Features and Use

We are happy to announce that the Verizon iPhone 4 has very good phone functionality. During our testing, we never experienced a dropped call. The phone and speakerphone is considerably louder than the iPhone 3G and 3GS. A new second microphone dulls background noise while on calls, so call quality is much better in noisy situations. The speakerphone is loud and clear.

In our testing, Verizon offers better coverage than AT&T, especially in rural areas. However, the Verizon CDMA technology is not as usable as the AT&T GSM technology outside the US. So if you are traveling overseas, the AT&T iPhone may be a better choice for you.

The Verizon iPhone 4 is feature packed and quite capable. It has a speedy A4 CPU. Although it is now competing against phones with dual core processors, we found this device to be speedy enough for all common chores and entertainment. You can purchase models that have 16 GB or 32 GB of storage, for USD 199 or USD 299 with a two-year Verizon contract (plus monthly service fees).

This phone has all the features that have become common to smartphones including WiFi (802.11 b/g/n), and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. It has the iPhone ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, accelerometer, digital compass, GPS, and three-axis gyroscope. It also has a full iPod player, voice control, voice memo recorder, Google Maps, and the Safari browser, which now gives you the option to choose a default search engine. It supports full email and messaging, and the email program has been updated to accommodate things such as a unified in-box. On top of that, this phone has access to hundreds of thousands of apps and a multitude of media through the iTunes store.

This version of Apple’s iOS also has new functionally in that it supports multitasking. A double-press of the home button shows the most recently used programs that are currently active at the bottom of the screen, as shown in Figure 8. You can swipe to the next screen to see more and can close any application from this screen. This implementation of multitasking is not as elegant as the one that Android uses, but it is quite usable and a very welcome addition.

Verizon iPhone 4 ReviewFigure 8: Multitasking on the iPhone 4

Other new things have been added in this operating system. Apple has ported the iPad’s iBooks to the iPhone so you can read your books on the iPhone, albeit on a much smaller screen. The iPhone 4 also supports AirPlay, so with an Apple TV or AirPlay-enabled speakers, you can wirelessly (over Wi-Fi) transmit your iPhone 4 data to your television and/or speakers. In the same manner, you can also play music or video from iTunes on your computer wirelessly on your iPhone. An AirPrint enabled device will let you use your Wi-Fi network to print wirelessly from your iPhone.

With the introduction of iOS4, Apple also updated the accessibility functions. There are many excellent accessibility functions including a VoiceOver screen reader and support for wireless Braille displays.

The Verizon iPhone runs iOS 4.2.6. This is identical to the version that runs on the AT&T iPhone except that it has CDMA support and a new hot-spot feature. This feature allows you to share the cellular data connection with up to five other devices via Bluetooth, USB, or Wi-Fi. You can even use all three connection methods at the same time, if you like. This eliminates the need for more complicated and expensive tethering options. However, there is an extra monthly Verizon charge of USD 20 per month for 2 GB of data to get this feature turned on in your phone.

One feature that AT&T has and Verizon lacks is the ability to talk and perform functions that require a data connection at the same time. This is essentially because of the difference between the technology used by the cellular systems. While Verizon’s CDMA technology separates voice and data into two separate elements, AT&T’s GSM network sends everything through a single conduit. That means that on AT&T you can look up directions or Google a word while talking on the phone. You cannot do this on the Verizon iPhone. You can, however, look up contact information or access any data on your phone while talking. And if you happen to be following directions when a call comes in, you will be taken back to where you were when the call ends. While heavy data users might find this an inconvenience, most will find that they come up against this limitation only occasionally. You should remember though, that if you are using the mobile hot spot feature, an incoming or outgoing call will also stop data access on connected devices.

As more competitors enter the marketplace, we must look at this phone for its shortcomings as well as its virtues. The iPhone 4 lacks a user-replaceable battery and it has no expandable memory. It does not support 4G networks or NFR (Near-Field Communications), a newer technology which allows two-way communications for use in functions like digital payments. The Safari web browser is not as feature-laden as some of its competitors, and the Apple’s operating system needs some updating to keep up with the competition in things like notifications and some widget support.

What Apple and iPhone have, however, is great design, a loyal following, and a tremendous jump on the competition in the number and scope of apps in their App store. It also has moved ahead of the competition with a wonderful screen and excellent dual cameras. It does all of this while still maintaining decent battery life which will get the average user easily through a typical day on one charge.

The iPhone 4 comes with dual cameras. We have already seen the front-facing camera in Figure 4. The back-facing camera and flash are seen on the back of the phone as shown in Figure 9.

Verizon iPhone 4 ReviewFigure 9: The back

The front camera has only a 640-by-480 resolution, but this is adequate for videoconferencing, which is its main use. Apple includes FaceTime, which is a very easy-to-use and well-implemented program that allows you to video chat with other FaceTime-capable devices over Wi-Fi. We should mention that FaceTime uses a lot of bandwidth and only works well with a good Wi-Fi connection. Several other apps also take advantage of this camera.

The back-facing camera is a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash that is capable of shooting 720p video at 30 frames per second. According to Steve Jobs, it’s not just about megapixel count, but also about the photon count. We couldn’t agree more. A higher photon count lets more light into the camera chip and produces better photos. The iPhone 4 is a perfect example. The photos are excellent. Even fairly low light pictures taken without a flash looked good, and pictures are processed very quickly. We don’t hesitate to say that this phone takes the best photos of any phone that we have reviewed. The videos are also good even in low light.

The included camera functionality is very good and Apple has added their iMovie app to the phone, which allows you to edit video in the phone right after shooting.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up's Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.