iPhone 4. Knowing it. Getting one.

Posted: June 18, 2010 by ralliart12 in Pod dock, Technopia
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comes in any any colour you want, as long as it's black or white

Knowing It

I’d contemplated switching over to the iPhone for a while. I find it increasingly cumbersome to toggle between my mp3 player & my cellphone while mobile. My Nokia E71, while being nothing less than a “solid workhorse” for emails, web browsing (Opera Mini/Mobile), instant messaging (Nimbuzz), navigation (Garmin Mobile XT, Ovi Maps & Google Maps), is lacklustre when it comes to delivering a proper music experience. At the most basic level, I’ve to get a 2.5mm-3.5mm stereo jack adapter to use “normal” earphones on it. On the other hand, the straight-forward & superior music library management experience on iTunes, makes its companion devices a far better medium to experience my music & especially, my podcasts subscription. In fact, the exponential popularity of applications development on the iPhone OS platform only serves to extend the flexibility & functionality  my iPod Touch. Therefore, it goes without question that the iTunes & iPhone OS ecosystem plays a huge role in pushing me towards the iPhone eventually. Apple is extremely capable of using its experience ecosystem, along with tight coupling of its hardware platform, to compel evergreen & recurring purchases of its products. And I’m simply looking for an unified/streamlined mobile experience.

The uber-high resolution IPS display

I won’t delve into the magical/revolutionary/amazing features of the latest iteration of the popular device, but I told myself sometime ago after Windows Phone 7 has broke my heart, I’ll get the next iPhone if it has the following few features:

  • an extraordinary display, i.e. with the most basic criteria being it must be IPS (I lust after the Dell U2711 & now the HP ZR30w, I’m a sucker for IPS displays). The confirmed 960 * 640 resolution packed into the same 3.5″ physical dimensions only serves to be icing on the cake. This combination will deliver a DPI resolution that literally convinces one that he is looking at “ink on printed media”. For people who wanna gain some background about this, go search on why 72dpi is adequate for web publishing while media publishing requires at least 300 dpi.
  • I want the processor to be at least on par with what is powering the iPad. I’ve experienced, first hand,  the UI response of an iPad. The succeeding iPhone must be able to meet head-on with SnapDragon processors to entice me.

Holding an exposed antenna during transmission...

And boy Apple did deliver. The screen came true. The A4 processor finds itself in the iPhone 4. On top of it all, there’s a couple more design specifications that are pleasant surprises. Apple has the transceiver antennas structurally integrated as part of the stainless steel (aluminium can’t be used as antenna while titanium caused Apple some backlash as the back of the iPhone 2G was found to be”not very environmentally-friendly”) frame. To me, this is a very clever design instead of having the antenna situated at one corner of the iPhone/iPod Touch. However, clever designs may not necessarily be ideal designs. If you read the instruction manuals of cellphones, they always advise to avoid one’s fingers/hand coming in contact with the phone’s antenna’s area when transmission are on-going. So, while the entire-frame-as-the-antenna idea is pretty neat in my opinion, I’m clueless about any (adverse) effects it has on our fingers/transmission quality.

UPDATE: What can I say? Looks like it’s not a good idea after all (& it’s hardware-based; I wonder how Apple’s gonna “patch” this…)

The A4 processor found originally on the iPad. The clockspeed for the version in iPhone 4 has NOT be revealed yet.

Next, we have the “Retina Display”. Apple has a knack for naming their components (someone from Engadget discussion boards commented his HTC has a cochlea earpiece!). As with any bold claims any tech companies make of their products, the true attributes of this display became a subject of controversy. If you wanna get your mind boggled, you can read any of the articles I’d linked below this paragraph to have a great amount of context. The bottomline is: regardless how exaggerated Apple made of the RD’s pixel density, uber resolution, the IPS component cannot be denied. In addition, I strongly believe, at the very least,  the display is definitely on par with any of the current smartphones in the market. & since the display is the iPhone’s primary UI for everyday use, having a quality one (not necessary the best) is critical.

