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:
3.5â€³ display @ 960Ã—640 pixels
Apple 1GHz A5 dual-core chip
16GB, 32GB & 64GB internal storage
HSDPA or EVDO 14.4Mbps
GPS w/ aGPS
8MP camera with LED flash
1080p video recording
2nd front-facing camera
2 mics w/ noise-canceling
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.