The iPhone 4S is a great device for some, but what if you’re thinking of upgrading from an iPhone 4? That’s a tougher call. The phone is faster, to be sure, and has an amazing camera. And of course, you can’t get Siri unless you have a 4S… but I just don’t know if any of those reasons are compelling enough to convince previous buyers to upgrade. The concept is a particularly hard sell for Verizon customers. The gap between this year’s model and last year’s model isn’t as wide as Apple would probably like.
For this review, I returned to the iPhone after a fairly long period of using and testing other devices. Spending a week with Apple’s newest phone, I’m reminded again of just what makes the company’s products so special. It’s not specs, services, or apps. This phone is not perfect. Certainly it can be improved. But there is something here, beyond the screen and CPU, beyond iCloud, something under the surface. Some intangible spark.
Is this the best phone ever made? That’s debatable. But I can tell you this: the iPhone 4S is pretty damn cool.
Leading up to last week’s event, like everyone else, I kept reading the rumors about a new iPhone with a larger screen and completely different form factor. Quite frankly, I was hoping they were wrong. (For the record, I stated that I heard the screen size rumor was wrong weeks ago.) The iPhone 4′s design is the pinnacle of smartphone design in my opinion. I simply could not imagine how they could alter it to make it better. Even making it thinner would mean that it wouldn’t fit as nicely in your hands for taking pictures. Android fanboys are going to love that statement.
I’m happy that Apple decided not to change the form factor even though they had to know there would be some backlash from a certain segment of the population (read: idiots). Instead, Apple focused on the other thing they do best: refining already great products to make them better. The iPhone 4 was a great product. The best smartphone ever made. Now it cedes that title to the iPhone 4S.
Android phones seem to come out every Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. Apple updates iOS and the iPhone only once a year. So Apple had a lot of catching up to do, even some leapfrogging. There are some rough spots here and there; for example, every now and then the 4S’s camera app gets stuck on its startup screen. And while the battery still gets you through one full day, standby time is shorter than before (200 hours versus 300). But over all, Apple has done an excellent job.
The question isn’t what’s in a name — it’s what’s in a phone. And the answer is: “A lot of amazing technology. And some of it feels like magic.”
The iPhone 4 was my favorite product that Apple has ever made. The iPhone 4S has all the best features of the iPhone 4 — same look, same feel, same Retina Display — and adds several significant improvements. The one and only disappointment I have with the iPhone 4S is that the shutdown spinner animation is still low-res. That’s pretty low on the list of nits to pick.
More after the break: