I know that I had previously said that I wasn't going to pick up the iPhone 4S, but after giving it some thought, I decided to go for it anyways. ...Because why not? I was eligible for an upgrade anyways. Instead of breaking out a lawn chair in front of an Apple like The Woz did, I hit up the Apple site at midnight October 7th and pre-ordered that baby. I figured I would probably receive it in the mail a few days after the October 14th release date, but to my surprise and delight, I received it right on the 14th. Straight from the factory. Activating my iPhone on my own was a total breeze and I did it without incident.
The iPhone 4S may not have been very well-received when it was first announced, but that didn't stop people from ordering it, and it has actually gotten pretty rave reviews. For the past few generations of iPhones, a new one has been introduced approximately every year. However, it took nearly a year and a half to announce this one, so there's got to be some sort of radical new redesign, right? There were rumors of it being thinner, having a larger screen, plus an array of other physical changes, but when the 4S was announced, the main takeaway was that it was a faster iPhone 4 that you could talk to and that had a nice camera. Nonetheless, the Apple faithful, myself included, eventually warmed up to it by the time it was released two weeks later and they sold like hotcakes.
Here are the main three features that the 4S touted over the 4:
A5 Chip Speed. With the new A5 chip, the same chip that was first used in the iPad 2 released earlier this year, everything is so much faster:
Apps -- Both Apple apps and third party apps pull up lickety split.
Camera -- The camera is ready just a couple of seconds after it's pulled up, and after that, it can take the first photo in 1.1 seconds and all subsequent photos in half a second.
Web & Email -- All things equal -- carrier, connectivity, etc -- the 4S loads content way faster than previous generations of the iPhone. With decent wifi, it's near instantaneous.
Siri As expected, besides the initial testing of it by asking funny questions, I haven't really used it much nor do I plan on using it much in the future. I've actually had the original Siri app on my phone from when it was first released in early 2010 and had only ever used it once. It's a really neat concept and I could see it aiding people more in the future, but for now, it'll remain another unused cool feature on my phone. Similar to FaceTime.
On the version of Siri integrated with the 4S, every time I've tried to use it for something practical so far, well, let's put it this way -- Siri is like a dog; occasionally, it does tricks for me when we're alone in a controlled setting. However, when I try to show it off to friends or use it in some other setting, it doesn't work more often than not and embarrasses the heck out of me. With the mistakes it makes and its inability to comprehend me the majority of the times, I might as well just be texting or Googling something by hand.
A couple of examples of when Siri has failed me when I tried to use it for reals:
I attempted to send a text to a friend as I drove closer to her house. Instead of sending the "I'm here" that I dictated, it sent "Bear", to which my friend responded, "What about bears?". I've tried the voice to text feature several other times with similar results, so I've decided to just type from now on when I can.
I was out running with a friend in an area with spotty 3G connection, which caused my Pandora to go in and out. I decided that I wanted the reliability of the music preloaded into my iTunes, but I didn't want to stop running to do this, so I turned on Siri and dictated what I wanted through the mic attached to my headset. I tried repeatedly to get it to understand "Play music". Eventually I was screaming "PLAY MUSIC" into my mic while running. When Siri did eventually understand me, she told me she couldn't do anything because I had no connectivity. I don't understand why I needed 3G or wifi to pull up songs that are already on my phone. I ended up having to stop and pull up iPod on my own.
Now to the fun part about Siri: mess around with it, which you've probably seen on blogs and Youtube. My friends and I played around with it and here are some of our favorites...
And my favorite of all...
My friend and I just about lost it when Siri popped out with an actual answer for the last question. What's more is that if you click on any of the options, it actually lists out the nearest swamps, dumps, metal foundries, etc, and shows you their ratings. I love their sense of humor and it would've been so rad to have been on the team that thought of all of these questions and answers.
So my conclusion on Siri: useless for anything practical besides setting the occasional alarm clock, but pretty darn entertaining at other times.
Camera My favorite feature of all. I'll go as far as to say that the 4S is worth it alone just for the camera. If you've seen some of my food reviews, you know that I love taking pictures, and as such, I've always had at least a point and shoot on me at all times for the past several years. Well, get this -- since getting the 4S, I've officially retired my point and shoot and my purse has become so much lighter. It was no joke when they said during the announcement that this is probably going to be one of the best cameras that most people will own at this point.
Here are some of my favorite things about this feature:
It's 8 mega pixels with 5 element lens. That's 60% more pixels than the 4. These factors make for amazingly high quality, sharp photos.
It has a f/2.4 lens and backside illumination, so it takes amazing low light photos.
IR filter -- the colors are gorgeous.
Not only does the camera pull up really fast, it takes the first picture in 1.1 seconds and subsequent ones in half a second.
Even when the phone is locked, the camera can still be accessed by double clicking the home button.
Photos can be taken with the increase volume button.
Photos can be cropped and enhanced, including the removal of red eye.
Here are some examples. I usually edit my photos, but the ones below are unedited and you can see them in several situations -- outdoors, indoors, low light, etc.
On previous iPhones, these would've been near pitch black
Whatever flaws the photos may have, there's nothing that a little photoshopping can't help.
Last thing I want to note on -- appearance. The iPhone 4S looks near identical to iPhone 4. There are just several minor tweaks to the design. The two most obvious being 1) the iPhone 4S has a couple of extra black lines on either either side, 2) the silent switch was moved down about two millimeters, which doesn't seem like much, but annoyingly, it makes it so that my made-for-iPhone 4 case doesn't accommodate for it. So just keep the latter in mind as you're case shopping for your 4S. If not for the case issues, though, you can barely tell the difference:
I would suggest the 4S to anyone who has a pre-iPhone 4 phone. If you have an iPhone 4, I would say wait for the next one, which will hopefully be a complete redesign.
The 4S is so fast and I can't get enough of the camera. Seriously, if you're typically a point and shoot camera person, this will probably be one of the nicest cameras you've owned up to this point and will replace your need for a separate camera. As for Siri, it's a neat concept, but definitely not a compelling reason to get the iPhone 4S.
Still though, the 4S more than does its job as a smartphone and this is definitely the most amazing iPhone yet.
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About the reviewer
When I'm not Lunching, I'm a jeweler, and an all around, self-proclaimed web geek. My passions include social media, the interweb, technology, writing, yoga, fitness, photography, jewelry, fashion, … more
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The iPhone 4S is a touchscreen smartphone developed by Apple Inc. It is the fifth generation of the iPhone. The exterior design is nearly identical to the iPhone 4 but is host to a range of improved hardware specifications and software updates compared to the previous model. Integrated software and hardware changes support the introduction of new user interface and functions by Apple. Highlights include a voice recognition assistant called Siri, personal computer independence, cloud-sourced data, and an improved camera system.
The iPhone 4S is primarily a combination of a hand-held computer, cell-phone, GPS, digital/video camera, and music player into one device, powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It is supported by an online infrastructure where media and secondary applications can be acquired to run on the device, thereby expanding its capabilities.
After being unveiled on October 4, 2011 at Apple's "Let's Talk iPhone" event in Cupertino, California, Apple plans to release the iPhone 4S on October 14, 2011, in the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan. For the first time, it will also be available for Sprint customers.