Apple iPhone 4S Review

Apple’s newest iteration of the iPhone was greeted with mixed reactions from the market. A lot has been said, both praises and disappointments, about what it should have been in the first place. Since the local launch of the iPhone 4S with Globe and Smart is just a couple of days away, let me share with you what I think of this phone. Check out our iPhone 4S review after the jump.

Prior to this, I was using an iPhone 4 and have actually decided not to get the iPhone 4S (was able to get the iPhone 4 free last year with Globe in exchange for a 3-year contract). Do read on our iPhone 4 review from last year to get a better perspective before reading on.

Frankly, I did not see any significant compelling reason to upgrade. I share this same advice to folks who asked me and even on TV guesting and interviews. The opportunity to upgrade came by accident so I accepted it thinking I also needed to actually use and review the handset in order to be more reasonable with my earlier conclusion.

But before I go there, let me walk you thru what the iPhone 4S offers and how is it different from the iPhone 4.

Better Hardware Configuration.

Twice the processor, more storage, better camera and faster connectivity — that’s what the iPhone 4S added to the table. It now sports dual-core processors that was used on the iPad 2 as well as options for a 64GB storage (with 16Gb and 32GB still in the menu) and HSDPA connectivity that can do up to 14.4Mbps.

There’s no LTE or even HSPA+ here so the iPhone 4S will not really maximize the speeds of the HSPA+ network of Smart and Globe.

Apple also bumped up the camera on the phone to 8MP with option to record video up to 1080p full HD. More on the camera quality and HD features later.

For good measure, they also added Bluetooth 4.0. No NFC support here, a technology that seems to be the trend now.

Still Same Old Design.

The iPhone 4S sports the same old design as its predecessor so there’s nothing to really worth mentioning in the design department.

Yes, the design and solid construction of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S is already impressive but folks like me still want bigger screen. A 4.3-inch display seems to be the minimum size when it comes to flagship handsets so the 3.5″ on the iPhone 4S feels like in the mid-range category already.

And while the design of the iPhone 4S already screams premium craftsmanship, a little bit more screen real estate would have been great (catching up to the times, eh?). Nevertheless, the 960×640 screen resolution is among the best resolution we’ve ever seen on most handsets (which normally is in the 480×800) this size.

Well hello there, Siri!

One of the purportedly best features of the iPhone 4S is the personal assistant function that’s built into the OS which is called Siri.

What makes it different from any other dictation, voice control or voice recognition software is Siri’s ability to understand semantics a little bit better than the rest. That means, you don’t have to say commands in a specific structure so it can understand you. The best part is that Siri actually has a sense of humor and personality.

Siri isn’t new either. It’s been a stand-alone app for about a year in the iTunes App Store (where few people noticed or ever used it). Apple bought the company and yanked Siri from the Store to make it part of iOS5. It’s curious though that Apple would not make Siri available to the iPhone 4.

There’s also a catch here though — you will need to be connected to the internet to be able to use Siri. This is because the commands are processed in the cloud (Apple servers) and other related services like Wolfram Alpha. That means activating and using Siri entails data charges and also contributes to faster battery consumption.

My other beef is you’ll have to talk clearly with a little bit of an America accent when talking to Siri. Otherwise, you’ll just end up repeating yourself and be frustrated in the process.

I’ve been using the iPhone 4S for a couple of weeks now and have not gotten used to telling Siri to execute commands. The only time I whip it out is to demonstrate to people how it works or how funny some of the answers are.

For the most part, I don’t see Siri as an essential feature for my daily use.

Still the Best Camera.

When iPhone 4 first came, it had the best camera in any handset that I’ve used. It was so good I am comfortable not bringing my Canon S95 with me and use it to take photos instead. Same with the HD video.

The iPhone 4S brings it up a notch and brought it an 8MP camera with full HD 1080p video recording capabilities. While the front facing camera is still 2MP, it’ll give you a great video conferencing feel, but still has yet to be any where near equivalent to a virtual feel such that telepresence solutions and standard video conferencing bring on a solid or wired connection.

The camera is one of the fastest I’ve used on a phone. From experience, I think it can do something like 2fps when taking stills.

Images are a bit saturated so colors look deeper and more prominent. Over-all sharp and clean images even at low-light conditions.

Video recording at 1080p is fast and focused with very minimal dropped frames. The microphone picks up a lot of unwanted noise though.

The Network: #globeiphone4s or #smartiphone4s

This is the first time that the iPhone 4S will be offered on more than one network in the country. After being exclusive to Globe Telecom for the past 3 years, Smart Communication will also offer the iPhone 4S both on prepaid and postpaid plans this coming December 16, 2011 (both networks have invited us to attend their launch party).

