Thanks for your service, iPhone 4

iPhone 4

A couple more months, and it would have been four years.

My philosophy of making the most of a piece of technology is admittedly influenced by my meagre budget, which is a constant lately; but even if I had more money, I probably wouldn’t upgrade the devices I use as soon as a new model is introduced. Avoiding unnecessary waste is something my family has taught me since I was little.

And I really made the most of my 16 GB iPhone 4. It has served me quite well over the years. It was introduced in June 2010, but I was still paying the iPhone 3G under the original two-year contract with my carrier, so I had to wait a bit. I eventually got it in April 2011, basically just when it was being discontinued. At the time, a few friends suggested I waited until September/October 2011 for the upcoming iPhone 4S. It was a sensible piece of advice, and I would have probably followed it if I had been using an iPhone 3GS. But my iPhone 3G, by 2011, was feeling old and a bit slow, and I really wanted to go Retina. In retrospect, iOS 4 had impacted the iPhone 3G’s performance more significantly than iOS 7 did later with the iPhone 4.

Despite getting on the iPhone 4 bandwagon late compared to most people, I was extremely happy with my purchase. When you upgrade jumping a generation, the difference in features and performance is staggering. If you’ve been long-time iPhone users, try remembering how it was iOS 4.2.1 on an iPhone 3G, or the quality of the iPhone 3G’s 2-megapixel camera (and responsiveness), compared to an iPhone 4 under the same iOS version, with a Retina display, a 5-megapixel camera, 512 MB of RAM (the iPhone 3G had 128), and a CPU that was twice as fast.

The iPhone 4 is still a beautiful example of design, and it’s the iPhone model that has felt the most robust among the ones I have owned and tried out. I can attest to its robustness after a nasty fall that happened just three months after purchase. I was walking down the street, the iPhone in my jacket’s inner pocket, and listening to some music. I pulled out the iPhone to check something on Google Maps, the iPhone got tangled in the earphones’ cable, and in an attempt to free it, I dropped it. Until then, my policy with iPhones had always been ‘no case’, and with the iPhone 4 in particular, it was a pity to bury that design in a protective case, no matter how stylish. As I was helplessly watching my iPhone 4 fly towards the pavement, I obviously felt stupid for choosing not to protect it, and I was anticipating shattered glass everywhere, and a visit at the Apple Store to have it replaced. To my surprise, the iPhone got only some minor scuffs, mostly on the right side edge; both the front and back glass panels remained intact and basically scratch-free. But most of all, nothing had broken internally. I frantically checked Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, if cellular reception still worked, the state of the speaker and the microphone, the camera and its flash, everything that could stop working after such a fall. But all was well, and I was blown away.

Okay, there’s probably some luck to add to the mix. Perhaps if the iPhone had fallen differently, the glass would have shattered, or the antennae would have stopped working, and other horrific scenarios. Yet I’m certain that the design of the internal components and the materials used in manufacturing the iPhone played a big role in my iPhone 4’s survival. I believe that any other smartphone of similar vintage would have taken a much worse beating after a fall like that.

These four years with the iPhone 4 have been great: I’ve shot thousands of photos and it has effectively been my main point-and-shoot digital camera. For more than a year (April 2011 to June 2012) it was my sole ebook reader, and during that time I’ve read more books than the two preceding years combined. Then I bought a third-generation iPad, and my ebook reading passed to its bigger screen.

The iPhone 4 will probably be the model where I’ve witnessed so much evolution in terms of software. On it I’ve used iOS 4, iOS 5, iOS 6 and iOS 7 — four different and important versions of the operating system. And speaking of iOS 7, unlike other people, I’ve never really had any problem with it. Sure, it may have caused the iPhone to feel a bit sluggish here and there, but a quite acceptable experience overall (I wrote about iOS 7 and the iPhone 4 in three previous articles: iOS 7 on the iPhone 4, iOS 7, battery life, and the iPhone 4, and iOS 7.1 and the iPhone 4 performance).

Speaking of battery life, this is another department where I must say I’m incredibly satisfied with my iPhone 4. During the four years I’ve used it daily, I never took particular precautions apart from the obvious checks on which parts of the system and/or which applications could impact negatively on battery life, but that’s it. I honestly don’t remember how much the battery lasted on a single charge when my iPhone 4 was new back in 2011. I guess it was approximately two days with light-medium usage. Lately it went down to one day and a half, again with light-medium usage, and from morning to evening on particularly intense days. Still a respectable performance, all things considered.

The only physical sign of my iPhone 4’s age has been the home button, getting progressively unreliable and alternating days of decent responsiveness to days in which I thought I had to push it all the way through the iPhone’s back to elicit a response. If I hadn’t upgraded, I’d have got it fixed.

Finally, I must add that I’m not completely decommissioning this iPhone. Since I have two numbers (a Spanish SIM and an Italian one), this iPhone 4 will become my secondary phone with the Italian SIM. In the next days I’ll configure it properly to work as such, reviewing the apps installed, eliminating a few of those that take up too much space, or are redundant, or make the phone feel too sluggish (many photo apps, for example), that sort of thing.

In the meanwhile, thanks for your service, iPhone 4. It has been quite a good run indeed.

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About Riccardo Mori

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!