After months of coma-inducing wild speculation from the tech world, Apple has finally announced its new iPhone 4S, an updated version of the iPhone 4 that has left some people feeling just a tad underwhelmed.
Billed as “entirely new from the inside,” the handset looks more or less identical to its predecessor, but comes with an upgraded 8MP camera, dual-core A5 chip, improved battery life, CDMA and GSM support, improved antennas and a bigger 64GB storage option.
Due to go on sale from 14 October, the phone comes with Siri, an “intelligent assistant” app that lets you ask questions in natural English.
It’s a bit like a souped up version of the Vlingo voice recognition application seen on Android phones and although it sure looks clever in the video below, we expect most people will find it as useful as FaceTime (i.e. not much at all):
The 4S will run the latest version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 5 (which borrows some features rather heavily from both Android and Blackberry), and the OS will also be available for downloading to existing iPhone 4 and 3GS handsets on 12 October.
The new handsets no longer require users to endure the misery of hooking their PC and installing the interminable iTunes to be activated, and comes with iCloud, Apple’s content hosting service.
This lets users store their music, films, TV shows and photographs on Apple’s servers and be able to access them across multiple Apple devices.
With the phone retaining the same look and feel as the iPhone 4 – launched as far back as 15 months ago – many Apple fans were expecting more of a blockbuster product rather than a phone that appears to be just playing catch-up with recent Android handsets.
The media reaction was pretty muted too,with the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones being particularly dismissive of the launch event, which was headed up by new Apple CEO Tim Cook:
But overall what we got from an extremely long and ponderous event was nothing that would make anyone but the most dedicated Apple fan go “wow”.
Online, iPhone 4 users on tech forums were questioning whether it was worth upgrading to the new 4S, while many tech pundits and commentators were equally unimpressed.
Analysts at CCS Insight describing the launch as a, “disappointing update other than aggressive price changes, leaving Apple exposed to rival products in mature markets.”
Still a stunner
Although the handset may lack the wow factor created by its predecessor, we’re sure it will still fly off the shelves and hand Apple another hit.
After all, it’s still a beautifully integrated handset in a gorgeous package running the slickest OS to be found anywhere.
That said, we think that by sticking with the same form factor and not offering a larger screen, it’s unlikely to halt the runaway success of high-end Android smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S2.
Prices for the new iPhone4S aren’t for the faint hearted, with the cheapest 16GB model ratcheting up a £499 tag – £100 more than the equally capable Samsung S2 – with the 32GB and 64GB versions no doubt costing a fair whack more.
The now superseded 8GB iPhone 4 will sell for a still upmarket £429 while the near-ancient 3GS (8GB) will cost £319 – a price that we suspect won’t appeal when it’s put against brand new rival products.
Apple Launches iPhone 4S, iOS 5 & iCloud
iPhone 4S Features Dual-Core A5 Chip, All New Camera, Full 1080p HD Video Recording & Introduces Siri
CUPERTINO, California—October 4, 2011—Apple® today announced iPhone® 4S, the most amazing iPhone yet, packed with incredible new features including Apple’s dual-core A5 chip for blazing fast performance and stunning graphics; an all new camera with advanced optics; full 1080p HD resolution video recording; and Siri™, an intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking. With the launch of iPhone 4S also comes the launch of iOS 5, the world’s most advanced mobile operating system with over 200 new features; and iCloud®, a breakthrough set of free cloud services that work with your iPhone, iPad®, iPod touch®, Mac® or PC to automatically and wirelessly store your content in iCloud and push it to all your devices.
