iPhone 4S – S Is For Speed, Shots, And Siri

4.5 Overall Score
Usability: 5/5
Design: 4.5/5
Value: 4.5/5

Siri works as advertised | Big performance gains | Camera replaces standalones | Same design

Same design as iPhone 4 | Would love to see more Siri services




Hardware Info

APP NAME: iPhone 4S

DEVELOPER(S): Apple

PLATFORM(S): iPhone

GENRE(S): Hardware

RELEASE DATE(S): October 14th, 2011

The iPhone 4S is Apple’s fifth major version of their flagship device, and with it comes a number of enhancements, all on the inside. The iPhone 4S features the same design as the iPhone 4 with the 3.5” display, glass front and back, and stainless steel band. The main changes occur on the inside with A5 dual-core processor, vastly improved camera with new lens, 8 MP stills, 1080P video, and the voice powered assistant Siri. The iPhone 4S retails for $199, and comes in white or black at 16, 32, or 64 GB configurations on AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint. The real question is if the iPhone 4S is worth the $199 price and new two year contract. We will go over every feature to see if it truly is worth it as your next phone.

Performance

The iPhone 4S features the A5 dual core chip found in the iPad 2, and it literally brings the power of the iPad 2 to the 4S. The A5 chip makes everything faster so that the device responds to your actions almost instantaneously. The A4 powered iPhone 4 is a powerful device, and never has felt slow until being used next to the 4S. It’s amazing how the seconds add up in real world use when launching apps, and working with them. The entire experience is smoother from Notification Center to Infinity Blade and all the stock apps in between.

You would think that the difference wouldn’t be too substantial, but it definitely is which makes the entire 4S experience better. Every action on the device relies upon the processor, and you can do everything at a moments notice. Not only that, but everything renders faster, and your interactions are always understood with a silky smooth feel. The A5 chip also improves graphics performance, and it’s easy to see the texture, lighting, and 3D performance improvements among many apps that haven’t even been enhanced for the A5. The iPhone 4S provides all the power you could even need in a phone, and it’s tough to think what any more power could do.

Hardware

This section will be brief since the design of the 4S is the same as the 4. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing, and it might be the best decision Apple could have made. iPhone 4 owners may feel underwhelmed without a difference, but 3GS and non-iPhone owners will still be blown away. The device looks sharp at a glance, but it’s quite the opposite when in your hand. It simply fits so well, with your hand almost always touching the steel band, and not the flat glass back making a curved back irrelevant.

The size feels great, and it seems to fit better than any other device I’ve held. The 4th generation iPod Touch is super thin, and it honestly may be too thin at 7.2 mm compared to the 9.3 of the iPhone. The 4S & 4 feel so solid especially when holding in landscape mode. You can’t ever not like the retina display with the finest looking display on the market because of the high density ppi. There are other screen technologies, and bigger screens, but none look as fine as the retina display. The entire form factor is as good as can be, and the only improvement I can imagine is a bigger screen in the same form factor that provides less bezel on the front. The iPhone 4 design is the most well made around, and the 4S thankfully keeps it as a rush to thinness or plastic doesn’t sound appealing.

There’s also the advantages of the white that has only been available since February, which so many AT&T iPhone 4 owners never had a choice of. The white is gorgeous on the front and back with the glass surface. Black is great, but so many other iPhones and just smartphones in general come in black. The white stands out, and is great to look at while you’re using the A5 chip, iOS 5, new Camera, and Siri.

Camera

The iPhone 4S camera is the first iPhone camera that can realistically be compared to a standalone digital camera and camcorder. The photos are simply gorgeous with the new lens systems and optics including the longer focal length to allow in more light. Jamming in megapixels doesn’t help, but completely reengineering the lens does, and the enhancements take advantage of the extra megapixels. There are software enhancements as well with auto focus and white balance adjustments to create even better results. Each photo I’ve taken looks amazing, and right on par with my one year old digital camera.

