iPhone 4 Review Part 2 – “Exploring the Unknown Realms”

In the earlier review , we took a look at on how microSIM differs from the regular SIM , the iPhone 4 itself and the whole unboxing process itself. In this part of the review , like I’ve promised. I’ll be tackling some of the issues of the iPhone and not to mention the infamous antennagate problem. On top of that , i’ll be taking a look at an unexplored feature in the iPhone 4. In order for me to write this , I had to do a lot of research and googling to understand.

Nevertheless , lets get started

“The iPhone hype ” – Is it really worth my moola ? Whats the big deal about the phone ?

I know , what you’re thinking anyway. I know that your Nokia 3210/3310 is able to call , SMS , and play Snakes on a plane !  Lets be honest here , iPhone is just a phone. Android/Windows Mobile/BlackBerry/<insert other OS here> fanboys would just simply say that iPhone is just merely a phone. In fact ,I agree with them. iPhone 4 is merely a phone. No doubt about that , there is nothing special which makes it outstanding. The only distinct thing that differentiates itself from other platform , is the applications. Yes , you’ve guessed it – the App Store has a lot of applications just for everything and everyone. Let me take you back into time (No , I mean I am not going into give you a lecture on Theory of relatively – thats time travel for non-geeks out there) when iPhone 2G was launched. The phone itself was a junk except for the amazing touch screen and web browser. Apple prevented third party developers to write software for the iOS 1. A lot of developers were frustrated as the iOS offered a lot of potential , thus restoring in jailbreak exploits – which allowed iPhone/iPod Touch users to install third party applications that enhances their iPhone – such as changing SMS tone , ringtone , wallpaper and a lot of other things.

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App Store has changed iPhone completely from a phone to a "mobile computer" - Source CrunchGear

This forced Apple to come up with App Store in iOS 2.0 , after which shaped the whole iPhone frenzy which is going on currently. The apps have change the way how we work with our iPhone 4. Games such as Angry birds , Need for Speed are not only awesome to play but it unleashes the potential of the iPhone hardware itself , which is capable of handing games and a lot of other tasks. It has allowed developers to come up with GPS softwares which performs far better then the built in Maps application

To be honest , to truly enjoy iPhone 4,  you need to get the apps. The applications are cheap , considering that MYR (Malaysian Ringgit is being appreciation) , which translates to more bang for buck , as 99 cents would roughly cost us about RM/MYR 3.10 . If you are going to get iPhone because it has the latest and greatest stuff , well you’re wrong (except for the touchscreen , cause its just smooth and its very responsive) , however if you’re going to get a phone which is simple to use and has a tons of applications. Then no doubt , iPhone is for you !

Antennagate Issue

I am quite sure that you’ve stumbled across on how iPhone 4 signal drops when you hold the phone in a manner that causes the signal to be dropped. The problem lies within the design of the iPhone 4 itself , it clearly has a design flaw. Of course ,Apple quickly address it by offering a free bumper for iPhone 4. Unfortunately , Malaysia isn’t in the list. Thus making it impossible for us to claim our free case (argh !) . However there is a good news for us , Apple has claimed that our Malaysian units have this problem fixed . So as usual , I put it to the test.

The test is very simple , in fact you could do it. I strongly believe in what Confucius  said ,

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime – Confucius

I did the common test , the deathgrip test. That is by squeezing the phone to determine if there is a signal drop. To my surprise , from 3 bars , it fell to 1 bar

Whoops 1 bar only - Clearly shows a defect in the device when its hold such a way
Whoops 1 bar only - Clearly shows a defect in the device when its hold such a way

As you can see above , the signal strength is poor. I’ve managed to make a call and it did went through , which is a good thing . I guess the whole call drop thingy due to deathgrip is due to mobile service provider for not having a comprehensive coverage. 3G speed on the other hand

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Without holding the iPhone 4 , its able to work flawlessly - no drop in signal or what-so-ever

However , I am not pleased. So I did a control experiment myself to determine if iPhone 4’s antenna is worst or better then its predecessors

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Command to execute Field Test application for iOS 4.1

To perform a field test (a field test allows us to determine the actual signal strength instead of bars ) , you must be using iOS 4.1 and above. Please do update to iOS 4.1 , if you have not done so yet. Anyway to activate field test , go to phone application and type this *3001#12345#*. After that tap the signal bar indicator , and it will change to number. The lower the value , the better the signal reception is. In other words , – 50 > – 107. Just think of it in this way , the less you owe people – the better you feel. The same concept applies here ! Oh yeah if you are wondering if this process messes up something , do not worry – It does not do anything at all. Its part of the iOS anyway !

