When Apple announced its fall event, they said, “Let’s talk iPhone.” Many of us anticipated the announcement of the iPhone 5, but it was over 50 minutes into the presentation before any discussion of a new iPhone of any sort was muttered. But when the dust settled, a new iPhone emerged–the iPhone 4S.
More than a new iPhone 4
Speculation had a possible 4S as a watered down model for the prepaid market. Not so, it’s more! If anything, it’s a souped-up iPhone 4. The new iPhone 4S is based on the same form factor as a current model. It features a dual-core Apple A5 chip making it up to 2 times faster than the previous model. The graphics chip is also dual core yielding up to 7 times faster performance than its predecessor as witnessed by a demonstration of the upcoming Infinity Blade II, available December 1st.
The iPhone 4S also incorporates changes to the iPhone’s built-in antenna system, improving call quality & reliability using a new system to switch intelligently between the transmitting and receiving antennas.
Even with higher performance processor and graphics, battery life is now rated at a respectable 8 hours of 3G talk time, 9 hours of Wi-Fi browsing or 10 hours of video.
Another smart move was making the new iPhone, a “World” phone, meaning that one model is equipped with both CDMA and GSM capabilities, so the same phone can run on multiple network types, in various countries, subject to carrier approval.
Enhanced 8-megapixel camera
One of its most visible new features is the incorporation of an 8-megapixel sensor (3264 x 2448) camera, offering 60% more pixels than before. Now this isn’t just the same old camera with a larger sensor, it’s been totally redesigned.
It’s equipped with an f/2.4 5-element lens assembly, offering a 30% sharper pick-up. It also features a backside illuminated CMOS sensor, allowing 73% more light to hit it, which has a significant impact, especially in low light conditions. They’ve also added a hybrid IR filter for greater accuracy & uniformity of colours as well as a new signal image processor, offering a 26% better white balance and capturing images 33% faster than before. The iPhone 4S can whip off its first picture in 1.1 seconds and only 0.5 seconds for the 2nd.
The new camera is face detection enabled, so it can recognize people in your photos.
There’s no doubt that Apple is certainly going after the point and shoot market as well as bringing competition to the cameras found in higher end Android-based smartphones.
There’s more. Video has also been enhanced with the 4S offering 1080p HD video recording, noise reduction and image stabilization.
iPhone 4S has also added Airplay Mirroring, a featured found on the iPad, so you can enjoy your videos and games on a larger screen, with the option of doing so wired or wirelessly.
Siri – Your Intelligent Assistant
The iPhone 4S also introduces Siri, a new feature, currently in BETA, as “your intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking.” It understands context, so you can give it commands in natural language and can either comply, reply or both.
If you ask it if it will rain in Toronto today or “do I need an umbrella for the weekend?” that you are looking for a weather forecast in your location. You can tell it to wake you up at 7AM. It will say “ok “and set your alarm for that time. You can even ask it to look up something in Wikipedia.
Siri also does dictation, taking a page from Dragon, allowing you for example, to compose text messages hands-free.
Siri is available in English (US, UK & Aussie localised), French and German.
Shipping Simultaneously in U.S. & Canada
The iPhone 4S will be available for pre-order on October 7th and will ship on October 14th. Interestingly enough, it will ship in Canada, US as well as France, Germany, Australia, UK and Japan on the same day. Now that’s a first!
It will be available in black or white and will run on Apple iOS 5, which by the way will be available as a free download for all current iOS devices, October 12th.
Two-year contract pricing for the iPhone 4S in the US will be 16GB $199, 32GB $299 and 64GB $399. The iPhone 4 will drop to $99 and the iPhone 3GS will be free with contract.
No Canadian pricing is available yet. However, Apple Canada’s website shows the iPhone 4S, unlocked, I presume, “from $649CDN.”
My knee jerk reaction at first was that I was a little disappointed that there was no iPhone 5, but after seeing the iPhone 4S, now, not so much so. While it’s not totally redesigned, it is significantly enhanced. First, it’s much faster, and faster is always good. It’s a world phone offering flexibility on various networks. The new camera, might just be a reason to leave your point and shoot at home and Siri could make open the doors for some huge 3rd party development opportunities as more people embrace smartphones and as distracted driving laws become more prominent.
So should you get one? If you don’t have an iPhone, yes! If you have an iPhone 3G or 3GS, then probably. If you have an iPhone 4, but are still on contract, you might need to weigh the value of the enhancements – speed, enhanced camera and Siri & versus the payout on your old one. And for world travelers, the iPhone 4S may be your answer!
Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.
Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg.