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A rundown of various iPhone 4S reviews


The iPhone 4S is officially launching on Friday and the early reviews of the upgraded device are in. While the device is physically the same, several publications in the United States have posted their thoughts on Siri, the new A5 processor and the camera. Here’s a good breakdown from each.

Various opening lines:

Wired:
“Apple never specified what the “S” stands for in iPhone 4S, and it may as well stand for Siri.”

The Verge:
“Reviewing the iPhone 4S is in many ways a lot like reviewing the original iPhone 4, except that it’s not. The device, which was just announced at a special event on Apple’s campus, is very much the same phone the company released in June of 2010 — but it’s also something completely new.”

New York Times:
“A lot, apparently. Apple’s new iPhone is called the iPhone 4S. But what people really wanted was the iPhone 5.”

USA Today:
“As the iconic smartphone for these times, any new iPhone would make a huge splash.”

Daring Fireball:
“This is the easiest product review I’ve ever written. The iPhone 4S is exactly what Apple says it is: just like the iPhone 4, but noticeably faster, with a significantly improved camera, and an impressive new voice-driven feature called Siri.”

The new A5 Dual-core processor:

Tech Crunch:
“First of all, the iPhone 4S blows away the iPhone 4 when it comes to speed. For the past week, I’ve been testing all of my most-used apps and the differences range from solid to awesome. At first glance, the speed difference may seem subtle. But over time, it adds up and becomes apparent. I would switch back to my iPhone 4 and get frustrated by the lag”.

The Verge:
“apps seemed to open a little bit faster, and the camera response time is noticeably improved. The 4S is definitely a snappy device, but if you’re going from the last version to this, it feels like a tweak, not an overhaul. It’s possible that newer software (Infinity Blade 2, for instance) will take better advantage of the A5′s capabilities, but that remains to be seen.”

New York Times:
“There’s a faster chip, the same one that’s in the iPad 2. More speed is always better, of course. But it’s not like people were complaining about the previous iPhone’s speed.”

The 8-megapixel Camera:

Daring Fireball:
“The most profound difference between the 4S and 4 cameras has nothing to do with image quality. It’s that you don’t have to wait nearly as long. That closed iris comes up for a moment and then it’s gone, and you’re ready to shoot. And after you shoot, the camera is ready to snap additional photos almost instantly. The difference is huge, and it’s especially nice in conjunction with iOS 5’s new lock screen shortcut to jump right into the Camera app.”

New York Times:
“A much better, faster camera — among the best on a phone. It has a resolution of eight megapixels, which doesn’t matter much, and a new, more light-sensitive sensor, which does. Its photos are crisp and clear, with beautiful color. The low-light photos and 1080p high-definition video are especially impressive for a phone. There’s still no zoom and only a tiny LED flash — but otherwise, this phone comes dangerously close to displacing a $200 point-and-shoot digital camera.”

Tech Crunch:
“Also great is that the iPhone 4S camera can shoot 1080p video for the first time. The iPhone 4 is limited to 720p. The 4S also features video stabilization, to ensure your home videos won’t make viewers want to vomit. Testing this out, it seems to work pretty well.”

USA Today:
“The camera has 8 megapixels (up from 5 megapixels in the iPhone 4), but the megapixel count doesn’t nearly tell the whole story. Among other things, Apple engineered the sensor so it will let in a lot more light. It added face detection, too, for detecting whether you’re capturing a portrait or group shot. And the camera fires up and lets you shoot the next picture in a snap.”

The Verge:
“Apple has introduced a number of improvements on the video side, including image stabilization, and it shows when you’re shooting even relatively fast action. There’s not much to say except that Apple has improved on what was already a capable video solution, making it a full-fledged competitor for bulkier point-and-shoots or dedicated camcorders.”

Slash Gear:
“Does it all work? You bet it does. There are two noticeable improvements – quality and speed – and the best thing is that they’re clearly evident from the start. Sharpness and detail are significantly boosted in the iPhone 4S when compared to what the iPhone 4 can achieve; there’s less noise and less color bleed evident. Aberrations such as fringing around the edges of the frame are cut right back, a benefit of that five-lens array.”

Siri – The “Intelligent Assistant:

All Things D:
“The standout feature, not available in other iPhones, or in any other phone I’ve seen, is Siri. It answers questions and provides information using natural language and an intelligent understanding, not just of words, but of context and colloquial phrasing. It isn’t perfect, and is labeled a beta, but it has great potential and worked pretty well for me, despite some glitches.”