Now let me put it to test , to be fair and square. I’ve done a test with my iPhone 3G and iPhone 4. Both are using same carrier , in this case Maxis. So that it will be unbiased. Both of the OS are on 4.1 , and both units are placed on my table. 3G is activated on both of the devices. No protector or any sort was used to conduct the test , both units are naked as-is.  Anyway , read below to get to know on the exact details :-

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iPhone 3G on my the left and iPhone 4 on the right (Ignore the crack on the screen , my phone fell and its still solid) .

Here are the results :-

iPhone 3G

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iPhone 3G Field Test #1 - The RSSI indicator shows -92 dB , which is somewhat bad
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iPhone 3G Field Test #2 - The reception seems to have improved

iPhone 4

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iPhone 4 Field Test #1 - The RSSI indicator shows -92 dB , which is somewhat better then 3G's reception
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iPhone 4 Field Test #2 - Te reception is better on iPhone 4 compared to iPhone 3G

Verdict

Basically at first glance , the values dont’ actually differ much from iPhone 3G and iPhone 4. I’ve been only getting 1-2 bars with MAXIS , I believe it has to do something with how the iPhone calculates its signal strength , which you may read about it here (Anand Tech).  In order for you rectify the antenna issue , you’ll have to get a bumper or a case for it. Unfortunately for us (Malaysians) , we can’t get free bumper. so we’ll have to fork out and get one for ourselves.  Nevertheless , it does not have an impact on call drops , however it causes the data rate/3G connection to go down. So you might want to take note of that as well. One thing , Malaysians should be thankful is that we have telecommunication company which provides coverage whole of  Malaysia . I just hope that their pricing would be competitive as well and fair for Malaysians !

Accessibility in  iPhone

This is one part whereby its not been covered by a lot of reviewers. The accessibility functionality in iPhone 4 which allows disabled people to enjoy the phone.  In fact there is a menu dedicated to this functionality. It includes the basic things such as VoiceOver , which reads whats on the screen , depending where you tap on the screen. For instance if you tap on a text in Safari , it reads that out for you. It even notifies if you’re in landscape or portrait.

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iPhone 3GS/iPhone 4 Accessibility Options , which can be accessed from Settings --> General (Source : WorldofApple)

There is other common things like higher contrast for those who need it , dynamic zoom (if you’re having vision problems) and it works similarly how you zoom in Safari , except you are able to do in apps. Plus if you are suffering from hearing hearing loss , you’re able to output sound into mono so that it fits either of your ears , which I think is good. Of course there are other complete list . The reason why I am writing about this is that I do feel that its important to know that there are phones out there which caters for you. Lets face it , not all phones in the market are equipped with functionality for the disabled people , this is where iPhone truly shines indeed.

If you like to see how the iPhone helps you , if you’re disabled. Please check out this apple article

Whats Next

In the next part of the review , I’ll be taking a look at applications for the iPhone and some other cool features of iPhone 4 such as FaceTime.  So do stay tuned about it as I’ll review it and will conclude if the phone is up to its expectation  at the end of this review !

The iPhone 4 Epic Saga (iPhone 4 Review)

Part I –  Awakening of the Beast (iPhone 4 Unboxing)

Part II – Exploring the Unknown Realms (Exploring the antennagate problem , hype behind the phone and accessibility functionality of the phone)

Part III – Eye for an eye (Testing out FaceTime, applications , Retina Display and Game Centre)

Part IV – Say Cheese (Camera and Video Recording functionality)

Part V  – The Verdict (Conclusion)

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