Could do better.

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since I decided to start this blog, and that in that time I haven’t exactly been prolific in my posting…. Still, whilst my end-of-year report card might well state “could do better”, that’s OK – I’m not the only one failing to live up to expectations.

Even if you’re not a self-confessed, obsessive Apple fan-boy/girl – and if you’re not, why are you reading this? – you surely can’t have helped but notice that our friends in Cupertino launched possibly their “best product yet” recently – the iPhone 4. True to form, the website beamed images of a device that simply oozed class, style and sophistication. It promised great things too, with drool-worthy new features such as the retina display (cough) and HD (ahem) video recording immediately capturing my attention. Since I was out of contract with my previous handset, I was in a position to upgrade and was sold – hook, line and sinker.

I still look back fondly on queueing outside my local O2 store from 5.30am on the 24th June…. It is sad, I know, but I felt like a kid at Christmas. The excitement, the anticipation. The joy of the friendly in-queue banter, and the anxious waiting for word on stock levels. Then there were the puzzled passers-by and bemused commuters wondering what all the fuss was about, not to mention the worried look on the face of the poor chap 20 places back, who probably wished he had shown more commitment to the cause and got up at least 2 hours earlier. He wasn’t one of the chosen few.

When my turn came and the doors to heaven opened, I managed to control my emotions just long enough to complete the upgrade process without slobbering once or dropping the display model, although my motor skills temporarily failed me at one point as I fumbled with a slippery ballpoint and nearly forgot how to sign my name. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, I left the store with my shiny new shrink-wrapped iPhone, trying not to look back at the very long queue. I even had the common sense to invest in a protective case.

Skip forward a few weeks, and the enthusiasm and excitement I felt for my iPhone 4 has been replaced by bewilderment and frustration. You see, on the face of it, the iPhone 4 is a phenomenal device. Those headline new features are awesome – the so-called Retina Display is a joy to behold, and the much improved camera does indeed take half-decent photographs and 720p video to boot. Multi-tasking in iOS 4 makes for added efficiency and productivity, while folders get those apps all organised, and the unified InBox and threaded email is infinitely better.

But there’s a problem. Personally, I’ve had no reception issues with my iPhone 4 – calls are much clearer than they were on my 3G model – and if there is an antenna design flaw, it’s had absolutely zero impact on my day-to-day iPhone usage. Having said that, I’m left handed, so I hold the phone ‘properly’ in my right hand when making calls. Oh, and I bought a case. Remember?

Phenomenal though it may be then, it’s difficult not to feel cheated over the iPhone 4. I’m bewildered that something so beautifully designed has to be concealed in an ugly rubber ring for it to perform it’s primary function effectively, and I’m confused why Apple, with all their World-class engineering resources, would release a product knowing it wasn’t perfect?

Unquestionably, the iPhone 4 is a gorgeous, innovative, emotive and desirable smartphone, but – in my very humble opinion – it should be fully functional without a protective case. If it’s not (and clearly, it’s not), there’s a design problem. Personally, I don’t think giving away a free ‘bumper’ is the solution, and neither is saying all phones have signal attenuation problems if held in a certain way…… I really did think Apple were better than that.

But then again, nobody’s perfect.

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