Apple iPhone 4S

iPhone 4S is the best iPhone ever. Anyone who wants an iPhone right now should buy it. It just isn't an iPhone that demands an instant upgrade for iPhone 4 owners.


9.0
CNET Rating
8.2
User Rating

View more from Apple »

About The Author

CNET Editor

Seamus Byrne is the Editor of CNET Australia. At other times he'll be found messing with apps, watching TV, building LEGO, and rolling dice. Usually at the same time.


Apple iPhone 4S
(Credit: Apple)

iPhone 4S is the best iPhone ever. Anyone who wants an iPhone right now should buy it. It just isn't an iPhone that demands an instant upgrade for iPhone 4 owners.

In hindsight, it was exactly the iPhone we should have been expecting. Just as the 3G and 3GS before, the iPhone 4S was the "under the hood" upgrade of the model that came before it. This two-year tick-tock product cycle suits the mobile phone industry and its 24-month contracts perfectly. It also supports the iAccessory industry and gives them confidence that their latest products will largely suit a new design for two years.

But rumours love hyperbole, with expectations higher than any reality distortion field could contain. And two years is a long time in the bustling smartphone market to stick with the same design. How can Apple get away with it?

Design

Inch for inch, the iPhone 4S is the iPhone 4. You'll find just a few slender adjustments to the glass and brushed metal exterior. An antenna redesign has shifted the position of the black strips found on the metal border. In turn, these changes have led to a minor shift in the position of the mute switch and volume buttons. While only slight, this has been enough to make the 4S incompatible with more than a handful of iPhone 4 cases.

About the only other thing you can spot that is different is when looking closely down the barrel of the rear camera lens, or the shift from Phillips head to Pentalobular screws (a move that had already started on later iPhone 4 models).

That the design is near-identical was the critical disappointment for many when the 4S first appeared. If you hated the iPhone 4's appearance, you'll maintain your rage against the 4S.

The problem has been how quickly the competition has evolved in the past year. Slicker, thinner and bigger screens. New textures surrounding the glass and covering the back that make other handsets feel fresher in the hand. The iPhone is simply not the most beautiful piece of smartphone hardware on the market anymore. But should that trump performance?

Experience

It's what you do with an iPhone that still gives it its edge. iOS 5 is now available for iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, so this is not a specific advantage to people who already own older iPhones. iOS 5 even improves basic benchmarks for older handsets for a snappier overall experience.

With iOS 5 on iPhone 4S, general day-to-day use is silky smooth. The dual-core A5 processor removes a few slight delays when launching apps or changing tasks compared with the iPhone 4. Side by side, there is a clear superiority. When used away from each other, the iPhone 4 still feels sharp enough, so this is no critical reason to throw away the last phone to make a quick upgrade to the new — unless you simply cannot live knowing you are no longer the fastest iPhone in town.

If there's a key advantage on alternative platforms, it is still Android's live home-screen widgets. Deep diving in iOS just to toggle Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is painful once you've toggled such settings on an Android phone.

But the win for Apple is still in its App Store. Quantity has slipped from its grasp, but it remains the standout for browsing and for quality, or perhaps better described as signal to noise. The iOS App Store feels more like a store and less like a bad fishing expedition.

BrowserMark benchmark results

  • 87,665
    Apple iPhone 4S
  • 82,763
    HTC Sensation XL
  • 65,913
    HTC Sensation XE
  • 63,266
    Samsung Galaxy S II
  • 52,938
    Apple iPhone 4 (iOS 5.0)
  • 38,010
    Apple iPhone 4 (iOS 4.3)
  • 28,596
    Apple iPhone 3GS (iOS 4.3)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Siri

Apple's new "virtual assistant", Siri, has gained a lot of attention and it is a fun new toy to mess around with. But apart from asking for the weather (from iPhone's overseas-based sources), and voice control of music, reminders and messaging, plus some witty banter with a virtual friend, Australia misses out on a lot of the best Siri has to offer. Siri's real-world smarts are tied up with Yelp!, a US-only service that means Siri will do nothing but apologise for knowing nothing about restaurants in your area. Maps and directions are also US-only at the moment, relegating Siri to an occasional dalliance rather than a full-time BFF.

