Finally after a year of waiting and months of anticipation, Apple’s newest and possibly greatest phone, the iPhone 4S, will be hitting the shelves tomorrow (the 14th of October) worldwide and Apple will be opening its doors to the millions of eagerly awaiting customer across the globe. To celebrate, we recap the build up and announcement of the iPhone 4s:
For months before the ‘Let’s Talk iPhone’ event the new iPhone was talked about, in whispers and in shouts. As clues came to light, whether by the over-exuberance of a telecom executive or the leaking of a case design from a Chinese factory floor, the anticipation grew. Everyone had their own pet theory about how the next iPhone would turn out.
One camp suggested a radical design shift and the name iPhone 5, a phone that came in a teardrop shape and included a massively expanded screen and powerful internals. Another, more dour camp suggested the more ho-hum iPhone 4S upgrade, which carried a faster processor and camera, but not much else. The incredibly hopeful (like me) suggested that they might come out together, a Batman and Robin duo that could operate on sufficiently different price points to justify their synchronised release.
In the end the iPhone 4S camp were proved right, but the end result was one that few accurately predicted. While the internals were upgraded, the nature and extent of the upgrades were much more than I expected. The software too was surprisingly exciting, with the AI Assistant Siri stealing the show, particularly amazing for those that had a chance to try the system out first hand after the announcement was made.
Let’s have a look at the upgraded hardware components first. Inside, you’ve got an upgraded CPU, moving from the single core ARM A4 to the dual core ARM A5. There’s been no complementary RAM upgrade, but it still makes a big difference – about the same, relatively, as the leap from the 600 MHz iPhone 3GS to the 1GHz iPhone 4.
The antennae is another notable upgrade, offering a dual mobile connection that allows automatic switching to maintain the best signal strength, as well as the ability to download using both antennae simultaneously for nearly double the speed.
The last major hardware upgrade is the camera. The megapixel count has been boosted from five to eight, but more importantly the relative aperture has been improved to f/2.4. In concert with the back-illuminated sensor which should allow much better low light performance. Full HD 1080p video recording is also possible for the first time, as well as shooting in a third of the time it takes a Galaxy S II.
Software was another important part of the upgrade; iOS 5 comes with a good assortment of changes and upgrades to keep things feeling fresh, including a messaging program called iMessage to rival BlackBerry’s BBM. The standout performer though was Siri, the digital AI assistant that wowed so many of the event’s attendees.
Even with all of these changes, the iPhone 4S still feels like an incremental upgrade, and not the radical leap we were looking for. When all is said and done, you can’t tell the iPhone 4S apart from an iPhone 4 at a distance. If you’ve got your phone in an iPhone 4S case, the task becomes doubly impossible. For many of the Apple faithful, the 4S will not be enough – if you’ve got your heart set on the iPhone 5, then even the magic of Siri is difficult to swallow.
Apple’s chance to convert Android enthusiasts was also wasted. These folks wanted a technically outstanding machine to test their loyalties, but received only a marginal upgrade that’s still behind current generation of Android phones, and will be even further behind when the next wave of HD capable Android beasts are released. One such phone, the Samsung Nexus Prime, was even teased the same day of the iPhone 4S announcement, and was to be revealed this Monday gone, though the event was postponed.
The iPhone 4S may not be the phone that creates a new period of dominance for Apple. Instead, it represents an opportunity for Android and Windows Phone to get back into the game, besting the new release with fresh, bold designs and top of the line hardware. With the tragic death of Steve Jobs and the ongoing legal action between Samsung and Apple overshadowing the product launch, the iPhone 4S might be destined for mediocrity. For Apple’s sake, I hope the iPhone 5 isn’t too far off.