This offers more option for subscribers to choose the network that works best in their location. I believe it’s the type of postpaid package that will play a huge factor when people pick the network.

We still don’t have the details of the postpaid plans form Globe and Smart so we can’t say much in that aspect (will update come December 16).

As mentioned earlier, the iPhone 4S only comes with an updated HSDPA chip that has a theoretical speed of up to 14.4Mbps. Unfortunately, the HSDPA and HSPA network of both telcos are somewhat congested compared to their newer and faster HSPA+ network so don’t expect really great mobile internet connections compared to the ones that use the Galaxy S2 or Galaxy Note.

It’s in the OS.

Apple has also rolled out the latest version of their mobile OS. While iOS5 is also available on earlier models of the iPhone (3GS and iP4) and other iDevices, Siri only natively works on the iPhone 4S. You can read more about iOS5 in our earlier post here.,

The dual-core processor helps improve performance of multi-tasking and 1080p video encoding. Twitter is heavily integrated into the OS and Notification looks Android-ish.

iCloud is best used to synchronized all your iDevices and back them all up in the cloud (does not sync and backup SMS messages though). It’s not perfect but it works. iMessage is great as a compliment to regular SMS especially when your contacts are using an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad on iOS5.

Battery life is something that’s always an issue with the iPhone 4 since it was first introduced. The iPhone 4S had some problems with iOS5 with batteries draining really fast but a fix was rolled out to address this. Expect a good whole day of normal use, a day and a half if you’re lucky and around 12 to 18 hours if you’re a heavy user.

What’s the Bottomline?

The iPhone 4S is a great phone over-all. If you haven’t switched to an iPhone, this is the best time to convince you to get one. It’s not a big deal if you’re coming from the iPhone 4 but will surely get the benefits if you’re using the older 3G or 3GS.

Siri doesn’t contribute much to the over-all user experience. You won’t miss it even if you turn the feature off.

Apple iPhone 4s specs:
3.5″ display @ 960×640 pixels
Apple 1GHz A5 dual-core chip
16GB, 32GB & 64GB internal storage
HSDPA or EVDO 14.4Mbps
WiFi 802.11b/g/n
8MP camera with LED flash
1080p video recording
2nd front-facing camera
2 mics w/ noise-canceling
Bluetooth 4.0
iOS 5

Apple did a bit of re-engineering with the internal circuit to provide better antenna reception for better call quality and 3G signal. So, if you’re thinking about that “grip-of-death” issue that plagued the old iPhone 4, it’s no longer an issue here.

The iPhone 4S may not be the top choice for a lot of people this year because of the large number of competing handsets that is at par in terms of performance and hardware configuration.

Where the iPhone 4S excels is the smooth integration of the OS and the complementing hardware. It may not have the fastest processor, the biggest screen, or the fastest 4G chip but that’s not the game that Apple plays. The iPhone 4 is already a great smartphone. Apple just made it a little better with the 4S.

145 Comments on this Post

  1. Phone for rich! Period.

  2. Siri not available. Connect to the internet. Disappointing.

  3. Sir, while N8’s Symbian Anna is not on a level with iOS, I think the best camera phone belongs to N8 (as of now). A whooping 12MP Carl Zeiss camera phone. And probably the next would be Nokia 801 with 16mpx. I haven’t used iPhone’s camera, but I strongly believe it’s not on par with Carl Zeiss.

    • Hindi sa pataasan ng pixel ang sukatan sa quality ng camera, sa Sensor nito ang nagdadala. To tell you, Nokia N8 is one of the worst camera among the leading smartphone in the market… Read this review to get an idea

    • hellooo edu? tanung lang nag ka N8 kana ba? o DSLR man lang ? ano ba alam mo sa field ng photography ?, o photo appreciation at technical details sa sensor?….Get a Life !

    • We have iPhone 4s and Nokia N8 from the US. Well for me, mas maganda kumuha ang 4s kesa sa N8 in “in most situation” and pansin ko lang sa still pictures ng N8, if you crop it 100%, mas malinaw pa rin ang kuha ng 4s maybe because of the compression ng image from the N8. Cheers ^^

    • pixel is for resolution and picture size, so it doesn’t really matter if you have a 16mega pixel camera phone if you are going to view it only in your pc/phone
      sensor is for aspect ratio and color processing

      i don’t have an iPhone and i’m happy with my sensation but i think iPhone has a superb camera, why? because of the lens aperture size, it’s one of the widest which means it will greatly perform in low light conditions, fast lens ika nga just like the nifty fifties of slr’s.
      so it doesn’t matter kung 16 mega pixel yan or carl zeiss, kung ang picture naman ay maraming noise at mali ang color.
      i had an n82 before, it has a carl zeiss lens, a good camera phone too only 5 mega pixel and i love it, so let’s not judge a phone by it’s pixel resolution kasi size lang ng picture yan.

