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

2011-10-12 22:43

San Francisco - 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 iPhone 4 hopelessly obsolete, and on the surface they're nearly identical. But with a faster processor, new software, a voice-activated personal assistant and an upgraded camera, it's a major improvement over the current iPhone.

The 4S will be available on Friday in black or white. It will cost $199 to $399, depending on capacity. In the US it requires a two-year service contract with Verizon Wireless, Sprint 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 personal assistant 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 clearly]. 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.

Dictation dynamo

She's also a dictation dynamo, transcribing emails and texts much better than a phone running Google'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 favourite 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 apologised.

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.

Content-syncing software

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 Apple, 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 in the US from 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."

  • pwdr - 2011-10-13 00:52

    uhh.. no, they've just fixed the issues which plagued the iPhone 4 and put a faster chip in. Simply cant compete with the new 4G Samsung Galaxy S III featuring a dual-core 1.8GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 12MP camera and 4.6-inch Super AMOLED Plus HD display.

      Kdub - 2011-10-13 06:58

      which doesn't even exist yet... idiot! those are only rumoured specs

      Shumba - 2011-10-13 07:07

      ummm, the iPhone cant compete with the galaxy S III because the galaxy S III doesn't exist. At this stage it is only the rumour-mill dishing out details on the S III (and as we now know from the iPhone 5 or lack thereof, the rumour-mill often gets it wrong)

      PeterPan - 2011-10-13 07:40

      Dude, you are dumb... The Samsung Galaxy S III can't compete with the iPhone 7, with opti-Core 7.6TeraHertz, 128TB ram, 3D Virtual Reality with "LASER" beams from the UsB ports... Wanna compare rumors???? No go play with all you're "copied from Apple" devices... before they brake aswell..

      anon - 2011-10-13 08:22

      Okay, lets take it a step further. I have a Galaxy S2 on my desk right now. It has a dual core, a 4.3" and an 8mpixel camera. I've had it for about 4 months now. What does your phone on your desk have right now? At best, its an iPhone 4. Now lets compare prices. 6500 for a iPhone4 16G, and 11000 for a iPhone 4S. PeterPan - come out of neverneverland bud - Do you even know where Apple buys lots of their hardware in your handset? Samsung. Fact. Its distressing to see that you buy into Apple's patent lawsuits so easily, even if they haven't won a single case.

      anon - 2011-10-13 08:55

      Also - go to youtube and search for "Video explains the world's most important 6-sec drum loop" - If you can understand the guys point about patents, you will understand how stupid Apple's lawsuits are.

      Mike or Mpho - 2011-10-13 09:54

      @Anon. The beauty of the iphone is not its hardware buts its operating system and how everything just integrates with one another. Comparing a Samsung Galaxy phone to the Iphone is like comparing a VW to a Buick. Yes, both have 4 wheels and a steering wheel, both have electronics and computer processors and yes some of the parts are very very similar to one another, but the difference is in their performance and sheer pleasure. Not to say that the galaxy is a bad phone, its just ...not a Buick

      anon - 2011-10-13 10:29

      Sorry Mike or Mpho, thats really not true at all. Android 2.3.4 has exceptionally tight integration with loads of the popular apps. Personally, I think comparing hardware is also pretty pointless - The beauty of the iPhone is the lightness and simplicity of iOS - This lets Apple get away with older hardware. Unfortunately for us, this is a cost saving exercise which allows Apple to make more margin per unit. Just before you think I'm a hater, I have had an iPad, and now have an iPad2 (running iOS5 since last night). What I can tell you is you can save 5 large and buy an iPhone4 and be JUST as happy.

      Mike or Mpho - 2011-10-13 10:46

      @Anon. Likewise, I am not a Android hater, Samsung has a different strategy to that of Apple. don't forget that Apple buy a lots of their components from Samsung. Also, Samsung replaces their models at a much much higher turnaround time, making a model obsolete within 1yr (once again 2 sides to this coin, faster development of technology vs. better value for money). I agree that the hardware of the Iphone does not match to that of the Galaxy S II, but it does make it up (a lot) by the OS. I had a Blackberry in the past, what a nightmare, I replaced it with a outdated Iphone 3G (3 years old!) and it is still superior to any Blackberry.

      anon - 2011-10-13 11:05

      Well there we are in agreement. I think the last three days proved to a lot of people that when BBM is down, all you are left with is a 3rd rate handset. I didn't forget that Apple buys plenty of their components from Samsung, I said it all over this thread :)

  • Hetrohero - 2011-10-13 04:22

    A version number is not penis size.

      werner.smidt - 2011-10-13 07:01

      Neither is T-1000, I bet ;-)