“iPhone 4S plus iOS 5 plus iCloud is a breakthrough combination that makes the iPhone 4S the best iPhone ever,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “While our competitors try to imitate iPhone with a checklist of features, only iPhone can deliver these breakthrough innovations that work seamlessly together.”
iPhone 4S comes with iOS 5, the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, which includes over 200 new features including Notification Center, an innovative way to easily view and manage notifications in one place without interruption and iMessage™, a new messaging service that lets you easily send text messages, photos and videos between all iOS 5 users. iOS 5 will also be available as a free software update for iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS customers allowing them to experience these amazing new features.*
iPhone 4S also introduces Siri, an intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking. Siri understands context allowing you to speak naturally when you ask it questions, for example, if you ask “Will I need an umbrella this weekend?” it understands you are looking for a weather forecast. Siri is also smart about using the personal information you allow it to access, for example, if you tell Siri “Remind me to call Mom when I get home” it can find “Mom” in your address book, or ask Siri “What’s the traffic like around here?” and it can figure out where “here” is based on your current location. Siri helps you make calls, send text messages or email, schedule meetings and reminders, make notes, search the Internet, find local businesses, get directions and more. You can also get answers, find facts and even perform complex calculations just by asking.
iCloud is a breakthrough set of free cloud services, including iTunes® in the Cloud, Photo Stream and Documents in the Cloud, that work seamlessly with your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or PC to automatically and wirelessly store your content in iCloud and push it to all your devices. When content changes on one device, all your other devices are updated automatically and wirelessly.
iPhone 4S includes an all new camera with the most advanced optics of any phone. The 8 megapixel sensor has 60 percent more pixels so you can take amazing high quality photos with more detail than ever. iPhone 4S includes a new custom lens, a larger f/2.4 aperture and an advanced hybrid IR filter that produce sharper, brighter and more accurate images. The Apple-designed image signal processor in the A5 dual-core chip is built for performance, and coupled with the features built into iOS 5, makes the camera one of the fastest on any phone. With iPhone 4S, the Camera app launches much faster and the shot to shot capability is twice as fast, so you’ll never miss another shot.
New features in the Camera and Photos apps give you instant access to the camera right from the lock screen, and you can also use the volume-up button to quickly snap a photo. Optional grid lines help line up your shot and a simple tap locks focus and exposure on one subject; and the new Photos app lets you crop, rotate, enhance and remove red-eye, and organize your photos into albums right on your device to share them on the go. New iOS 5 features include built-in Twitter integration and iMessage, so you can instantly share your photos via Twitter directly from the Photos app and send photos via iMessage to individuals or groups. And with iCloud’s innovative new Photo Stream service, a photo you take on your iPhone is sent to iCloud and automatically pushed to your iPad, iPod touch, Mac or PC. You can even view your Photo Stream album on your Apple TV®.
iPhone 4S can also now record video in full 1080p HD resolution and with the new video image stabilization feature, you can take richer, smoother videos. Other iPhone 4S video camera improvements include increased sensitivity, sharpness and an increased ability to capture video in low light conditions. With the new iMessage service in iOS 5, you can now instantly share videos with family and friends.
iPhone 4S has the same beautifully thin glass and stainless steel design that millions of customers around the world love, while being completely redesigned on the inside. Apple’s dual-core A5 chip delivers up to twice the processing power and up to seven times faster graphics than iPhone 4, all while maintaining incredible battery life—now up to 8 hours of 3G talk time.
Improving on the innovative stainless steel external, dual-antenna design of iPhone 4, iPhone 4S is the first phone to intelligently switch between two antennas to send and receive. iPhone 4S now supports twice the download speed with HSDPA of up to 14.4 Mbps and iPhone 4S is a world phone, so both CDMA and GSM customers can now roam internationally on GSM networks.**
Pricing & Availability
iPhone 4S comes in either black or white and will be available in the US for a suggested retail price of $199 (US) for the 16GB model and $299 (US) for the 32GB model and $399 (US) for the new 64GB model.*** iPhone 4S will be available from the Apple Online Store, Apple’s retail stores and through AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and select Apple Authorized Resellers. iPhone 4S will be available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the UK on Friday, October 14 and customers can pre-order their iPhone 4S beginning Friday, October 7. iPhone 4 will also be available for just $99 (US) and iPhone 3GS will be available for free with a two year contract. Siri will be available in beta on iPhone 4S in English (localized for US, UK and Australia), French and German. iOS 5 software will be available on October 12 as a free software update via iTunes 10.5 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch customers.
iPhone 4S will roll out worldwide to 22 more countries by the end of October including Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.