Technology typically advances at a steady, incremental pace. The new iPhone 4S is no exception: It hardly marks a scientific revolution. Still interested? You should be. The 4S definitely lives up to its tag line: “Picking up where amazing left off.” While it’s no earth-shaker, the phone shows Apple’s commitment to leading the smartphone industry. Here’s what you’ll get:
- A more powerful processing chip
- Ultra-high screen resolution
- All-new camera optics and HD video
- Video conferencing
- A virtual assistant with voice recognition
- Repair coverage
The Good: What’s to Like about the iPhone 4S
A Stunning Screen
Unless you’re superhuman, you won’t detect the individual pixels on the 4S screen. The Retina display has pixels so densely packed that they can’t be distinguished by the human eye. This means that graphics and text appear clearer than ever – even when you zoom in.
The Body: If It Ain’t Broke…
The new iPhone has the same streamlined, shatterproof body as its popular predecessor. Although some have chastised Apple for not updating the gadget’s design, their complaints seem petty. The same people were wildly excited about the same body just a year ago. If it’s not broke, why fix it? Even better, the 4S has a lot more to offer under the faceplate.
The last time this phone body was released, it was attached to a downright infuriating antenna system. Basically, the iPhone 4 dropped calls if the user held the phone in a certain way. That problem has been resolved on the 4S. And the new antenna doesn’t just work properly – it works at double the speed to give you faster uploads and downloads.
Hello, High-Resolution Camera
The iPhone 4S makes it easy to take professional-looking pictures and video. First, it can take still pictures with up to 8 megapixels. That’s 60% more pixels than the iPhone 4 offers. You can capture images with great resolution by candlelight or in bright sunlight. Second, the 4S can take 1080p video and has image stabilization to help reduce the “wobble effect” that afflicts many amateur videographers. It will even adjust the exposure in a given part of the frame when you tap the video screen.
On the new 4S, optics collect more light to capture images with incredibly vibrant color and excellent resolution – even when you view your phone’s pictures or videos on a wide-screen TV. Advanced technology automatically highlights people’s faces, catches clear action shots, balances colors and otherwise helps you create works of art.
If you’d like to further enhance your photos, you can do so without need for external software. On the iPhone 4S, you can crop pictures, adjust the color and even remove red-eye. With the iMovie app, you can also edit your video clips, insert titles or captions and add soundtracks. The iPhone makes it easy to email your creations, show them on HDTV or post them to Facebook and YouTube.
You can use your iPhone for videoconferences. The voice-activated FaceTime app can quickly connect you with other people using Macs and iPhone products. Two lenses help make calls even more enjoyable. First, a lens made just for video calls puts you in the most flattering light. Second, you can show somebody the action you’re capturing with the phone’s more advanced lens. Picture-in-picture technology lets you share two views simultaneously.
The iPhone 4S has a new A5 chip. Operating at 800MHz, the A5 is a dual processor that’s almost as fast as that of an iPad 2 tablet computer. The new chip is part of the power behind the iPhone’s top-notch camera. Its utility will become even more apparent once the new generation of smartphone games and other “mega-apps” become mainstream: The A5 helps graphics move up to seven times more quickly.
iCloud eliminates the need to synch your devices and transfer data. It makes it easy to store all of your documents, music and other data in one virtual location. If you take a photo with your phone, it will automatically be available on your home computer. If you buy an iTunes track with one device, it will show up right away on the others. This isn’t a tool for privacy freaks, but it definitely has its fans.
Every customer automatically gets one year of limited repair coverage plus 90 days of technical support. You can also pay extra for two-year coverage from AppleCare+, which is Apple’s repair and technical assistance program.
The Not So Good
LTE, or long term evolution, is a new data transfer network being developed by a variety of major cell phone carriers. People who are interested in download rates of up to 300 mbps might want to wait for a different phone; the 4S is not LTE-compatible.
LTE technology has already been made public in several European cities and will likely be adopted by several major US carriers by the end of 2012. That said, the 4S hardly seems slow. Under ideal conditions, its newfangled antenna gives it double the HSDPA of the iPhone 4.
Siri, Your Personal Assistant
Meet Siri, your iPhone 4S virtual assistant. The good news: You have a personal assistant. The bad news: Your personal assistant isn’t highly qualified. Just as autocorrect has its amusing flaws, Siri has its gaffes.
Siri is a beta product and doesn’t yet live up to its potential. It can read incoming text messages aloud, but it won’t read anything else – not even old texts. Siri will type as you dictate, but don’t expect it to be 100% accurate. The program does show remarkable artificial intelligence, usually responding appropriately to questions such as “Will I need an umbrella?” and “Where can I get a pizza?” Siri can also respond appropriately to commands such as “Call a cab,” “Remind me to buy apples,” or “Tell the office I’ll be ten minutes late.”
For now, Siri is a useful enough novelty. By the time the iPhone 5 comes along, we expect Siri will be much more impressive.
Prices and Networks for the 4S iPhone
Phone prices vary because of different gigabyte sizes and different subsidies from mobile phone companies. Apple sells unlocked phones directly to customers and charges AU$799 for the 16GB model, AU$899 for the 32GB and AU$999 for the 64GB. You can purchase a 4S for considerably less, however, if you sign a contract with Optus, Telstra, Virgin Mobile or Vodafone.
If you’re in the midst of a contract for an iPhone 4, you might want to consider upgrading before your contract runs out. The iPhone 4S might be a subtle success, but it’s still something to call home about.