iPhone 4 Review Part Three: Entertainment Device

The iPhone 4 is one of Apple’s most successful devices. The first day preorders crashed AT&T’s system and it is still not easy to find at an Apple or AT&T store, but the question remains. Does the iPhone 4 live up to the hype?

In this series of posts I will focus on the iPhone 4’s various uses to help you decide if you should buy the iPhone 4. The first part focused on the iPhone 4 as a phone, and found it to be the real weak spot. The second part focused on getting things done, we discovered that it is a decent productivity tool. Now we look at the entertainment aspects of the iPhone 4.

In a nod to the most well-known feature of the new iPhone it’s troubled new antenna design I will rate each area using between 1 and 5 bars with 5 being the best.

Playing Games

The iPhone 4 is a really good personal gaming device and also a nice gaming supplement to the iPad. A few new hardware upgrades make the iPhone 4 a big upgrade in the area of gaming. The first is the retina display. With a higher resolution, players can see more giving them more detail. The clarity of the display also adds to the gaming experience when compared to the iPhone 3G.

The second hardware addition is the gyroscope. The gyroscope senses the movement of the iPhone on 3 different axis. Steve Jobs demonstrated the feature in his announcement of the new iPhone at WWDC. In a demo of an electronic form of Jenga, you could see how moving the iPhone helped move the stack of wooden blocks in the game (see video below).

Steve Jobs demos the gyroscope

A game that demonstrates well the iPhone 4’s gyroscope is the Eliminate: Gunrange.

A demo of Eliminate: Gunrange on a gyroscope equipped iPhone 4

In the game, as you move the phone it aims the gun up or down with some amazing precision. There are plenty of other games in the app store that take advantage of the new feature. As Apple Insider put it, this one feature puts Apple way ahead of the competition from Microsoft, Nokia, and Android in the area of cell phone gaming. Of course it also adds a lot to augmented reality apps that allow you to use the GPS, camera, compass and now the gyroscope to let users hold up the phone and point at their environment and have information show on the screen over the buildings and landmarks. Star gazing apps are another group of apps that benefit from this feature.

The iPhone 4 has a faster processor with great graphics acceleration for phone. This only adds to the gaming experience as compared to previous generations. The added memory doesn’t hurt either. Together, these hardware upgrades help make the iPhone 4 and satisfying gaming platform.

Any gaming platform will only be as good as the games. The iPhone app store is full of both great and really silly games. Some are mind numbingly stupid, but that is true of every gaming platform. To cut through sheer enormity of iPhone games, here are some of the best as rated by PCWorld. Also this list from GamePro highlights some great games.

The iPhone is not only a great gaming platform to play by itself or with others via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It is also a useful gaming accessory for the Apple iPad. I demonstrated this is my iPad App of the Week demoing Scrabble. You connect the iPad to up to four iPhones and use the smaller devices to hold your letters flicking them from the iPhone onto the iPad by flicking the individual letter tiles up on your iPhone screen. It makes the game fun and set up is simpler, especially if you are out on the run or flying down the road in a vehicle. The iPhone 4’s better Bluetooth radio helps as the app does struggle with dropping connections. In my experience my iPhone 4 stayed connected more consistently than my family’s other older generation iOS devices.

Scrabble is just one such game. Another less successful attempt at paring the iPad and smaller iOS devices is KL Dartboard. In the game the iPad is the board and the iPhone or iPod Touch is used to hurl the darts. The game is better on the iPhone 4 with the better Bluetooth and more sensitive accelerometer. Hopefully they will upgrade the iPhone app to take advantage of the gyroscope to make it more sensitive.


Strangely, the strongest aspect of the iPhone is probably not its phone or productivity features, but its gaming features. The high-resolution screen makes games designed for it look beautiful. Those taking advantage of the gyroscope are ahead of their counterparts on other handheld gaming devices like the Nintendo DS and the Sony Playstation Portable. The faster processor in the new iPhone also adds to the gaming experience.

Watching Videos

Watching movies or TV shows or any other kind of video on a tiny screen will never be as enjoyable as it will on something like an iPad or of course a TV, but the new retina display improves video playback a lot.

I’ve never really used my iPhone as a video playing device. I do watch some Podcasts. What I have done is carried some movies I have copied from my PC and then watched them on a TV using my Apple Component AV Cable. The result is a very nice HD image viewed from the iPhone, so long as the videos are created in the right resolution. The cable connects the iPhone’s dock on the bottom and then plugs into the RGB inputs on your HD TV as well as the stereo red and white inputs. There is a USB cable for keeping the iPhone charged while viewing videos. This is a handy way of carrying a number of movies without having to cart around a stack of DVDs.

Entertainment Apps

The App store has a category called Entertainment. Sadly this is where you find the dozens of fart and burp apps. Many of these are truly worthless. But there are some enjoyable apps as well. But I have yet to find one that is really enhanced by the hardware of the iPhone 4, unless you include reading books for enjoyment in this category. Then the Kindle and iBook apps are really enhanced by the higher resolution screen on which text is much crisper and easier to read.


I give this category of the iPhone 4 five bars. If you play games, that alone may be good enough reason to upgrade to the new iPhone. The higher quality screen also makes for more enjoyable video viewing and easier reading. So in these two activities the iPhone 4’s hardware is a big plus.

What do you think? Have you discovered some great games not mentioned here that take advantage of the new features of the iPhone 4?

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