An upgraded processor, an improved antenna, and an all-new camera into the iPhone 4S. The other big story, or should we say, the bigger story with the iPhone 4S is the iOS 5 software upgrade and the voice-controlled personal assistant called Siri. iOS 5 offers over 200 new features to Apple’s smartphone platform, most of which are also available to current owners of previous-gen devices.
The box contains:
- Apple iPhone 4S
- USB cable
- Wall Charger
- Stereo Headphones
- Apple Decals
- Quick Start Guide
- Important Product Information Guide
Apple has slightly changed the design of the iPhone 4S somewhat though, by changing to a dual-band aerial design, making sure it doesn’t encounter an embarrassing repeat of antenna-gate we had to endure with the iPhone 4.
For all those that haven’t seen the older version of the phone, we’ll take you on a tour of the new handset: the top of the iPhone 4S houses the power/lock button, as well as the headphone jack, plus a microphone for noise cancellation.
The right-hand side of the phone is devoid of any buttons, but holds the slot for the micro SIM card, which pops out using the included tool.
The bottom of the phone is pretty standard, with the Apple connector and dual speakers which pump out the (actually quite decent) sound.
The left-hand side of the phone sees the rounded volume keys, with the top one of these also acting as the camera shutter button to make it easy to snap with the new iPhone. We’ve also got the silencer switch too, which has been slightly moved upwards from the previous iteration.
The new A5 dual-core processor (as seen in the iPad 2) makes things noticeably nippier. Apps launch quicker, web pages load faster, multi-tasking is more fluid and resource-hungry apps like Pages now allow you to edit documents without any lag. Competitors will argue that their phones have been able to produce similar results for months, and they’d be right, but it remains a welcome (if a little late) upgrade. The camera’s had a major overhaul, now capable of taking eight-megapixel stills and recording 1080p video. The main talking point of the iPhone 4S, quite literally, is Siri – a voice-controlled in-built app that acts like your own PA. Hold down the home button to launch Siri and then ask it to perform certain tasks.
Despite the major changes to some aspects brought about with version 5, iOS is still mostly the same, and users who have been working with earlier versions of the platform will have no issues picking it up and running with it
The biggest change in iOS 5 comes with the new Notification Center, which seems to borrow heavily from Android, webOS, and even Symbian. Gone are the modal pop-ups that plagued users on earlier iOS versions (though, you can add them back if you insist), replaced by a pull down menu that organizes all incoming notifications into a list, which can then be acted on at the user’s will.
The Notification Center is also home to Apple’s first use of widgets in iOS, though they are a bit limited at this point. You can have a local weather widget, which will also display a 6-day forecast, or a running stock ticker. The pull-down tray will also display upcoming calendar appointments if you’d like. Hopefully Apple will expand this in the future and allow third-party developers to take advantage of it. A widget to control commonly used settings, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or orientation lock, would be a great addition.
Honestly, the reason why I decided to go ahead and splurge on the iPhone 4S purchase, was the upgraded camera from 5MP
up to 8MP. Resolution isn’t the only upgrade though. The whole camera has been redesigned with a custom lens that has a larger f/2.4 aperture to allow for better low light photos.
The iPhone 4s camera allows users to zoom digitally into the scene using the pinch to zoom option on the touchscreen. Plus you could always look SUPER COOL and get one of those optical attachments for the iPhone 4S to make it into a longer range shooting device – but you’d have to be really dedicated to do that.
Rather than reducing the size of the images, however, the iPhone interpolates the digitally-zoomed shots so they have the same 3264×2448 pixel dimensions.
The iPhone 4S has one of the strongest ecosystems for music with the iTunes Store. You can browse the millions of songs available in the store right on the phone, or purchase music on your computer and transfer it to the phone, which can now be done over Wi-Fi or the traditional USB cable. The Music app, which has been split from the Videos app for iOS 5, offers an attractive interface for listening to tunes, and has various equalizer settings and a “Shake to Shuffle” feature. The external speaker on the iPhone 4S, found on the bottom of the phone, gets quite loud and does a good job of resisting distortion. Apple packs its ubiquitous white earbuds with microphone and remote with the iPhone 4S, and while they are certainly not the best headphones on the market, they will get the job done for the vast majority of users. The iPhone 4S also supports A2DP Bluetooth streaming.
