From a hardware perspective, the new iPhone is a significant improvement over Apple's last offering. And on the software side, the updated operating system brings about numerous capabilities previously unavailable to iPhone users.
The problem, though, is that most of the iPhone's new features feel like incremental upgrades, not game-changing innovations. Put simply, the new iPhone is a step forward within Apple's world -- but outside of that walled garden, it's still worlds behind.
Apple's iPhone 4 vs. Android: The Basics
Let's go through the biggest selling points of Apple's new iPhone 4, as outlined by Steve Jobs in his keynote on Monday:
• It's pretty. The new iPhone has an updated design, with a thin 9.3-millimeter profile and a stainless steel shell.
• It's sharp. The iPhone 4 boasts a new 326-DPI, 960-by-640 LCD display.
• It's faster than the 3GS, thanks to the addition of Apple's custom A4 chip.
• It has a better camera, plus a new front-facing camera that allows for (limited) video chat.
• It has new features from the iPhone OS -- err, sorry, iOS -- 4.0 release. These include primarily things that have been available in Android-powered devices for some time, so we won't spend much energy focusing on them here.
• Oh, and it also has that gyroscope thingie.
(Related: Apple iPhone 4 vs. The Rest of the Smartphone Pack - ALSO click here or the image to the left to see a PCWorld chart comparing iPhone 4 to multiple Android handsets)
Pitted up against the HTC EVO 4G, arguably the highest-end Android phone on the market right now, the iPhone 4 comes out ahead in the display department: Its 960-by-640 resolution beats the EVO's 800-by-480 resolution, though the EVO offers a larger screen (4.3 inches next to the iPhone's 3.5 inches). The new iPhone is also about a tenth of an inch thinner than the EVO.
Do those advantages have you seeing stars? Because they're pretty much where the new iPhone's competitive perks end.
(I know, I know: I left out the gyroscope thingie. Quite frankly, I'm not sure most typical users will understand or care what it is, let alone notice the difference it makes. If it excites you, feel free to add it into the list above.)
Apple's iPhone 4 vs. Android: The Smackdown
Consider now where Android, despite this week's iPhone progress, comes out ahead. We'll start with the basics on the handset-to-handset comparison:
The EVO has a better camera: 8 megapixels compared to the iPhone 4's 5 megapixels. [Update: As several commenters have pointed out, it's unfair to compare the cameras based on megapixels alone. So consider this item stricken from the list.]
• The EVO has limitless video chatting, whereas the iPhone's "futuristic" video chatting works only over Wi-Fi and only with other iPhone 4 users.
• In speed, the EVO uses a 1GHz processor. The iPhone, meanwhile, is said to use the same A4 processor as the iPad, which suggests it also has a 1GHz chip (Apple hasn't explicitly disclosed the processor's specifics). No formal device-to-device benchmarks have been completed yet, but some initial impressions suggest the new iPhone may not be noticeably faster than its predecessor. Either way, new cutting-edge Android devices will be coming out practically every month; this iPhone will likely be the only hardware available until Apple's next hurrah in 2011. You do the math.