Very basic overview of the “Retina Display”

Digital Society‘s article on why Apple’s ad is mis-portraying the Retina Display attributes (opening argument is that Apple is showing 3 to 5 times the Pixels Per Inch (PPI) in their ads when they should only be showing 2 times the PPI)

Related article on how Apple is not entirely honest in their marketing

Balanced argument by Discover magazine on how Steve Job’s portrayal of Retina Display may or may not be entirely accurate

Wired magazine’s opinion on Retina Display’s over-exaggeration (do checkout the links given in the 1st short paragraph as well)

Robert Scoble’s take on how sharp the Retina Display is

Gizmodo‘s take on the Retina Display’s controversy (if you looking for over-analysis, this is not it)

Of course, Samsung has to back its own AmoLED

Ignore everything except the line, "Backside illuminated Sensor"

Lastly, I’m very excited about the backside-illuminated sensor. I’m surprised nobody in the audience went wild over this announcement. If the iPhone’s camera has been lamented as one of its Achilles’ Heel, then the new sensor will secure it as a leader in cellphone cameras. In fact, there was some rumour that the replacement of the Panasonic LX3 will be using a BSI sensor. Sony’s current flagship PnS are all already on it (if you getting a Sony camera, the feature to look out for is “Exmor R”, not just “Exmor” only. This is because Exmor R depicts Sony’s BSI while the Exmor technology is the one where they grab 6 images at different ISO to stack for noise reduction). Some of Fujifilm’s high-end bridge cameras are also on BSI sensors already. So I’m thrilled to see Apple managed to rushed one into their phone.

Wikipedia entry on BSI sensors

Omnivision short-&-sweet explanation of a BSI sensor

Ars Technica: Sizing up the iPhone 4 for shutterbugs

Falk Lumo: Apple iPhone 4 camera specs

Extended description of (Sony’s) BSI sensor with illustrations & photo examples

Lumix LX3’s replacement to use BSI sensor

BSI-based successor NOT LX3’s successor?

Good illustration of BSI versus the current, typical sensor

Basically that’s about it. It will be pointless for me to convince another, about the prowess of the A4 processor if you have not experienced an iPad. As a matter of fact, the A4 isn’t truly conjured up by Apple. It has the Coretex A8 core (code-named “Humming Bird”) designed by Intrinsity, which Apple acquired not long after P.A. Semi. So I was disappointed that I’m not getting a “true Apple processor”, but maybe the next iPad will see some light of the P.A. Semi & Intrinsity acquisition? The gyroscope, while opening up possibilities, requires applications to truly realise its full potential. The iOS 4 is “yesterday’s-news”. In fact, an improved OS wasn’t my criteria for getting the next iPhone, as the existing 3.1.3 is definitely a balanced design for both consumer & geeks; not to mention the existing iPhone OS already makes very effective use of of a 600MHz processor (compared to SD’s 1GHz). Apple did copy a few nice features from other related products, i.e. namely the 2nd noise cancellation microphone from the Google Nexus One; as well as the “WhisperSync” capability from Amazon’s Kindle.

Apple iPad and Samsung Wave share a brain

Apple’s A4 is like Samsung’s S5, except where it’s not

Apple purchases Intrinsity, just 498 more ARM licensees to go

Apple rumor roundup: Intrinsity behind the A4, ARM being eyed

List of changes from iPhone OS 3.1.x to iOS 4

I also observed a couple of small things. OS upgrades for iPod Touches are officially delivered free from now on. Having straight surfaces & edges means one can finally prop the iPhone up on its sides & truly take self-portraits/shake-free shots…by yourself. The flat front & rear also means ease of apply film protectors without the phone “rocking”/corners peeling after a while.  The video calling is nothing new, except that seamless switching to rear camera means remote guidance of equipment operation is made even more convenient. I still think the split, round volume buttons tarnish the design, though.

Why iPod Touch owners used to be charged for major firmware upgrades

Why Apple no longer need to charge Touch owners for future upgrades (scroll down all the way & look for this email by “Ross from Virginia”)

Getting One

This is the “executive summary” for the (entire) following section. If you are not too concerned of how I arrive at my proposed solution & is simply keen to learn the execution only, this micro-section will suffice.

The important details are: expiry date of EpiCentre vouchers; discounted rates of iOne+ subscription; monthly consumptions of BBoM 1Mbps plan; & monthly promotional rate of BBoM 1Mbps (no longer offered)

If SingTel has not launch iPhone 4 by mid-August, A will have to purchase the accessories 1st (see Note #6).

Upon phone launch A will purchase a subsidized iPhone 4 32GB black by getting B or C to re-contract. C will insist on retaining the normal-sized SIM to continue using Classic100 plan. B will also re-contract to cash in some monetary returns (see Note #8). As both B & C are busy, artefact #1 has to be in place for A to execute the plan smoothly. A will convert 2G sim card to 3G sim card (see Note #4) while applying for MobileMail+ & multi-SIM simultaneously. Secondary SIM card (unaltered) will be distributed to C for use in artefact #2 while primary SIM card will be used in A’s iPhone 4 after treatment with artefact #3. In case it isn’t obvious, A & C will share the cost and 2GB data capacity bundled with MobileMail+ (see Note #7).