We can hope that once the "beta" tag drops we might see a more global experience.

Camera

The iPhone 4S camera upgrade pumps up the volume to 8 megapixels and 1080p video recording at 30 frames per second. There was nothing too shabby about the iPhone 4 camera (for a phone) but the 4S camera is notably better than its predecessor. Beyond the pixels, the new hardware improves the lens aperture and CMOS to give better light sensitivity. This means better subtlety and better low-light performance.

By direct experience, taking pictures is perhaps where the 4S most obviously leaves the iPhone 4 far behind. Both running iOS 5.0, the iPhone 4S takes pictures faster (whether you've tapped on screen or clicked the volume button to take the snap), colours are more naturally vibrant, less oversaturated, fidelity is well captured and the quality is obviously a solid step forward.

Comparing with competition elsewhere in the market, the 4S loses some of its sheen. Its performance in high contrast situations brings out different details to a phone like the Samsung Galaxy S II, not for the better. Depending on your eye you may prefer the colour definition of the S II as well.

Overall, it's a wonderful smartphone camera. The best smartphone camera ever? It's one of the best, but other options could argue better for the top spot.

Colour and sharpness
(Credit: CBSi)

Contrast and backlight
(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

On so many levels this is an ecosystem debate. Apple iPhone still possesses the best arsenal of software for smartphone users. This advantage will last as long as Android lets its Marketplace operate like a red-light district and as long as Microsoft and RIM fail to attract greater diversity to their own offerings. This advantage cannot last forever, but today it is still a critical factor for anyone seeking an experience that gives access to diverse software with minimum fuss and maximum reward.

If you want a big screen, if you want a new style or if you want fresher experiences like live widgets, the iPhone 4S is not for you. There are quite a few justifications now for choosing something else, so the crown no longer rests comfortably on the iPhone's head. But it is the standard bearer for an amazing platform and keeps frustration to an absolute minimum.

Previous Story

HTC Rhyme

Mobile Phones
Next Story

iOS 5.0.1 arrives with battery fix in tow



Add Your Review 36


* Below fields optional


Post comment as
LiamD2 Facebook
8
Rating
 

"Apple Iphone 4s"

LiamD2 posted a review   

The Good:siri, awesome processor, software update to ios6,

The Bad:screen is too small, doesn't come with 4g

I have liked the iphone 4s since it was released in 2011. I like how apple introduced siri so people don't have to fork out as much money for siri on the iphone 5 when they can get it on the iphone 4s.
I love the processor speeds on the phone aswell. Apple always seems to make excellent phones with great processors in them.
I have actually tried siri on the iphone 4s in Telstra at the start of 2012, and I really liked it. It is very accurate in recognising what you are saying, and it can do a lot for you. (for example, you can ask it to check the weather, check the latest sports scores, ask it to post a facebook status update and you can even ask it to look up where to eat).
I love this phone a lot but, as I said, I would have liked to see a bigger screen.

Jondalar
9
Rating
 

"Best iPhone ever.."

Jondalar posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Great screen, great camera, slick interface, speed improved

The Bad:Battery life needs improvement

I've now had the iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S. The 4S is a great phone and I love it, there is a noticeable speed improvement over the 4 and both have vastly better screen than the 3GS. The camera on the 4S is really impressive and a compelling feature. iOS is still the best smartphone OS in my opinion and is super slick.

JordanAusMan
10
Rating
 

"Great Phone Big Improvement"

JordanAusMan posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Everything

The Bad:Could have more control in the system

The Iphone 4s is a really good phone its such a big step up from the 4 and users who have used the 4 would have no idea how much the 4s is better. It has less lag, siri, better control better graphics and camera. It also doesnt have a problem with calling as the 4 did overall a great improvement and possibly one the best phone on the market

 

adsy11 posted a comment   
Australia

all iphones have crap reception they are good phones for kids or those that like to play lots of games or giggle with their friends about apps but thats it. I am on my second now and am over the hype each to their own but I am off to samsung next time

ashleanicole Facebook
10
Rating
 

"Best phone"

ashleanicole posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Everything!

