People wanted an iPhone 5. A top-secret new phone to deliver previously unknown pleasures, and to cast the 16-month-old iPhone 4 into the rubbish heap of planned obsolescence.
But the news on October 4, coming just a day before Steve Jobs's death, was a reminder that not every Apple announcement blows off the roof. So here's the 4S--faster, Sprint-ier, with a better camera to see the world, and Siri, the voice-recognition assistant to better listen to it. And the proverbial question: is it worth an upgrade?
Like the iPad 2, the iPhone took a class-leader and subtly but smartly improved it, without breaking any moulds. In this case, there were literally no moulds broken: the iPhone 4S, save for a few variations in its aluminum antenna to improve the iPhone 4 "death grip," is physically identical externally.
But unlike the iPad, which is the undisputed tablet leader, the iPhone has some competition in the very-nice-smartphone market, most of them running Android and, more recently, a few of them running Windows Phone. So while the decision becomes a bit more complex, it's tough to find a smartphone package as powerful, elegant and self-contained as an iPhone 4S. But do not despair, iPhone 4 owners: much of the new magic is bottled in the iOS 5 update.
As usual, the iPhone 4S's processor gets a bump from the iPhone 4's A4 to what Apple calls the A5--the same processor family found in the iPad 2. The camera, now at eight megapixels up from five, shoots 1080p video and has an improved lens and sensor. And then there's Siri, a voice-recognition software assistant that Apple says can only run with the 4S's stronger processor.
Everything new is good. Compared with running a fresh install of iOS 5 on an iPhone 4, the A5 processor boosts performance across the whole operating system. It doesn't blow the A4 chip out of the water, but in a touch interface, even small gains in responsiveness as you swipe and tap from screen to screen make a huge difference in your perception of speed.
I can also verify the camera improvements are legit. Noise levels in low light are still not as good as my S90 point and shoot, of course, but they're significantly better than the iPhone 4, which was already pretty adept in low light. In many more well-lit situations, image quality is actually getting pretty close to a high-quality point and shoot when you're looking at the photos on-screen. Colors are natural, tap-to-focus works, and with iOS 5's lock-screen camera button and the option to use one of the volume buttons for shutter release, the iPhone 4S is a pretty solid camera that you always have with you. That's great. (Our friends at Popular Photography will be publishing a more technical test very soon).
And then there's Siri. Early reviews were swept head over heels with her, but she and I have had a bumpier start. Siri misunderstands what I'm saying fairly often--I don't know if it's because I still have a hard time speaking naturally to my phone, because it's what I think she wants? Maybe it's because I've never in my life had a personal assistant, and I'm just not quite comfortable with the social norms of such a luxury, and she can hear that in my voice. Or maybe we just weren't meant to be?
When we do click, the effect is undeniably pretty magical (which is why this is filed under "What's Good"). I've especially enjoyed talking to Siri through the headset microphone while walking--squeeze the button, ask "are there any Radio Shacks nearby" (I needed a camera battery!), and if all is understood, the results are ready in your pocket when you pause at the next crosswalk. That's pretty nice. I can imagine the effect is even more satisfying for drivers.
But generally speaking, I don't use voice control that often. This first week, my brain often says "Hey, let's play with this new thing Siri" when I need to look something up, but I can already feel the novelty wearing off--I'm more comfortable with touch. Whether voice control becomes a long-term thing for you is, like all relationships, a personal matter.
Otherwise, everything that was great about the iPhone 4 remains great here: the design (antenna problems have been improved, says Apple), the overall feel of the thing in your hand and in your life. To me the 4S's build is unique in small ways: When this phone buzzes, it reveals an interesting internal texture--like there's soft wood inside. It feels good. That might classify as the most wishy-washy statement you'll read in a gadget review today, but that such a thing registered to me as an improvement, or at least a change, shows how personal the relationship we have with our phones has become.
This gets a separate category, since you can enjoy the new iOS5 software upgrade on the iPhone 4 and 3GS as well. The architectural changes that come with the upgrade well overshadow the 4S's hardware improvements. Wireless iTunes syncing is a god-send--you no longer have to plug in a USB cable to transfer music. Similarly divine is using iCloud to manage purchased apps and other iTunes content, which keeps all downloads automatically in sync between my computer and phone. In short, your iThing no longer requires a computer—that's a big deal.
