Apple announces the iPhone 4S

iPhone 4S

People’s devotion to Apple is a strange phenomenon. It’s almost religious in its fervour sometimes, as people sift through all the available information to try and find the kernel of truth at the core. I’m not saying this as an outsider looking in, either, I’m one of those people who happily read the rumours of what shiny new piece of technology is about to be released and try to work out what is true and what isn’t.

I tried to look nonchalant as Twitter exploded with information about Apple’s media event yesterday, but I still ended up reading one of the many live blogs to try and find out what was happening.

And what was happening? Well, if the media predictions were to be believed it was the unveiling of the iPhone 5, but in a half-expected twist, it turns out that Apple were actually unveiling the iPhone 4S.

If you’ve paid attention to the iPhone’s evolution over the last few years, you’ll know that the iPhone 3G was superseded by the 3GS, then the 4… see the pattern here? I will admit I was a little disappointed at first, but having taken a little time to look over the iPhone 4S’s specs and capabilities, that feeling is fading fast. Let’s look at the 4S in more detail then.

Physically, it looks the same as the iPhone 4, which is going to be something of a shock to the many phone case makers who were given the specs for a unit with a thinner profile and larger screen. The internals, however, are completely different:

  • The processor is Apple’s A5 chip, a dual-core processor which delivers two times the processing power of the iPhone 4, and up to seven times faster graphics.
  • Battery life is now 8 hours talk time on 3G (14 hours on 2G), and 6 hours 3G browsing or 9 hours WiFi.
  • The iPhone 4S is GSM and CDMA compatible. If this doesn’t mean much to you, it means that it is able to speak to mobile phone networks worldwide and should work in any country.
  • An 8 megapixel camera will be installed in the new iPhone which, as well as taking high quality photos, can shoot video in 1080p HD. I’m a big fan of my DSLR camera, but it will be great to have a quality camera on my phone for those times when it’s not appropriate or possible to take a larger one with me.
  • An improved dual-antenna system should also prevent those annoying drops when making phone calls because, you know, it should actually work well as a phone.
Perhaps the most interesting feature, though, is Siri voice control. This allows you to do more than just dial numbers from your phonebook – you can ask your phone “What’s the weather like in London?”, or “Tell my wife I’m going to be 30 minutes late” and it will fire up the weather app or send off a text message. I particularly like the example of, “do I need an umbrella today?”, which elicits an appropriate response based on the local weather. Now, I don’t get on particularly well with voice control, possibly because of my Scottish accent, but I will be very impressed if this works.

iOS 5

The latest version of the iPhone’s operating system will be released on Wednesday 12th October, before the iPhone 4S’s launch date of the 14th. iOS 5 includes over 200 new features. Again, let’s take a look at a few:

  • iMessage – a text-based messaging service that’s “unlimited”. By unlimited, Apple mean messages will go over your data connection most of the time. They may be sent via SMS if iMessage is unavailable, however. It will allow instant messaging between iOS devices, and I’m thinking it might be something of a response to Blackberry Messenger. If you have used What’s App on your iPhone, it looks like it will be pretty similar.
  • Twitter integration – tweet straight from Safari, YouTube, Photos, Camera and Maps. Nice, but I wonder if this will herald the beginning of the end for iPhone Twitter app developers?
  • The camera will be useable straight from the lock screen – no more faffing around with trying to unlock the phone before taking a photo, only to realise the moment has passed. It will also be possible to edit and touch up your photos with the built-in photo app.
The iOS 5 update will be free for iPhone 3GS or later.

iCloud

iCloud is a wireless syncing service. When you buy something on one of your iCloud enabled devices, which will include the iPhone 4S, it will automagically be downloaded to your other devices, such as home Mac or iPad. Take a photo with the iPhone, and you will be able to access it on your Mac. No more mailing photos as attachments or plugging in the cable to download them to Aperture.

If you want your friends to be able to find you, you can broadcast your location so that you show up on their Find My Friends maps, and if you’re somewhere you don’t want others to know about, we are assured that it is a simple matter to take yourself off the grid for a while.

All of this sounds great, especially the idea of being able to access all your past iTunes purchases over the cloud (I keep forgetting to sync them to my iPhone) but there is one slight concern. This could really eat through your data usage, so I’m hoping there’s a way to limit iCloud to syncing when on WiFi or when items are under a certain file size.

Roundup

I’ll say again, I was a little disappointed not to be writing about a redesigned iPhone 5 today but, actually, the iPhone 4S looks like it’s going to be very, very good. Will I be in the queue at an Apple store for launch? No. Will I be enquiring about upgrading to a 4S when my mobile phone contract expires (very shortly)? You bet – watch this space for more information when I get my hands on one.

What do you think about the Apple announcement? Is there anything missing you think should have been included? Any features you think look particularly attractive? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

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