10 days with the iPhone 4

Second impressions of the iPhone 4: Some kinks, but a whale of a user experience from a powerful little device

With a celebrity piece of hardware like the iPhone 4, at a certain point you have stop oohing and ahhing and discuss the reality of using the device. You can't get that real-world feel in a day. You need to use the thing for at least a week and subject it to the degredations of life before you get a clear picture of how it will really fare.

I've had my iPhone 4 for about 10 days, and I'm still trying to make up my mind about it. There's no doubt that the benefits of the phone are genuine -- it's the best smartphone out there, feature for feature. The screen is amazing. The gyroscope is exceptionally cool, especially with games like Eliminate: Gun Range that are among the first to take advantage of it. The speed is stellar, the aesthetics are fantastic, and FaceTime is awesome.

[ Read Paul Venezia's full review of iPhone 4. | Get the best iPhone and iPad apps for pros with InfoWorld's business iPhone and iPad apps finder. ]

It's indisputably the best iPhone ever made. It's also bugging me.

We begin where we must: the much-discussed reception issues. I've always used a case with my phones, but I wasn't forced to, as I am with the iPhone 4, in order to reduce reception problems. That leads to other difficulties, like dock connections with a variety of already purchased products. I used a very tiny Incipio case with my iPhone 3G S that allowed me to hook up basically whatever dock I liked; it slid nicely into my original Belkin TuneBase car mount. It was a no-brainer: When I got into my car, it took all of a second to slide the 3G S into the dock, where it was instantly charging and available at a handy elevation.

The iPhone 4 will fit into the TuneBase just fine -- unless there's a case on it. The slimmest cases I've found for the iPhone 4 still prevent it from docking. Suddenly, I've gone back a step and have to dig out a car charger for the iPhone 4, leaving it to slide around on the passenger seat. Sure, I could buy the newer version of the TuneBase, but I'm not thrilled about dropping another $70 to replace a functional device.

All right, so much for kvetching -- FaceTime is awesome. I happened to be sitting in a small deli in the backwoods of Vermont over the weekend, eating a sandwich. The deli happened to have free Wi-Fi, and my brother happened to pick that moment to try FaceTime. I pulled the phone out of my pocket to answer what I thought was a phone call, and an instant later, my brother was looking at me. It was the first time I'd used FaceTime, and it was every bit as cool, usable, and fast as it should have been.

We talked for a few minutes, played with the front/rear camera switching feature, noted the sound quality -- and generally geeked out. Over my shoulder I heard a few Vermonters talking in hushed tones about the event. I'm not sure if they knew anything about the iPhone 4, but from the snippets of conversation I caught, I might as well have been a Martian.

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