The expectation that Apple will always deliver more than just a hardware upgrade is likely what made Siri a 4S exclusive (that and controlling the rollout as to not overly burden Apple’s servers). The work carried out on the phone itself is minimal compared to what’s done server-side. A quick look at CPU utilization while running a simple Siri query (how many meters are in a mile) reveals the most stressful part of the process is animating the results on the screen. The display process is multithreaded but even then peak usage rarely steps above a single CPU core, in other words – this could have been done on the 4.
Siri is the logical next step from after the existing voice engine on the iPhone 4, which I doubt many people used on a day to day basis. Functionality was limited to a small laundry list of operations, and if you wandered outside the confines of those voice commands, you were left out of luck. I can count the number of times I did anything with the iPhone 4 voice commands on one hand.
Siri originally started as a standalone application, where it initially impressed with the ability to take a conversational approach to voice commands. Apple quickly acquired Siri, built it into iOS 5, and enabled the feature on just the iPhone 4S. At present, the feature only works for English (US, UK, Australia), French, and German, though in 2012 the language engine will also be compatible with Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Spanish.
The notion of cloud computing is still a mystery to many and we were pretty skeptical as to how Apple, the maestros of uncomplicated explanation, would decipher this one for the mainstream. But therein lies the genius, you don’t have to understand how iCloud works to get it working or benefit from it. You just need to enter your Apple ID and start using your Apple kit.
Mail, contacts, calendars, reminders, bookmarks, notes, are all updated whenever you make a change. It takes the pain out of worrying where things are and gives you time back. We’re amazed Apple is giving everyone 5GB of storage free, but think an upgrade (and accompanying annual subscription) will be all but necessary for those with a half decent media collection.
iTunes in the Cloud isn’t currently available in the UK so we haven’t been able to test music, movie and app syncing.
PhotoStream is a cool feature of iCloud but we found the time between taking a picture on the 4S and it appearing in our iPhoto stream slow. We’ll update as to whether this was a case of teething.
Battery life has also been improved. Apple claims 8 hours of 3G talk time, upto 9 hours of wifi use, 10 hours video playback and 40 hours of musical pleasure. In our experience, we can say that when compared to the iPhone 4, all of these activities had less of a drain on battery.
Apple iPhone 4S Specification
|GENERAL||2G Network||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900|
|CDMA 800 / 1900|
|3G Network||HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100|
|Status||Available. Released 2011, October|
|SIZE||Dimensions||115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm|
|DISPLAY||Type||LED-backlit IPS TFT, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors|
|Size||640 x 960 pixels, 3.5 inches (~330 ppi pixel density)|
|Protection||Scratch-resistant glass, oleophobic coating|
|SOUND||Alert types||Vibration, MP3 ringtones|
|Internal||16/32/64 GB storage, 512 MB RAM|
|Speed||HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot|
|Bluetooth||Yes, v4.0 with A2DP|
|CAMERA||Primary||8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, check quality|
|Features||Touch focus, geo-tagging, face detection, HDR|
|Video||Yes, 1080p@30fps, LED video light, video stabilization, geo-tagging, check quality|
|CPU||Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass|
|Messaging||iMessage, SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS|
|- MicroSIM card support only
- Scratch-resistant glass back panel
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- Siri natural language commands and dictation
- iCloud cloud service
- Twitter integration
- Google Maps
- Audio/video player and editor
- Image editor
- Voice command/dial
|BATTERY||Standard battery, Li-Po 1432 mAh|
|Stand-by||Up to 200 h (2G) / Up to 200 h (3G)|
|Talk time||Up to 14 h (2G) / Up to 8 h (3G)|
|Music play||Up to 40 h|
|MISC||SAR US||1.18 W/kg (head) 0.98 W/kg (body)|
|SAR EU||0.99 W/kg (head) 0.99 W/kg (body)|
The upgraded processor is going to be a real winner in the future when more heavy-duty apps and games start coming to the market; right now there’s not a lot going on that can really draw on the improved graphics and CPU, and the phone was already pretty snappy anyway.
The iPhone 4S, unlike its predecessor, is almost entirely controversy-free. Yes, there was a gnarly iOS 5 bug that drained some users’ batteries, but it affected all iOS devices and Apple has fixed the problem for most users. As it is today, the iPhone 4S is the best smartphone you can buy, period.
- Innovative Siri personal assistant
- Fast dual-core processor
- Shoots amazing photos and videos
- World Phone capabilities
- No flash integration
- Outdated contacts menu