UPDATE #1: Unfortunately, the main component of the MobileMail+ VAS is the Push Mail feature. The fact that one can use the data capacity bundled with it for “normal” 3G surfing on the go, is a by-product of the service. I’m very disappointed to learn that it is specifically this Push Mail feature that prevents MobileMail from being co-subscribed with Multi-SIM. As a matter of fact, I truly believe this is a technical constraint, & not SingTel trying to prevent users from getting a super-cheap data bundle to share. Think about it, SingTel has to maintain a push connection to each MobileMail subscriber. If each subscriber has 2 active SIM cards (from multi-SIM), that means the SingTel mail server has to maintain twice the number of mail connections. We are talking about push mail here, not your typical polling mail connection. I can see why SingTel disallows this. On the other hand, that leaves me no choice but to abort my plan of sharing my data bundle, & subscribe to MobileMail+ on my own (I can still subscribe to MM+, because now I’m only using it on 1 SIM card, & it’s 2GB for $9.95 is still way cheaper than SingTel’s typical BBoM VAS for exisitng subscribers)

UPDATE #2: Definitely not getting the micro-SIM cutter as I discover the exact position of the golden chip on SIM cards varies greatly, even between SIM cards issued by the same provider (for different type of subscribers). I’ll cut it myself; though I’m still hoping SingTel offers voice-capable micro-SIM upgrades (bundled with adapter?) when they launch iPhone 4.

Artefact #1: signed letters of authorization, with accompanying identification cards from both B & C to be prepared by end June

Artefact #2: C’s Huawei E169 BBoM USB stick

Artefact #3: micro-SIM cutter bundled with to-normal-size adapters

Note #1: B & C are no longer contract-bound. Both A & B’s iOne+ subscriptions are under a promotional rate of $19.60 as compared to the normal rate of $25.68. Even C’s Classic100 is heavily discounted till $21.40. It is obvious that all parties retained their attractive subscription rates as long as possible. Prices include 7% GST and exclude the $5 caller-ID charge which is a non-factor.

Note #2: Currently (based on iPhone 3Gs subsidies), C’s Classic100 re-contract will earn $120 more in subsidy than B’s iOne+ re-contract. Apparently, Classic100 is worth more to SingTel than iOne+, even though both B & C are paying ~$20 each.

Note #3: while MobileMail+ may appear to be a push mail service, A has confirmed multiple times that its data bundled can also be used for 3G data surfing. Speeds of up to 7.2Mbps has also been claimed by CSO to A.

Note #4: for some ridiculous loophole, apparently A can (& must) swap his 2G SIM card to a 3G version while waiving the $18 service charge by calling 1688 to place a note of waiver so that Hello shops will waive before A physically approach the shops to perform the procedure. Why? A has no idea.

Note #5: as of now, multi-SIM service is unavailable if at least 1 of the mutliple SIM cards is a micro-SIM. In fact, the micro-SIM officially sold via SingTel currently, has data-only capability. In other words, you walk in with an iPhone 4 to apply for multi-SIM VAS, you are SOL. Depending on how well SingTel manage the micro-SIM conversion issue, artefact #3 may not be necessary.

Note #6: time window for plan execution is tight, as C has to begin paying full, non-promotional rate of $22.42 for BBoM 1Mbps service & A’s $50 EpiCenter accessories voucher will expire by 31st August.

Note #7: BBoM is C’s sole internet access and has an observed monthly usage of below 1.5GB. A’s BBoM usage via the iPhone 4 is expected to be “restrained“.

Note #8: Both B & C’s plans will be re-contracted; just that the plan with the least subsidy will be cashed in via source #1, source #2, source 3, or source #4.

The following sections are the lengthy ones you may not wanna read.

The next logical step is to get one. The primary objective is to secure as cheap an operational ownership of the device as possible. Unfortunately, to use an iPhone (or any smartphone nowadays, for that matter), requires a data plan; a voice-only plan is no longer sufficient to enjoy the applications on the iPhone effectively. In addition, I’m currently contract-bound until 8, April next year. To secure the iPhone without enjoying the discounted rate bundled with a re-contract, is financially lethal to me. As an estimate, a contract-free 32GB iPhone 3Gs was estimated to cost ~$1.3k, although in lieu of recent announcements, this model is depreciating like crazy. Anyway, I’m unsure if local telcos offer to sell contract-free iPhones, though one can always count on “forum-entrepreneurs” to cook out a deal just for you. As one can see, for me to own & use an iPhone, is made quite expensive by the 2 main factors above.

