iPhone 4S Review Roundup

The iPhone 4S officially launches on October 14th and reviews from around the web have started to roll in. While many were disappointed that there was no iPhone 5 at the unveiling over a week ago, the fact of the matter is it’s what’s on the inside that counts most. And there’s certainly lots to like about the new iPhone – the noticeably faster A5 processor, the much improved camera, and of course, Siri, the amazingly talented AI driven personal assistant.

Joshua Topolsky [This is My Next]

The iPhone 4S took some of the nicest, cleanest photos I’ve ever seen from a mobile device. If you’ve ever thought about using a phone as a replacement for your point-and-shoot, feel free to start taking that concept seriously. The 4S produced crisp, balanced, colorful photos that were surprisingly low-noise and never over-saturated.

As far as video is concerned, it should come as no surprise that Apple has done a similarly excellent job here too. The iPhone 4S captures full 1080p content, and does so with the same crispness and polish that it lends to its still photos. Apple has introduced a number of improvements on the video side, including image stabilization, and it shows when you’re shooting even relatively fast action. There’s not much to say except that Apple has improved on what was already a capable video solution, making it a full-fledged competitor for bulkier point-and-shoots or dedicated camcorders.

Walter Mossberg [All Things D]

I focused on the handful of new features unique to the 4S, notably the new voice-controlled artificial-intelligence system called Siri; a brilliant new camera for stills and videos; and faster, 4G-class download speeds. The iPhone is now available from Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, but I tested the AT&T version, because it is the only one which offers the faster download speeds.

The standout feature, not available in other iPhones, or in any other phone I’ve seen, is Siri. It answers questions and provides information using natural language and an intelligent understanding, not just of words, but of context and colloquial phrasing. It isn’t perfect, and is labeled a beta, but it has great potential and worked pretty well for me, despite some glitches.

David Pogue [NY Times]

Siri is billed as a virtual assistant: a crisply accurate, astonishingly understanding, uncomplaining, voice-commanded minion. No voice training or special syntax is required; you don’t even have to hold the phone up to your head. You just hold down the phone’s Home button until you hear a double beep, and then speak casually.

You can say, “Wake me up at 7:35,” or “Change my 7:35 alarm to 8.” You can say, “What’s Gary’s work number?” Or, “How do I get to the airport?” Or, “Any good Thai restaurants around here?” Or, “Make a note to rent ‘Ishtar’ this weekend.” Or, “How many days untilValentine’s Day?” Or, “Play some Beatles.” Or, “When was Abraham Lincoln born?”

In each case, Siri thinks for a few seconds, displays a beautifully formatted response and speaks in a calm female voice.

MG Siegler  [TechCrunch]

Much will be made about the upgrade from 5 megapixels to 8 megapixels with the iPhone 4S. But the bigger difference is the engineering behind the new camera. Apple notes with pride that their engineers were able to completely re-architect this tiny camera to produce images that are on par with the nicest point-and-shoots available. They credit five “precision elements” to record incoming light (versus four in the already excellent iPhone 4 camera) and the inclusion of a larger f/2.4 aperture to bring in more light.

I was actually in London last week when I got the 4S. For the trip, I brought my Canon S95, a $400 point-and-shoot which is generally considered to be one of the best. I barely used it. While it still bests the iPhone 4S in low-light settings, for all most other environments, it’s hard to tell the difference. Yes, the S95 is still better, but it’s no longer so much better than it can trump a device that I always have in my pocket with me anyway. Yep, point-and-shoots are screwed. (In case that wasn’t already abundantly clear.)

Jason Snell [Macworld]

The results of my general-performance tests showed the iPhone 4S to be roughly twice as fast as the iPhone 4. Apple claims graphics performance on the iPhone 4S has been boosted even more by the graphics component of the A5, with speed gains of as much as 7x. That’s a best-case scenario, but my tests with the GLBench Pro graphics benchmarking app did show enhanced graphics performance. One 3D test sequence played at roughly five times the frame rate of the same scene on the iPhone 4; another was roughly double the frame rate.

Vincent Nguyen [Slashgear]

What you do get is a freshly redesigned antenna, or more accurately two of them: both can be used for transmitting and receiving. The pair can also be switched between mid-call depending on which the iPhone 4S decides will give better reception. In practice, we had no issue holding long voice calls without any drops, glitches or background static. On the Verizon review unit Apple provided we saw EV-DO Rev.A data rates pass 1MB/s and peaking at over 2MB/s; in contrast, other Verizon handsets using the same network have averaged 800KB/s.

Battery life, meanwhile, has also impressed. Apple quotes up to 8hrs of 3G talktime or 14hrs of GSM talktime, up to 200hrs standby, up to 6hrs of 3G browsing or 9hrs of WiFi browsing, up to 10hrs of video playback or up to 40hrs of audio playback. Real-world use will be a combination of each of these, naturally.

Brian Chen [Wired]

To give you an idea of how convenient Siri is, it takes about three seconds to create a reminder with a voice command, as opposed to the 10 seconds it takes me to manually type an event into a to-do list or calendar entry. Before, with the standard iPhone calendar, I would often forget to add an event because I was too busy to type it, and as a result I would forget I had something scheduled altogether. With Siri and Apple’s new Reminders to-do list app, it’s unlikely I’ll forget anything important again because the process is so effortless.

Stephen Fry [The Guardian]

Siri, the high quality and ultra-fast camera, 30 fps 1080p HD video, globally available voice recognition and the introduction of two antennae (the phone seamlessly switches between whichever is getting the strongest signal) are features that make the 4S irresistible; what is more, the unchanged form means that a whole new range of covers and accessories won’t be required.

Rich Jaroslovsky [Bloomberg]

The camera is also noticeably faster, thanks to the phone’s new dual-core A5 processor, the same brain used in Apple’s iPad 2. Indeed, the faster processor, combined with changes to the graphics, software and antennas, makes the iPhone 4S zippier across the board — in launching and running apps and even in downloading data.

Jim Dalrymple [The Loop]

I’ve been using the iPhone 4S for a week now — ever since Apple introduced the device at a special event in Cupertino on October 4. The iPhone 4S may look a lot like its predecessor, but a significant speed boost and reworked antenna technology put this model far ahead of the competition, and even ahead of the iPhone 4.

With its A5 chip, the iPhone 4S is noticeably faster in everything you do. From launching apps to switching between apps using multitasking, you can’t help but notice the speed increase.

One thing I particularly noticed was the animations when launching and switching apps. When an app is launched or closed, it is supposed to zoom in or out — this wasn’t always evident in previous versions of the iPhone.


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