Apple iPhone 4 Sparks Long Lines, Online Videos, Upbeat Reviews

Apple issued its long-anticipated iPhone 4 June 24, immediately sparking long lines at stores around the world. That crush of demand was perhaps to be anticipated, given the immense amounts of pre-orders for the next-generation smartphone. Reviews of the device from prominent technology journalists have been largely positive, although some customers have reported hardware and reception issues, in particular involving the antenna band that runs along the outside rim of the device. The iPhone 4 will compete directly against the growing family of Google Android devices, which come from a variety of manufacturers and run on a number of different networks.

Long lines and device shortages greeted customers who sallied forth to obtain Apple's new iPhone 4 June 24, its first day of general availability. News outlets from around the world reported epic lines at stores in major cities, and Apple channel partners such as Wal-Mart have indicated their stocks of the iPhone 4 are terminally low.

Such crowds were perhaps inevitable, given pent-up demand. Some 600,000 customers ordered the iPhone 4 June 15, the device's first day of presale availability-and managed to crash the ordering systems of both Apple and AT&T in the process. Apple also announced on June 23 that production of the white-bodied iPhone 4 is encountering production delays, and will not be available until the second half of July.

The iPhone 4 retails with a two-year contract for $199 for the 16GB version, and $299 for the 32GB version. Features include a front-facing camera for video conferencing, a larger battery and the new iOS4 operating system, which includes multitasking among its bevy of new tricks.

While enthusiasm has been running high for the device, with which Apple hopes to turn back the competitive threat offered by an ever-growing number of Google Android devices, some early customers have reported technical issues.

The tech blog Gizmodo-which publicly dissected a lost iPhone 4 prototype in April-has been collecting videos from around the Web that show the iPhone losing reception if the metal antenna band running along the device's outside rim is held in two places. Some reports suggest that touching the bottom-left rim of the device specifically causes this reception-drop, with two readers reporting the issue rectified by the application of either clear tape or nail polish to the area; others suggest that, while contact with the antenna band causes the onscreen reception bars to drop, it does not affect the quality (or connectivity, for that matter) of a call.

Even as customers began their odyssey with the new device, various analyst firms rushed to issue their own preliminary breakdowns.

"Apple in the past has always doubled the amount of NAND flash memory in the newest version of its iPhone line," Andrew Rassweiler, director and principal analyst for iSuppli's teardown services, wrote in a June 24 statement. "However, with the iPhone 4, Apple is standing pat at the 32GB level. This shows that the iPhone has reached the point where data-storage memory is no longer one of the most critical features. Instead, the focus has shifted to the UI, with the major innovations of the iPhone 4 occurring in areas including the retina display, as well as the use of gyroscope-based control."

While iSuppli expects that the iPhone 4 will feature a version of the iPad's proprietary A4 processor, the firm's research note suggests that the iPhone's chip "likely will operate at a slower clock speed than the 1GHz frequency in the iPad-most likely at 800MHz." In addition, "the iPhone's A4 is likely to add additional accelerator cores for encoding/decoding High-Definition (HD) video, supporting the phone's HD camera."

The iPhone 4 has received largely positive reviews from some high-profile tech critics, including The New York Times' David Pogue and the Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg. The former described it as "solid and Lexus-like," while the latter deemed it a "fine possession." Both seemed generally positive on the device's hardware and software-particularly FaceTime, which lets users make video calls over WiFi-with the inevitable niggling over some features.

"For many scenarios, such as games, Apple's version of multitasking is really just fast switching among open apps that save their place," Mossberg wrote in his review. "And, even to achieve this, the apps must be updated. For some users, this limited version of multitasking will be a disappointment."

Their words were less kind, however, for AT&T, which is the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States.

"The most important downside of the iPhone 4 is that, in the U.S., it's shackled to AT&T," Mossberg wrote, "which not only still operates a network that has trouble connecting and maintaining calls in many cities, but now has abandoned unlimited, flat-rate data plans. Apple needs a second network."

Pogue suggests that hardware improvements to the iPhone could result in "fewer" dropped calls in the iPhone-happy locales of New York and San Francisco, but that connectivity issues would likely still exist.