Review: It's not an iPhone 5, but so what?

Oct 12, 2011 By RACHEL METZ , AP Technology Writer
In this photo taken Monday Oct. 10, 2011, Siri, the new virtual assistant, is displayed on the new Apple iPhone 4S in San Francisco. The 4S will be available Friday in black or white. It will cost $199-$399, depending on included storage space, with a two-year service contract with Verizon Wireless, Sprint or AT&T. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

To some people, Apple's new iPhone 4S isn't the complete overhaul they have been hoping for. Its model number, which doesn't include a "5," reeks of the status quo.

That's ridiculous.

Sure, the 4S doesn't render the hopelessly obsolete, and on the surface they're nearly identical. But with a faster processor, new software, a voice-activated personal assistant and a souped-up camera, it's a major improvement over the current .

The 4S will be available Friday in black or white. It will cost $199 to $399, depending on . It requires a two-year with , or AT&T.

If you have an older model such as the 3GS or are thinking of making the move to the iPhone, it's an excellent excuse to buy one.

The coolest new feature on the 4S is Siri, a software-based who responds to your voice in a somewhat robotic, yet soothing female tone.

Siri can do all sorts of things, from setting your alarm clock to finding a good local sushi joint to playing DJ with your music. She can't bring up specific websites, but she can search the Web for pretty much anything.

Once you let her know who you are and where you live, she can even do complex tasks such as reminding you to call your boyfriend when you leave your house.

She can understand conversational English, which is great because it let me speak as I normally would (though I did have to enunciate well). This means you can say things like, "what's happening today?" or "what's going on today?" and she'll let you know what's on your calendar.

She's also a dictation dynamo, transcribing emails and texts much better than a phone running Google Inc.'s Android software. It would be awesome if she could intelligently insert punctuation marks, but she does get them if you tell her "period" or "exclamation point."

For a particularly difficult test, I read a random paragraph from a copy of "The New Yorker" to the 4S and to an Android smartphone. Siri didn't get all the words correct, but she overwhelmingly beat the competition.

Of course, after spending all this time together, I wanted to know all about Siri. I asked her a bunch of personal questions, with mixed results. Her favorite color is something she doesn't know how to say in English - "sort of greenish, but with more dimensions." She changed the subject when I asked if she was seeing anyone.

Note for foul-language fans: Siri understands profanities, but she may chastise you. She did this to me, so I asked whether she had a problem with my language. She told me to get back to work. I apologized.

Beyond Siri, I was happy to see a better camera on the 4S, which has an 8-megapixel lens compared with 5 megapixels on the iPhone 4. My shots had sharper details as a result. The new camera can also take pictures faster, and a new lens gathers more light so pictures shot in dim lighting look better.

The addition of a camera icon on the phone's lock screen makes it easier to start snapping. Just double tap on the "home" button when the phone is asleep to bring up the icon, and tap that to open up the camera. Also, there's finally a physical camera button on the iPhone as the 4S's volume-up button does double duty.

You can even record high-definition videos in 1080p on the 4S - the best resolution currently available on a consumer camera.

The iPhone 4S has the latest version of Apple's mobile software, iOS 5, which seems geared toward making the phone even easier to use.

One of the best additions here is iMessage, which lets you send texts, photos or videos to other Apple devices over Wi-Fi or your wireless carrier's data network. That makes it easier send texts to iPads and other devices that aren't phones. It also saves you texts, if you're not on an unlimited text plan.

With the iOS 5 upgrade, swiping the top of the screen now brings up a handy notification page, which shows you things such as appointments, reminders, weather and stock quotes.

IOS 5 also gets points for allowing you to step away from your computer: You can set up your iPhone and receive software updates on the device itself, without plugging it in.

In addition, it includes Apple's new iCloud content-syncing software, which can store your content online and push it wirelessly to your devices. If you buy lots of digital content from , you'll like how it can automatically add songs, apps and e-books from Apple's iBookstore to all your iCloud-connected devices. Unfortunately, it doesn't do this with TV shows or movies, so you'll have to go into iTunes on the device to download them or sync the content from a computer.

The iPhone 4S's performance is helped by a new dual-core A5 chip, which is the same processor in the latest iPad. With this chip, the phone can process graphics and complete other tasks much faster. Web pages, especially graphics-heavy ones, loaded faster than they do on the iPhone 4.

Call quality was decent over Verizon Wireless' network, though it sounded a bit flat. Calls are supposed to be improved on the 4S with the inclusion of two antennas that it can use to receive or send data.