Daring Fireball:
“In a sense, Siri is like a second interface to iOS. The first interface is the app interface. Launch, tap, drag, slide. The Siri interface is a different world. As stated above, this new interface is in many ways the opposite of the regular one — open-ended and implicit instead of narrowly defined and explicit. I don’t mean to imply that Siri doesn’t fit in or feel right at home — it does. But Siri is indicative of an AI-focused ambition that Apple hasn’t shown since before Steve Jobs returned to the company. Prior to Siri, iOS struck me being designed to make it easy for us to do things. Siri is designed to do things for us.”

New York Times:
“In each case, Siri thinks for a few seconds, displays a beautifully formatted response and speaks in a calm female voice. It’s mind-blowing how inexact your utterances can be… It’s even more amazing how Siri’s responses can actually form a conversation. Once, I tried saying, “Make an appointment with Patrick for Thursday at 3.” Siri responded, “Note that you already have an all-day appointment about ‘Boston Trip’ for this Thursday. Shall I schedule this anyway?” Unbelievable. ”

Wired:
“It’s kind of like having the unpaid intern of my dreams at my beck and call, organizing my life for me. I think Siri on the iPhone is a life changer, and this is only the beginning.”

The Verge:
“Siri can be helpful, but was also frustrating at times. Seeing the software mangle a request or fail to understand what action you want it to take can be maddening, but I think that frustration actually speaks to how advanced the software is. Siri is capable of doing so much that is complex that I started giving it more credit than was probably due. I expected Siri to be smarter than it is right now, because… well, it’s already pretty damn smart.”


iOS 5:

Tech Crunch:
“The best addition to iOS 5 is the revamped Notifications system. Yes, it’s a bit like the system that Android and webOS have had for a while, but once again, Apple took their time to make sure they did this right. Gone are the annoying blue pop-ups that would get lost when another notification came in. Now you have a full-on notification center to keep track of everything you miss when you’re away from your phone or simply not in the mood to check it.”

USA Today:
“The new software is the iOS 5 mobile operating system, which introduces more than 200 features, including a handy and unobtrusive way of delivering notifications of texts, e-mails, missed calls, stock prices, appointments and more. All you need do is swipe down from the top of the device, not unlike on Android phones. And you’ll see notifications on the iPhone lock screen. Twitter integration also arrives with iOS 5, as does the iMessage service that lets you send texts, photos, videos and locations to friends or contacts who also have iOS 5 devices.”

Daring Fireball:
“The iOS interface is fundamentally only two levels deep: the first level is the home screen, listing all available apps. The second level is when you tap an app to use it. Hit the home button to go back to the home screen. That’s it.”

The Verge:
“iOS 5 is a huge update — maybe Apple’s biggest ever — and there’s lots to unpack… For starters, don’t expect a completely new look and feel to the operating system. iOS 5 is nearly identical to the last version of the OS, save for some pretty notable improvements in functionality. The biggest and probably most desired (at least by more tech-savvy users) is improved notifications.”


Conclusions:

All Things D:
“The iPhone 4S is one of Apple’s less dramatic updates, but, when combined with the Siri, iOS 5 and iCloud features, it presents an attractive new offering to smartphone users. Some may be content to skip the new hardware and just enjoy the software and cloud features with older models. But those buying the phone will likely be happy with it.”

The Verge:
“Is this the best phone ever made? That’s debatable. But I can tell you this: the iPhone 4S is pretty damn cool.”

New York Times:
“Android phones seem to come out every Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. Apple updates iOS and the iPhone only once a year. So Apple had a lot of catching up to do, even some leapfrogging. There are some rough spots here and there; for example, every now and then the 4S’s camera app gets stuck on its startup screen. And while the battery still gets you through one full day, standby time is shorter than before (200 hours versus 300). But over all, Apple has done an excellent job.”

Daring Fireball:
“The iPhone 4 was my favorite product that Apple has ever made. The iPhone 4S has all the best features of the iPhone 4 — same look, same feel, same Retina Display — and adds several significant improvements. The one and only disappointment I have with the iPhone 4S is that the shutdown spinner animation is still low-res. That’s pretty low on the list of nits to pick.”

Read all the full review of the iPhone 4S here: The Verge; New York Times; USA Today; Wired; Tech Crunch; Daring Fireball; Slash Gear and All Things D

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