- The iPhone 4S is not a completely new phone compared to the previous version.
- It has several wonderful new features, including Siri.
Apple’s decision not to release the iPhone 5 represents the biggest news in Apple Land this month. Although Apple did send a new iPhone to market, the new iPhone had the designation “4S,” not “5.” That labeling represents a naming convention Apple previously employed with the “3” series of the iPhone. It likely means that sometime around the end of the first quarter of 2012, Apple will release the iPhone 5.
Although the new iPhone did not bring enough newness to the party to justify the appellation of the iPhone “5,” The iPhone 4S does have some substantial improvements over its immediate predecessor, including a long-awaited memory upgrade to a maximum 64 GB, a faster processor, and an improved camera and optics; but most of the anticipated improvements will not appear until the release of the iPhone 5. The biggest improvements for the iPhone 4S come in the release of iOS 5, which came preinstalled on the 4S (and as an OS upgrade for the iPhone 4, iPad 2, iPod Touch, and some of the older iOS devices. Apple claims some 200 new or upgraded features for iOS 5; the best feature of iOS 5, Siri (the voice activated control center/concierge/personal assistant) only works with the iPhone 4S.
On the outside the iPhone 4S looks pretty much the same as the iPhone 4. It has the same physical dimensions and the cases and accessories made for the iPhone 4 should all work fine with the 4S. What does the iPhone 4S provide that the iPhone 4 cannot? Siri, up to 64 GB of memory, a faster dual core A5 processor, and an 8 GB camera with improved optics and full 1080p video capability. Apple also improved the antenna in the 4S, solving the short-circuiting issue that plagued the 4 right after its release. Additionally, Apple employed technology that allows the phone 4S to switch between dual antennas. What will wait for the iPhone 5? Likely the iPhone 5 will have a larger screen, an even faster processor, and nominal 4G connectivity, providing a faster and better Internet experience than with the currently available systems. As the iPhone 5 will probably have a larger screen, it will also have a larger case, allowing it to accommodate a larger battery. The larger battery will probably provide some improvement of MTBC (mean time between charges); but it may simply equalize the additional power requirements of the larger display.
The iPhone 4S looks pretty much the same as the Verizon version of the iPhone 4 on the outside (the Verizon version made some minor adjustments in external control location from the AT&T version, but otherwise appears the same). Size has not changed. The external design remains simple, but elegant. Unlike some who criticize Apple for not changing the design, I have no issue with that fact. We all liked it when it came out last year, and I still like it. Apple has made the iPhone 4S available in any color you want, provided you want either black or white; but they really have the white phones available if you want one.
Image courtesy of Apple.
The iPhone 4S has not suffered from any major issues respecting its performance, such as the antenna short-circuiting problems associated with the iPhone 4 (and solved by simply holding it differently or using a case). A number of users complained about unsatisfactory MTBC. Apple responded by a modification of iOS5 reported to improve battery usage. Although the modification appears to have resulted in some improvement to the battery usage, many of us still find the usage available between charges problematic; but I had the same issues with the iPhone 4. I solved the iPhone 4 battery issue by acquiring a case that sported a built-in battery, effectively doubling the usage time, putting it at a very satisfactory level. The trade off, a bulkier and heavier package made sense, given the fact that the iPhone 4 represented, for my money, the best and most desirable phone on the market, until the release of the iPhone 4S. That same battery case works on the 4S. Several manufacturers offer battery cases for the iPhone. A number of other manufacturers offer external batteries that you can connect to the iPhone and use to either run the iPhone or recharge it on the go, or both. If you use the iPhone heavily, you will likely want to acquire either an iPhone battery case or an external battery. Each has its advantages. The battery case gives you one unit to carry and will power the iPhone or recharge it without having to make a separate attachment as it connects to the power port when you put the case on the iPhone. However, it makes for a much heavier and bulkier package. The other external batteries only attach to the iPhone when you want to use them. That allows you to use the iPhone in its sleeker, more svelte form and to use one of the many attractive cases designed for the iPhone. To use them, however, you need to carry a separate device (the battery) and a cable; and while you charge or use the phone with the external battery, you must keep it connected with the cable.
