The much anticipated iPhone 4S finally came out last month. Now that the dust has settled down a bit let’s take a look at what makes it tick.
Even though it isn’t the iPhone 5 we were expecting, the iPhone 4S is a decent upgrade to iPhone 4. On the outside it is impossible to distinguish between the two devices – both look identical – front and back, the screen is still 3.5” when 4”+ is becoming the norm. But go past the externals and you start to see what makes the iPhone 4S a genuine upgrade.
The camera has gone up from 5 to 8MP and includes face detection technology.
The optics are better with a 5 element lens for improved image quality, particularly image stabilization. Other specs remain the same – autofocus, LED flash and illumination sensors.
Video recording is now full HD (1080p) and the image stabilizers kick in here as well resulting in some of the best video capabilities in a phone. Watch out Nokia, they’re coming after you!
The front camera remains low resolution VGA, used mainly for video chats.
iPhone 4S has a faster processor with the dual core A5 chip, an upgrade to the single core A4 in earlier versions. The same chip powers the iPad 2 as well. The speedier A5 helps games and videos run smoother and speeds up tasks like web browsing. Apple claim the 4S is twice as fast as iPhone 4, and real life tests do show a perceptible increase in speed however the difference is not that dramatic.
Now usually we wouldn’t go into antennae specs in a review but this one has a history – iPhone 4 was plagued with reception issues right from the start. Remember AntennaGate? The iPhone 4S comes with 2 antennas that switch amongst each other to maintain constant reception. This approach makes the device quite resistant to the deathgrip as one or the other antenna exposed enough to pick up a signal. The dual antenna format also helps with faster downloads and improved call quality.
This is the one place where iPhone 4S lags behind its older cousin. Standby time dropped from 300 hours to 200 hours, but the talk time improved from 7 hours to 8 hours in 3G mode. The drop in standby time seems to be much more than what the spec sheet says – many users are experiencing strange battery drainage losing 15-40% power after a few hours on standby. Apple recently released a new update 5.0.1 to fix the problem, but that doesn’t appear to have worked with users experiencing even more issues after installing it. Batterygate anyone?
That covers major hardware changes. Now moving onto software.
Software – Siri:
Siri, the ‘intelligent voice assistant’ is siri-ously cool, one of the main reasons for upgrading to the new model. Apple have given her a perfect mass-appeal personality with just the right mixture of fun and utility. She understands humour and gives as good as she gets – the web is littered with blogs and videos of Siris’s funny responses. If you ask her “What is the meaning of life?” Siri ”42”. That warms the cockles of the heart of a Douglas Adams fan like me.
Siri brings voice recognition to a point where it actually becomes useful. You can create notes, set alarms, call numbers in your phone book, assign relationships to your contacts and much more simply by saying it to your phone in your natural accent and language. Siri did have some trouble following the Aussie twang, but that was fixed in a recent update.
Software – iOS5:
Apple were able to release iOS 5 a week sooner than the iPhone 4S as the software update applies across older iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch. The many updates and features are covered in a separate review. The new iPhone 4S comes preloaded with iOS5 out of the box, so features like drop down notifications, improved messaging and reminders, easy access camera, advanced photo editing and more are there from the very begining. Performance across the phone is snappy with dual core processors making short work of the power hungry OS.
So there you have it – the new iPhone 4S.
Now for the big question – is it worth the upgrade?
If you have one of the older iPhones – 3G or 3GS, then certainly. The new features particularly 8MP camera, faster processors and Siri make a huge difference. But if you picked up your iPhone 4 just recently, and don’t always need the latest tech in your pocket, then we would suggest holding out until the fully redesigned iPhone 5 comes out next year.