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Apple iPhone 4S, Does it Live up to the Hype?
on March 23, 2012
I entered the smartphone world back in 2008 staring with the Apple iPhone 3G. Coming over from my old Sprint flip-phone, the iPhone 3G was a major upgrade and blew my mind with how much it could do. It was amazing that cell phones had advanced into a sort of mini-PC.
Fast forward to the present-day and I have now used and experimented with various smartphones, different cellphone companies, and smartphones OS's (iOS, Android, Windows, etc). I also run my own small cell phone shop and get to play with these devices on a daily basis. Back in the iPhone 3G days, there were only a few smartphone options to choose from. Today there are literally hundreds of devices across several carriers. All with different functions and designs. I'm going to cover how the iPhone 4S stacks up to the competition, what the competition is, what the 4S can do, and what improvements it makes over its predecessor, the iPhone 4.
The iPhone 4S is almost identical in hardware design to the iPhone 4. It features the same rectangular shape with the flat gorilla glass back and front screen. The front and rear camera are in the same position. The only visible difference on the outside of the phone is that the volume controls are slightly moved on the 4S. The real difference in the hardware is on the inside. The iPhone 4S uses a dual-core "A5" processor. This makes it significantly faster than the iPhone 4. The processor is the raw power that apps need in order to operate fast and fluidly without slowdown or hiccups. With basic use, users probably won't notice much difference from the iPhone 4's speed. The extra power boost mainly shows its worth when playing some of the more high-end iOS games and apps.
In addition to the new processor, the iPhone 4S has an improved 8 megapixel camera. It also now has the ability to capture full 1080p HD Video. Unless you're a professional photographer, you will be blown away with how great the 4S is at taking pictures. It is on par with most of the dedicated point-and-shoot cameras that are currently on the market. Images are clear, crisp, and very colorful. I even sold my 10MP Canon point-and-shoot after using the 4S for a few weeks. When comparing pictures taken with the iPhone 4 side by side to the 4S, the difference is like night and day. As for the 1080P videos, they're also very beautiful. Just like the photos, the videos rival dedicated point-and-shoot devices and look absolutely gorgeous on the iPhone's retina display screen. The only drawback to these 1080p videos is that they can take up large amounts of memory. So if you plan on shooting a large amount of video, you may need to consider getting the 32GB or 64GB iPhone 4S.
SIGNAL RECEPTION AND DATA SPEEDS
The iPhone 4S has been expanded to include a 3rd US carrier Sprint. This brings your total choices to Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint.
Signal reception and data speeds will vary by carrier and location, so I'll give you some basic information about what to expect on average. Signal reception is greatly improved compared to the iPhone 4. The antenna problem from the iPhone 4 has been removed and the 4S uses separate antennas for incoming and outgoing calls in order to increase overall reception. AT&T is a GSM carrier while Sprint and Verizon are CDMA carriers. Verizon has the overall largest and most expansive voice coverage of the three, closely followed by AT&T, with Sprint in third. The 4S Data speeds will largely vary by carrier and location. Being a GSM carrier, AT&T is the only iPhone carrier capable of using the 4S's improved HSPA+ data speeds. AT&T users will notice their iPhones showing "4G" in the top left corner rather than 3G. Though this is faster than standard 3G, do not confuse it with the much faster 4G LTE network. The iPhone 4S is not yet capable of using that network. Verizon is second in 3G data speeds, with Sprint bringing up the rear. Again, these are average speeds from across the nation. Individual results may vary depending on your location. It is also important to note that Sprint is the only carrier that still offers unlimited data. This may be an important factor in choosing a carrier for some.
iPhone owners have come to expect excellent battery life from their devices. Previous iPhones have ranked among the most impressive in terms of battery life compared to rival Android devices. In the past each new iteration of the iPhone had better battery life than the previous device. With the 4S however, the overall battery life is about the same as the iPhone 4. Apple claims this is mainly because of the dual-core processor used by the 4S as well as the more demanding iOS 5 software that is included with the iPhone 4S. Due to this, there were some widespread complaints about the iPhone 4S battery life initially. Apple has since addressed the issue with their iOS 5.1 update. The iPhone 4S now ranks among the top smartphones in overall battery life. I can easily get through a full day on one full charge of average use.
Usually when comparing the iPhone to other phones, it comes down to the software. There is a big ongoing debate among techies between the iPhone's operating system "iOS" and Google's "Android" operating system. It's comparable to the famous PC vs Mac debate. Rather than type a whole page comparing the two, I'll just cover a few basics. The main difference between the two is choice. Customize or not customize. iOS is more fluid and crisp out of the box. All iPhones/iPods/iPads use this standard OS. Less powerful iOS devices are often able to move as fast or faster than more powerful Android counterparts. However, major modifications and customizations of Apple's iOS are not possible. The standard 4x4 row of icons is what you will get. Android offers tons of customization options. This is great for advanced tech users, but can be overwhelming to novice smartphone users or those not really interested in editing and customizing a lot to get the device to do what they need it to do. I usually recommend iOS to customers new to smartphones due to its more simple and easy to use interface. If you like customizing and making your the software on your phone look different from everyone else, I recommend an Android device.
The other major software difference between iOS and Android is the Apps. The Apple app store still has by far the most support and overall apps from developers. Most developers create an app for the iPhone first and port it later on to Android, or sometimes not at all. From personal experiences with both, I can say that many times the iPhone version of an app usually runs better or has more features.
SIRI Personal Assistant
Unless you've been under a rock for the past few months, you've heard of the iPhone 4S's SIRI personal assistant software. Apple touts it as a feature that allows you to speak voice commands to your iPhone and SIRI will do whatever you ask it to do. Well it can do some things, but not quite everything. SIRI is great for finding places for you. You can say simple things like "I'm hungry" and SIRI will open the Maps App and show you the location of all restaurants in the nearby area. You can also do things like tell it to play a certain song or artist from the music stored on your iPhone or ask it the Weather forecast for any given day. SIRI can also be pretty entertaining when asked random conversational questions. Questions such as "How old are you?" will cause SIRI to respond "Does this concern you?", "I didn't think so". Or saying silly things such as "SIRI I love you" will cause it to say "I'll bet you say that to all your Apple products". Overall it's a pretty nice added feature, but not a major selling point at this time. It's limitation is that it currently is only integrated with the standard apps that Apple provides on the iPhone. Once it is integrated with more of the third-part apps, I can see it becoming a seriously useful feature.
Overall I would definitely recommend the iPhone 4S. From the sleek hardware design, the beautiful camera, and the very large Apple App store, it's my top phone at the moment. The iPhone 4S has the battery life to last most people a full day and in terms of overall speed and ease of use, it is currently among the best available. The only people who I would not recommend the 4S to are current iPhone 4 owners. With all of the iPhone 4S's improvements, I don't feel like they're significant enough to spend more money to upgrade from your iPhone 4. You will be better off waiting for whatever iPhone Apple releases later this year. However if you're looking to purchase your first smartphone, tired of your old Blackberry or Android device, or just have an older iPhone 3GS or 3G, I would strongly recommend getting the iPhone 4S if possible. Using a smartphone has never been easier.