The iPhone 4 is no small thing to review. As most readers of Engadget are well aware, in the gadget world a new piece of Apple hardware is a major event, preceded by rumors, speculation, an over-the- top announcement, and finally days, weeks, or months of anticipation from an ever-widening fan base. The iPhone 4 is certainly no exception -- in fact, it may be Apple's most successful launch yet, despite some bumps on the road. We've already seen Apple and AT&T's servers overloaded on the first day of pre-orders, the ship date for the next set of phones pushed back due to high demand, and die-hard fans in line outside of Apple locations a week before the phone is actually available. It's a lot to live up to, and the iPhone 4 is doing its best -- with features like a super-fast A4 CPU, a new front-facing camera and five megapixel shooter on the back, a completely new industrial design, and that outrageous Retina Display, no one would argue that Apple has been asleep at the wheel. So the question turns to whether or not the iPhone 4 can live up to the intense hype. Can it deliver on the promises Steve Jobs made at WWDC, and can it cement Apple's position in the marketplace in the face of mounting competition from the likes of Google and Microsoft? Perhaps the most notable change with the new iPhone is the drastic industrial design overhaul -- Apple seems to have completely rethought its strategy on how the phone should look and feel, and the results are nothing if not striking. In his WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs likened the design of the iPhone 4 to that of a "beautiful, old Leica camera," and as we've said before, he wasn't off the mark. Instead of hewing to the curved, plasticky, silver-bezeled look of the iPhone 3G and 3GS, the company has turned the casing and face of the device into something decidedly more detailed and sophisticated. From the design aesthetic through to the actual build process, Jony Ive and his team have reset what we expect in an iPhone, coming up with something that clearly harkens back to the retro-future Braun designs of Dieter Rams. The iPhone 4 is made up of three basic parts: two pieces of smooth, strengthened glass, and a stainless steel band which wraps around the sides, top, and bottom of the phone. The effect is clean but not simple, and Apple has added little details, like altered volume buttons (what used to be a rocker is now separated into circular clickers labeled + and -), and notches in that metal band which serve to improve radio connections (more on that in a minute). The phone is noticeably thinner than the 3GS at .37 inches compared to .48 inches, but it weighs the same 4.8 ounces, making the whole package seem tighter and denser. It feels great in your hand, with good heft, although it might take a little time to get used to the lack of a rounded back if you're coming from the 3G or 3GS. We can't overstate how high-end the design of the iPhone 4 is. The 3GS now feels cheap and chubby by comparison, and even a phone like the HTC Droid Incredible -- which just came out -- seems last- generation. As we said, there are three main pieces of the phone, which together create an effect not wildly dissimilar to that of an ice cream sandwich. You know, but far pricier... and not edible. The face of the device is made up of extremely strong glass which Jony Ive says is "comparable in strength to sapphire crystal, but about 30 times harder than plastic." A small slit for the earpiece and the front-facing camera are embedded in the glass above the display, with the familiar home button towards the bottom -- a button we should note feels much clickier than on our 3GS. On the left side of the phone you've got the new volume buttons, a redesigned mute switch, and a small notch towards the base of the unit. On the right side is the Micro SIM slot and another notch in the band at the bottom, and up top there's the power / sleep button, headphone jack, another notch, and new noise-canceling microphone. Along the bottom is a speaker, microphone, and the 30-pin dock connector port. The backside of the phone is made from the same kind of ultra-strong glass as the front, interrupted only by the new five megapixel camera, its LED flash companion and, of course, the Apple logo.
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