Friday, October 21, 2011

iPhone 4S

"Finally." That's what some people said when Apple announced it's iPhone 4S. Even more people said something along the lines of, "What?!?!?!?!" We may have been expecting the iPhone 5, but here it is... the iPhone 4S. The thing is, we're still hearing, "Where's the iPhone 4S. I need an iPhone 4S. The one with the smaller 'GB's.' Can I get it in white? Will you waive my activation fee?" This is still Apple's most successful phone launch to date, which means the people who were disappointed were a loud minority while the people who are excited make up the even louder majority and are also putting their money where their iPhone is. But what makes this iPhone so great? I'll tell you in the full review. Read on for more...

-iOS 5 operating system
-8 MP back camera capable of recording 1080 P HD Video, VGA front-facing camera
-Dual-Core A5 processor (same as the iPad 2)
-3.5" 960-by-640-pixel resolution, retina display
-Battery rated at 8 hours of talk time on 3G network and 5 hours internet use time on a 3G network
-Available in 16, 32, and 64 GB storage (non-expandable)
-Network: On AT&T - 4G (HSPA) enabled with fallback to 3G (GSM) and 2G (EDGE) enabled. On Verizon and Sprint, 3G (CDMA EV-DO Rev).
-Earbuds included in the box
-iCloud access and wireless sync
-Built-in virtual assistant, "Siri"

Siri is amazing!
Very fast processor allows for faster internet and smoother gaming
Very professional looking
Easy-to-use operating system
Improved on poorly designed antenna for softer switching between towers (doesn't drop calls as easily when travelling)

Glass on front and back is easily broken when dropped

The iPhone 4S has launched and it, just like every iPhone before it, is breaking records left and right. Sprint reported record high activations and sales on launch day. AT&T has also. Verizon probably did the same but has remained quiet about it for reasons "unknown." Apple fans rejoice. Android fans make fun. Windows Phone fans sit back an laugh at everyone while not making a comment. Blackberry fans find out about it all weeks later but still opt to buy a Torch for Christmas. Everyone goes home with a silly smile on their face. But who's smile is bigger? If Siri has anything to say about it, the answer is, "Apple fans."

Screenshot of Siri being, well... helpful.

Siri's response to, "Will you marry me?"
I am going to cover Siri in a full review of her on another post, but there are still a few things worth mentioning here. First, Siri can do almost anything. It's almost creepy the way that you can talk to her naturally and she understands and responds. It's nice that there's finally a virtual assistant that you don't have to learn a second language for in order to use it. Just talk to Siri naturally, and she responds while rarely being stumped or tripped up. Tell her to make calendar appointments, remind you to grab things before you leave, do math for you, make calls, text message... she does it all. She even gets a little sarcastic and snippy when you start to get off topic - "Siri, will you marry me?" - and is very hilarious to play with. She could very possibly be the most entertaining application on the phone.

The camera is the next major upgrade to the 4S. The iPhone 4 took notoriously horrendous photos. The iPhone 4S takes amazing photos. Part of this can be credited to the facial recognition technology that recognizes up to ten pictures in the same shot. Another part of this can be attributed to the improved 8 MP camera with an additional lens. There's also some better software that's been added to back up the hardware and it's much easier to stabilize the camera when taking a picture because with iOS 5 you can use the "volume up" button to take a picture. This also makes it possible much easier to take pictures with one hand. Video is amazing too with 1080 P HD video recording. For the first time ever, I am impressed with the camera on an iPhone.

The camera and the LED flash on the iPhone 4S
 A major upgrade that Apple has made to it's phone is the Antenna. The antenna on the iPhone 4 sucked. Plain and simple. The design was flawed and was never fully fixed. With the iPhone 4S, I've already had friends that have reported the old "drop spots" they experienced with their iPhone 4 have disappeared. The antenna is now successfully able to switch between towers while on the move and is not affected by completely covering the antenna in one spot or by death-gripping the phone near the edges of the antenna. This is possibly the most-needed improvement from the iPhone 4 and it is most welcome. After-all, it is a phone! Along those same internal designs that are a little harder to notice and aren't advertised as openly, the "home" button has been improved to prevent the common problem with all previous iPhones... the broken "home" button. It's one of the most common things we see at AT&T and it usually happens after about a year to a year and a half. The home button stops working and you can no longer get out of applications. The phone is all but useless when this happens and unless you purchased Applecare, you're out of luck until you're eligible for an upgrade. Apple has supposedly made some tweaks to prevent this from happening. Good thing too, because it's one of the only real buttons the phone has.