  • Superteddy - 2011-10-13 07:37

    There's a few very good reasons why many people - including myself - consider the 4s to be a let-down. There's not a whole lot wrong with the phone itself, as iPhones have always been sterling examples of good craftmanship and attention to detail. iOS5 is also chock-full of new features and easily lets Apple keep in line with other OSes. But its iCloud and Siri which I have the most problems with. iCloud syncs your music, photos, documents and tons of other things with your free 5GB of iCloud storage with Apple, and its immediately available on any other device associated with the account. However, on our networks the pricing of data is shocking, and very few people would be able to use this feature away from a Wi-Fi network. If you have a Cell C or 8ta data sim, then things get better because you can use iCloud as it was intended. For now, though, the 150MB MTN gives for free with their iPhone contracts will be gone in seconds thanks to the syncing. Also, Siri's usefulness in South Africa is trying, at best. Siri relies on on a few services for information lookups, but I see that a few of the location-based services are US and Europe-only (ReserveTravel and Eventful being good examples). While Siri will help as a personal assistant to many South Africans, until our local services providers like Computicket hop on board I'm afraid Siri won't gain the ground it already has in the US and EU thanks to the older app that was previously free.

  • droplet - 2011-10-13 07:56

    um, these changes sort of barely bring it up to speek with the (months-old) galaxy s2 and htc sensation. icloud = data hog. honestly, who uses voice activation to use their phone? lol@speaking slowly and enunciating clearly to set your alarm clock! have you ever compared the iphone 4's screen to a galaxy s2 or sensation? all my iphone friends gaze with drool at a galaxy s2 (and even an s1). but then, if you want to think you're cool, follow the other isheep and get an iphone. just understand that the rest of us know that you are paying more for something that delivers less. and we consequently think of you as all being weird little apple cultists who need to engage a brain.

      Witsie101 - 2011-10-13 08:16

      iPhone 4S is currently the fastest smartphone in the world, leaving your S2 and sensation in the dust. Ad you say it's only catching up? yeah right!

      Spear The Mighty - 2011-10-13 09:12

      What? You mean the new upgraded Iphone is 0.00000000000000000001 seconds faster than the old Galaxy S2? Somehow I'm not impressed considering the Google Nexus Prime (Made by Samsung)being released next month. The Iphone is a very good phone and I'll say until about 9 months ago probably the best, but today...not so much.

      anon - 2011-10-13 09:13

      The fastest how Witsie101? You have ANY actual proof? Since its the fastest, I guess you have one right now? Oh right, it releases on the 14th of October to a few select counties (we aren't one of them). While you are waiting for yours to arrive, I'll continue to enjoy my Galaxy S2 that I've had for MONTHS now. Again, for the second time on this thread, Apple buys plenty of their hardware from Samsung. Lastly, the spec is almost identical - Care to elaborate on how long it took Apple to catch up, and how its so vastly superior to the S2? I'll watch this forum all day, and see nothing of substance from you.

      Ridah Booley - 2011-10-13 09:24

      @Witsie101 ermm it was released when? 1 month in human time is YEARS in CELL WORLD. So 4s released. All reviews still point to Samsung taking the win. There are dual core phones faster than the iPhone. I dont have a prob with Iphone, actually grateful for it as its good competition which means better toys for us :) **truth be told, samsung actually does come out tops. from BB fanboi

      Witsie101 - 2011-10-13 11:03

      Shame, shame, shame...Yall need to do some reading...To start you off, check this out: And this also: lulz

      anon - 2011-10-13 12:27

      Witsie101 - I see your English is pretty poor, so I'll assume you have some context problems with that article. Why don't you go read all the comments talking about ICS. Then think about one of the big benchmark battles - ATI vs Nvidia - Here we frequently see skewed results based on drivers (ie. software). The Tegra 2 in the Galaxy Tab that was beating out the iPhone 4S in the very article you just posted, is an older chip than whats in the SGS2. The good news is IOS5 makes a huge performance improvement for iPhone3 users. That is great for them. Personally, IOS5 hasn't really done much for my iPad2, but then again, it was "fast enough" already? 8 months later Apple release the iPhone4S and you are here trolling about performance vs the SGS2? REALLY? Are You That Dumb?

      Witsie101 - 2011-10-13 13:27

      lulz, Anon you are a very funny keyboard warrior! Anon you the one that needs to reread the article. In case your are impaired, here's a paragraph from the article: "the dual-core A5 chip performs better than the higher-clocked 1.2GHz dual-core Exynos chip and 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 chips that power the Galaxy S II and Droid Bionic (respectively)." And the chip in the Galaxy tab is not the same chip in the S2. So you were off tangent with that remark. Go read the article again, and study those charts over again.

      profkaygee - 2011-10-14 13:22

      Can I just be the one who bursts witsie's high horse bubble? On the articles that you mentioned, they were not measuring the speed of the hardware as a whole, but how fast it can render javascript and OpenGL. Now we all know that javascript is a client-side scripting language that runs in a browser and nowhere else. Now the funny thing is that the reason it is like that is because of the browser that you are running it on, not the hardware of the phone. Now the OpenGL is how fast it can render graphics, but then one thing you failed to remember is that they were rendering a graphic using 720p on the iPhone 4S whereas the Galaxy uses 1080p, hence the time difference. I take it you are not technologically knowledgeable, that is why you will make such comments. Remember that the things that they show here are.