With location services on and using a combination of Wi-Fi and 3G cellular service, I got about six hours of copious texting, websurfing, video-watching and calling out of the 4S. Given this, it should hold up fine during a day of normal use.

If you're not on the market for the latest gadget, you're not entirely left out: iOS 5, which includes iCloud, will be available Wednesday as a free update for the iPhone 4 and 3GS, both iPad models and later versions of the iPod Touch.

If you are lusting after the iPhone, however, the 4S is a great one to get, even if its name doesn't include a "5."

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User comments : 13

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CreepyD
4.1 / 5 (11) Oct 12, 2011
There's nothing I can't already do on my Android phone, it even came with built in voice activation for a whole load of tasks, sending mails, writing texts etc.
I'm always amazed at how Apple advertise like you HAVE to have an iPhone to do all the stuff their phone does, and people fall for it.
At the same time, why aren't other manufacturers picking up on this and fighting back with their own advertising?! They should be saying hang on just a minute, our phone does that too!
Noumenon
3.8 / 5 (72) Oct 12, 2011
All companies advertise "like you HAVE to have their product". It's called marketing and Apple didn't invent it. You are expecting Apple to say Android phones are good too? What is it that you want? Did Apple say that no other phone can do this and that? No, they didn't. Everyone knows there is other phones and the tech competition is steep. Stop trying to suggest others are fools because they choose an Apple product.

I'm always amazed at how people say Apple customers 'fell for it' or are fools just because they choose an Apple product... and then claim their phone "is just as good". Are you like those 14 year olds trying to claim others are idiots because they didn't buy an xbox 360?
SmaryJerry
4.1 / 5 (8) Oct 12, 2011
My android phone already had all of the features listed and in addition an equivalent screen resolution, a bigger screen, and lots of customization like my stock ticker running on my home screen.

You can't really blame Apple though, there is not much improvement that can be made on the latest Android phones. The only thing might be an improvement is a good native app for DLNA, not that an iPhone has that either though.
Noumenon
3.8 / 5 (72) Oct 12, 2011
Jerry, if you're happy with you phone, great good for you. Why disparage others for choosing an iPhone? That was my point for which you rated me a one. Are you two knuckleheads insecure about your phones,.. or jealous?
SmaryJerry
4 / 5 (7) Oct 12, 2011
Noumenon, what are you talking about? This is a review not an advertisement for the iPhone. Opinions are fine. The iPhone just doesn't bring anything new to the table. It sounds like you're the one who is not only a fan boy, but you probably have some rage issues.
FrankHerbert
2.2 / 5 (18) Oct 12, 2011
Hey Jerry, consider yourself lucky. Noobenon called you a 14-year-old. He usually calls me a 12-year-old girl for not supporting genocide or whatever batshit retardation he is spewing at the moment. Try harder next time, lol.
Noumenon
3.8 / 5 (64) Oct 12, 2011
No, for referring to American troops as terrorists, and other over the top stupid statements like suggesting I support genocide. That's why among other things, FrankHubris.
Kingsix
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 12, 2011
I would assume that they, as well as I, rated you a one because instead of making a valid counterpoint, you went the way of what is basically, "I know you are but what am I"

The iPhone4S is an impressive piece of hardware, for today. The problem is that Apple used to come out far ahead on its releases and this is maybe a 1 month leap.

All of the features that are on this phone are available elsewhere. Siri may be a little more sugar coated and have a bit more integration than other voice control options, but that will soon change. And working in things like telling me not to swear, well that doesn't fool me. IMO they are trying too hard to make it seem like a real AI, where I would bet it no better than a pre-programmed clever-bot.

This Bluetooth 4.0, now thats a bit of news. I would bet its in the Nexus Prime, or the Galaxy S3.
PS3
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 12, 2011
Android will have 5G before iphone even gets 4G..lmao
FrankHerbret
1.9 / 5 (8) Oct 12, 2011
n00benon, yeah i guess you're right. I can be a bit stupid at times huh. American troops are not terrorists, and I know you don't actually support genocide. Sorry for everything wrong that I have ever said. I am just a teenager.
Noumenon
3.9 / 5 (62) Oct 12, 2011
I doubt he's cable of admitting he's wrong.
tysoncable
1 / 5 (2) Oct 12, 2011
what a cacafuego termagant >_<
abhishekbt
1 / 5 (3) Oct 13, 2011
I totally agree with the author!
In the last one week alone, I myself have dispelled the fears of many friends who were crying about iPhone5.

Ppl, a name is a name. Let's allow Apple to follow the naming convention they want!