The Bad:Nothing

I LOVE this phone, I went from the HTC HD Desire to the iPhone and will never look back, this phone has everything you want, and so easy to maintain especially via iTunes on the computer. I was a bit scared to purchase as so many people have something negative to say about it - i actually think these people just don’t understand how to use a Smartphone to its full capacity! !

 

DONDON posted a reply   

Quote- "i actually think these people just don%u2019t understand how to use a Smartphone to its full capacity!"

Totally disagree........ and I would say 90% of consumers does it vise-versa. No offends its just like personal choice I reckon. But if you know how to use a smart-phone to its full potential then you should be loving Android.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/apple/apple-co-founder-wozniak-sings-praises-of-android-phones-but-still-loves-his-iphone/

 

ashleanicole posted a reply   
Australia

Defiantly a personal choice, Androids & iPhone's are both easy to use - however yes there are better "quality" phones out there - but for me personally I still prefer the iPhone and its products

 

anon123 posted a comment   
Australia

someone doesnt know who to use an iphone... you can video call non-apple handsets and most smartphones run out of batteries in a day or two cause of the way they are made

 

topdogwestie posted a comment   
Australia

I have had the new iPhone since the release date. After numerous calls to Apple Support because of poor battery life, Apple have agreed to replace the iPhone.

 

zoot posted a reply   
Australia

http://m.smh.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/apple-admits-iphone-battery-fix-didnt-work-for-all-20111114-1neau.html

At least they [Apple] are admitting there's a problem...unlike some fans.

iCloud: whilst the time zones on both devise and computer are set correctly, the Calendar seems to be confused as per which one to use.

 

zoot posted a comment   
Australia

Again, for the children among us, the is a REVIEW on the iPhone 4S.

Its quite pathetic to yell ''troll'' when a review highlights problems which have now been admitted to by Apple as well.

People come to Cnet to research products they may be interested in buying, for that they need facts. If those facts bag your favourite new toy....tough!

hibbqwe
10
Rating
 

"EXCELLENT PHONE"

hibbqwe posted a review   
Australia

The Good:iOS 5, Siri, Speed, Battery

The Bad:None

Great phone, there is not a single thing wrong with it. Battery is great and the speed of the processor is amazing.

vchampion1
9
Rating
 

"Hard to Fault"

vchampion1 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Too much to mention

The Bad:Screen needs to go to 4"

The anti-Apple diatribe reminds me of the anti-Microsoft stuff from 15-20years ago. The only difference is, Apple actually make great products!

If you don't like the tightly controlled econ-system which ensures a smooth ride, then Apple products aren't for you. But if you are happy to accept Jobs' OCD influence over the Apple system, then the resulting products are just world's best again and again. The iPhone 4s is no different (I've had none of the battery life issues).

 

zoot posted a reply   
Australia

HtF, were not talking about all ''Apple Products'' here.

This is an iPhone4S review.

When a company admits they have an issue with a product after its released, and customers rate it accordingly, that is NOT anti-Apple diatribe.

''On November 2, Apple admitted that iOS 5 had battery performance issues and announced that the company would fix the problem with iOS 5.0.1. Apple has released several betas of the updated OS in the last week.''

I've done the upgrade....still no improvement.


Sponsored Links
CNET's latest

User Reviews / Comments  Apple iPhone 4S

  • LiamD2

    LiamD2

    Rating8

    "I have liked the iphone 4s since it was released in 2011. I like how apple introduced siri so people don't have to fork out as much money for siri on the iphone 5 when they can get it on the iphone..."

  • Jondalar

    Jondalar

    Rating9

    "I've now had the iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S. The 4S is a great phone and I love it, there is a noticeable speed improvement over the 4 and both have vastly better screen than the 3GS. The camera on the..."

  • JordanAusMan

    JordanAusMan

    Rating10

    "The Iphone 4s is a really good phone its such a big step up from the 4 and users who have used the 4 would have no idea how much the 4s is better. It has less lag, siri, better control better graph..."

CNET Speedtest

Recently Viewed Products