  • preshen govender - 2011-10-13 08:04

    Ipaid for nothing

  • Reeves - 2011-10-13 08:08


  • ChrisD - 2011-10-13 08:11

    When's it coming to SA?

  • ibrahimmuhsin - 2011-10-13 08:30

    oh c'mon they took one year to make these developments? htc and samsung put out smart phones nearly every month i don't understand whats the big deal about iphone.... yes it was great at one time, sorry not anymore!

      Witsie101 - 2011-10-13 11:09

      not anymore? iPhone 4s sold over a million units in 24 hours, lulz. I guess million people don't care what you think

      anon - 2011-10-13 12:31

      Like the 10 million that have bought SGS2's? Or the independent reporters that voted SGS2 best smartphone of the year, over the iPhone4. Here we are, nearly a year later with its "direct competition" and you have so much BS to say. How you finding your iPhone4S anyway Witsie? Enjoying it as much as I am enjoying my Ferrari 458? Oh, thats right, you are also just drooling over it on the internet.

      Witsie101 - 2011-10-13 13:34

      10 million after how many MONTHS? lulz, don't take anything personally anon, chill out dude

  • RVQ - 2011-10-13 08:30

    Interesting how defensive/offensive people get over technology girls and boys alike. Back in the day you would all be branded as geeks and outcasts... guess it's cool now...

  • Stryder - 2011-10-13 08:42

    So if I went to the US I could purchase the most expensive version of this phone for R3192.00 at an exchange rate of R8/$. We are being ripped off!!!

      rainman - 2011-10-13 09:10

      you know stryder, i just realised that as well. i wonder if one can buy them off the internet and get the sa suppliers to honour guarantees and all that..i am very tempted. we are being seriously ripped off by these cellphone providers.

      king_jack - 2011-10-13 11:08

      The price works out to R 3192 because it includes a 2 year contract with a US service provider. It reality if you just buy the handset it works out to between R 7500 - R 10000. Nonetheless it is still slightly cheaper than in RSA

  • Gary Jurgens - 2011-10-13 09:41

    Dear BlackBerry , Thanks for honouring Steve Jobs..3-day silence. Yours sincerely, Apple :

  • Jean - 2011-10-13 10:04

    WOW.. So apple is trying to catch up with Android phones. That Siri which is being used as a big selling point has been available on the Android market for some time now. Dual cores, Android phones got them as well, 8 Mega Pixel Camera, got that as well and oh yes you can actually increase its memory with a sd card ? Apple not so much. So this just puts things on a more equal foot. This is not really something huge. It makes sense for them to do a birt of an update on their outdated hardware and software. Just like it took them a couple of years for the first iPhone to be able to send MMS's . It is all just to keep the profit coming in. IMO they are making fools of the poor old Apple users. Then agian Apple can be sure that their fanboys will continue to buy their inferior products over and over again for much more money than they are worth. Oh and all those " Copied from apple" Morons. with that logic all car manufacturers owe Mercedes money because they all have four wheels and a steering wheel. Really, come up with a valid excuse. I am not saying the iPhone is a KAKKA phone, I am just saying stop being such a damn Apple fanboy.

      Witsie101 - 2011-10-13 11:16

      Trying to catch up? You need to read more tech blogs. Start here: And come back and tell me if Apple is "trying to catch up with Android phones"

  • Dane - 2011-10-13 10:09

    Not ridiculous. Minor updates, didn't really need a faster processor or better camera. Therefore, nothing major or exciting. Now the bar is set even higher for the 5.

  • Lenesh Naidoo - 2011-10-13 14:11

    All I hear from you andriod losers are my hardware is bigger, my hardware is faster, my hardware came phones are meaningless without the apple dev world...EVERY...and I repeat EVERY android app is ported from an ORIGINAL Apple application. Carry on punting ur big,new,fast hardware...when we apple users have apps that cud make gingbread/froyo its b**ch...Apps makes the hardware useful...not a page with its impressive specs...

  • Ginseng - 2011-10-13 17:51

    Lol, what a bunch of kids on this site. My phone is better than your phone! Who cares, buy whatever you want and get over what other people buy, its all about preferences.

  • pages:
  • 1