iBooks on iPhone 4- app review

With the iPhone 4 now available, many people want to use that gorgeous retina display to begin reading books on the go via iBooks. We have looked at iBooks on the iPhone 3GS and on the iPad. How does iBooks compare on the iPhone 4?

The good news is that with the increased speed of the A4 processor in iPhone 4 and the retina display, your reading experience is fast and beautiful with iBooks. Let's look at the processor impact first. Many of us eagerly updated our iPhone 3G and 3GS devices when the iOS4 updated became available and quickly downloaded iBooks from the App Store. Sadly, the performance on of iBooks on 3G devices was, to say the least, very disappointing. So much so that some of our readers uninstalled it immediately and rendered it useless. Others, like myself, had a good experience with iBooks on the iPhone 3GS. Not as zippy as iBooks on iPad, but definitely doable. I even encountered an issue where my impatience led me to believe that iBooks did not rotate into landscape. However, at the end of the day it looked good and performance was adequate.

Now the iPhone 4 steps into the scene. In my use of the app over the last 5 days since the device launch, it runs almost up to par with it's big tablet brother. There is still the initial screen to load the library, but after loading, books open responsively and PDF performance is great. I was able to open many PDFs with large images and file sizes with little problem. Of course, as file size increases, performance may decrease. I don't knock this as a downside since opening large PDF's can take a toll on desktop machines.

Next is the retina display. Does it make a difference? For me, the major benefit of the retina display is zooming in on text. In iBooks, you can't zoom on text in real-time, just enlarge the font. Granted, there are absolutely no jaggies, but does it improve my overall reading experience? I would say yes, but it is not a deal breaker. Where the retina display really shines is viewing PDFs- they are stunning. Zoom in as far as you like and the text looks fantastic. The artwork can too, based on the quality of the PDF. Anything you can do to make the viewing experience more pleasant in a mobile device with a screen size like the iPhone is a bonus. Yes the retina display makes a marginal difference when reading iBooks, but by no means is it a deal-breaker. iBooks on iPhone 4 for PDFs, now that is awesome.  If you are reading iBooks on the 3GS, I feel you have a comparable screen-reading experience- even on the 3G for most things, but the PDFs are heads and shoulders above what theses other device can offer.

Syncing between devices is a breeze. I have an active iPad, 3GS and iPhone 4. After installing the app on your device and you open it for the first time, it asks you if you want to sync. After choosing yes, the device stealthily syncs in the background, you don't have to hit a button or anything. A spinning "gear" appears in the top right corner by the Wi-Fi and signal icons indicating it is doing its work. It takes just seconds for it to sync and you receive the bookmarks, notes, etc from what you have entered in a iBook and is synced to all devices when you open iBooks on that device.

iBooks for iPhone 4 is extremely polished (well except for a minor bug I encountered. It is captured in the video and screens) and the bookshelf looks amazing with all of the book artwork on the retina display. Text looks good too, though not as amazing as you might think unless you are reading PDFs. Performance is zippy and I think Apple is doing great for their first endeavor for ebooks. Now where is my desktop version?

[Free- iTunes Link (opens in new tab)]


  • App looks beautiful with the retina display
  • Very responsive with the new faster A4 processor
  • Colors really stand out
  • PDF Text looks amazing


  • Can’t export notes
  • Can’t copy text
  • Occasional bug/error "Failed to load book because the requested resource is missing"

TiPb iPhone 4-star rated

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Software trainer, blogger and mobile technology enthusiast living in the suburban Midwest.

  • i cant believe how much nicer it looked when i compared his winnie the pooh to mine on my 3gs it is crazy status
  • In all fairness, the inability to copy text is pretty understandable.
  • I have iBooks on my 3G. It's really bad. Waiting to get my iPhone 4. Just two more weeks. I'm tired of the lag my 3G gets in anything.
  • i have the iphone 4, and i feel like the ibooks has gotten super slow when you want to turn the phone and use the horizontal. anyone else notice this?
  • Actually, you can copy text in public domain books- download one from iBookstore and try it.
  • Great review!!
    But no offense, no guy should ever use the word "FANTABULOUS"
  • I enjoy the program. Exporting notes into a note app would be nice. May be in an update. I miss that.
  • I'm surprised you were so positive on reading PDFs. They're tough to read (as expected) without zooming in, because the type is small--most PDFs being formatted for 8.5x11 or A4 paper--but the real problem is that when turning the page, they zoom out again...so that the whole page fits on-screen. Which (iPhone on its side to see fit more without as much zooming in) makes it almost useless, since having to re-zoom-in every page is incredibly tedious.
    At least this is how it worked in my experience. Very poor PDF reader IMHO due to the need to zoom in again every page turn. That also disrupts the reading experience.
  • They are going to have to compete with the Kindle app, my current book app of choice. So I downloaded iBooks to give it a fair shake. Right now, Kindle still has better features, and it's books are cheaper. Apple is going to have to go toe-to-toe with them on either features, price, or both. Right now they lose on both.
  • I was disappointed in the PDF viewer, as well it is almost un doable. But you can convert PDFs to the epub format and have all the features. The formatting may get a little messed up in the conversion but the positives outweigh the negatives.
  • Apple really needs to add the ability to zoom in to iBooks. Kindle has it and it's essential if your trying to view details in an embedded image on your phone.
  • I constantly get the message: Failed to load book because the requested resource is missing. The help file does not give any information. Does anyone know the answer?