Review: iPhone 4S ticks the right boxes, excels with camera
Published Friday, October 14, 2011 9:08PM EDT
Apple's latest smart phone, the iPhone 4S, was unveiled with much excitement and anticipation in early October. But while hardcore supporters loved its faster guts, analysts mused about the phone's unchanged looks.
The latest handset from Cupertino, California doesn't look drastically different than its predecessor, the iPhone 4. From the front and back, it's hard to spot any differences.
Holding the 4S and plain 4 together, the only difference is a slightly reconfigured metal frame surrounding the phone's edge designed to improve reception.
Yes, there was disappointment that the phone didn't look any different than the previous version. Hopes that the "iPhone 5" would feature an aluminum shell similar to that of the iPad2 were quashed with disenchanted voices on social networks.
But most of the changes here are under the hood.
The same processor found in Apple's latest tablet, a dual-core A5 chip, replaces the single-core processor found in the iPhone 4.
With twice the thinking power, the 4S tears through tasks with the ease of a circular saw cutting through cardboard. Opening apps is faster than before.
The phone also processes multimedia more rapidly. In the popular photo-sharing app Instagram, the 4S smoothly applied different filters and effects to pictures. Meanwhile, there is a noticeable lag while performing the same basic task on the iPhone 4.
Speaking of imaging, the 4S sports a much-improved 8-megapixel, 1080p HD camera. That's up from the 4's camera which captured 5-megapixel shots and videos in 720p HD.
The 4S's camera with a new fifth lens element appears to capture sharper images with better light and colour balance.
The phone keeps the 3.5-inch Retina display from the iPhone 4, a weak point here considering many new handsets, such as the Samsung Galaxy S II, are graced with noticeably larger 4.3-inch screens.
Something other phones don't have, however, is Siri. Exclusive to the iPhone 4S, Siri is a digital personal assistant that accepts voice commands and reads out audible responses.
Siri will send text messages, make calls, reschedule appointments and remind you to buy groceries on the way home. All the user has to do is hold down the home button to dictate a command.
For example, asking "What is the weather in Toronto?" will bring up the forecast.
In the quiet environment of your home or a parked car, it's incredibly fascinating and accurate. But it's not hands-free enough to be used behind the wheel (most areas prohibit the use of handheld devices while driving).
The other issue is that Siri doesn't provide maps and directions in Canada – yet.
Considering the selection of apps available from Apple's iOS mobile ecosystem, the improved camera and faster processing power, the iPhone 4S presents itself at the head of the pack. But the larger screen size of competitors shouldn't be overlooked.
- Maurice Cacho - @morningmoe on Twitter