device.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A print-resolution color display...for $199.

It's been pretty much a done deal that I was going to upgrade to the newest iPhone when it was released this summer.  I decided not to bite on the 3GS when it launched last year, thinking it wasn't really a major improvement and wanting to wait to see how the whole carrier issue/AT&T coverage problem would work through.  I use my iPhone as my one and only phone for office and personal.  I get five bars of 3G at my home/office in Seattle so I have no big complaints with the coverage I'm getting.  So committing to AT&T for another two years is no big deal, especially given my use.  If something better comes up in the next 24 months I can justify any penalties I would have to pay by the importance of the device to my daily life.

I was one of those folks watching the Tweets from the WWDC when iPhone4 was announced.  Not many surprises but the changes that we're already known were confirmed and none is more exciting in my mind than the new Retina display.

This updated display--"print resolution" as Jobs called it--reminded me of a meeting I had with Gary Starkweather at Microsoft Research in the late 90's.  Gary literally invented the laser printer when he was at Xerox in 1969 and then invented the color management technology that became ColorSync in the early 90's. As one of the early Apple guys,  he was key in developing a piece of the company that you don't hear much about anymore but was game-changing nonetheless, the Apple LaserWriter.  It was one of the first laser printers available to the mass market and was a vital component at the advent of desktop publishing. Companies like mine--and me personally--owe a great deal to pioneers like Gary (along with the folks at Aldus) who made companies like Blurb possible.

Gary had called me to come over to Research in Redmond to see his new toy--a monitor he was working on with IBM that could display at 300dpi, or print resolution.  I was running Corbis' Global Imaging Operations at the time, and we were always looking for ways to improve the quality of our digital images at the retouching stage, and this display was certainly a game changer. I remember thinking it was just like reading a book, the quality was so good. As far as I know that device never materialized as a product but the writing was definitely on the wall. Displays were going to continue to improve and, as always, continue to reduce in price.

So as I wait for this Thursday when my new iPhone4 will be shipped, I'm thinking about Gary and the contributions he made to the enjoyment I know I'll have with my new device.