As expected, Apple introduced the iPhone 4S. The news was underwhelming and disappointing to many who were also expecting an iPhone 5. There’s also the fact that the iPhone 4S looks almost identical to the iPhone 4. However, there’s more than meets the eye, as Apple made a number of changes under the hood to improve on performance, including a faster processor, a more advanced camera, and a new antenna design. In addition, Apple expanded its family to include a 64GB model (finally!).
Offering more choice will certainly help Apple’s cause, but is there enough to persuade iPhone 4 owners to upgrade? Read on for more about the iPhone 4S and my first impressions and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments section.Processor and battery life
The iPhone 4S features Apple’s A5 dual-core 1GHz processor along with a dual-core chip. Apple says the new chipset will make the iPhone 4S twice as fast and offer graphics performance that is seven times faster than the iPhone 4′s. Despite the more powerful processor, the company claims the smartphone will be able to provide 8 hours of talk time over 3G, 14 hours over 2G, 6 hours of browsing over 3G, 9 hours via Wi-Fi, 10 hours of video playback, and 40 hours of music playback.
The performance upgrades are indeed welcome. We’re never ones to pass up more speed in a mobile device, and if Apple can make that happen without hampering battery life, then all the better. The promised times are impressive, but manufacturer promises can be just that. Though the Samsung Epic Touch 4G and Motorola Droid Bionic had rated talk times of 8 hours and 10.8 hours, respectively, they actually lasted a less stellar 7 hours each in a number of tests.
During the brief demonstration of the iPhone 4S, the handset did operate smoothly and speedily and a change for the better is definitely there.
Despite the omission, it’s a fun and useful feature that we imagine many people will like. The challenge for Apple will be to fully integrate hands-free technology. You will be able to activate Siri with a Bluetooth headset (no word on if you can do it with a wired headset), but I understand that car integration is “coming.” Given the abundance of hands-free driving laws in South Africa, Apple will need to make Siri fully accessible to drivers while they keep both hands on the wheel. Siri will be in beta mode when it launches and will support English, French, and German. More languages will come later.
The iPhone 4′s 5-megapixel camera was already great, but it’s about to get better. The iPhone 4S has an 8-megapixel camera with autofocus, flash, f/2.4 aperture lens, and a backside-illuminated CMOS sensor that allows 73 percent more light than the previous sensor and should deliver better low-light performance. A hybrid IR filter is also onboard for better color accuracy. Apple also claims the new camera performs 33 percent faster than the iPhone 4′s camera, and the A5 processor has a built-in image processor that adds face detection and 26 percent better auto white balance.
From the demo there is definitely a change from the iPhone 4. In addition to the sharper details, most colors were brighter. I’ll have to save my final opinion until I can gauge the camera under several conditions (a sunny day, with a flash, and so on), but I like what I see so far.
Videos also get a boost with the ability to shoot 1080p HD video clips at 30 frames per second and with video stabilization.
As widely reported, the iPhone 4S is a dual-band world phone, meaning it supports both GSM and CDMA. This is more significant for Verizon and Sprint customers, as it will allow them to use the iPhone even if they travel overseas. What’s yet to be determined is whether the carriers will unlock the preloaded SIM card, so users can swap it out for a prepaid international SIM card at their destination. We also don’t know if the CDMA models will offer simultaneous voice and data over the CDMA network.
Meanwhile, for GSM customers, the iPhone 4S now supports HSPA+ 14.4, so the smartphone is capable of reaching theoretical download speeds of 14.4Mbps down, 5.8Mbps up. It’s certainly an improvement over the current model, but disappointing that there’s no compatibility with the faster HSPA+ 21Mbps networks.
As I noted earlier, the iPhone 4S’ design is nearly identical to the iPhone 4′s. Aside from being a few grams heavier, the iPhone 4S is exactly the same size as its predecessor. It also features the same 3.5-inch, 960×640-pixel Retina Display with a glass back and front. One thing Apple did redesign, however, is the antenna system. The new design will hopefully prevent another Antennagate situation and Apple says to expect even better call quality.
Pricing and availability
Apple said that they will be be available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the UK on Friday, October 14.
iPhone 4S will roll out worldwide to 22 more countries by the end of October including Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Apple added that the iPhone 4S will arrive in 70 more countries by the end of the year, and it is likely that South Africa will be one of these countries.
Vodacom said that they have not received any official information on this product and therefore cannot confirm the launch date of the device at this stage.
The iPhone 4S will debut with all the features of iOS 5, which is Apple’s latest version of its operating system. In short, it’s not a huge upgrade, but I welcome the new features like the advanced notifications and “PC Free.”
So should you buy it?
There’s no question that the iPhone 4S offers several attractive new features. Granted, some gadget enthusiasts who’ve spent months watching the “iPhone 5″ rumor mill spin out of control will be disappointed. And in a way, we sympathize. Indeed, the lack of highly anticipated features like 4G and a revamped design can be hard to swallow. But as long as the “antennagate” problems that we saw on the iPhone 4 don’t return, we can live without a new design. A bigger display would be nice, but we don’t see a real need for a thinner phone. Waiting for 4G is more troubling, but it fits Apple’s pattern of staying behind bleeding-edge technology. Android fans may gloat, but Apple fans shouldn’t be surprised.
In the end, the decision to buy an iPhone 4S will depend on your current network contract. If you aren’t eligible for an upgrade, then I don’t think the new features are worth paying full price. On the other hand, if you can upgrade or waiting to get your hands on the iPhone for the very first time, then you should consider it. Sure, there’s the chance that a better “iPhone 5″ will come next June, but that’s a long time to wait. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that Apple will even stick to that schedule. So go ahead and take the chance because in the cell phone world, something better is always around the corner.