To illustrate my entire iPhone 4 ownership context, let me rope in a few characters, A, B & C.

A: would-be owner of the iPhone. Currently is contract-bound to a voice-only iOne+ voice-only plan till 8 April 2011. In other words, the primary owner of the new iPhone 4 will not be able to enjoy a decent discount off his re-contracting for the new phone until beginning of April next year. As the iPhone’s annual refresh is more/less stabilized, getting the iPhone 4 four months from its succeeding model will result in some anguish (assuming iPhone 4’s successor is going to be announced next July).

Obviously SingTel will like voice plan subscribers to grab these set of data VAS instead of using MobileMail VAS as a data bundle (2GB @ $9.95 for the top-tier MM+ VAS!).

B: kin of A. Currently subscribing to the same iOne+ voice-only plan as A, but contract has already expired since 9 May 2010. B is willing to re-contract so that A can purchase an iPhone 4 at B’s re-contract promotional rate. However, the subsidised price of the iPhone 3Gs (top-tier 32GB model) is $898 [whether one re-contracts his iOne+ plan or get a new 2-yr iOne+ contract]. Not a huge discount, but some discount nonetheless. B must retain the iOne+ plan subscription rates, & not be forced to upgrade [to a data] plan/pay more.

Once C is out of contract, monthly subscription for 1Mbps/30GB increases from promotional rate of $11.20 to $22.42!

C: close friend of A. C has just been freed from a Broadband on Mobile 1Mbps/30GB contract. C was paying a promotional rate of $11.20 (as opposed to $22.42) for this plan. C is also subscribed to a Classic100 voice-only plan that has an expired contract. C wishes to retain subscription to this Classic100 plan as C is enjoying obscene amount of loyalty rebates off the standard price of the Classic100 plan. However, like B, C is willing to allow A to enjoy a discounted price off an iPhone by re-contracting. Likewise, C should not be forced to depart from the heavily-discounted Classic100 plan. The difference is, when a Classic100 plan is being re-contracted, the same 32GB 3Gs model is priced at $778! A full $120 cheaper as compared to re-contracting an iOne+ plan! So apparently a Classic100 subscriber is worth more to SingTel as compared to an iOne+ subscriber.

iFlexi plans REQUIRE the purchase of iPhones from SingTel; if that is not one's intention, there are very similar counterparts like the 3G Flexi plans. Note: iFlexi plans have free incoming calls, at least, if you subscribe before the end of this year. The caller-ID charge of $5 is also INcluded in the plan's subscription fees.

A & B are paying ~$26 for their iOne+ monthly subscriptions while C is paying ~$21 for Classic100 monthly. As C’s BBoM (1Mbps) contract has expired, the attractive rate of $11.20 has begun to revert back to $22.42 monthly. Though BBoM is C’s sole internet access, C’s monthly usage fluctuates around 1GB. On the other hand, although switching to a data plan is not even a consideration for A, finishing up the 12GB bundled with any of the iFlexi plans or 3G Flexi plans is rather impossible. The proposed solution is:

Re-contract C’s Classic100 to ensure A can purchase the iPhone 4 at a “decent” subsidised price. Change A’s iOne+ to have a data plan either by:

  1. upgrading it to 1 of the 3G Flexi plans (if A is not getting an iPhone, A is unable to change to an “iFlexi type” plan; though the specifications of both categories of plans are quite similar), OR
  2. subscribing to a data value-added service (VAS) that latches onto A’s iOne+ plan

Have confirmed time & again that the data bundled with SingTel's push mail services CAN be used for "normal" 3G surfing on-the-go as while. The only downside is the fairly low "allowance". However, if one wishes to retain a voice-only plan (for rebates reasons?), MobileMail is the cheapest data VAS to add on

Finally, regardless of the previous step, A has to subscribe to the multi-SIM VAS to obtain a second SIM card to pass to C (possesses a Huawei E169 USB broadband modem) so that C can consume the data bundle off A’s mobile account (both SIM cards can be used to access 3G data connections simultaneously). If A chooses the 3G Flexi Lite, monthly subscription will jump from ~$26 to $39 with a data bundle of 12GB. If A subscribe to the MobileMail+ VAS, monthly subscription will jump from ~$26 to ~$36 with a data bundle of 2GB. Either way, both A & C will be enjoying 3G speeds of up to 7.2Mbps. The multi-SIM service costs $5.35 per month (with a one-time costs of $42.80). C can pay A a nominal sum of $10 – $18 depending on which data plan A choses & whether A wishes to pass the multi-SIM subscription fees to C (it is expected that A bears the one-time administration charges for the multi-SIM application).

