In June 2010, the iPhone 4 was introduced by Steve Jobs as “the biggest leap since the original iPhone”. It was indeed a big leap, with 600,000 pre-orders in the first 24 hours, the iPhone 4 was a serious factor on the smartphone market in the years following its release. But what can this phone offer a user more than 6 years after it has been launched? This question was intriguing me when I’ve ordered a used iPhone 4 on eBay.
This happened back in May 2016. I needed a stable smartphone for basic online communication after my Samsung Galaxy S4 gave up when I accidentally spilled some water on it. I was on a budget of about 85 dollars. I was surprised and happy when eBay offered me the iPhone 4 for such a price; I loved the design of that phone since its original release. So I clicked on “Buy Now”, and I use that phone since then.
But what can it do today?
Battery life & charging
First of all, a major problem with this model can be the charging cable: the iPhone 4 still uses the broad 30-pin dock connector. Most users don’t like to use a bunch of different cables for every portable device they have, and nor do I: it’s a bit annoying to switch back and forth between the lightning and the big old cable everytime I want to charge my Ipad air after my iPhone.
The battery life is sufficient for me: with a very moderate usage (just phone calls, email checks and a bit of iMessage and facebook messenger), the battery can last up to three days without charging. On the days when I use my phone for more battery-draining tasks -for example tracking a 90 minutes long run with Endomondo or listening to music with a Bluetooth speaker- it still lasts one day, but overnight charging is inevitable.
Now design is everything when it comes to this phone. When introducing the new iPhone 4, Steve Jobs covered eight important features of the phone. Guess what he said first? “An all-new design”. And truly; the stainless steel and the aluminosilicate glass are beautiful materials, the shape is minimalistic and gorgeous. Even in 2017, the iPhone 4 is a smartphone which feels elegant to use. It really is a piece of art in my opinion. The size is just comfortable in my hands, but for those who like big screens, maybe watching videos on their phone, the 3.5-inch screen of iPhone 4 probably isn’t going to be big enough.
As I said before, the glass and the steel are cool. And these materials don’t just look great together: they are firmly put together to create a durable piece of technology. Of course, a phone covered mainly with glass can be a bit creepy for those who often drop their phone, or just tend to put it in the same pocket where their keys are. My solutions: transparent silicone case, crystal screen protector, and never dropping the iPhone. Apart from the last one, these can be bought for less than 7 dollars in Hungary.
It is slow. I basically have a routine of looking up from my iPhone for 3-4 seconds after launching an app, because I know it needs that amount of time to load. Apps run at a basically normal speed, little slower than a brand-new phone, but starting new apps takes time. What it never does, is freezing. I really like how a 6-year old used phone can still function without ever doing that. Android phones could learn from that!
What is amazing about this phone is the price they are selling it for. When I have bought my iPhone 4 in May 2016, I have paid 66 dollars for my 32GB factory unlocked model, which had a “good condition” quality rating on Ebay. (The shipping from Hong Kong was free.) And honestly, when it arrived, it would have been hard to tell if it was ever used before. Other than the price of it, the design -as I said- is beautiful, simple, and for somebody like me who likes smaller phones, it’s perfect. For me, the stability of this phone is also a great merit, and the battery time is quite good too if you mainly use it for basic tasks.
Now comes the bad part. Apart from the already mentioned slowness of the iPhone 4, the biggest problem for me is the software. In 2014, Apple discontinued support for iPhone 4 in iOS 8. So my device can be upgraded to iOS 7.1.2, and that’s it, nothing above that. For me, and I think for every user, the biggest downside of this restriction is that several apps cannot be used on iOS versions before iOS 8, and there are some apps that only enable to download earlier versions, which are compatible with iOS 7. For me, the lack of Apple Music and Siri is a really big handicap. Not being able to synchronize the songs which I listen to on my iPad to my iPhone is really annoying. About Siri: the iOS 7 has a so-called Voice Control function, which at first sight looks like a blue-background version of Siri, but sadly, its voice recognition is not very powerful, and it can only do a couple of things if it gets what you are trying to say to it.
Another problem is the camera. The iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel camera with a LED flash, and it has been the first iPhone to ever have a front-facing camera. But despite its historical merits, the photo taking abilities of this phone are as crappy as it can get. In daylight, I can take acceptable photos, but after sunset it’s terrible, and the flashlight doesn’t help at all. I think I never used that flashlight apart from the torch function, which is handy, but my nighttime photos are still unrecognizable.
I think buying used iPhone 4 models can be the perfect low-budget solution for anyone who wants to have an elegant smartphone from quality materials. It is also a great choice if you are a fan of smaller devices, which fit in your palm and your pockets really comfortably. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who needs a big screen or wants to use anything not supported below iOS version 8. Also, this device is not the one for capturing high-quality photos.
For me, apart from missing Apple Music and Siri, it’s a real bargain. When this phone was launched, I was in high school and I couldn’t afford to have the iPhone 4. One of my wealthier classmates did have it, and I remember when I got to try it out, it felt so elegant and futuristic. Six years after those days in school, it still does.
Overall Rating: 8/10