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iPhone 4 review

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The iPhone 4 is, in many ways, the best iPhone Apple has ever made. It’s faster than the 3GS, yes, but it’s the screen that is the biggest leap forward in quality. The new face-forward camera not only works well with FaceTime, but opens the door to all sorts of other videoconferencing possibilities in the future. And the rear-facing camera has taken a big step forward from the 3GS, offering quite high-quality stills and Flip-class HD video. With the addition of iMovie, you’ve got an entire home video studio in your hand. If only the iPhone 4 could play those HD-caliber videos back on an external HDTV itself.

The iPhone 4 is also the first real design departure for the iPhone in two years; I like the metal styling and the solid feel, and the flat glass front and back are gorgeous. But I’m concerned that the glass back adds an unnecessary level of fragility to the product. What’s the point of designing a beautiful product if it’s so fragile that your customers need to stick it in a case (or wrap it in a rubber bumper) in order to protect it? And of course, I'm concerned about the fact that touching the phone in the wrong places can hamper cellular reception.

The recent changes to AT&T’s wireless data plans means that a base level of iPhone service costs $15 less a month ($15 for 200MB versus $30 for unlimited data), which may entice many bill-averse consumers to finally take the iPhone plunge. For them, and for owners of original iPhones and two-year-old iPhone 3Gs, the iPhone 4 is a perfect match.

If you’re a user of the iPhone 3GS, though, this new model is less of a step up–and you’ll probably have to pay a large upgrade fee to get it. If that’s the case, you’d probably be better off waiting until you’re eligible for a fully subsidized upgrade. Though you’ll miss out on the high-quality screen and front-facing camera in the meantime, the 3GS is still quite a fast device and takes full advantage of iOS 4.0.

Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in June 2010 when Apple released the iPhone 4. In October 2011, as part of the iPhone 4S launch, Apple pared down its iPhone 4 lineup to a single 8GB model, available on either GSM or CDMA networks. This review—including its rating—applies to the 8GB iPhone 4 that’s compatible with AT&T’s network.

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At a Glance
  • Apple iPhone 4 8GB Black (GSM, AT&T)

  • iPhone 4 8GB White (GSM, AT&T)

  • iPhone 4 16GB Black (GSM, AT&T)

  • iPhone 4 16GB White (GSM, AT&T)

  • iPhone 4 32GB Black (GSM, AT&T)

  • iPhone 4 32GB White (GSM, AT&T)

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