iPhone 4S or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPhone 4

Yesterday Apple announced an upgraded iPhone 4. Not a major redesign, ground breaking, revolutionary or –insert another over blown marketing term– device.

Was this a surprise or a let down? No. There were leaks and rumours, and little real evidence supporting a major revamp. Apple has done this before with the iPhone 3G to 3GS (minor) to 4 (major). I wouldn't be surprised if the iPad follows the same pattern although I don't expect to see a major case redesign.

The iPhone 4 is a fantastic phone with the best screen I've used on a mobile device and camera that I'm happy to use as my only camera. The few complaints I have are mainly software related and a most of those are solved by iOS 5. From a phone hardware point of view I can think of these:

  • The ‘you're holding it wrong’ Antenna problem. You can get less signal strength when holding it a specific way. We heard about it a lot when first released and then everyone seem to stop caring. When wrapped in a case it's not a problem so I had pretty much forgotten about it until I recently tried going without a case.

  • Battery life: I'm a heavy user with lots accounts syncing and regular network traffic. Battery life is a problem for all smartphones. We all want more battery sapping features without any performance hit.

  • Speed: some things can occasionally seem relatively slow and unresponsive. This is often a software problem and is sometimes more evident because so much of the iOS experience is fast and fluid. I've been told many Android phones are quite unresponsive all the time so I probably shouldn't complain.

  • The glass back: When case-less the glass back is pretty but can be a little impractical. You become reluctant to put it down on potentially scratchy surfaces and mine seems to have gained a habit of sliding off the arms of the sofa.

iPhone 4S Siri

iPhone 4S New Features

  • Better Dual-core A5 chip that should fix the odd speed issue and more.
  • New antenna design for better call quality and I expect less problems from holding it wrong.
  • Improved Camera, SQUIRREL!

Squirrel!

  • iOS 5 and iCloud. You can get these on any iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS (update October 12th if you can). These look excellent but don't really count.
  • Siri your digital personal assistant. For me this was the most impressive addition. Think somewhere between old phone voice recognition and Ironman's JARVIS.

    Just talk the way you talk. Siri understands what you say and knows what you mean.

    If they can hook in other apps this could eventually become a huge feature across all Apple products but only if you can get used to talking to someone that doesn't exist. I only want one to play with this.

iPhone 4S Drawbacks

Other missing features, according to questionable reviewers, include: no Larger display - no thank you, I'd like a smaller device but the same size screen, and no 4G data capability which may be a disappoint for the big US cities but in the UK we can expect 4G in 2013 at the earliest. A slightly less reported disadvantage is that the iPhone 4S has been reduced battery life compared to an iPhone 4 when you're not really using it, ~100 hours standby time.

Recommendations

Usually when talking to non-geek friends about buying iPhones, once you reach a certain month, geeks say wait for the next iPhone. Not necessarily to get the latest model but because other models often become cheaper. So my recommendations based around the now standard 2 year contract are:

iPhone 4S, get it if you can afford it or if you want an iPhone that will support the latest software updates for as long as possible. Also if you travel around the world a lot. Available October 14th

iPhone 4 is still an excellent choice. Especially if you can get a reduced price 16GB rather than the new 8GB.

iPhone 3GS is also surprisingly still available. Only good for 12 month contracts or if you really can't afford to get either of the other models. It's still an iPhone but is now a bit dated. Don't expect anything new in future software updates and expect to be envious of your friend's newer phone.

And finally, the funniest review I've seen has to be:

Biggest problem to me is the unchanged design. Seriously, what's the point of getting the new iPhone if nobody can notice that you have the new iphone? - Engadget commenter