    • Why are you still living the megapixel myth?

    • @Edu,

      yeah the megapixel myth, but still I think the N8 camera is better than the iphone4s. And the xenon flash just makes the advantage way bigger.

      And that Camera Comparison you linked is a biased one, I must say.

    • lol.. the apple boys and the rich wannabes can’t accept that nokia n8 is way better than any iphones

    • it’s like iphone 4s is better than nikon D40 coz.. well its apple hahahaha..

    • “not on par with Carl Zeiss.” hello? sino ba yan? di ko yan kilala! bobo! mas sikat si Steve Jobs sa kanya.

    • todo pagtatanggol si applefanboy sa idol nia ah. hahaha! parang si idol nia ang bumubuhay sa kanya. dre, kahit ipagtanggol mo yan hanggang sa huling hininga mo, wala kang mapapala, walang pakialam sayo yan. haha! nakakakawa ka lang dre! lols!

    • oi Name: entong wag mo nga akong dinedre dyan, dahil di mo ako dre!!! nyeta… tsaka kelan ko pinagtanggol si steve jobs?. ang sabi ko lang hindi ko kilala si carl size… Bopaloks!!!

    • DSLRs are better than camera phones and digital cameras because of the sensor size. Obviously the Nokia N8 has larger sensor than the iPhone 4S. 1/1.83 is greater than 1/3.2. It’s almost double the size. Even if the iPhone 4S has larger aperture, the Nokia N8 still allows more light, thus better low light quality and overall quality because of the sensor size. You can’t simply compare a 12MP camera to an 8MP camera. You have to downsize the 12MP to 8MP to see which has better quality.

    • “ang sabi ko lang hindi ko kilala si carl size…”

      yan lang ba talaga sinabi mo? sure ka? haba kaya ng post mo! wew!!! haha!

      carl size??????? lols!!!!! yay!!!

      anong size ng utak mo mo boy?? hahahaha! lololololols!!!

      o wala kang utak??? o kung meron man eh nasa pwet?? hahahaha!!!

      pathetic knucklehead!!

    • eto a-fool-fanboy oh, basahin mo kaya to, kung trip mo lang naman.. haha!

    • “Because, lest we forget, when you look at a gadget a hundred times a day it should make you smile every time, not want to kick it against a wall (the fate of my last iPhone). ”

      “…when you look at a gadget a hundred times a day it should make you smile every time, not want to kick it against a wall (the fate of my last iPhone). ”

      “….it should make you smile every time, not want to kick it against a wall (the fate of my last iPhone). ”

      “….kick it against a wall (the fate of my last iPhone). ”

      “….kick it against a wall (the fate of my last iPhone). ”

      “….kick it against a wall (the fate of my last iPhone). ”


    • Honestly naman, para sakin when it comes to Image Quality the best is sony ericsson, specially with its new Exmor R Cmos Sensor.. and please LED flash? why not use Xenon Flash if they’re bragging their camera so much… i’d really say this phone’s camera is over rated…

      about the rest of the features I’d still prefer android, although it doesn’t have something like Siri, i don’t appreciate Siri anyway

    • devilmark

      mag pprint ba kau ng tarpaulins? aanuhin nyu nmn ang 16mega pix?.. hahaha.. just asking.. i dn have n8 but i have iphone4s and SGS2- which i state and claimed to be much better than n8. isa rin akong graphic designer. in my profession dapat alm mo pnagiba ng textures colors ng photos. and masasabi ko n best ang iphone4s, fyi. gawa ng SONY ang (lens) ng iPhone4s. isabay nyu pa ang LCD retina Display ng LG n nilagay sa iPhone. much better un compared sa n8. pro kng mag business kayo ng tarpaulins, posters or printing. then go n8! =D

    • Karlo

      for me iPhone has quite Good Camera, i dont have iPhone or even N8, but on the reviews and sample shots i’ve found on the net, iPhone’s really quite impressive, but for me,,but iPhone cant beat my Sony Xperia S, way to far to compare both phones..

  4. Excellent non biassed post! Facts without hype. Thank you very much for that honest blog Abe

  5. sir, can you can give me feedback regarding drop call issues and signal reception on 4s, specially in the province.. im using 3gs and having a lots of problem in drop calls and signal issue.. i like i phone, but in my situation im living in bulacan. the 3gs is having a drop call issue and unstable signal.. im planing to upgrade to 4s.. should i upgrade to 4s.. or galaxy s2 or htc xe.. i really like the reviews hope you can help me.. thanks.. and god bless!!

