iPhone 4 Review: 2 - the Phone & FaceTime

Monday, June 28, 2010 iPhone 4 Review: 2 - the Phone & FaceTime

By Daniel Eran Dilger Published: 02:40 PM EST

Apple's fourth generation iPhone is still exclusively tied to AT&T in the US, but now packs new 3.5G network support, enabling dramatically faster uploads, and FaceTime, a new video calling feature that isn't dependent upon the carrier's network quality or seamless coverage to work.

The phone in iPhone 4

Standing in line for hours (five and a half to be exact; I did not expect to wait more than a half hour when I arrived), I was struck by how many people were willing to spend so much of their day waiting for the new iPhone.

No other class of product commands such attention, and it hit me why in line: there is nothing else we interact with on such a personal and continuous basis all day long as our smartphones. Apple very clearly encourages launch day lines for marketing purposes, but it couldn't maintain such theatrics year after year if its iPhones weren't living up to the hype. Interviews suggest more than 70% of those waiting in launch day lines were existing iPhone users.

Of course, the primary reason we started carrying mobile phones was to be able to make calls and be contacted. Ironically, the most famous smartphone is also one of the worst performing phones, at least in the US. AT&T's network, which greeted the original iPhone as a brand new amalgamation of GSM providers in the US, started out well behind Verizon's CDMA network in terms of 3G buildout. It is now struggling to keep up with the massive demand of what is collectively the world's most mobile-greedy device. That adds up to a perfect storm of terrible waiting to greet Apple's latest and greatest phone.

Steve Jobs said on stage at WWDC that AT&T is handling more mobile data than all the other US carriers put together. At the same time, AT&T is also delivering the fastest national network, and the only one compatible with the GSM/UMTS mobile technology used by most foreign networks internationally (making roaming possible, albeit expensive, for users, while also facilitating the manufacture of one iPhone model for Apple). There's still major problems in some service areas though, and AT&T's efforts to upgrade its network can't seem to come fast enough.


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