Should You Upgrade to the iPhone 4S?

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Last month the iPhone 4S was released worldwide to mixed reviews; the public and fans were expecting a major overhaul, but what was announced was an improved version of the iPhone 4, which at first disappointed fans and even caused Apple stock to plunge.

But things are often not what they seem, as I noted in my preliminary overview of the iPhone 4S; as Apple CEO Tim Cook has explained, there is a brand new phone under the hood here. Additionally, one of the reasons Apple has stated for not redesigning the iPhone 4 this year is mobile subscription system in the US; carriers typically have a 24 month cycle, and Apple did not want to impose upgrades on iPhone 4 customers only a year after buying their new phone.

This article will deeply explore the features of the iPhone 4S as it compares to previous models, assessing whether its worthwhile to upgrade from the iPhone 4.

Hardware

The iPhone 4S looks completely identical to the iPhone 4. In fact, you cannot really see the difference between the two models until you try out some of the 4S’s unique features. The build quality is solid; the phone has the same Retina display screen, which is one of the best smartphone screens. The only differences are that some buttons have shifted by millimeters; however the change is too small to be noticed.

Figure 1: Minor differences between iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 form engadget.com

One of the major problems that plagued the iPhone 4 was the loss of reception because of the external antenna and the way it was held sometimes. Apple solved this problem by adding an internal antenna; now the phone automatically switches between the two antennas and selects the one that catches the best reception.

The biggest and most important change, however, comes in the internal mechanisms of the iPhone 4S, as has been well-documented. Apple completely overhauled everything inside the new model- exit the old A4 processor, enter the Dual Core A5 processor, which clocks in at 800 Mhz and also has been powering the iPad 2. Storage is also now available at 3 options 16 GB, 32GB, and 64GB (our test unit). Phone performance is considerably improved as well; benchmarking comparisons has put it around 60% faster than its predeccsor. Graphics processing also has been shown to be around 600% faster, and this is noticeable on complex applications such as Infinity Blade. In the future, this will allow more complex applications with handheld console graphic capabilities to be made, and will allow multitasking and navigation to run a lot more smoothly.

Figure 2: Comparing Infinity Blade on iPhone 4 (Top) and iPhone 4S from www.gdgtplay.com

Software

The iPhone 4S comes packaged with iOS 5, which by itself is one of the most significant and better upgrades to iOS; there are plenty of features here add significant value to the phone. I will cover IOS 5 and its features exhaustively in my next article. However, the biggest software addition to the 4S is SIRI, the personal voice activated assistant, as you likely well know.

Having  a chance to explore SIRI is fun; it can do a huge number of things, from making calls and sending texts and emails to finding restaurants and getting directions from one place to another. Its unique ability to understand casually spoken English in context is what sets SIRI apart as a voice recognition software.

However to be completely efficient, SIRI needs an active data connection, which is not always present in this region to all subscribers.  Furthermore, in order to fully benefit from SIRI, one must speak English with an American or British accent, as the software has some difficulty comprehending some words,  especially non-Anglo-Saxon names (which might be a problem for users in the Middle East region). Still, SIRI is a very cool addition that can respond to demands in smart ways and is definitely worth a try. An update for the region will make it easier to use should be coming soon.

 

Figure 3: Example of SIRI's uses from www.engadget.com

Camera

Another major upgrade to the iPhone 4S is the camera, which has been bumped from 5 megapixels to 8 megapixels. I found it to be one of the best cameras in a smartphone. The photos are sharp and crisp and much more detailed than in iPhone 4. The video camera has been improved as well and can now record 1080p HD, which is one of the benefits of using an A5 chip. This makes the iPhone 4S a good alternative for a camera or HD recorder.

Battery Life

According to initial Apple specifications, the iPhone 4S’s battery life should be on par with that of the iPhone 4, up to 8 hours on an active 3G connection. However, in practice, battery performance was much lower than that of the iPhone 4, which is somewhat expected, due to the improved A5 chip and Camera. Also, Apple admitted a few days ago that a problem with iOS 5 caused battery life to decrease more rapidly than it should, but an update is coming soon to fix the problem.

Wrap Up

There’s no doubt the Iphone 4S is the best iPhone ever made. When you take the best physical model to date, and add on a state-of-the-art processor and camera, there is no doubt you are building your company’s best phone. However, competition has been fierce with the Galaxy S2 and the upcoming Google Galaxy Nexus, both of which also boast interesting features. However, if you are a fan of high quality apps and games, there is really no competition- the Apple App Store is still miles ahead of any other operating system.

So- the final question- should a current iPhone user buy the iPhone 4S? It is a costly phone, especially in the region, with prices starting at around $1000, as no carriers subsidize it. 3G and 3GS users should definitely consider the upgrade. iPhone 4 owners can perhaps wait a year for the iPhone 5, although hardcore fans may still want to consider the upgrade, because the phone is truly exceptional.

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