iPhone 4 Design: If Looks Could Kill

Apple (s aapl) makes very functional tech, certainly, but it also isn’t the only company that does so. What separates Apple from the rest of the pack is its attention to aesthetics and physical design. I often want an Apple product not because I think it will be terribly useful, but because I just want to hold the dang things in my hand.

The new iPhone 4 is no exception, even if its name leaves a little something to be desired. It’s glass and steel, as you might expect from a company that lately loves the metal and gloss look (the iPad and iMac are prime examples). The front and back are optical glass, which is far more scratch resistant than the current plastic back of your iPhone 3GS, let me tell you from experience. Both will have an oleophobic coating, so you won’t get everything all smudgy.

A steel band rings the phone around its perimeter, striking quite the industrial impression, and on that band are located the various ports for the 30-pin dock connector, headset jack, microphone, speaker and sim card tray. You’ll also find the sleep/wake button, volume controls and silent switch here. No physical orientation lock like on the iPad, but there will now be a software button for that in iOS 4.0.

And that steel band isn’t just there for stunning good looks. It also doubles as part of the antenna system for the iPhone’s various radios, including Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS and Bluetooth. Integrated antennas not only frees up space to make this phone so thin, but it should also help out with reception, too, though you still have to deal with AT&T’s (s att) questionable service, unfortunately.

Speaking of thin, this iPhone is the thinnest yet, and possibly the thinnest smartphone available period. It’s 24 percent thinner than the iPhone 3GS, at an impressive 9.3mm thick. Now you have absolutely no excuse to keep this thing in your pants pocket instead of using a holster, except maybe if you want to show off your newest acquisition.

Combine all of this surface stuff with a new gyroscope sensor on the inside, the amazing new Retina Display, 40 percent more battery life and front and back cameras, the rear of which shoots full 720p HD video and you’ve got yourself quite the contender. The phone is also available in white or black, as per usual, but I’m thinking the white design could be quite a bit more popular now that it’s wrapped in optical glass instead of easy-to-discolor white plastic. Might sway my own decision on that front. What do you guys think, huge design improvement or what?