iPhone 4 review

HD video recording, gorgeous display - but can it justify the price?

The definitive Apple iPhone 4 review
The definitive Apple iPhone 4 review

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The iPhone has always been a good vehicle for digesting media - not least because it's the freakish offspring of an iPod and a touchscreen PC.

The iTunes interface is the best way to get media on your phone, and the 3.5-inch screen was always a good option for selecting music and watching a few bits of video here and there.

So you can imagine that if you take that, add in a much stronger processor and improve the screen quality, you're going to get a humdinger of an experience.

Apple iphone 4 review

The music application actually hasn't changed that much, as it's still one of the most in depth music players on the market.

Cover Flow, where you can see all the album art of the records (yes, we're saying records) you've currently got packed on your iPhone 4, is much faster than before - the phone snaps between portrait and landscape in trice, and flicking through your albums is as fast as you want it to be.

Apple iphone 4 review

Turn over an album cover, and you'll see all the tracks on offer listed there - it makes so much sense and really adds that cool factor other phones struggle to match.

Once in the song, you get the basic controls, such as repeat, skip, shuffle etc, plus the genius that is... well, Genius.

Simply press the swirly atom icon when you're listening to a tune you like and the iPhone 4 will take look through your library and suggest a number of songs that complement it well.

It's a really innovative feature, and when you're shown songs online that you might like to buy, often you find you do as you're more certain they're the right kind of thing for you.

Apple iphone 4 review

Sonically, the iPhone 4 is pretty good too - the audio is rich and produces some decent sounds at the mid-to-low range, as well as handling vocals with aplomb - you can see the iPod heritage once again coming through here.

Also you can control the music from the phone's lock screen – simply double tap the home screen when the screen is in sleep mode and you can interact with the songs.

When the iPhone 4 is turned on for the first time, shake to shuffle is activated by default. Turn this off in the Settings menu, as it responds to the slightest quiver of the leg, meaning every time you walk your songs cycle fast than Chris Hoy when he's late for his tea.


As we mentioned a little earlier, video is also excellent on the iPhone 4, as the screen looks great even with lower quality footage - although that's as much to do with the 3.5-inch screen as it is with the pixel density.

The contrast ratio might be good at 800:1, but in all honesty some of the darker things we put on our iPhone 4 struggled to come through properly and we couldn't see some things; although this was rare and we're talking very dark scenes indeed.

The viewing angles are good, the refresh rate of the screen not too bad and the navigation is nice too - simply sliding your finger left and right along the time bar makes it very easy to find the exact spot you're after in the footage.

Apple iphone 4 review

Other nice touches include the iPhone 4 remembering which videos you're yet to watch, and how far you are through those you're watching - allowing you pick it back up again when you re-open the file. Nice.

We did run into one problem: while the file types supported is pretty impressive, there seems to be a quality level the iPhone 4 can't handle.

We encoded some home DVDs at a very high bit rate, and it refused to copy them across, stating the player couldn't use them. We don't know the limits of bit rate, but it's something to keep in mind.

Apple iphone 4 review

Of course, you can always get your content from the iTunes library that comes bundled with the phone instead; it's as simple as clicking the application open and browsing for music you'd like, or movies and TV shows you fancy watching.

Apple iphone 4 review

The prices are sometimes a little higher than DVDs, which is a little confusing considering you can't do a huge amount else with the file after it's on your iPhone - but for ease of use it can't be beaten, even offering little snippets of songs and video trailers to sample.


The other main media portal on the iPhone 4 is the addition of YouTube, which we mentioned in the Internet section of this review.

Apple iphone 4 review

While it's a little simplistic, the YouTube client will buffer and play files easily, although there's no option to improve the video quality when out and about - it's always a bit too low-res for our liking, but it's one of the better YouTube portals out there.


The iPhone doesn't come pre-loaded with games, but it does come with something even cooler – the gyroscope.

If you're struggling to work out what this is, it's like the controller on the Wii – it can work out which way you're facing, or whether you're looking up or down.

It's early days to see applications making use of this, but there is one on the App Store already: Gun Range.

Apple iphone 4 review

Instead of pointing the gun using your finger, you simply tilt the iPhone 4 instead and tap the screen – it's absolutely immense as a gaming experience, and nothing we've ever seen on a phone can even come close.

We're so looking forward to getting new applications that make use of this – this could change everything if it takes off.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.