So, is the iPhone 4S a disappointment just because it looks the same as the iPhone 4? It would be only if you have been expecting the fifth generation of iPhone to be the iPhone 5 - as of now, still a mythical phone with a larger display, metallic back and tapered design. Well, if the fastest selling iPhone in the history of Apple doesn't convince any critics of its success, we don't know what will.
Despite sharing the same design as its predecessor, the iPhone 4S is still one of the most elegant and beautiful smartphones around. Even after a year, there's hardly a rival that can steal the limelight away from its signature metallic frame and glass casing (front and back). Furthermore, none of its competitors are able to match the resolution of its Retina display (yet), which is no doubt the gold standard for mobile screen technologies these days. Apple also redesigned the antennas on the iPhone 4S, ridding it of the 'Antennagate" issue. The redesigned antennas also enable the phone to boast HSDPA data speed transmissions up to 14.4Mbps, on-par with many of its competitors out there.
Hidden within the body of the iPhone 4S is a speedy A5 dual-core processor. The boost in speed is evident in almost every aspect of the user interface, from opening apps to browsing the Internet. What's more surprising is that the iPhone 4S runs on the same amount of RAM as the iPhone 4 - 512MB of RAM and it still can deliver faster performance. Armed with an upgraded processor, Apple also decided to debut its latest iOS 5 on the iPhone 4S. Users will be treated to a more complete Apple experience on the iPhone 4S such as automatic syncing of files between iOS devices via iCloud and free instant messaging through iMessage.
Apple clearly does not rest on its laurels even though its iPhone 4 is the most popular camera for uploading pictures on Flickr. By incorporating a five-element lens with f/2.4 aperture and throwing in an in-house designed image signal processor, Apple claims that the iPhone 4S might be the most capable camera ever on a mobile phone. Our camera test convinced us to a certain extent. Images turned out to be very impressive, with colors rendered accurately and no signs of artifacts. Less noise was also observed, though images were also a tad softer too. Overall, it's a marked improvement.
Perhaps the most hyped and well talked about feature is Siri, the intelligent voice command assistant residing in the iPhone 4S. Siri makes your iPhone4S work harder by helping you set alarms, schedule appointments, read and compose messages with a few voice commands. It also possesses a level of artificial intelligence that enables it to understand natural speech, learn and adapt along the way. However, you will be disappointed to know that Siri has its limitations. First and foremost, language barrier is one of the most serious issues we faced when testing Siri. It finds it hard to comprehend local English of this region (such as Singapore, Malaysia, etc.) as it can only understand three major English accents (Australia, United Kingdom and United States), along with French and German. Second, Siri is unable to locate businesses outside the U.S, hence making it useless in our local context if you plan to use it to navigate your way around. As it is still in beta and Apple promises support for more languages, the future seems positive for Siri (for now, you could supplement its local shortcomings with apps like these). We may even see it being implemented across Apple's devices.
Now comes the important question: Should you upgrade to the iPhone 4S? If you are a current iPhone user (iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4), you may want to check out our break down of the iPhone 4S price plans and determine for yourself if it is worth the money you are forking out. From our analysis, an iPhone 3G or 3GS user would benefit the most. If you are an Android user, in all honesty, the iPhone 4S brings nothing new to the table except for Siri and the 8-megapixel camera. You may also want to consider these Android alternatives which offer similar features or unique features that the iPhone 4S lacks.