After having some difficulty procuring an iPhone 4 (the launch day line at the Rancho Cucamonga Apple Store was, shall we say, long), I was able this morning to get ahold of mine.
Tapestry Apps on the iPhone 4
Of most interest to readers of this weblog: In my limited testing, both PhotoTrader and Beautiful World work fine on the new hardware. I will admit, I was a bit concerned that the high resolution display might pose a problem, but I have to give Apple serious credit for making the transition seamless for developers. It’s nice to focus on adding new features instead of fixing old ones.
That’s not to say that updates are completely unnecessary, though. While it’s true that it looks just as good as it did on older iPhones, lower resolution artwork (icons, etc) really does stand out like a sore thumb on the new display. I foresee much time spent in Photoshop in my near future.
Now, for a quick review of the iPhone 4 itself. Note that this is by no means exhaustive, and reflects only a few hours with the phone. For something more in-depth, check out Engadget’s review or wait for Ars Technica to post theirs (they tend to be pretty thorough).
iPhone 4 Impressions
The first thing you notice using the new iPhone is the incredible display. Simply put, content designed for the new display looks absolutely amazing. Text is automatically rendered in high resolution, making even existing apps look much nicer than before. This makes accessing the web or any other sort of text-oriented content much nicer. Graphically oriented apps (including our own) don’t benefit quite as much right off the bat, but this should change as they are updated with higher resolution graphics – something developers are doing anyhow for the iPad.
When the new iPhone was announced, Steve Jobs noted that the 326 ppi display exceeds the capability of human vision to distinguish individual pixels at about a foot away. I have excellent vision and can confirm this to be the case. If you demo the phone, a good way to see this is to compare the Clock app icon on the iPhone 4 versus the same icon on an older iPhone. It’s quite striking how much better the higher resolution version looks (as a point of comparison, professional photographers generally make prints at 300 dpi – meaning that the iPhone is of greater clarity that your average gallery photo or glossy magazine).
As a developer, one of my main concerns with this change is increased memory usage – higher quality artwork requires larger amounts of memory. Thankfully, the new model has bumped this up to 512 MB, more than even the recently-released iPad (to be honest, I really wish Apple had kept these models at parity by giving the iPad more memory to work with).
On the hardware front, I am very happy with the new iPhone’s form factor and build quality. Then again, I thought that original iPhone hardware was superior in this regard to the 3G and 3GS, both of which felt cheap in comparison. The new phone’s angular edges feel a little odd if you’re familiar with older models, but on the flip side it simply “feels” like a higher quality device. That’s important.
I’ve not yet had a chance to use FaceTime for video chat, though I suspect that this is a feature that I would rarely use. I don’t particularly want to be seen all the time, and the current Wi-Fi-only restriction – no doubt imposed by the always-disappointing AT&T – makes it of even more limited utility. I can see it garnering occasional use, though, and a front-facing camera offers some nice benefits for application developers. PhotoTrader already supports the 2nd camera right off the bat, something that I’m sure users will get a kick out of.
Speaking of which, the iPhone 4 has improved upon the phone’s primary camera, which – for someone whose apps are photography related – is quite a perk. The increased resolution (from 3MP in the 3GS to 5MP) is nice, but the dynamic range appears to have improved. While this is harder to quantify from a marketing perspective, anyone wishing to replace a point-and-shoot camera in their pocket will find something of value. I’m not a huge fan of flash photography, but its inclusion as an option is nice. Again, this feature is supported in PhotoTrader.
Overall, I’m very happy with the direction Apple is moving with regard to the iPhone, iOS and other “iDevices” such as the iPad and iPod touch. Quality over quantity, usability over poorly implemented bullet list features. I still have concerns about certain Apple/App Store policies and the way they are enforced – and then there’s the matter of the iPhone’s achilles heel, as personified by AT&T – but on the whole I don’t see the competition matching the iPhone’s fit and finish any time soon.
Update: One issue in PhotoTrader that a few users have written in about is the inability to toggle the flash and front-facing camera when ‘mature’ content is turned on, when using the iPhone 4. I have fixed this internally and once testing is done an update will be released.