By Harry McCracken | Sunday, July 18, 2010 at 11:37 am
At Apple’s iPhone 4 press conference on Friday morning, Steve Jobs included PCWorld’s ranking of the handset as the top smartphone in his list of iPhone 4 achievements. But Jobs’ presentation and the measures Apple is taking to respond to the antenna controversy didn’t leave my former coworkers at PCW confident that its original recommendation had been validated.
Actually, they found the latest developments so lackluster that they bumped the iPhone 4 off the chart entirely. Its rating is now “pending,” and HTC’s EVO 4G is the #1 phone. (The iPhone 3GS remains on the chart, in the #8 slot.)
Why wasn’t PCW impressed by Apple’s walkthrough of data showing other phones suffering from reception problems, offer of free cases to iPhone 4 buyers, and expansion of its refund policy? PCWers Ginny Mies and Melissa Perenson think the reception issues are an iPhone 4-specific glitch rather than a universal cell-phone quirk, and say that a case is a clunky way to fix it. They’re also convinced that the iPhone 4’s imperfect proximity sensor–which Jobs acknowledged on Friday–is a major defect, and don’t feel that his statement that Apple plans to try and address it in an upcoming software update is adequate.
(Side note: I’ve had some issues with the iPhone 4’s proximity sensor, too, but I’m not sure if it’s exceptionally bad–actually, it reminds me of the one on my Motorola Droid. Both have led me to unwittingly mute the phone with my ear.)
Both Ginny and Melissa bought iPhone 4s and have had major problems with them–Melissa, in fact, is on her fourth phone. They say their personal experiences also factor into their de-recommendation of the handset, and that the iPhone 4 won’t get re-recommended until Apple addresses the phone’s hardware issues.
All of which led me to ponder my advice to folks who are considering buying an iPhone 4. Compared to PCW, I have it easy: Technologizer doesn’t do ambitious ranked charts with objective data and lab-testing results. The advice I give here is pretty much the same advice I’m giving to friends and family who ask about the iPhone 4. Here it is:
“It’s a remarkable phone in multiple ways, and the screen and camera make it a major upgrade over the 3GS. As far as I can tell, the weak spot in the lower left-hand corner can be a real problem if you’re in an area of weak AT&T reception. But I’ve only encountered it a couple of times in almost a month of use. I’ve also encountered apparent issues with the proximity sensor twice.
Even though I own several phones, the iPhone 4 is usually the one I choose to take with me, so I can’t tell you that these issues are dealbreakers. And if you plan to use the phone in a case, the reception problem isn’t an issue at all.
With tech products of all sorts, it’s never surprising when the first incarnation of a new product or a sweeping revision to an existing one has quirks that are only discovered when real consumers get their hands on it. Overall, I like my iPhone 4. But the chances are just about 100% that its replacement won’t suffer from the same gotchas, and it’s also possible that Apple will address them in an interim update to the phone. If you’re hesitant, there’s absolutely no shame in taking a wait-and-see attitude.”
That’s my take as of right now. What’s yours, iPhone 4 owners?