iPhone 4S: the experts' opinions on the 5th generation handset
Apple has had its say on the iPhone 4S. Tim Cook and Co. have told the world exactly why we should buy their hot, new toy and, as ever, the company makes an impressive case at its press conferences.
Now the dust has settled. We've taken the time to review how the iPhone 4S measures up to the competition but, most importantly of all, the technology experts and great thinkers of the media have had a chance to ruminate upon the facts of the case and decide for themselves, without the bright lights of the presentation and pomp of the Apple Store ceremony, exactly what kind of impact the iPhone 4S release is likely to make. Here is what they think...
This is the same kind of performance increase that we saw from iPad to iPad 2. The iPhone 4 doesn't feel slow… until you try the 4S. The camera is the best place to see the improvement: it starts more quickly and rattles off pictures more quickly too. Siri works very well in demonstration conditions but it how it will work in a crowded railway station is another matter. Then there's the question of how silly we'll feel when we start talking to our phones. There's a lot to be impressed by here but this is an improvement of what we had already, rather than Apple rethinking the whole device. Shane Richmond, Head of Technology, Telegraph Media Group
The most important thing to recognise about the iPhone 4S is that it's not the phone Apple wanted to introduce. iOS 5, like every other iteration before it, was ready to be married to an iPhone 5, but whether because of technical issues or supply shortages, Apple simply couldn't produce it in time. Seen in that light, the 4S is a way to stave off the competition until Apple's true next-gen iPhone is unveiled. With a markedly improved camera, faster processor, and an intriguing (if somewhat gimmicky) Siri voice assistant, it seems perfectly suited to fulfilling that modest objective. Vlad Savov, Senior Editor, The Verge
Siri is a very interesting application - it really worked in my rapid tests - and Apple's now making that a reason for upgrades (having withdrawn it from the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, where it ran until Tuesday night). Extra speed, better camera are promising.
But actually, it's iCloud and iOS 5 which are key here. There are - by analyst Ian Fogg's estimate - 200m iOS devices out there able to run iOS 5. That's 200m potential iMessage users who can send messages for free if they're on Wi-Fi (or in phone connection if they have a 3G-enabled device). RIM has 70m BlackBerry subscribers. Apple is after them.
iPhone 5? I could imagine Apple creating a new high end next year, and pushing prices on existing phones down even further. Tim Cook wants market share. Apple has a lot of cash. It can afford it. Charles Arthur, Technology Editor, The Guardian
The big problem is it looks like last year's phone. Of course, last year that was the coolest, sexiest thing you could find but expectations were high that this would be a different beast. In your hand, though, it suddenly makes sense. When I tried it, I found it's massively faster than the iPhone 4, launching apps instantaneously. Siri is very cool, responsive and effective, and the new iOS elements will work well.
Apple, we're now learning, likes to run a design for a couple of years, not just one. Perhaps this means that next year's model will have a strikingly different design, and we'll know to expect an identical-looking one the year after.
If the antenna puts right the current flaws, that may be enough for many people. David Phelan, Time Out
Whatever the name or number, the iPhone 4S is a really great handset and it's not like there was anything wrong with the iPhone 4 design. It's hardly fat, heavy or bulky. The camera and video recording improvements were much needed to catch-up with the competition and the A5 chip adds a noticeable speed boost. Is it worth upgrading if you own an iPhone 4? Well, Siri is amazing but the virtual assistant might not be enough. If you still have an iPhone 3G or 3GS though, you'd be mad not to. Jonathan Weinberg, Technology Correspondent, Yahoo! UK News
The impact of the 4S, I feel, will be limited. It seems like a trial balloon sent up to see how much change the consumer will accept, especially with Jobs gone. It also seems a bit ham-handed of a launch. Siri, for example, is a very "un-Apple" product in that it retains the original name of its creators and, more important, isn't "comfortable" sounding. Siri sounds like an alien, Voice Assistant sounds like a friend of Katy Perry's.