  The processor inside is now Apple's A5 processor - the same one that is used in Apples iPad 2. It is a dual-core processor so multi-tasking and internet speeds are WAY up. Everything you do on the phone just happens faster. Even with the iPhone 4 there was a small delay when pulling up pictures on Facebook and now it's like they're all already loaded and just waiting for you to view them. The only downside to the processor is that you now get one hour less of internet surfing time, coming in at 5 hours of use. However, that's okay with me considering the internet is now twice as fast. You just don't have to be on the internet as long now because you can look things up faster.

Volume buttons and silence switch. Also, the location of
the new antenna break (the black line above the switch).
 Speaking of the battery, that has been improved. Of course, with the faster processor, this was 100% necessary. The battery has extended out the amount of talk time by one hour (now at 8 hours of talk-time on a 3G network). With smartphones it is always a good idea to do that because they are known to be battery hogs.

iOS 5 will be getting a full article of it's own too, but I have to mention a few things about it here as well because it affects how well the phone functions. First, the pull-down menu on the top displays "widgets" like weather and a stock ticker that can be updated to show your own cities and whatever stocks you prefer. It also displays notifications that you haven't viewed yet like missed calls or unread e-mails and text messages. The pull-down menu is nothing new to smartphones - anyone who's used an Android phone has seen this before - but it is a welcome addition to the iPhone. Notifications also no longer pop-up in front of everything else, interrupting everything you are doing until you close them. They are a Windows Phone 7 style notification that pops up with a bar at the top of the screen that you can simply tap on to see the full message or ignore and it goes away. MUCH better than the old way of doing things.

 With iOS 5 you no longer need to sync the iPhone to your computer with cables (as often). You now have iCloud which allows you to store 5 GB of data for free on the cloud. You will still want to plug it in to get your music and videos transferred on, but pictures, contacts, and videos taken from the phone will sync via the cloud and if you set this up to do it automatically in the settings, you don't ever have to worry about losing those precious pictures and contacts, should you break your phone.

Speaking of breaking your phone, with the launch of the iPhone 4S Apple has revamped their Applecare program, adding a "+" at the end to make it Applecare +. Just as with the old one, it extends the one-year warranty to two years, extends the technical support from 90 days to two years and covers all normal wear-and-tear and manufacturers defects (this means the battery too) for the entire two years. The + means that now it covers up to two replacements because of accidental damage (breaking it, dropping it in water, etc...) with only a $50 deductible each time. For a phone that averages around $750 for a full-price replacement, this is welcome. The other change the "+" brings is a $30 increase to the initial cost - now $100 - and it must be purchased at the time of sale, but it's still a welcome change and well-worth it for a phone that is basically a pane of glass.

The top of the iPhone, showing the headphone jack and the
power/lock button.
 The outside look of the phone is exactly the same as the original with the exception of the antenna breaks in the silver lining on the side. This is one thing that a lot of people were hoping would change. Glass on both sides of a phone just begs to be destroyed with every drop and we've often seen phones come in with the BACK panel broken even more than the front. The "supposed" iPhone 5 was supposed to have an aluminum back instead of glass but, alas, we won't know what that design brings until Tim Cook tells us. In the meantime, we have what we've had for the last year and a half and there's no hard evidence that it's going to change anytime soon. In the meantime, you'll have to deal with the "artistically designed" hardware that is the iPhone 4(S) and any broken screens that may come with it.

One hardware malfunction that seemed very prevalent in all iPhones, the original 4 included, is the "Home" button that would stop working, usually in the second year when the included manufacturers warranty was expired, but before you were eligible for the two-year contract pricing on a new phone. Apple has tweaked the design, so hopefully this problem will become less prevalent.

The speakers in the iPhone 4S have been enhanced too. When comparing the iPhone 4 and the 4S side-by-side playing the same music file and on full volume, the 4S blows the iPhone 4 out of the water - not only in volume but in clarity too. This is especially helpful when using speakerphone. The iPhone 4's speakers were really bad when talking on the phone in speaker mode and they're marginally better to offer an okay experience... but at least you can hear the other person now and it's up to par with other phones in this respect.

The bottom of the phone, showing you the charging port,
the speakers, and the end of this review
 The differentiating factors between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S are very noticeable once you start to actually use the phone. Siri, the process, and the camera are the main things that have made it better. Although the design is the same on the outside, the hardware on the inside makes it a completely different phone and it is now caught up to other phones in these areas. When will another phone pass the iPhone 4S up? As soon as another phone can put in a voice control as user-friendly and intuitive as Siri, and then include an integrated cloud service that automatically backs things up for you without plugging your phone in. Until then, good luck, and congratulations to Apple for redefining what is possible on a cell phone... yet again.

*Note: The white iPhone 4S pictured above has an invisible shield on it and that is where the lines around the cameras come from. This, I will not apologize for, but will refer you to my article on screen protectors if you don't want your iPhone to look like the one pictured in the iPhone 4 review.

No comments:

Post a Comment