While the battery issue remains a concern with the iPhone 4S, it is not one limited to the iPhone. I have had similar experiences with most other smart phones and, in fact, as the 4G systems tend to burn batteries faster, the 4G phones I have tried have had similar issues with battery life.
The addition of iOS5 brings some 200 new features to the iPhone, most of which will work with the iPhone 4, all of which work with the 4S. Many of the features work faster and better with the more powerful 4S. The most popular additional feature, Siri, works only with the iPhone 4S.
In 1984, I watched a newly released Stanley Kubrick flick called 2001: A Space Odyssey. The movie, based on an Arthur Clarke novel, featured a computer named HAL (HAL9000). Although HAL had some control issues and had developed its own mission, it presented a fascinating concept of people and computers talking to each other in plain English and actually carrying on a conversation. From the time I first saw the movie, I wanted to have the ability to talk to a computer like that. It took more than a quarter of a century, but Siri makes that a reality. The good news is that Siri is not likely to take over your iPhone and try to develop its own mission. It also has a more pleasant (to my ear) voice. Siri also proves that the folks in Cupertino have a sense of humor, as Siri has some clever quips built in as responses to many of the inane questions people have chosen to ask it. I have read many articles about people reporting on the responses that Siri gives to such questions, and there are even some who blog about it. I will spare you much of that in this column, and let you experiment with Siri on your own. I will, however, tell you that, just to be safe, I asked Siri if she was related to the HAL 9000 and Siri responded “Everyone knows what happened to HAL; I’d rather not talk about that. But, if you insist (and Siri then provided a link to search the web for information about HAL). When I asked Siri “Who’s the fairest of them all,” Siri responded: “Snow White is the fairest of them all.” In addition to its entertainment value, you will discover that Siri has the ability to work ably as your assistant and provide you with useful information, make calendar and contract entries, set reminders, send text messages, and many other things. To give you an idea of what Siri can do for you, I asked Siri for the location of the best pizza in Oakland, California. Siri responded with a list of 14 pizza restaurants in Oakland, sorted by rating, giving me distance and linking to a map providing directions as to location for each of them.
I do not have space available to discuss or even list all of the new features in iOS5 here. In addition to Siri, my two favorite improvements, however, are the Notification Center, which provides you with updates and notifications of important information from your calendar, missed messages and other things; and the Reminders app that adds reminders to the iOS devices, a piece of the calendar package not previously included. If you want to learn more about the new features in iOS5, check it out at Apple’s website.
Although the iPhone 4S did not have all the new features many of us had hoped for, it did offer enough improvement over the iPhone 4 to keep the iPhone at the top of the smart phone list. The improved camera features make the iPhone one of the best, if not the best cameraphone on the market. The utilization of a new system that allows the antenna to switch intelligently from transmission to receipt of data has improved the download speed and made the Internet experience better. The doubling of the maximum memory from 32 GB to 64 GB is a very welcome upgrade, as 32 GB proved somewhat restrictive in terms of storing everything I wanted to have on my iPhone. The upgrade of the processor to the dual-core A5 processor that Apple used on the iPad 2 also improved the speed and performance characteristics. Those improvements, plus the fact that with the release of iOS5, the iPhone 4S acquired the ability to interact with the user through the Siri program (which only works with the 4S) makes the iPhone 4S my personal choice for the best smart phone on the market, even if it is not the iPhone 5 we hoped to see. I have one, I have found it very satisfactory, and I do not hesitate to recommend it. Should you wait for the iPhone 5? That is a personal decision. I chose to go ahead and get the 4S for myself on the theory that there will always be a newer and better version coming out later, and you can always wait for that or enjoy the features of what you can get now. I chose to enjoy the features of the 4S. Undoubtedly, I will also choose to enjoy the features of the iPhone 5 when Apple releases it next year, and I will pass the 4S along to someone in my family when I get the iPhone 5.