Thoughts on iPhone 4

June 7th, 2010

Apple announced the next iPhone today, and they characterized it as the biggest update since the original iPhone’s release in 2007. I don’t think that’s hyperbole.

Although Apple is certainly padding the iPhone’s feature list with this release, they aren’t attempting to compete with Android phones feature-by-feature. Instead, they are trying to continually redefine exactly what a smartphone is, and thus force their competitors to compete on Apple’s terms. They’re trying to make everyone else respond to them, rather than the other way around.

iPhone 4′s new screen is a perfect example. While several Android phones have high-resolution screens, iPhone 4′s dwarfs it. With 326 pixels-per-inch, it is difficult to even see the screen’s pixels. Think about what that means for your videos, photos and, more importantly, text. Reading text on this device is going to be incredible. It will be more like reading a beautifully-printed page than a screen. Moreover, it uses an IPS screen (like the iMac and iPad), so almost any viewing angle is readable.

The camera, too, received a fabulous update. iPhone 4 takes five-megapixel photos, and can record 720P video. Rather than cram on a small, mediocre sensor that is technically five-megapixels, but takes subpar photos due to the sensor’s size, Apple increased the photo sensor’s size. This is the attention to detail Apple has that its competitors struggle to match: rather than add a feature so they can lengthen the feature list, Apple ensures the feature is a solid improvement over what came before. Apple is interested in making a truly great product, not just selling it.

The device’s industrial design is another example. Just look at it–it is beautiful. Who else’s phones have a stainless steel chassis that also serves as the antenna, or glass exterior that can stand up to a lot of abuse?1 Who else builds a phone that is not only brilliantly functional, but legitimately a piece of art?

No one is. No other device even approaches iPhone 4′s industrial design, nor its screen. While Apple’s competitors are building phones, functional but cold, Apple is building something alive. You can see the work that went into every inch of it, the obsession Apple has with coming as close to perfection as they can. This is what I love about them–they never settle, and never accept something as good enough. Nothing is good enough for them, and they work relentlessly in the pursuit of perfection. There is little more admirable than that.

  1. Watch the stress test in the iPhone 4 video. It is incredible what the glass can withstand. []