iPhone 4S — your new best friend
Written by Matthew JC Powell Wednesday, 05 October 2011 04:51
The iPhone 4S, launched at this morning's "Let's Talk iPhone" event in Cupertino, probably disappointed some observers who were hoping for a radical redesign of the iPhone 4. Indeed, even the fact that it's still "4" rather than "5" seems to have hit a sour note. However, the sameness is only skin deep. Underneath it's quite a different beast.
OK, it looks basically identical to the iPhone 4. It's not in any new colours, just the same black and white (hint: purple, folks). The retina display is the same and the front and back "glass" is the same. Even the much-lamented antenna is still the same — or at least it looks that way.
In fact, the antenna has been redesigned, and now incorporates two antennas for 3G communication, intelligently switching between them for sending and receiving. The effect of this change is, according to Phil Schiller, better and clearer signal reception as well as faster data downloads — up to 14Mbps according to Schiller. Obviously that's going to vary according to your network and the vagaries of wireless on any given day in any given place. But theoretically that's pretty respectable speed.
At its core, the iPhone 4S has a faster processor — the same A5 processor found in the iPad 2. Schiller suggested that performance in most tasks could be twice as fast as on the iPhone 4, while graphics performance could be as much as seven times faster. In spite of that, Schiller claimed the 4S has longer battery life than its predecessor — though again this will depend on your usage.
The camera has had a major boost, from five megapixels up to eight, with three independent sensors, an intelligent IR filter and "backside illumination sensing" that is meant to help the phone take better shots in low light. The camera app has been massively improved with face detection and exposure setting, and the camera is said to be able to take photos .5 of a second apart.
For video, the camera supports 1080p HD recording, and has image stabilisation built in while recording rather than having to "fix it in post" using the sometimes-unreliable iMovie. The display can be mirrored to the Apple TV (newer version) using AirPlay.
By far the biggest news was Siri, the voice-recognising "personal assistant" technology that Apple recently acquired when it bought its developer, Siri. Siri parses plain language (at launch it will support US, UK and Australian English as well as French and German) and responds "intelligently". Ask it whether you should wear a raincoat, and it finds you a weather forecast. Ask it for directions, it finds a map. Ask it a more general question, it searches the web for an answer, with links to Wikipedia, Wolfram Alpha and others.
As well as all that, you can use it to compose emails or text messages or longer documents — anywhere you see a keyboard on an iPhone 4S, you will also see a microphone icon for dictation. (That's right, only on a 4S — it is dependent on the hardware.)
Clearly there are a great many hilarious ways that Siri can and probably will go wrong, but today's demos looked impressive.
And how much will all this cost you? So far Apple has set pricing at $A799 for the 16GB entry-level model, $A899 for the 32GB and $A999 for the top-end 64GB model. iPhone 4 pricing meanwhile, has been reduced to $A679 with only the 8GB model presently available.
iPhone 4S will be available to pre-order on 7 October for delivery on the 14th. Initially available in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Japan and Australia, it will roll out to another 22 countries on the 28th.