I have had my iPhone 4 for 2 years, 2 months, and 10 days. For the vast majority of that time, I have used the iPhone 4 without a case. Occasionally I will use the Bumper case Apple sent for free from that whole Antennagate fiasco.
I thought with the next iPhone being just over the horizon (if you believe the rumors about release dates, which I do), it would interesting to look at how the iPhone 4 has held up over two years.
The iPhone Itself
The iPhone itself has held up really well. The front glass is still pristine. The stainless steel band around the sides has a slight patina, but is free from scuffs or scratches. The back glass, which isn't Gorilla Glass like on the front, looks remarkable at first blush, but upon close inspection does have two small hairline scratches. But you have to look pretty closely in the right light to see them.
The buttons and switches all work as they should.
I should note that I have had this actual device the entire time. It has never been serviced or replaced by AppleCare.
And, since I mentioned Antennagate earlier, I should also mention that since I use the iPhone 4 without a case nearly all the time, the antenna has not been an issue. Yes, it does drop signal if I press my hand against where the antennae bands meet, but that rarely happens in actual use. I imagine it may happen more if I were a lefty.
The iPhone 4 originally shipped with iOS 4 and currently runs iOS 5. It will be getting iOS 6 in a few weeks (assuming, naturally, that iOS 6 ships concurrently with the next iPhone). What can I say besides that the software has progressively gotten better?
The iPhone 4 runs iOS 5 like a champ. It feels every bit as fast — and in some cases faster — as the day I unboxed it.
My previous (and first) iPhone was the iPhone 3G. The one thing I distinctly remember when it was two years along is that it was slow. Often, the keyboard would lag when typing, which was highly frustrating. And apps took forever to launch.
The iPhone 4 still feels snappy. Now, maybe an iPhone 4S feels faster, but I've rarely used one. My only mark of reference is the memory of the iPhone 3G feeling progressively slower, and the iPhone 4 feeling overall constant.
One area where the iPhone 4 feels like it has gotten progressively faster over time is taking pictures. When the iPhone 4 launched, iOS 4 was very slow at launching the camera app. It got a little better with iOS 4.1, but taking an HDR photo would often crash the camera. iOS 4.2 seemed to smooth everything over. And iOS 5 made the camera launch noticeably faster and has been much more stable with HDR photos. And let's not forget that iOS 5 and 5.1 have improved access to the camera by respectively adding and improving access from the lock screen. And taking pictures has become easier by using the Volume + button as a shutter release.
On the software front, the iPhone 4 has only become better, not worse.
The iPhone 4 officially supports iOS 6. I have not run any of the betas nor have I knowingly seen an iPhone 4 running iOS 6. My hope is that the iPhone will continue to perform admirably with iOS 6, just as it has with iOS 5. In fact, I expect it to, since the iPhone 3GS will run iOS 6, as well, and the iPhone 4 is an order of magnitude more powerful than the iPhone 3GS.
However, that said, I do expect the software to take a slight step backward in iOS 6, and it doesn't affect only the iPhone 4. For instance, Maps will presumably get a performance boost by switching to Apple's vector-based maps, versus Google's bitmapped tiles. However, this is at the expense of transit directions and Street View. I also expect Apple's Maps to have more inaccuracies at the start, but that should improve over time.
Also, Podcasts are being ripped out of the Music app and spun off to Apple's new Podcasts app in the App Store. I've tried switching preemptively to the new Podcasts app a couple times now. I have found it incredibly frustrating, and it is a battery hog even with the screen locked. I am considering alternatives like Downcast or Instacast.
The overall experience, I suspect, will be pretty awesome in iOS 6. Those two items are just a couple obvious (though I hope temporary) regressions.
Shortly before the launch of the iPhone 4, I was absolutely ready for new iPhone hardware. AT&T was still the exclusive carrier in the US, so I didn't even have to think about carriers.
That isn't the case this time around, in either respect. I am very happy with the iPhone 4. However, I am very unhappy with AT&T. They have terrible presence in the midwest, and increasingly seem outright hostile to their users.
I've been out of contract with AT&T for two months and ten days. I plan to switch to Verizon in the next few weeks. And, since I will have to buy a new phone to switch, I may as well get the next iPhone.
Like I said, I am very happy with the iPhone 4. I'd be happy to continue to use it if I could stomach staying on AT&T's mediocre network. But I am also looking forward to the next iPhone because it will allow me to finally use Siri. I also look forward to the camera improvements. Heck, even if it uses the same camera as the 4S, it will be better than the iPhone 4. But, in all seriousness, I bet Apple includes a better camera than the iPhone 4S.
And then there is the rumored 4-inch screen. The extra half inch is made up in the screen supposedly getting taller, and not wider. I've pretty much been against the idea of a larger screen — and hence, a larger phone — but if the extra half inch affords me an extra row of apps/folders on each home screen page, I should be able to consolidate back down to just two pages, which will make me very happy.
I have loved using the iPhone 4. It has been my most used device ever. It has served me very well. It has been a large part of my family as it is the iPhone my son has come to know as the iPhone. And man, is he really good at using an iPhone. I have sent countless messages to friends and family, shared many moments on FaceTime, had great conversations, and have taken the majority of photos of my family over the past two years — all on this iPhone 4.
As memorable as the iPhone 4 is, the opportunities to simultaneously move to a better carrier in my area and get the next iPhone will bring my time with the iPhone 4 to an end.
I expect the next iPhone to be even more remarkable in two year's time.