While many were still holding out hope that Apple would release a true iPhone 4 successor, the iPhone 4S has quite a bit going for it, and apart from the exterior being the same as the 4, there is a lot to differentiate it from its past. First lets look at what everyone notices first.
Of course you are thinking, what design? It is essentially the same as the iPhone 4. The antenna configuration is more in line with the Verizon model than the AT&T version so hopefully there wont be any antennagate issues this time around. The added bonus is that all those iPhone 4 cases don’t have to be thrown away. With the changes that were made to the iPhone’s internals there doesn’t seem to be a reason to change the exterior, and so it seems Apple chose to leverage the already popular design they had for this iteration. Enough with the outside, what did Apple change to justify shelling out for a new device?
One of the main features that I think most users wouldn’t think is impressive, but, in fact, makes a huge difference in the phone’s usability is the processor. The new A5 chip is the same as is used in the iPad 2 and with its dual core architecture, promises to launch apps noticeably faster, allow for even better game graphics, and to improve the overall responsiveness of the interface. The one gigabyte of RAM also helps when it comes to multitasking. Anytime the device has to retrieve from the flash storage it will be slower than retrieving from RAM.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an iPHONE is there wasn’t something in there for actually making calls. The 4S has streamlined Apple’s phone selection by packing both a CDMA and GSM chip for access no matter who the carrier or where your are. The data throughput has also been improved to take advantage of the infamous HSPS+ that many US carriers like to tout as 4G data. This means while your upstream data isn’t going to change much, your downstream (the speed at which you download webpages and data) will increase to a reported 14.4 Mbps.
While the system and data is getting faster, the camera isn’t slouching either. The new 4S camera is an 8 megapixel sensor that also includes a wider aperture to allow more light to reach the sensor. While it is easy to take what Phil said on stage as gospel about the 1080p video recording, and 30% faster first time photo, but the real question is how will the iPhone 4S match up once it is in the hands of the users.
One More Thing
I think it safe to say that the single greatest part of the entire event was the Siri demo. Those of you who are familiar with this software already know about its almost magical ability to understand you, but once you marry that software to the roots of the iOS, you reach an entirely new level of usability. I was never much a fan of the current voice commands. They were very limited and worked poorly most of the time. They were great for a demo or showing off to friends, but otherwise I would never seen that blue screen of words. With Siri, it seems you can finally interact with your phone on a level that makes this feature more than a cheap pallor trick. I can see this being a big help when driving as it will remove the temptation to just pick up the phone to add an event or send a text.
The question remains, is it worth shelling out another $200 dollars and a two year contract for all this? For those of us with our iPhone 4s (notice the little ‘s’), I personally don’t see a reason to upgrade. I’m not talking about media types that upgrade no matter what comes down the pipe, but for the average user there really isn’t enough meat there to make the meal worth it. With rumors of the iPhone 5 being just around the corner in 2012, it just doesn’t make sense to lock yourself into this generation. On the other hand, if you are one of those that are still clinging to an iPhone 3GS or maybe even an aging iPhone 3G or 2G (you know who you are), then this is a perfect opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the modern world. I’m sure you have missed out on a few interesting apps and more than your share of games that just wont run on your devices. With an upgrade you will not only join your iPhone 4 brethren, but you will now be scheduling your grouting sessions with them using voice commands while playing Infinity Blade II.