    • i have a 3gs and live in the bulacan area. i have the same issues with dropped calls and late texts. i suggest going with the cdr king signal booster. worked wonders for me.

  6. So anu na pong balita sa iPhone 5? Kailan po kaya dadating?

  7. Really? Screen is too small? Competitors running on Android may have faster processors but still you dont get the best experience when using an iPhone.

  8. 2 words: Galaxy Nexus!

  9. Samsung Galaxy S3 Q1 2012. Quadcore 16MP back side illuminated CMOS sensor, super amoled plus HD

    • I think you live on your own distortion field. Get a life Mike!

    • WOW! Edu, isn’t it that apple fanboys have their own distortion field also?? Where they advertised “THE IPHONE 5!!” ” THE IPAD 3!!” and stuff like that?? I think it’s called the rumor mill or something…

      I mean, dahil ba hinde Apple product, wala ng karapatang gumawa ng sariling HYPE??? to quote sir Abe …

      “iPhone was greeted with mixed reactions from the market. A lot has been said, both praises and disappointments, about what it should have been in the first place.”

      if they do not hold certain expectations, why would they be disappointed. My point is, hyping prducts is not a crazy idea…the ideas ABOUT THE PRODUCTS sometimes is. This is not distortion, rather anticipation…

    • @Edu the good thing is apple’s competitor like Samsung keep on “pushing the envelope” that pushes also Apple to innovate more.

  10. I think you forgot to mention the 512mb RAM in the specs. Also, maybe you could add the iMessenger feature too. And Siri could be fully maximized when you’re in US because of the location services Siri can do.

  11. As far as I know, Siri won’t be of great help to us because it’s not that perfect as being advertised by Apple, especially that we are not in US.

  12. Sir, ano camera po gamit nyo dito sa mga images?

  13. wheres the background?

  14. Thanks for the great review.

    Here’s a Smart vs Globe iPhone 4S speed test results…

  15. kagamay sang screen, kag indi 4G. Galaxy Nexus on LTE nalang

  16. Siri?!
    Kailangan yata malinaw ang English accent mo at hindi nasal or dapat mala-DJ ang boses mo for it to work? Kung may punto ka o local accent, goodluck. So basically, worthless ito sa karamihan satin?
    I guess.

  17. battery life sucks. i’m buying google nexus.

  18. i’m buying Samsung Galaxy Nexus rather…

  19. andrew valdes

    Sorry, still not convinced to get an iPhone. Daming limitations, liit pa ng screen, and MAHAL compared sa mas magagandang phones ng HTC, Sammy, and Moto.

  20. akin na lang globe or smart invite sir abe! lol

  21. @yuga – i like ur meego app because its so clean and bright. I enjoy reading using that however i find it misleading that the only graphics like a video has a thumbnail of ip4s turns out a video of a waterfall or the htc rhyme which has a video of a road while u were driving. I still have to click to see the original article.

    i hope in the future there could be more pics or video per article in your meego app. good luck.

  22. Siri in my opinion will only serve you better or to it’s full potential if you live in the US. :D

  23. Whenever I had the chance to hold the iPhone 4 or the 4s. I really adore that chunky solid build quality in my hands. I can compare it like holding a metal M4, really solid!

    But the price. If I had the money to actually change my current Nexus S. I’d go for it in a heartbeat. As much as I want the 4″ screen, it thought of not needing it that much since most of my usage are 80% calls, 20% messaging. I don’t watch movies on the phone, but the iOS music player really matters more than doubleTwist or what Android player combined.

    I love Android. I was able to live with it and bricked it. But like what this author have said, iOS is by far a more smoother OS.

    Just my two cents.

  24. The most overrated smartphone and OS.

    Kaya ang mga sumasamba sa Apple halatang bobo sa technology. May NFC na, ang puchang iPhone di pa rin makapasa ng files over BT. WTF.

    Bago magkalat ng lagim ng kabobohan ang mga engot na supporter ng Apple gumamit muna ng N8. Kahit na lelong na ang N8 by smartphone standards at ubod ng bagal ang OS nito, Hari pa rin ito ng phone cams. Carl Zeiss pa lang talbog na ang mga kalaban. Kung ngayon nyo lang narinig ang CZ, mahiya kayo sa kabkab nyo mga epal. Aperture and MPs pa kaya. Kakabaliw.

    Ang camera technology ng Apple, ginawa na ng Nokia sa N86 noong June 2009 pa.

    I regret having bought an iPhone. Putanginang mga manloloko na yan sa Cupertino. Leche.

    • applefanboy

      “Still the Best Camera.” di mo ba nabasa? bobo! pag CZ CZ ka ba dyan.

    • Still the best Camera daw oh! hahahahahaha….

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