Once again, Apple Inc. has updated its line of technologically advanced iPhones with the iPhone 4S. Year after year they release a new version of the groundbreaking smart phone, and this frequency begs the question: who will update their now obsolete iPhones immediately and why? Why should we bother buying a phone that does basically the same things as our previous iPhones, especially when the software update iOS 5 will also be sent to the 3GS, 4 and 4S models of the iPhone, as well as the iPad and iPad 2, and the third and fourth generations of the iPod Touch? Why is there even a new one out this quickly?
Because of the rapidity of development of these new technologies, a year seems like a decade in the smartphone world. The updates of phones from last year have twice the processing power. Indeed, they might have twice the number of processors as the chips get smaller and the developers can fit more in one space. The problem with these frequent releases is that sometimes the technology doesn’t seem justified enough for the release. The iPhone 3GS was only a faster version of the iPhone 3G, and the iPhone 4 was only released last year. Is this new phone just a faster iPhone 4?
I am happy to tell you that no, this phone is not just a sequel. In my opinion, the iPhone 4S could have been given another title, such as the iPhone 5 that the gadget world has been anxiously anticipating, had it not kept the same hardware format. As far as the specifications go, the processor went from an Apple A4 to a dual-core Apple A5. To give you an idea of its power, this is also the processor that runs the iPad 2. The camera went from five megapixels to eight, which has already been on select Android phones for over a year, and the video recording is upgraded to 1080p at 30 frames per second. The battery life is slightly longer with up to eight hours of talk time on 3G according to Apple’s statistics, although bugs in the new iOS 5 are shortening that lifespan. One of the best upgrades besides the processor and camera is the change of the external antennas and wireless network support. The antennas will automatically switch in the middle of calls, ensuring superior call quality and preventing dropped calls. The wireless support is a global hybrid GSM/CDMA network, which means that you can go all over this country and indeed anywhere in the world and pick up a signal where one exists.
The phone arrived with an upgrade to the iPhone operating system, iOS 5. The upgrade brings some much-needed changes that involve notifications, voice recognition and Apple’s cloud computing system iCloud. There is now a notification center, similar to the Android’s, that lets you view your missed calls, messages, application updates and the current weather at a glance. iMessage is a new competitor to RIM’s incredibly successful Blackberry Messenger application, which allows any iPhone to communicate without using up any text messages. There are a few new applications such as Cards, Reminders, Find My Friends, Newsstand and Game Center. Twitter, the Camera app, Safari and Mail have been better integrated into the user experience. Apple’s PC Free tears the iPhone away from ever having to be connected to your computer, something that Android, Windows 7 and Blackberry OS 5 phones have already been doing, and takes it a step further by syncing all of your Apple devices together instantly. The iCloud gives every user 5 gigabytes of free, wireless cloud-computing storage.
Saving the best for last, Siri is a new artificially intelligent voice control system that is exclusive to the iPhone 4S. You can speak to Siri and she will answer. She can make appointments if you tell her to remind you, search for hospitals if you tell her you’re hurt, acts offended if the user mentions HAL (the computer from “2001: A Space Odyssey”) and even respond humorously to marriage proposals and instructions to “Beam me up, Scotty.” There are already websites dedicated to statements that Siri will respond with. It is an extremely intuitive program that definitely gives the iPhone 4S a leg up on the competition.
The iPhone 4S and iOS 5, alas, must also have drawbacks. While people rushed to upgrade their current devices to iOS 5, they overloaded the server, causing many phones to become ‘bricked’ or unable to function as the process was interrupted. Anyone locked in to a two-year contract with one of these phones, which is necessary due to the high price of a contract-free smart phone, will watch as the newest iPhone comes out halfway through their contract and their expensive phone is now yesterday’s news. The iPhone 4S is also still resolutely a 3G phone as the cellular world turns to 4G, but then again you don’t have to pay the extra sum if you don’t care about 4G data speeds. The display has also stayed the same size, 3.5 inches, which is quickly being outstripped by the competition. Basically, the iPhone 4S does things faster but it’s not even drastically different enough to warrant an increased number next to its name.
If you love the iPhone series and iOS, you will love the newest addition to the family and you would be happy owning this one. If you’re an Android or Blackberry person, you will probably be jealous of Siri but all in all it’s not quite enough for a change of heart. The processing speeds are similar to tablets, you can travel all over the world with one phone and the operating system has been improved, but the hardware has changed minimally and some updates have been in competitors’ phones for quite some time. But hey, even if you don’t or can’t get it right now, the newer one will just come out in a year anyway.