The recently released iPhone 4S caused a frenzy amongst tech shoppers, but such is the norm when it comes to major releases from Apple. It comes with a host of improvements, such as iOS 5, Siri, a top-notch camera, and much more that should attract Apple loyalists and smartphone shoppers alike. The iPhone 4S is available at a starting price of $199.99 for its 16GB version with plans from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon.
In terms of design, you wonít be able to tell any true differences between the 4S and the regular iPhone 4 with the naked eye. That is probably not much of an issue for most, but iPhone 4S owners who want others around them to know that they have the latest and greatest iPhone may have hoped for more design differentiation from Apple. As expected, the 4S feels very solid in the hand, but itís not the slimmest smartphone you will find. Official measurements come in at 4.5 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick and its weight is listed at 4.9 ounces. Although the phone is obviously well-built, the glass backing is a cause for concern, especially if you are clumsy. For this reason, a solid case is an absolute must if you want to protect your investment. After all, anyone who has ever owned an Apple product knows they are not cheap by any means.
The 3.5-inch Retina display that dominates most of the iPhone 4Sí front is definitely gorgeous in terms of the quality of its graphics. It also does a good job of averting fingerprints when compared to other touch-screen devices. With that being said, it would be nice if Apple started to design the iPhone with a bigger display. Sure, 3.5 inches is not bad, but the company has kept that form factor for long enough, and other smartphones offer more real estate from their displays, which comes in handy when watching videos, browsing the web, or using the virtual keyboard.
Moving on, Apple decided to address the antenna-gate situation that plagued the iPhone 4 by incorporating a dual-antenna setup with the 4S. This was a much-needed improvement, as you now have the luxury of using two antennas to choose between to achieve an optimal signal. Such a change isnít aesthetic, but it is a design tweak that greatly improves performance. Speaking of aesthetics, the choice of black or white for the iPhone 4S should suit differing tastes, especially those seeking a departure from the all-black norm found in many smartphones. The 4S has a clean, minimalist design that features the power/lock button, headphone jack, and noise-cancelling microphone on top. The bottom panel houses dual speakers and the connector port. Volume and silencer controls are found on the phoneís left side, while the right side has a SIM card slot.
The inclusion of the latest and greatest mobile operating system from Apple, iOS 5, really gives the iPhone 4S a solid interface that is a joy to work with. Itís extremely intuitive and user-friendly, which should appeal to those who are not exactly tech experts. The lock screen offers notifications for quick looks into whatís going on with your iPhone 4S without actually having to be working inside of it. The camera can also be accessed with ease from the lock screen with a simple double tap of the home button. Apple took a page out of the Android book by implementing drop-down menus throughout the interface. Some may feel this is a case of copying the competitor, but itís a logical move. Notifications have also been improved to provide a better user experience. No longer will irritating notifications appear in the middle of the display. Instead, they now appear at the top of the screen so that you can see them without being completely interrupted. The interface has also been optimized for multitasking, as you can get a quick overview of your open applications by tapping the home button twice. It should be noted that the dual-core A5 processor does give the iPhone 4S a nice boost when navigating through the interface, multitasking, and more. The S in the 4S moniker stands for speed, and it definitely backs up that claim.
With all of the functionality that the iPhone 4S provides, itís easy to forget that it is first and foremost a phone. In that regard, itís a winner, as call quality and signal reliability is excellent. Calls are loud and do a good job of cleaning out any outside interference. Speakerphone performance is solid as well. The aforementioned antenna improvements were a good move by Apple to correct any such problems found in the iPhone 4, and their inclusion is noticeable when checking signal strength in different areas that are often known to be rather difficult to work with. Keeping with the performance theme, the iPhone 4S sticks to 3G instead of 4G for Verizon and Sprint, which is a letdown considering the competition. Still, 3G should suffice for the time being, and itís also less demanding on the phoneís battery.
Messaging fans will be pleased by the introduction of the iMessage messaging service on the iPhone 4S. Similar in function to BlackBerryís BBM service, iMessage gives users the ability to chat with others on compatible phones and enjoy features such as free texts, notification of when the other person is typing, read receipts, and more. For longer, more formal messaging, email on the 4S passes the test. Users can add and manage multiple email addresses, plus enjoy a consolidated view via the unified inbox. The finger-friendly virtual keyboard on the 4S should make the phone a device of choice for typing out messages too.
Although the iPhone 4Sí keyboard is nothing to scoff at, some may not want to type all the time. Thatís where Siri comes into play. It uses voice recognition to act as a virtual personal assistant. Now, you may think that such a feature would be error-prone, but it really is not, and Apple should be commended for its superb execution. With Siri, you can ďspeakĒ to the iPhone 4S to send text messages, make phone calls, set reminders, check the weather, search for local businesses, and the list goes on. This is a great addition to the iPhone feature set, and one that is surely to be used by many 4S owners.
Entertainment has been an iPhone staple, and itís no different with the 4S. Browsing the internet is painless thanks to the new and improved browser that comes with iOS 5. The new Reader function helps to make web pages more simplified and better for reading by stripping out photos, ads, and other unnecessary items. Itís ideal for those who like to use their iPhones to read articles and the like and fortifies the browsing experience on the 4S. Music fans can enjoy their favorite tunes on the 4S, and the Genius feature that creates smart playlists is well done. Video and gaming are equally enjoyable. The combination of the Retina display and crisp audio makes the 4S a viable entertainment device.
The 8-megapixel camera on the iPhone 4S is as good as they come on a smartphone. Face detection, blur reduction, and other features make the iPhone 4Sí camera a suitable replacement for your typical point-and-shoot device. It can also record video in full 1080p HD. The quality and clarity of the photos and videos is excellent.
The Apple name alone is enough to sell the iPhone 4S to most of the companyís loyalists. Beyond the brand, however, the iPhone 4S packs superb performance and features into a well-engineered frame that should catch the eye of those in the hunt for a top-notch smartphone.
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