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Roundup of iPhone 4 Early Reviews

While Apple didn’t bless us with an early preview of the iPhone 4, initial reviews from luckier journalists have started to trickle in. So far most of the major reviews cover similar ground and traffic in shared opinions. Rather than throw another – likely redundant – overview into the mix, we’ve combed through the words of other writers to give you a snapshot of what the pundits are saying.

Undoubtedly more in-depth reviews and other opinions will emerge in the next few weeks. Until then, it appears – unsurprisingly – that the iPhone 4’s initial reception is a warm one.

Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal — Walt Mossberg, in his review of the iPhone 4, notes that while many sleek and capable smartphones already dot the landscape, Apple’s latest iteration deserves attention for two reasons: First, the iPhone 4 stands at the center of a massive application marketplace whose vitality and diversity is intricately tied to the phone’s capabilities, and second, because Apple is an industry leader whose moves are often followed by others. Mossberg assures readers that the latest version is a “major leap” over its predecessor, and in particular lauds FaceTime as a classic example of the benefit to users
of a single company seamlessly integrating software and hardware.

Mossberg notes the phone seems especially solid and hard to damage (having dropped it several times without a case to no ill effect) and even goes on to say the iPhone 4 feels “more like a fine possession, than a disposable gadget.” This echoes Steve Jobs’s assessment at the WWDC keynote where he said the iPhone 4 reminded him of a classic Leica camera.

Mossberg’s main complaint about the iPhone 4 is its carrier AT&T, and he suggests that Apple align with a second network. He says that while the iPhone 4 dropped fewer calls than the iPhone 3GS, it was only marginally better. Mossberg also noted a peculiar problem – one that Apple told him was a bug they were working on – wherein the iPhone would display no service bars, yet still be able to place a call. Apparently, the service bars do not always correctly display the true degree of connectivity – a major problem with a device whose principal feature is supposedly the capability to make phone calls.

For people who live in areas that have poor AT&T reception, Mossberg says he can’t bring himself to recommend the phone, but for all others he confidently claims that Apple has yet again produced the best phone in its class.

David Pogue at the New York Times — David Pogue’s review at the New York Times begins with him wondering whether there’s even a point in reviewing the iPhone 4, given that consumers have already decided it’s a winner (as evidenced by the pre-ordering onslaught). Presumably, if he felt early adopters were off-base in their enthusiasm, he might feel more purpose in pointing out their mistakes. Yet, Pogue’s opinion of the iPhone 4 is in line with those early adopters, applauding Apple for yet again stepping up its game in an increasingly heated smartphone market.

Like Mossberg, Pogue focuses on the iPhone 4’s new shape and feel, which he describes as “Lexus-like.” He says that, like the iPad, the iPhone 4 is really fast, and while FaceTime isn’t the first video-conferencing experience to arrive on a smartphone, its successful emphasis on user experience is undeniably Apple. In wrapping things up, he notes that while the iPhone 4’s Android-based rivals, like the HTC Incredible and Evo, may offer greater flexibility in the app department, if “size and shape, beauty and battery life, polish and pleasure” are what matter to you, the iPhone 4 is the right phone for you.

While Pogue acknowledges the problems with AT&T’s network and making phone calls, he finds fewer dropped calls and better voice quality than with previous iPhones.

Edward Baig at USA Today — Edward Baig’s review at USA Today emphasizes, as Pogue’s does, that Apple has emerged as a leader despite the fierce competition offered by Android-based phones. He also cites FaceTime as the definitive killer feature of the new phone.

Interestingly, Baig is the only one of the three who even mentions the lack of Flash compatibility as a potential source of complaints – though he doesn’t directly complain about it himself. He also notes, like Pogue and Mossberg, that while the iPhone 4’s phone service presents a slight improvement over the 3GS, he continues to experience dropped calls. Finally, Baig cites the non-user-replaceable battery and lack of memory upgradability as irksome traits.

Nevertheless, the review is positive overall, ending with, “Apple has given longtime diehards, and first-time iPhone owners, plenty to cheer about.”

Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing — Xeni Jardin’s review at BoingBoing wins the award for the best line: “Thanks to a boy and a bar and a blog, we’ve already known for some time what the iPhone 4 would look like.” Her less-formal review covers the main new features of the iPhone 4, calling out the device’s industrial design, longer battery life, more-capable camera (including some great photos), and significantly improved video capabilities as the marquee enhancements.

As with the other reviews, she’s still less than impressed with the iPhone 4 as a phone, stating bluntly, “AT&T still sucks, and the best engineering out of Cupertino won’t change that.” She still experienced dropped calls and garbled voice quality, but felt that it was improved over the previous generations of the iPhone and places the blame for these problems squarely on AT&T.

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