There’s also the speed to first shot and second shot that my digital camera can’t match. The ability for photos to be transferred wirelessly through Photo Stream is another unmatched feature. The digital zoom is disappointing with older iPhone cameras, but is actually quite handy on the 4S because you’re beginning with 8 megapixels. Zoomed shots still look good because they’re still at about 4 megapixels, even with the digital zoom blowing up pixels. The 4S maintains the LED flash for low light shots, and it seems even more powerful with shots capable in pitch black. The new 1080P video is exceptional as well, which easily rivals a Canon full HD camcorder. There’s also software enhancements for the video including the adjustments mentioned above as well as image stabilization.

The iPhone 4S camera is the first iPhone camera that can replace a digital camera and camcorder as stand alone devices. The camera isn’t perfect, and there are more features on more advanced cameras and camcorders, but the differences are minute. The portability, speed, and Photo Stream give the 4S the edge under most circumstances.

Software

The iPhone 4S ships with iOS 5 and access to iCloud, which we already discussed. The features aren’t unique to the 4S, so we don’t need to focus on them here.

Siri

The best feature of the 4S is Siri, so that you could easily call it the iPhone4Siri. We gave a deluxe analysis of everything Siri can do, and yet we’re still blown away. It’s easier to use the iPhone thanks to Siri, and Siri is quite accurate understanding exactly what you want without you changing the way you speak. Siri creates a whole new way to use the iPhone which makes it a unique experience when compared to any existing iPhone or smartphone. There are other voice technologies out there, but all pale in comparison to the power of Siri as it can truly act as a virtual assistant.

Siri has worked almost every time allowing me to hear a message, respond, set-up a meeting based on the message, then set-up a reminder, ask about the weather for the meeting, then find the location, directions, and traffic all from that original message. Everything is in context for a back forth conversation, and there are so many circumstances where Siri is more useful than tapping and typing. Siri can also let you find locations for meetings, and then take notes, and find out valuable information too. The voice powered technology extends to the keyboard so that you can dictate anywhere the keyboard comes up.

Siri can even figure out what you’re asking when mis-recognizing a couple of words. If you think of Siri as an assistant, then you will get a ton of use out of it as you can ask to hear your latest messages or find out when your next meeting is. You can have Siri take care of most things an assistant would do, and you just talk to it just like an actual person as your assistant. Siri is classified as beta, and I can’t imagine what how much better or more it could do when it’s officially out of beta. Siri is simply the best feature on any iPhone ever making it worth the upgrade by itself. You can think back of all the new things Apple has added, but none come close to Siri.

Verdict

The iPhone 4S is an outstanding upgrade for anyone who’s in the smartphone market. The A5 chip, improved camera, Siri, and iOS 5 and iCloud integration are all great taken separately. Now, the iPhone 4S includes them all, and each piece relies on one another for a full immersive, enjoyable, and smooth experience that the 4S offers. The design is amazing, and not worth changing, the performance improvements are considerable over the powerful iPhone 4, and the camera is on par with standalone camera and camcorders. Then there’s Siri which is the single best aspect added to any iPhone ever, for it’s ease of use, powerful incorporation into the usability of the device, and the true feeling of being an assistant.

The iPhone 4S is a must buy for the $199 price and new two year contract that you just won’t be able to get enough off. The iPhone 4S upgrade is all about usability, and it really offers up a whole new experience with all of the new features working with each other to make the best phone experience on the market.

*I couldn’t help, but be reminded of my review of the MacBook Air which also looked the same as its predecessor, but was a completely different experience. The MacBook Air was the first new mac to ship with Lion, like the iPhone 4S and iOS 5. It’s also had the Thunderbolt processor which ran circles around the previous MacBook Airs. It was a great upgrade, and didn’t have anything to compare to Siri, which makes the 4S that much more impressive when thinking in that context.

If you get or have a new iPhone 4S, be sure to check out our lists for the first apps and games to install.

The First Apps To Install On Your New iPhone 4S

The First Games To Install On Your New iPhone 4S

Our Unboxing:

Apple’s Video:

Siri Walkthrough:

Performance Tests:



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