Monday, June 18, 2012

iPhone 4S: Full Review

 Last week, my old phone finally got to the point of being unusable. Since my next phone was inevitably going to be an iPhone, on Tuesday I took another step deeper into Apple's digital clutches & purchased the 4S.

As much as I love technology & novelty, I also appreciate the Zen approach to simplicity. Not having a million streams of constant input can go a long way to maintaining mental calm. I was quite content with using my LG Vue only for calls, texts, & occasional lo-res pictures.

I know enough people with iPhones to know its capabilities, so I was already very familiar with their awesomeness. Since I use Macs at home & at work, I also buy into Steve Jobs' lasting vision of integrated digital devices, and nobody else has achieved the superb functionality that Apple has implemented.

For the past week I've been able to dig into the iPhone's features, download a bunch of apps, use it thoroughly, and think about it's pros & cons.

First of all, one of the points that salespeople were making in the store is absolutely true: the iPhone is a portable computer... with functions like phone, camera, etc.

After using it for a week, I'm even more awestruck at what such a compact device can do. People are making all kinds of great apps that take advantage of the hardware in creative ways. The magnetometer is used for digital compasses & Teslameters. The camera flash can be used for a bright flashlight or strobe function. The accelerometer is used for game controls. GPS is integrated with navigation apps. Combinations of these various powerful features can be used for amazing things like augmented reality software.

There are alot of good apps, but I'm going to save my recommendations for another post. Even though there are plenty of games & frivolous time-wasters, there are also ones that are excellent sources of knowledge or information.

Overall, the app-centered interface is simple and effective. It's a way to be packed with features, yet not have a complicated, confusing interface.
I'm glad you can group apps into category icons. I'm all about organization. It's good to now have all my contacts and calendar dates easily synched between my iPhone & Mac. I've also manually transferred my various "To Do", "Graphics Ideas", "Need", & "Want" lists from my old phone to the 'Reminders' app. I use these lists constantly.

I haven't transferred any music yet, but I might put a few playlists on it even though I don't think I'll use it to listen to mp3s alot. Since I use (& love) Sirius satellite radio in my car, I'm considering getting the XM Skydock for the iPhone which acts as a charger & satellite receiver for the iPhone app.

The iPhone's HD camera is great & now I don't have to use my aging Nikon Coolpix camera to take decent photos.

I've used the voice-activated digital assistant, Siri, to write a couple texts & look up contacts. It's a little buggy, but works pretty well for these limited uses. Although it's a developing technology, I can see it as a jumping point to where we are eventually conversing with A.I. as if they are fellow sentient beings. Maybe it's even a step to learning how to communicate with digital devices through thought alone.

There are very few criticisms I can voice concerning this wondrous device...

• My biggest complaint would be the noticeable level of inaccuracy in the typing keypad & touchscreen editing. It's not uncommon for the wrong letter to come up as I type, & I sometimes have trouble getting the cursor to go to the spot I want it to. Maybe it's just me...
• The battery drains pretty fast, but I guess when its doing all sorts of cool crap, that's to be expected.  You can turn apps that are running in the background off, but you don't want be stuck more than a day without a power supply.
• I don't like Apple's aversion to file management for photos & video. Everything has to be managed inside the app, and you have to export an image from iPhoto to free it & make it an independent file. Apple also does this with videos in Final Cut Pro.
• One physical feature I find strange is the extra switch on the side of the phone that slides [on/off] to activate [sound/vibrate] mode. This seems like an unnecessary button. There are already + and - volume buttons on the side. On my old phone you could just hold the (-) button down to lower the volume until you reached "Silent," then "Vibrate".
• There's probably more nitpicky details I could find fault with, but I can't think of any right now.

None these issues are really worth a damn when compared to the iPhone's outstanding overall functionality. I have to marvel at the seamless way all Apple products work together to make a  productive user experience. When I think waaay back to my first personal computer, with the horrific MS-DOS/Windows3.1, it makes me feel fortunate to finally have tech that truly works to my satisfaction.

I have long been a devotee of the Apple brand and Steve Jobs' vision for personal computers. The 'digital hub' consisting of devices such as iPhones & Apple computers are no less than the virtual extension of our biological brains.

We are interfacing with the scaffolding of a global mind that will have results we can barely begin to imagine. As I said in my last post, at some point we are going to require multiple parallel consciousness streams to process & experience the flood of data bombarding our individual sensory systems.

The Apple iThink seems inevitable...


Unknown said...

thanks for the review, and yes I agree with the zen idea that this phone is simple and functional. It still blows my mind that this phone can do so much and not miss a beat and the simplicity of iTunes in regard to wifi file sharing really does make this phone a joy to use.

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The iPhone 4 will also sport what Jobs described as a “retina display” with four times the pixel density of a typical LCD display at a whopping 326 pixels per inch—by far denser than anything else in the consumer electronics market.

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