Apple iPhone 4S
• Great 8MP camera
• Quality screen
• Tons of apps
• 1080p HD video recording
• Siri voice recognition
• 4G not available
Still the most powerful smartphone on the market. Like most other Apple products, the rest are still playing catch up.
It was hard not to be a little disappointed that Apple released the iPhone 4S, rather than the iPhone 5 that people were expecting. However, the 4S does have a whole raft of improvements that we will look at below.
Visually the iPhone 4S is almost identical to the iPhone 4, except for very minor changes such as the movement of the silencer switch and the top mounted incisions relating to the new dual-band antennas. It is sleek and sturdy, and like most Apple products, the design is often imitated but rarely bettered.
The 960 x 640 pixel resolution Retina display is still the best of any current smartphone. Both text and images look sharp and crisp on the display, and video playback is superb.
Unlike the reception problems that many people experienced with the iPhone 4, caused by the placing of the antenna, the iPhone 4S sidesteps this by using a dual-band antenna and changing the placement on the handset. We didn’t encounter many reception problems, and any we did encounter seemed to be network related (coverage in our office, for example, is better on one network than it is on a competitors, but the difference was marginal and both worked fine).
The new A5 dual-core processor is the same processor as contained in the iPad 2. It is instantly noticeable that everything works faster than on the iPhone 4. Web pages are faster to load, apps are quicker to open up, and there is very little lag when multi-tasking or using anything that is resource heavy. Another advantage over the iPhone 4 is that the new processor can mirror the content of the 4S via AirPlay. The much-advertised trick of pushing content on the 4S on to a larger screen works very well.
The processor also improves the graphical capability of the iPhone 4S. When using games that have been tailored to take advantage of these developments, the results are simply stunning, offering graphics that could compare with PSP.
The iPhone 4s uses the iOS 5 operating system, which has over 200 new features added to it, including iMessage, a notifications page similar to on the android system, new reminders plus a host of new options for the camera. However, the majority of these features are available to iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 users if they download iOS 5, so it is not a major draw for anyone looking to upgrade from these phones. But overall the operating system is about the most intuitive available at the moment, and when combined with iCloud, it makes for a powerful system that most users will love.
Unfortunately there is still no Flash support. Apple don’t seem to have any plans to use Flash on their devices, and it does cause some problems with websites, but due to the vast amount of iPhone users, the majority of websites now cater for these users, and work perfectly on Apple devices.
One of the big changes on the iPhone 4S is the camera, which Apple are calling iSight. Since the iPhone 4, the camera has been upgraded to 8 megapixels with an f/2.4 lens, and is capable of recording 1080p video. It includes standard flash, face detection and autofocus, plus you can now perform simple editing using the Camera Roll function. From the Camera Roll, you can also post photos directly to a twitter feed which is a nice touch.
Photos are definitely brighter and crisper than on the iPhone 4, but as with most smartphones it can’t quite compete with a dedicated camera, especially in low light situations.
The 1080p, 30fps camera is very impressive. The quality of footage that we shot was superb, and playback on a large screen looks excellent, as the A5 processor enables image stabilization as you film. The main issue we found is that due to the increased quality, the file size of your videos will be larger, meaning that the iPhone’s storage can quickly be filled up.
One of the most talked about additions to the 4S is Siri - the intelligent voice recognition digital assistant. While this may sound like something from ‘Tomorrow’s World’, Siri is well integrated and an impressive piece of technology for the most part.
For basic commands it works very well, for example, ask Siri what the weather is like in Long Island and it will answer accurately. However, more complex questions can result in Siri getting stuck, for example there were some words we were pronouncing clearly that it just couldn’t quite understand (We'd ask it to call "Shaun Lowman" and instead it would call "Greg Homer").
So far the best use of Siri we have found is with text messages, as users can speak out a message and Siri is surprisingly accurate at replicating the message, which is very useful when you are walking and want to send a text and look where you are going.
Siri can be great fun, especially as some of the inaccurate answers are very amusing, but we are not sure exactly how often it will be used, and certainly isn’t reason enough for iPhone 4 users to upgrade.
Apple claim that the battery life on the iPhone 4S has been improved, and we did notice a slight improvement compared with the iPhone 4 when it came to hours of internet use and music playback. However, in standby mode, the battery seems to decrease slightly faster than the iPhone 4. Overall though the battery holds a charge for a reasonable length of time, but we will have to wait and see how quickly it deteriorates (as was a problem for some users on the 3GS)
The iPhone 4S uses iCloud to keep any important documents, apps, music and photos on Apple's servers. So if you lose your data or get a new smartphone, you can easy restore it using iCloud Backup service. The integration with iOS5 if superb, and is a real advantage that Apple has over other manufacturers.
The iPhone 4S is available with three storage options: 16, 32 & 64 GB. It is worth considering the 64GB model if you are likely to use the video camera a lot for reasons explained above.
As with other iPhones, Apple's huge collection of iPhone Apps gives a huge advantage over its competitors, and the integration of iCloud gives another reason for people to switch over to Apple. There is little to get existing iPhone 4 users excited, but for everyone else, this is probably the most powerful smartphone available.
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