On October 4th, Apple announced the successor to the iPhone 4 under a series of speculation, leaks and rumors leading consumers to believe (and some to expect) the debut of the phantom iPhone 5. What we were in fact introduced to was a modified upgrade in the form of iPhone 4S. Subsequently this would be the last Apple product that Steve Jobs would see presented to the world. It’s been heralded as a tremendous leap forward in innovation and technology. Quell all of the hype and settle down the fanboys, I’m here to tell you geeks whether it’s worth the upgrade.
Critics of the iPhone 4 form factor will not see much of an aesthetic upgrade to the case and physical appearance. All of the improvements to the 4S have been made under the hood. Boasting an A5 dual core processor with speeds up to 7x faster, the iPhone 4S posted impressive benchmark scores when compared to its predecessor. Battery life patterns remained relatively similar to that of my iPhone 4. I personally never managed to get more than 4-5MBPS on AT&T’s 3G network here in Philadelphia. The device is still hampered by 3G limitations in the absence of a true high speed LTE connection even with improvements made to the Safari browser in iOS5. On the bright side, Apple did finally correct the antenna death-grip issues that plagued users of the iPhone 4 causing loss of cellular reception simply by holding it a certain way.
However, many things have improved elsewhere. Those looking to eliminate a gadget can find a serviceable camera with an integrated 8-megapixel camera. Raw images are shot in stunning 2448×3264 resolution. Apple stepped up the video functionality shooting at full 1080p high definition along with HDMI playback capability. Stream to Apple TV or media center for seamless integration. Apple has essentially eliminated the point-and-click camera once and for all. Improved flash functions show a distinct comparison when compared to the camera on 3G/3GS models. The results are clearly striking which makes this upgrade for all third generation owners a no brainer.
The most highly touted feature of the iPhone 4S is its voice control technology and it’s exclusive to iPhone 4S owners. Upgraders will quickly become attached to Siri, your own voice activated personal assistant. Where Siri really shines is getting tasks done without having to unlock your phone or for hands-free iPhone access while driving. Siri can intelligently accept many types of commands and fulfill requests for things like weather conditions, appointment scheduling, sending and responding to SMS messages/emails, finding nearby restaurants sorted by Yelp reviews and even Google Maps integrated traffic updates.
Siri’s quirks and personality may initially take some getting used to but it’s only a matter of time until developers utilize iOS5 to create customized voice-overs. Think about how awesome it would be to have Darth Vader or C3P0 respond to your every beckon call! Siri can even decipher the context in what your say as well as to whom you are referring to in your requests and then respond accordingly. We have yet to see Siri’s full potential as Apple claims that it is technically still in beta. We’re excited for the possibilities that come with third-party app integration.
I suspect third generation users to be the most excited about these improvements and those who would be most eager to upgrade. There is also more than enough here for an Android user to make a switch. Conversely, for the average iPhone 4 user, these may appear more like subtle enhancements than improvements. If you’re hesitating, then it’s probably not time for you to upgrade. The Siri technology is still technically in beta and evolving considerably. Ultimately, the iPhone 4S release follows the pattern of most Apple products: something cool comes out a few months later that’s better than what you currently have and now you must have it. But to those people who have been hanging on with 3GS, 3G or even 2G models… what are you waiting for? !