iPhone 4 Review: Why We Cannot Recommend One

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We got our iPhone 4 just over a week ago.  To be honest, when it arrived, it was somewhat of a "meh" moment.  Despite the brand-new form factor, it felt like just another updated version of the iPhone. Honestly, this should have been the iPhone 3GS; in our opinion, Apple's once-a-year update cycle is not aggressive enough.

Initial reactions aside, after using it for two days, the iPhone 4.0 really grew on us to the point where we didn't want to go back to our 3GS.  For starters, the increased screen resolution and performance in daylight is too good to ignore.  Compared to other smart phone screens, everything is so much crisper on the iPhone 4.
Battery life not only met, but exceeded our expectations.  This thing keeps going and going.   In our test, only constant use of GPS navigation programs will kill the battery quickly — so if you're using the i4 to replace your TomTom or Garvin unit, don't forget the car charger!
When the iPhone 3GS came out, the speed difference compared to prior iPhone models was noticeable.  Based on the additional speed gain, the iPhone 4.0 should have been called "4GSS."  In fact, we've complained in the past that we are tired of mashing the home button as the primary way to navigate iOS (we love multiple buttons on Android phones), but thanks to the speed of the iPhone 4, you start to love the efficiency of using just one button for a lot of functions.
As part of our review, we have noticed a significant upload speed boost on 3G and Wi-Fi.  We have run Internet speed tests side by side with the HTC EVO 4G, and the iPhone was beating the EVO in upload test speeds — and coming damn close to matching 4G speeds.
We like the look of new phone; the glass on both sides and stainless steel band all around makes it look like a luxury item.  But aesthetics and ergonomics are two different animals — and honestly, we don't like the way the i4 feels in your hand  The weight of the phone feels great, but palming it to make a call, you notice how uncomfortable the square edges are.  After using it for a week, that uncomfortable feeling didn't go away.
We usually don't try to be one of the first to post reviews of new iPhone models (or other phones for that matter).  We prefer to use them for a while first, so we can develop a fully-formed opinion and tell our users about all the cons as well as the pros.  Fanboyism is great — but we're here to help our readers, and reviews are part of that help.
Let's get to the most important part of our review: how did the new iPhone performed as a PHONE?  By now you're probably aware of the so-called "death grip" problem (if not, see here and here and here for an update).  In short: if you hold your iPhone 4.0 certain way — i.e. connect two antennas with your hand on the left side of the phone — that will cause antenna attenuation, with a signal strength drop of up to 24dB.
Now, we can go into a long tirade how our iPhone performed well in most situations, phone calls were clear, and that we usually got great internet speeds.  But the bottom line is, the "death grip" DOES causes antenna attenuation, which results in dropped calls and lost internet connections, and was a noticeable problem during our review.  To be fair, our tests and failures are more anecdotal then empirical, but other people performed empirical tests which support our observations ‚Äì and, more importantly, the observations of the thousands of people who reported the attenuation issue.
Up to this point, the response from Apple on the issue has been less than stellar, either blaming users for holding their iPhones wrong, claiming that signal attenuation is part of any phone, or shrugging ‚Äúoops, our signal strength algorithm is wrong.‚Äù  Unfortunately, none of those responses are comforting in the slightest.
It boils down to the following: in the past few days, we‚Äôve been asked by our friends/family/colleagues if we would recommend that they get the iPhone 4.  We can get into a whole discussion ‚Äì or just say ‚ÄúIt depends‚Äù ‚Äì but that would be waste of time, not to mention a disservice to people who trust our judgment.
Our answer is:  Wait.  Do not get an iPhone 4 until we know more about the reception issues.
The logic here is simple: it‚Äôs the ‚ÄúVersion 1.0 syndrome.‚Äù  Being an early adapter of any gadget comes with an understanding that issues WILL pop up, and you WILL have to deal with them.  We do not want our friends, family, colleagues and readers to have to deal with those issues.  At the end of the day, we will be a front line for answering questions and supporting the issues — not Apple.  In our opinion, and based on our experience, the iPhone 4 reception problem is a big deal.

Right now, the iPhone 4 can be considered ‚Äúbleeding-edge technology.‚Äù  Do you REALLY want your phone to bleed all over you?  We didn‚Äôt think so.

UPDATE: iPhone 4 Re-Review: Why We (Finally) Can Recommend One 

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