Top positive review
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Great Phone, but think twice before upgrading from an iPhone 4 or even 3GS
on 5 January 2012
iOS 5.1 UPDATE: I updated both my iPhone 4S and my 1st Gen iPAd to iOS 5.1 five days ago (I also updated my wifes iPhone 4). This update came to the phone directly via wifi and installed quickly on the 4S. The same update took much longer on the A4 powered iPhone 4 and iPad. This is perhaps the first time I have seen a big speed difference between the iPhone 4S and the older 4. Battery life has improved but only slightly. the 5.01 update made a bigger battery life difference for me. However this update has given you the ability to switch of 3G, leaving the phone to use 2G. Doing this can substantially increase battery life, and it is easy to re-enable 3G if you need to browse on the go away from your wifi. The other significant improvement is the camera is easier to access from the lock screen. The map app seems to have had an upgrade as well (although perhaps I had missed this function before), but now it will rotate the map as you turn making it more useful for navigation.
THREE MONTH UPDATE: I have been using the iPhone 4S for just over three months now. I thought that it would be good to give a general update as I have been using the phone long enough now for that initial shine that new purchases have to have worn off. I am happy to say that the phone has performed almost flawlessly during those three months, and having experienced all the smartphone systems except Windows, I am still more than happy to say that this is the best smartphone available. My only regret is that I opted for the 16GB rather than 32 or 64GB versions. Still given how much you can trade in even an old iPhone 3GS for compared with other brands, I feel it likely that I will get enough for my 4S in two years to allow me to get a 32 or 64GB iPhone 5(S) without feeling guilty. One tip if like me you use your phone calender, is that I would recommend the 'Week Cal' app which has a week view that the native calender does not. It also allows you to individually colour entries (say a different colour for different types of events) in the way you can in MS Outlook. It is fully compatible with all calenders that the iPhone can synch with. Highly recommended as a significant way to improve the iPhone.
The first thing I need to say is that the Apple iPhone 4S is the best smart phone in the market at present, and unless something radical happens will probably be the best smart phone until the iPhone 5 is released. I am not going to labour all the features, these have been well covered in the description and the previous reviews. However I will say that this phone is definitely not worth upgrading to from the iPhone 4 and even if you have an iPhone 3GS I would say it would be better to wait until the next generation iPhone comes out. The reason I say this is that this phone has really only two differences from the iPhone 4 - Siri and a higher resolution camera. I will discuss these first.
Siri - this is a novelty, it is worth a few minutes of fun when you just get the phone, but like all computer speech recognition I have tried, it really does not work. No matter how often I tried to get it to set a reminder it insisted I was saying remainder. I asked it to phone Alison Allen and it thought I said phone Linda Robinson! Strangely it did understand when I asked it to open the pod bay doors!
Camera - Great much much better than any other mobile phone camera I have used, better even than the camera on my old Nokia N95 and N97 phones which were head and shoulders the best phone cameras at the time those phones came out. This is a clear advantage over the iPhone 3GS, but in truth the iPhone 4 camera is also very good. More mega pixels is not the be all for digital cameras. Until they build in an optical zoom lens all I would ever see the phone camera as being for is taking a snap to use as the wall paper for the phone, and for this the 4S camera is no better than that on the 4. It is however faster which could allow you to get a picture of a dog or child that tends not to stay still for too long.
Processor Speed - the 4S is faster than the 4, but you only see it with the very biggest apps. Pages opens noticeably faster on my iPhone 4S than on my wife's iPhone 4, as does the novelty app Talking Tom. However with smaller apps it is very hard to notice any differences. Once running I can see no differences in any app (other than the camera) in terms of speed. Therefore I would conclude that in terms of speed it would not be worth upgrading from an iPhone 4. May be from the 3GS, but I also compared the speed of my 4S against my 3rd Gen iPod Touch which has a similar processor to the 3GS and again for most apps there is no obvious advantage speed wise. Therefore I am not convinced that in terms of speed this is worth upgrading to even from the 3GS.
However this is my first iPhone, and as such I am delighted with it. If they had kept the iPhone 4 16GB model I may however have opted to get it (due to cost) rather than the 4S, but now the iPhone 4 is only available in 8GB it was not an option for me. If Apple had released the phone starting at the same price with a 4 inch screen (biggest that is practical based on playing with a few Android large screen phones) and a starting capacity of 32GB then I would have said that it was worth upgrading to even from the iPhone 4.
A few points about the battery performance. There has been a lot on the internet and even the BBC website about the iPhone 4S draining its battery very quickly. To a certain extent this is true. My 4S goes through its battery faster than any phone I have used in the past with the exception of my Samsung Galxay Ace (Android). However this is mostly to do with the default settings. The iPhone 4S running iOS5 is set to do a lot of reporting back to Apple, to use the iCloud and to keep a very close eye on its physical location. A lot of this adds useful functionality to the phone but for many users it is not needed. Spend a few minutes checking the settings for iCloud and Location services, turn blue tooth off etc and you will find the 4S battery will last at least as long as rivals if not quite as long as the iPhone 4 (I get almost two days,from 100% at 6am on one day to 10pm on the next day, compared with about 2 and a half days for my wife's iPhone 4). We all want super battery performance but the increased functionality with the iPhone 4S and iOS 5 does come with a power use cost. In comparison to get my Samsung's battery to last from morning to evening I have had to disable all communications other than the basic connection to the cell network, I have had to keep the screen dim to the point of being difficult to read and have the screen go black so quickly that any pause in using the phone necessitates you reawakening it. So yes there is a slight battery issue with the iPhone 4S, but it has been blown up out of proportion by those who seek to exaggerate every issue with this Apple device. I do wish they would implement a useful feature my BlackBerry had - the ability for the phone to automatically shut down at a set time at night and to reawaken at a set time in the morning or earlier if an alarm was set. That allowed me to get 3 to 3.5 days on a charge with the BlackBerry and also stopped emails and texts disturbing my sleep if I was using the phone as my alarm clock.
UPDATE. The first update to iOS 5 (5.01) came through on Friday. My phone was mid charge at the time. I fully charged it overnight so that it was at 100% at 7am on Saturday morning when I disconnected it from the charger. At the time of typing it is 52 hours 40 minutes since the phone was last on charge and I have still got 40% battery life left. This is excellent for such a high spec smart phone.
SECOND UPDATE. In the above review I am quite negative about Siri. Over the period since October I have to admit that Siri seems to be improving. It now manages to do what I ask about 70% of the time. A better performance than I ever got out of Dragon software on a PC many times more powerful than the iPhone. A few more thoughts about battery life. I noticed that my battery life was slowly deteriorating again. Some investigation showed me that what apps you have installed can greatly influence battery life. It seems nearly every app you install now wants to send data back to the creator. I don't like this and having ditched several such recently installed apps, my battery again lasts 2 to 2.5 days.