First iPhone 4 reviews surface

Although the official iPhone 4 launch is still two days away—early shipments notwithstanding—the first reviews from those graced with early access are now springing up on the Web like those first flowers of the season. Here’s what we’ve seen so far:

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal start us off with “New iPhone Keeps Apple Top of Class

I’ve been testing the iPhone 4 for more than a week. In both hardware and software, it is a major leap over its already-excellent predecessor, the iPhone 3GS.

[…]

The most important downside of the iPhone 4 is that, in the U.S., it’s shackled to AT&T, which not only still operates a network that has trouble connecting and maintaining calls in many cities, but now has abandoned unlimited, flat-rate data plans. Apple needs a second network.

Ed Baig of USA Today writes “Apple makes all the right calls on iPhone 4

The new iPhone 4 I’ve been testing for about a week and a half — along with the major refresh of the mobile operating system software at the core of recent models — demonstrates once again why Apple’s handset is the one to beat, even as it faces fierce competition from phones based on Google’s Android platform, among others.

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As with previous iPhones, the latest model breaks new ground. FaceTime video calling on the iPhone 4 is one of those cool “seeing is believing” features, and it arrives on top of several across-the-board enhancements. And iOS 4 is a mostly terrific software upgrade. Cutting through the hype, Apple has given longtime diehards, and first-time iPhone owners, plenty to cheer about.

Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky simply-titled “iPhone 4 review” has this to say

We’re not going to beat around the bush — in our approximation, the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone on the market right now. The combination of gorgeous new hardware, that amazing display, upgraded cameras, and major improvements to the operating system make this an extremely formidable package. Yes, there are still pain points that we want to see Apple fix, and yes, there are some amazing alternatives to the iPhone 4 out there. But when it comes to the total package — fit and finish in both software and hardware, performance, app selection, and all of the little details that make a device like this what it is — we think it’s the cream of the current crop. We won’t argue that a lot of this is a matter of taste — some people will just prefer the way Android or Symbian works to the iPhone, and others will be on the lookout for a hardware keyboard or a particular asset that the iPhone 4 lacks — but in terms of the total picture, it’s tough to deny that Apple has moved one step past the competition with this phone. Of course, in the hyper-accelerated smartphone market where the Next Big Thing seems to always be just around the corner, it’s anyone’s guess how long they keep that edge.

Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing says in “Apple iPhone 4: Hands-on review

The fourth incarnation of Apple’s iPhone is an incrementally improved, familiar device—not a new kind of device, as was the case with the recent introduction of iPad. Yes, the notable features with iPhone 4—both the device and the iOS4, which came out yesterday in advance of the iPhone itself—are mostly tweaks. But what tweaks they are: Apple’s focus on improvement is as much key to the quality of its products as innovation. But there’s one flaw it doesn’t eliminate: the unreliable quality of calls placed over AT&T, which remains the iPhone’s only U.S. carrier.

In “New iPhone Arrives, Rivals Beware,” David Pogue spends some time going over new features such as FaceTime video conferencing—“pure Apple,” he calls it—and the improved camera and video capabilities. But the New York Times columnist frames his review in the context of the iPhone-vs.-Android showdown technology pundits seem to favor these days:

Now, the iPhone is no longer the undisputed king of app phones. In particular, the technically inclined may find greater flexibility and choice among its Android rivals, like the HTC Incredible and Evo. They’re more complicated, and their app store not as good, but they’re loaded with droolworthy features like turn-by-turn GPS instructions, speech recognition that saves you typing, removable batteries and a choice of cell networks.

If what you care about, however, is size and shape, beauty and battery life, polish and pleasure, then the iPhone 4 is calling your name.

Updated at 4:10 p.m. PT to add David Pogue's iPhone 4 review.

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