Following the announcement of the iPhone 4S the web was awash with disparaging comments from the tech community, mainly aimed at Apple’s design team. Bloggers were quick to air their disappointment that this year’s model looks identical to the last, often overlooking the major overhaul of the software and hardware that lay beneath that glossy exterior.
Whilst they may look the same there are a number of significant differences between the 4 and the 4S, and it’s these differences between the processor, camera and operating system that makes the iPhone 4S the fastest and most powerful Apple smartphone to date.
As we’ve already mentioned the iPhone 4S shares the same form factor and construction material as its predecessor. The two are identical bar one subtle change, the antenna system. The new design incorporates two separate antennas, each transmit and receive data, which supposedly makes for better call quality as well as providing a faster 3G connection. Although we can’t account for sound enhancements we definitely saw improvements in data services, faster page rendering and download speeds whilst browsing the web. Evidence of this change comes in the form of two additional bands around the top of the handset.
Aside from that the aesthetics are near identical, the 3.5-inch (960 x 640pixel) Retina Display remains as do the volume rockers, audio input, power on/off button and data ports.
Power and Operating System
The iPhone 4S incorporates Apple’s A5 dual-core 1GHz processor, as found in the iPad 2, and a dual-core GPU. According to Apple this pairing makes the iPhone 4S twice as fast as the 4, with a seven times faster graphics performance. This increase isn’t apparent straight away as Apple’s iOS isn’t a system that you could ever call slow, however, make the software work a little – switch quickly between apps, load resource heavy programs whilst playing back media and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the speed at which they open and the smooth transitions.
Battery life is worth a mention, despite the inclusion of the A5 chipset the iPhone 4S is said to be able to provide up to 8hours of talktime over 3G and 40 hours of music playback. This’ll no doubt please many current iPhone users who’re looking to upgrade as it’s one of the few areas that the company seem to have overlooked in the past.
iOS 5 is next on the list to tackle and again brings a wealth of improvements. Finally users will be able to perform over the air updates and iTunes syncing. Notification options are now fully customisable too and there’s a new pull down bar to house all new notifications, similar to that found on Android devices. The software will be pushed out to the iPhone 4, iPod Touch, iPad and iPad 2 in the coming weeks, to find out more about iOS 5 and the improvements it brings you can read all about it in our full iOS 5 overview.
iCloud is another major improvement and marks a shift in the way that users access and store information. It’s a free service, allowing users to upload multimedia files, contact details, calendar entries and system preferences from their handsets to ‘the cloud’ which they can then get access to. Additional security functions have been added to incorporate remote tracking, locking and wiping services that were previously offered by MobileMe. It’s a free service and Apple’s even giving away 5GB of storage to all users, more storage space is available if required, but you’ll have to pay for it.
The feature that really sets iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S apart from the rest of the pack, however, is the new voice assistant, Siri. While voice recognition software has been around for quite some time now, Apple has really raised the bar with Siri. The software is designed to follow natural speech be it a command or question. For example Siri can provide you with answers to simple questions such as ‘What’s the weather like in Stoke on Trent?’ and will also book meeting requests and help organise your calendar. Where it gets interesting though is how it recognises not just the words but the context and meaning behind them, for example you could say ‘tell Mr. Smith that I’ll be ten minutes late for my meeting’ and Siri will open up the SMS screen and send a text to Mr. Smith telling him that you’re running behind. Not only that but Siri will read the message back to you to confirm, and wait for your voice request to ‘send’ before firing it out.
The camera has been granted a significant upgrade, it now has 8 megapixels rather than 5 and they’ve also increased the size of the aperture to let in more light. There’s a new 5 element lens for and backside illumination has been bettered to capture more light in each pixel. The result of all these improvements is pictures that are sharper and with better colours than before. Video capture has benefited from an upgrade too, it now stands at 1080p HD and features face recognition and video stabilisation technology.
Other Tech Specs:
- 16GB, 32GB or 64 GB memory
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Assisted GPS
- Three-axis gyro
Naturally the fact that it shares the same bodywork as the iPhone 4 is going to ruffle a few feathers. But if Apple decides to stick to the trend users will get a design overhaul in the next iteration. To be honest it wouldn’t put us off buying one as there are a great number of improvements within that shell that overshadow the aesthetics, and it’s not like it’s a bad looking phone either.
The iPhone 4S is a significant step forward over the iPhone 4, bringing the device inline with the latest raft of competitors. iOS improvements will without doubt lure new fans across to the platform and the Siri voice assistant is a great addition. It would have been nice to have seen the Apple designers get creative with the bodywork, and maybe even increase the size of the screen, but for now we’re more than happy with what we’ve been given.