Monthly subscription to multi-SIM is very cheap but the one-time administration charges are obscene! Nonetheless, the main concern here is whether moving forward, are subscribers able to have mixture of micro- & normal-sized SIM cards issued?

Complications? A & C have to decide whether the constraint of 2GB is worth the savings in $4 per month ($48 over 2years). Since A will be using the iPhone, A may have to pay another one-time fee to change his SIM card to micro-SIM (alternatively, A can either this, or when C re-contracts and receives a micro-SIM {SingTel has to give C a micro-SIM since C is purchasing an iPhone 4}, negotiate with SingTel to see if the micro-SIM can be keyed to A’s mobile number instead. However, when A applies for multi-SIM, that’s another story, because as of now, SingTel does NOT issue the pair of SIM cards in “1-micro-SIM + 1 normal SIM” combination. Having both SIM cards of normal size means A can’t use one in the iPhone 4; having both being micro-SIM means C can’t use it in a Huawei modem. Come to think of it, the micro-SIM-cutter option seems very attractive now (because it comes with adapter when A uses non-camera phones that accepts normal-SIM card), except that A must change his current SIM card to a 3G one (yes, A’s current SIM card is still only 2G-capable). As a side-note, local SingTel data plan subscribers report no problem with trimming their normal SIM to use on iPad 3G.

With the advent of the iPad 3G, SG owners have given micr0-SIM cutters a marketing opportunity. Note: some deals even come with micro-to-normal SIM adapters. This is useful when one needs to use back an older cellphone model during reservist sessions.

As a matter of fact, the above plan(s) may fall apart if SingTel decides to re-coup its “losses” from World Cup 2010 non-subscriptions & jack up the price of iPhone 4 substantially. But then again, if SingTel continues to be so ridiculous, people may simply switch telco providers (number-porting). Forum speculation is already placing a $1.3k price tag on a no-contract iPhone 4 32GB model. Maybe if SingTel is extremely generous, it can offer micro-SIM adapters, free exchange of normal SIM to micro-SIM, etc? But would one expect them to be so kind? Every figure is just speculation (after all, I’m basing things on current iPhone 3Gs prices & current SingTel data plan rates) but I would really like iPhone 4 to be launched locally ASAP, otherwise C would have to incur the full monthly rate of $22.40 for the entry-level 1Mbps BBoM & my $50 EpiCentre 3rd-party accessories vouchers will expire by August.

  1. SnOwAnGeL says:

    I am very amazed by the Facetime feature, especially after their promotion video, it was simply touching. It’s really useful to have the interchangable camera function while having video calls. However, there exists a limitation, as this would only work when both the caller and receipent are using iphone4. Hmm, doesn’t that mean I will need to convince my loved ones to get the same phone too… ? Well, that will definitely mean good business for Apple, so clever of them. I understand, they are profit-driven after all…

  2. ralliart12 says:


    Sadly, I’ve to inform u that Video Calling is not a new technology invented or even pioneered by Apple. That said, due to the large (Retina) display of the iPhone, coupled with the better (compared to the time when video calling was launched) network infrastructure, Apple is positioned to succeed incredibly in DELIVERING video calling to the masses at a quality level. Well, at least the masses that can afford the iPhone 4 in Singapore.

    While I agree with you that FaceTime is only between units of iPhone 4, do note in the WWDC 2010 keynote Mr. Steve Jobs mentioned the APIs used by FaceTime is open for other applications developer to peruse. In other words, there is likely to be new video calling applications being developed, that are not restricted to iPhone 4.

    In addition, I wish to add that the Wifi-only restriction is most likely to implemented to protect their (US) carrier’s network, instead of a true technical restriction. Users can still bypass it using Mifi devices to masquerade as Wifi access points though.

    On the topic of Apple using its subsidiary products to create a demand for other products in its ecosystem, the “Events, Faces, Places” features in iOS 4’s Camera Roll, is only full-fledged when u use it in conjunction with iPhoto’09. Guess how you will get iPhoto ’09? You can only run it on Macintosh Intel-based ones somemore, so it has to be the newer Macs).

    So when are you getting yours?

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