A Byte of Apple: Our weekly wrap on all news Apple!

It’s been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride for the little big company from Cupertino this past week. Despite AT&T’s best efforts to keep the iPhone 4 out of the hands of subscribers – we wrote about the server meltdowns that the overwhelming demand for the new iPhone had caused last week – the iPhone 4 hit eager hands starting June 24th and for some lucky folks who’d preordered, as much as a day earlier! And how it hit! Apple’s reported first three days sales of 1.7 million iPhone 4 models, besting launch records set by previous iPhone models, with the iPhone 3G and 3GS selling in the region of 1 million in the first weekend after launch. Almost makes the other news from last week – 3 million iPads sold in 80 days – pale in comparison, doesn’t it?

(image courtesy flickr user dcharti)

With the iPhone 4 in the hands of everyday folk, initial reviews and feedback started pouring in. With iOS4 already being street driven by 3GS/iPod owners for well over a week, the focus shifted to the completely new phone design. Based on what we’ve seen so far, we like the design changes, right from the obvious – the fat plastic feeling of the 3GS is gone, replaced by glass-clad exteriors – to the subtle – the completely reengineered wireless antenna embedded into the stainless steel frame and the bezel of the phone. The folks at iFixit did their usual teardown of the device and apart from hailing the antenna design as a “work of genius” came back with better news – the iPhone 4 packs 512 MB of RAM. That’s twice the memory on the iPad, and everyday activities, such as multitasking, caching web pages, and running high-resolution graphics on the iPhone 4 ready apps should benefit from this. The new Retina display looks to blow the competition out of the water, as do the much improved camera/video capabilities, but we’ll reserve our opinion until we do a full review of the new device.

(iPhone 4 with Bumper, image courtesy flickr user ivyfield)

So it’s all good then? Well, with every rollercoaster, the ups don’t come without the downs, and the iPhone 4 was no exception. It didn’t take long after launch for people to start reporting issues with the redesigned antenna, a problem that was exacerbated if you consciously cupped it in the palm of your left hand. Essentially, gripping the iPhone in the left hand causes the palm to bridge the left and bottom antenna sections of the bezel, shorting it out and therefore significantly affecting reception quality. That can translate into dropped calls and disconnected data sessions. Right on cue, Apple made a bumper available to mitigate the issue, but for a company that prides itself for the attention to detail, it is strange that this was overlooked in the field testing prior to the launch. Official reactions (from Steve Jobs, no less!) went from “Avoid holding the phone that way” to a “there is no reception issue. Stay tuned”, and it remains to be seen how soon, if at all, Apple addresses this via a software fix. Till then, the signal issues will persist, as will the Internet humor mill – first, the iPhone got lost in a bar, and now (signal) bars get lost in the iPhone!

Along the sidelines, a slew of iOS4-ready apps have hit the App Store as well, and Apple’s singled out 36 apps that it dubs “Awesome iOS 4 Apps” to get you started with the new OS. Included here are apps updated for iOS4 capabilities, such as Pandora, Dropbox, Twitter, Loopt, among others. But of course, Apple is highlighting its own iMovie app as well (which is also iPhone 4 only, sadly). Plus, if you want to dig deeper into the new capabilities of the OS, there’s even a manual out there for you!

A parting thought, if I may. With success of iOS platform, it is not entirely inconceivable to speculate on whether the iOS platform will be the way forward for the Mac OSX platform, with some reports claiming a merge is logical and inevitable.