Wed, 12 Oct 2011 iPhone 4S review
Apple's latest S stands for Siri, speed boosts, and improved snapshots
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: Faster, better camera, slightly cheaper than iPhone 5 and mostly the same features
- Cons: Smaller 3.5in screen than iPhone 5
- £449 Unlocked
- From free on contract
- Star rating:
Once Apple's marquee phone, the iPhone 4S has now been supplanted by the larger-screened iPhone 5 but remains on sale as a great second choice for those looking for similar features for a lower price.
Whenever Apple makes a new phone, it's older models tend to stay on sale at a reduced price. The iPhone 4S is now available from £449 unlocked for a 16GB model (various contract deals area available) which compares favourably to the £529 that Apple is charging for the iPhone 5. It has most of the same features, however, with the notable exception of the smaller 3.5in display and it weighs in slightly heavier than the iPhone 5.
It also compares favourably to Apple's other iPhone model, the iPhone 4. First there’s that name: It’s the old phone’s name with an S attached to it. As the iPhone 3GS taught us, adding an S to an iPhone’s name can represent numerous under-the-hood improvements, but it doesn’t send shivers down your spine like incrementing a number by one and unveiling a redesigned exterior with mind-blowing features that may or may not include anti-gravity.
Apple’s never going to win a competition with the wildest imaginations of tech bloggers. But the company seems to be doing OK in the business of building phones. The iPhone 4, which remained more or less unchanged for 15 months as approximately a zillion Android smartphone models came and went, has consistently been the best-selling smartphone around.
Now here comes the iPhone 4S, which is more of a good thing: It takes the successful look of the iPhone 4 and tosses in a dual-core processor for dramatically improved speed, an upgraded camera, and some brand-new voice-command technologies.
Feels like an iPhone
It’s a classic look, easily my favorite of all the iPhone designs to date. The fit and finish are immaculate; not a single thing about the iPhone 4S feels cheap. In terms of styling, the iPhone 4 feels like the most expensive electric razor ever made, or maybe like a finely-tuned luxury watch.
The same eye-popping 960-by-640-pixel screen introduced with the iPhone 4 is present on the iPhone 4S, too. Dubbed the “Retina display” by Apple, it’s got a screen resolution of 326 pixels per inch, meaning that the average human eye can’t even see individual pixels. The result is marvelous. Reading text is like looking at a printed page. High-definition videos and photos display tiny details.
With the exception of a micro-SIM card slot on the right side, the iPhone 4S is a dead ringer for the Verizon/CDMA version of the iPhone 4 introduced in February. Extremely precise cases designed specifically for the original iPhone 4 may have trouble fitting over the ring/silent switch and the volume buttons of the iPhone 4S, which are slightly shifted from their position on the GSM iPhone 4; precision cases for the Verizon iPhone 4 and less-precise iPhone 4 cases will have no trouble.
On the front of the phone there’s a VGA-quality camera (640-by-480 pixels) that’s designed to be used for video chatting, either via Apple’s FaceTime technology or via a third-party app such as Skype or Google+. This, too, is unchanged from the specs of the iPhone 4.
In essence, only a Sherlockian attention to detail would allow you to differentiate between the GSM (AT&T) iPhone 4, CDMA (Verizon) iPhone 4, and the iPhone 4S. (Budding detectives: The symmetrical black lines on both sides of the phone are the sign it’s not a GSM iPhone 4; if there’s no micro-SIM slot on the right side, it’s the CDMA iPhone 4; if the lines are symmetrical but the slot is there, it’s the iPhone 4S.)
This does not mean that the iPhone 4S is essentially the iPhone 4 with the benefit of an extra letter. Because on the inside, the iPhone 4S is dramatically different from the iPhone 4.