How well iOS5 will continue to run on your iPhone 4 is the question, but until it slows down, you've got yourself a brand new phone.
Fighting the urge to upgrade your iPhone 4, which you should. The improvements here are nice, but, unless you're incredibly unhappy with the camera, or you want to kick a bad texting-while-driving habit with Siri (she'll help you change!), you can probably find better things to do with your money. Sorry, who am I to tell you that? But if it were me, I'd wait for the real iPhone 5. If you have a 3GS, it's probably close to two years old, and probably struggling to keep up with iOS 5. And you're still looking at a pixel-y non-Retina display. I'd say it's time to upgrade.
I'm not going to tell you Android people you need to switch, because again, that's your business. But I've yet to use an Android phone that's as well-designed, as complete, and as effortless as my iPhone.
Update: Battery issues seem to be rearing their head. See note.
$200 for 16GB, $300 for 32GB, and $400 for 64GB. Comes with your choice of two-year indenture to AT&T, Verizon, and now Sprint.
The iPhone 4S is Apple smartly restraining themselves. Rather than push into a new mobile form factor every year, the pattern now is to introduce a new form factor, then improve upon it with the next release. Which means something that was already great just gets better.
If you have an iPhone 4, gnash your teeth and wait. If you don't, this is a buy.
UPDATE, Oct. 29: In the days following the publishing of this review, I started to notice some battery life issues. They started subtly, but are now more noticeable: By the end of a day, starting with a full charge with only moderate usage, my batter is about dead. With the iPhone 4, I could make it two days on a single charge pretty easily. And judging by this support thread, I'm not alone. We'll keep an eye on it, and see if a software update can fix.
A better tip for those with the iPhone 4 looking for a full upgrade: Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Droid Razr and HTC Rezound/Vigor ( I really hope they don't actually go with Rezound for the name, as that's the phone I'm after ) are all dropping in the next month.
These phones are well beyond the iPhone 4s thanks to 1.2-1.5ghz dual core processors with 1 gig of ram. There are some differences, so look at what you like and choose that. ( The nexus will be available on multiple carriers, the droid does not have a 720p HD screen like the other 2 do, the Nexus does not have a micro-sd card slot, the Rezound is the 1 with the 1.5 ghz processor, etc. )
If you're not sure about Android or whatever: Just make use of the usual 30 day return policy. That's what it's main purpose is: Get more people willing to give it a try.
It's worth it, big time.
Processor strength isn't an issue as published benchmarks show the iPhone 4s pretty much beats most of the android devices out there including the Samsung Galaxy II s at half the processor speed.
Seriously I don't understand the:- "1.2-1.5ghz dual core processors with 1 gig of ram". on a mobile devices.
I think the USER EXPERIENCE is much more important is such scenario!
"People wanted an iPhone 5"??
WTF? All media talking about it all the time, but how people want to something than nobody see yet? People don't want iPhone 5, people want something NEW. And Siri it's so new, that you will never see on Android or other stupid phones.
Siri isn't new. It was an app that was available for almost any iPhone. Apple just bought the rights and limited it to the 4s to try to make people upgrade.
Here is story about its demise:
Haha, I'd hope the 4s could beat the Galaxy s 2 since that came out almost 8 months ago.
Some Apple fans have no idea what else is out there. My friend was braging about how fast the download speeds were with his 4s since it was twice as fast as the 4 until we both ran a speed test and it was still 1/3 the speed of my LTE connection. Honestly, it just old tech in a pretty package with a high price tag that fewer and fewer people will line up to buy.
This is a video test of the iPhone 4S is one of the best cameras I have used for smart phone
My main reason for buying Android over Apple is I am not down for being restricted on a device I OWN...it would be like buying a car and making it illegal to customize it...we live in a America people free your device
Apple is using some street tricks for their marketing of iphones but soon people begin to make honest judgements and will move to android side.
this is the best case for iphone 4s I even used http://www.theideasforgift.com/category.php?id_category=16
RGK is right I guess. Siri is not a new Idea.
That being said......
Siri is the best AI-Tech at present in the world, on a Phone!
Now the rest will follow!
That's what is wrong with companies!
NOKIA & BB had the respective Mobile market to themselves. They could have come up with an IPhone Type Mobile phone years ago.
Like wise Microsoft introduced Voice Recognition tech I guess in the early 90s, It was faulty but they Could have worked on it and made it SMARTER years a head of APPLE!
At present Microsoft is SITTING on Futuristic Tech, and showing us how to play Ping Pong Ball with it.
The last two phones I owned were Android phones, the Droid 1, and the Droid X, I even tried the HTC Thunderbolt for a couple of weeks before bringing it back. The two that I owned both crapped out on me. I have heard about Apple's flaws as a company, and the iPhone's flaws and none of them kept me from upgrading to the iPhone 4. I liked my Android phones but the software issues that I experienced will probably keep me from buying another. Having a Droid phone, to me, is like having At&T, what good is having the features if you can't use the phone? I am not a follower, I just appreciate quality.
wow. why on earth doesn't apple change its layout and design. its getting boring. oh yeah and by the way phone sucks. Nokia Lumia 710 blows this one away.
The people of the world only divide into two kinds, One sort with brains who hold no religion, The other with religion and no brain.
- Abu-al-Ala al-Marri
BabaBooey, you've had your last two Android phones crap out? What was the problem, software or hardware? Sorry, but this sounds like more of a user issue than Android itself.
OK, this might be lengthy, but I hope this response provides an open minded review of the IPHONE 4s and it's features. I have had an android phone for 2 years and was very excited to switch because we have other apple devices we love (wife's iphone 4, ipad, mac, apple tv, airport extreme router, ipod touch, etc) and use itunes exclusively. Love the idea of having my whole world tied to one flavor of technology. I will say, that I didn't have any problem with the Android OS although my phone was really outdated and crappy. I would say that puts me directly ON THE FENCE in the technology war!
So, I got the 4s about a week ago.
Here is what I really liked:
the device is SOLID.
Great Battery life (with a caveat below..)
Great UI (everybody knows this!)
Share apps between our two phones
airplay streaming (extreme and apple tv)
wifi syncing with itunes
What was OK:
--Already had this on my android, so it didn't really change my life. Don't get me wrong, it works great, but not a game changer for me.
What I really don't like:
the native maps app
-- This thing sucks compared to the native maps on android
-- Tried to do navigation (several times) with very poor results.
-- So, got a third party app that actually works well, but will have to pay $20/year to get voice turn by turn nav. Which was free and kick ass on Android.
-- Needless to say I was very, very disappointed by the native maps app
Lack of useful widgets
-- Not talking fluff here, but the ability to easily turn on/off location services, bluetooth, and wifi.
-- And YES, leaving these things DOES severly impact battery life. I was actually shocked when my phone initially went from 100% to 0% in under 8 hours. Once I tweaked which apps were using location services, push notifications, and shut off bluetooth and wifi when not in use, the battery life was great.
-- The problem is that to toggle the settings, you have to go into settings/general/... to do it.
----I've heard others complain about this, and ios lovers call them lazy for not liking to go through 5 clicks to accomplish this. For me, that is one thing I REALLY liked about my android. A swipe and a press, and I had these potential battery hogs managed.
--Other widgets were nice too, but this was the only one truly missed.
-- I know this may shock people, but SIRI and I are just not getting along.
-- She doesn't understand me often (I'm from South Dakota, so aside from our normal naiselly voice, not a significant accent.
-- Requires location services to be ON all the time to be reallly useful. THIS SUCKS THE BATTERY according to my experience, because she is ALWAYS using it whether you are working with her or not.
-- Uses the native applications to fulfill your command.
---- I don't use the native alarm clock, so having her wake me up doesn't use the app i want.
---- Same for directions. She has NOT been great about giving me what I want anyways, but when she does it tries to use the native maps app, which I find lacking.
-- When I dictate something to her, she gets most of right, but I still need to tweak it 90% of the time anyways.
Poor Native Facebook integration
-- What I mean specifically here is that I can't be in the camera and upload to facebook from there.
-- The facebook app is GREAT, but I want to have the native apps integrate directly to facebook.
