Late to the party: Hands on with the iPhone 4S.

The Thursday before last (5 April) I upgraded from my iPhone 4 (the original release version that everyone claimed had reception issues) to the 4S. I had originally intended on waiting for the next generation to come around, but I also expected to be unable to upgrade until later in the year and there was an opportunity to provide my old handset in loan. So I caved. I've been a 'power user' of cloud based storage and sync tech since mainstream products appeared on the market. From Dropbox to iCloud I tend to make pretty comprehensive use of all available features. iCloud backup is one of these, but as an experiment I decided to set the phone up as new, while away from home, with no access to my Mac. I could have restored the last backup, instantly re-applying all my settings, installing all my apps and preserving all my data (all possible over 3G), however I wanted to prove that all my data was readily accessible via the cloud.

With the exception of my music library (which I maintain via wireless sync rather than iTunes Match in order to utilise Genius Mixes - though I could have used iTM in this instance for the purpose of the experiment) my phone was indistinguishable in all relevant terms within an hour with two omissions:

  1. iOS 5 was pre-installed and not iOS 5.1. This update required wifi and had to wait until I got home.
  2. A couple of apps could not be installed without first upgrading.

I think this does highlight the separation of platform/hardware and data that companies like Apple and Google (with both Android and Chrome OS) are trying to steer us towards. I still favour iOS' hybrid approach to Chrome OS' more all-or-nothing connection reliance.

In terms of the hardware, the 4S camera is markedly better - however I was pretty pleased with the photo quality achievable on the 3G and 4 models anyway. This is great, the camera is a feature I've come to use more and more. The other truly notable hardware difference is the processor, but to be totally honest there's no real improvement in performance over the 4 simply due to the 4 performing excellently at all the things I use the phone to do. I expect that if I were to indulge in more graphically intensive games the performance boost would be more apparent.

Siri is also kinda fun and moderately useful. I think there's some way for the technology to go before it really becomes a competitor for the touch screen in terms of device interaction. It fills some niches quite nicely though and is pretty impressive in it's understanding of natural language.

Powerful Software

Feeling Responsible.