They'll sell a load of them, I'm sure, especially to folks who sat out the iPhone 4, but the best is yet to come. John Biggs, Gadgets Editor, TechCrunch
As hard as I try to be excited, I can’t help but be underwhelmed by the iPhone 4S announcement and, more so, that it’s not an iPhone 5. Yeah, the innards are new and swanky, but the aesthetics have always been part of the traditional Apple magic, and by sticking to an identical form factor, the whole shebang feels about as “magical” as a weekend break in Chernobyl.
That said, there is one aspect that possibly excites me, the new camera. Certainly, in spec terms it looks good on paper, but will it (look good on paper)? A low aperture setting and better control of light could put it up there with half decent compacts, and although I’ve never really used my iPhone 4 for photography before - bar an obsession with Hipstamatic, where any crappy sensor and lens would do - I can actually see a benefit to having something in my pocket that I’d be happy to take holiday snaps with. And, more importantly, be happy with the results.
1080p video capture (and 64GB of memory to store it) would be handy too. As long as it also benefits from improved light properties.
Of course, the Samsung Galaxy S II can do all of this (and is cheaper). But come on, it hasn’t got a nice capital S in its name? Oh, hang on…Rik Henderson, Editor of News
I am a regular visitor to the chapel of Apple and have been enjoying the delights of iOS 5 on my iPhone 4 for some time now. Problem is about three months back I got bored and switched to an HTC Sensation. Sure Apple has a brilliant OS and the iPhone looks great, but for me to be convinced by the iPhone 4s I needed a proper new piece of kit, not a simple spec jump. There is nothing new here, it has all been done before on the Android front for some time. The only difference is Apple's offering costs more. Hunter Skipworth, Contributing Editor
The iPhone 4S shouldn't be a surprise: it updates the areas that the original iPhone 4 was deemed insufficient. Five areas outlined by Apple make up the new update, addressing things like Antennagate which blighted the launch of the last model. But in a time when smartphones are the hottest of hot property, I have to admit at being slightly disappointed. This feels like Apple playing catchup to a large extent - iOS features are nice, the camera updates are nice, iCloud is nice, but not much of it is unique. Undoubtedly it will be a hugely successful device for Apple, but Android fans can't help but feel a little smug. Chris Hall, Editor
Let's strip away the Apple talk for a minute. All that's happened is the the company has brought the camera up to speed with the rest of the competition. That, and hard wired a voice control app. What's most significant after that is the addition of the A5 chip and that's not to be underestimated. It is going to make a big speed difference but it's not really a difference anyone would care about until they tried it for themselves. So, yes, there are bonuses but really not something that required a nearly two hour press conference to talk about. 10 minutes would have done the trick.
The real problem is the screen. Yes, pound for pound, it's a cracker but there's simply not enough of it. Hold an iPhone 4S next to a 4-inch plus Android phone and the former just looks like something from 5 years ago. When you're supposed to leading the way, that's not effect to have thrust upon your customers.
Naturally, it will do fine in the market for now but refrain from a big update in 2012 and Apple will be in serious trouble, which is exactly why they won't. Dan Sung, Editor of Features
Apple has proved that you don't need a shiny new case to improve what is already a popular handset. While that may disappoint many early adopters, that is unlikely to affect the iPhone's success for Apple goal of mass market. And don't forget those new innards will give us plenty of excitement in the coming months as developers look to benefit from the increased power. Stuart Miles, Founder
It's not really a surprise that Apple had little new to announce. The iPhone development couldn't carry on at breakneck speed, and it's inevitable that there is less new technology to add in now than there was for the redesigned iPhone 4. Of course, none of that quelled the expectations of the fans who want an excuse to chuck even more money at Apple. Still, not all of them have an iPad, so that's one way to burn through some spare cash. When the iPhone 5 arrives, it will no doubt have all the things everyone wanted this time, like a new design and perhaps NFC support, but remember, Apple doesn't rush things, it likes to get it right first time. Apart from that antenna thing, oh, and the Newton. Ian Morris, Editor of Reviews
For the final word, we turn to you. What do you think about the iPhone 4S? Pleased? Disappointed? Already got your place in the queue? And what kind of impact do you think it will have on the world? Let us know in the comments below.