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.