-- I'm sure the Twitter users are thrilled, as ios5 focused on that, but I'm a facebook user, so it's just not quite right for me.
Since I use navigation a great deal on my phone and have found googles tools (like Places) very useful. While Places does work on the iphone, it all falls over to the native maps app that I did not like.
It pains me to say this, but what I really want out of a mobile device doesn't match what the iphone is showing me right now. Probably the only person in the world, but I'm one day from taking it back and waiting for the Samsung Nexus Prime...
Sorry if this stings for some people and I would love for someone to educate me on how i can make my iphone work the way i want, but just wanted to tell my tale.
We upgraded our iPhone 4's to 4S's and have been really happy with that decision. Here's why:
1. They are SO FLIPPING FAST. Everything is instantaneous; apps load faster and typing has no delay at all.
2. We can recoup the cost of the phones by selling the old phones on eBay
3. Siri is actually very useful. Saying "Remind me every Tuesday night at 8pm when I'm home to take out the trash" actually does exactly what I want it to do (set up a recurring reminder every Tuesday night that only goes off when I'm home after 8pm). It can't understand well over Bluetooth headset but other than that it's REALLY good!
4. The camera is excellent! I'm really surprised at the quality of pictures I'm getting off this thing. And the video quality is very much improved over the iPhone 4. More often than not I don't wish for a separate camera
5. The data speeds are actually really good, at least in Dallas, TX area where we have good AT&T HSPA+ coverage (I'm sure it's good in most of Europe too). It's not LTE, but since there's not a "real" LTE in the US anyway yet (Verizon's LTE doesn't let you talk and use data at the same time yet and AT&T hasn't launched theirs) this is good enough for now.
"Verizon's LTE doesn't let you talk and use data at the same time yet"
Huh, I do this all the time.
My first Droid 1 started restarting itself every time I loaded something up that was large like google maps or the browser. That was after almost a year. I kept it in a body glove type case and didn't drop it. The second one, which was a replacement worked fine for the 2 months that I had it. The Droid X started to shut itself down in my pocket, and freeze up completely when I was streaming music or video. I know how to use a phone, that's an Android problem to me.
Steve Jobs was the ultimate salesman. I'll give him that. Definitely not an inventor or programmer, but one hell of a marketer. Even in death he keeps his hands in your pockets.
Upgraded to the 4S from the 3GS I was currently using after having lost my iPhone 4 outside snow blowing (and later discovering it's location with the snow thrower's auger).
Very nice ... and Siri is surprisingly useful.
The phone is very fast, though I don't think it would've killed Apple to give us a gigabyte of memory. OTOH, the 4S doesn't seem to be the least bit memory starved. And the camera is really nice, and it produces nice stabilized videos (though nothing steady-cam-like).
To the fellow who's paying $20/year for traffic info - I use Navigon NA and you buy traffic info once. The data must be crowd-sourced.
The problem with Android is you really can't compare specs with a real platform like the iPhone - Android is yet another java phone (actually a Java ripoff) which means to execute java code you either have to run the tokens through a byte code interpreter or a Just In Time compiler, both of which suck CPU and memory. This means to get similar performance to an iPhone an Android device has to be tons beefier.
Now, if you're an Android phone you have to have 4G (even if you're gonna turn it off to save battery) because you're urgently trying to differentiate yourself from a zillion other phones in the herd. You'd include a left internal ear scatcher if you could figure out how to get it on a chip. And to power all these goodies, you need a bigger battery, and a bigger case for all those extra chips, over which you can put a lower resolution bigger screen to make it look like this wasn't a design concession but rather an actual choice.
All I know is that a phone that sends me to Raines Law Room is genius. Well done, Apple.
I've left the Apple realm behind with a Motorola Atrix 4G.
I now have everything I wanted on my phone for free and a fast phone as well.
Google Navigator... blows away anything on the iPhone systems hands down and its free! It replaced my Garmin GPS.
And I have text to speech and voice recognition built into every app including my media player. I doubt I'll ever go with Apple again.
Android is a great OS and I don't have to pay Google to make applications for my phone.
With all of that said, the iPhone does have a certain 'feel' to it. But I adjusted well to my Atrix and fairly easily.
Not to mention I can use the phone as a laptop too =P
"Now, if you're an Android phone you have to have 4G (even if you're gonna turn it off to save battery) because you're urgently trying to differentiate yourself from a zillion other phones in the herd"
I loved Apple products and have been faithful from the days when they were the underdogs up until the iPhone. But irrational comments like the one above illustrate the biggest problem I now have with Apple: their consumers. This is no longer a company, it's a damn cult. Apple knows this, and is abusing it.
"I loved Apple products and have been faithful from the days when they were the underdogs up until the iPhone. But irrational comments like the one above illustrate the biggest problem I now have with Apple: their consumers. This is no longer a company, it's a damn cult. Apple knows this, and is abusing it."
Sorry you feel that way, but I disagree.
Apple products have always been as much about what you don't put in as what you do. They don't add a barometer to a phone because they can and the chip is available - and they don't add technology when it's not ready for prime time.
In the Chicagoland area, 4G coverage (Sprint) is not pervasive, so my Android aquaintenaces run with 4G off to preserve battery life. If the chips were more energy efficient or 4G more universally available I'm sure that would not be the case.
And while were talking about cults, I've been monitoring comments from various types of users from a large number of public forums, and from the vociferouseness of their comments I have to say that the Android camp has a much more savage cult than any other.
Your Battery issues are nothing new. With no removable battery, that I see as a dumb issue? False advertizing is a apple thing that people don't notice until they need it. All mobile devices need a replaceable battery the way they are used and on. So I give Apple products a 100% "0" in my book. You would have thought they had thought of this??? Not so smart!
Here is a video review on an iphone 4s with a smoking hot girl in a swimsuit!!!
go to youtube and search mymomentummedia all one word
The iPhone 4s is plagued with little problems. It works and it's a phone thank God. But it eats the battery, siri can't speak UK English and the new super camera has a focus problem.
When Apple announced the new Siri software for the <a href="http://cellocean.com/iphone-4s-specifications-2210.html">iphone 4s</a> it was easy to just dismiss it as another company trying to get on board with the voice recognition gimmick we've seen companies trying to make work for years. But there are a couple of things to remember here: firstly, this is Apple, a brand that will always make something seem cool and work pretty well. And secondly, it's not a technology that it's had to develop fully in house, with the company buying voice recognition development app-maker Siri. We've played with some pretty advanced voice recognition software on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S2, so we've also taken a look to see how the same command is registered on both phones. Long pressing the home button will result in the Siri voic icon popping up - or alternatively, you can set the iPhone 4S to activate the service when you hold the phone up to your ear in standby mode, so you don't look as ridiculous when talking to your handset. From there, you've got quite a range of things you can achieve with speech alone, be it sending a message, playing a song (or even a playlist), setting the alarm, creating a reminder... we were very impressed with the range of options on offer. And the system is quick too - where with many other phones you have to open up the voice recognition function (often in a long winded way) and then wait for the beep to speak, Siri opens up in around a couple of seconds from anywhere in the phone. The voice recognition is pretty darn good too - we were straight away impressed with how many phrases it managed to get right on the first go, including some pretty obscure bits and pieces of speech. You do have to pronounce your words a little more clinically than you might do normally, but even garbled speech comes through pretty well. To put a number on it: we went through the list of functions Siri offers, and found that around one in three or four attempts went awry, which is miles better than the one in two we encounter on most other phones. However, before we get into the comparison, we should say this about Siri in the UK - the full range of services aren't available, and that's a real shame. This means you can't ask where the nearest McDonald's or petrol station is, a feature that's been talked up in the US. We do have high hopes that the same features will eventually be enabled in the UK, as it's just a matter of licensing the information and incorporating it into the system, but it will be annoying for a number of users to see that Siri comes back with 'I cannot do that' time and time again for cool functionality. But what it does do well is work out the context of what you're saying, something that most other voice recognition software fails to do. So if you say 'Tell Andy his hair looks amazing today' it will work out that you'll want to tell him by message, rather than asking what method you'd prefer to speak to him. Messaging isn't as straightforward as we'd like though, as using the 'Send message' command to a person in your address book will result in you being asked whether you'd like to do it using the phone number or email address - and there's no way to set a personalized choice.