First Impressions: iPhone 4S vs iPhone 4

Reviews 4 Oct, 2011

How does the iPhone 4S stack up against its predecessor? We take an initial overview of Apple's latest smartphone.

Verdict: 
The iPhone 4S isn't radical enough to be called the iPhone 5, but it's a compelling upgrade, especially for switchers and owners of the older iPhone 3GS. The Siri natural language voice control and dictation system look impressive and is highly likely to be exclusive to the iPhone 4S and its faster, dual core A5 processor – an example of Apple's tight hardware-software integration. For iPhone 4 users, it's trickier dependant on how much you'll use it, whether it’s a SIM-free purchase, or a contract upgrade. The 16GB iPhone 4S will cost £499 ex VAT SIM-free with pricing for the 32GB and 64GB models yet to be confirmed. The new phones will go on sale on October 14th, although pre-orders will be available on October 7th. We'll bring you a full review as soon as we can.

Despite the initial furore surrounding its infamous antenna issues, the iPhone 4 is undoubtedly Apple's most successful smartphone so far and it's still the standard by which we judge all other smartphones here at IT Pro.

The new iPhone 4S therefore has a lot to live up to. The vast majority of the new features in iOS 5 and iCloud are shared between both iPhones, but there's still plenty in the new phone that leaves a favourable first impression, despite the fact that both iPhones look almost identical externally.

Wireless

The controversy surrounding the iPhone 4's antenna issues need no introduction for most of us. According to Apple, the iPhone 4S can automatically switch between its two antennas for better call quality – whether this now puts the antenna issue to bed remains to be seen.

The iPhone 4S isn't an LTE-capable phone so it's not 4G, but it does have faster 3G speeds - 14.4Mbps download and 5.8Mbps upload. Whether we here in the UK will ever achieve those speeds depends on our mobile phone networks and their infrastructure. Frequent travellers to the US will appreciate the fact that the iPhone 4S works on both GSM and CDMA networks, unlike the iPhone 4 which came in two separate versions for each standard.

Voice control

The latest Android smartphones have fairly sophisticated dictation abilities, although its efficacy greatly depends on ambient noise and the speed and reliability of your data connection since the actual voice recognition is carried out by Google's servers. By comparison, the iPhone 4 and iOS 4 are limited to a handful of simple phrases for dialling phone numbers by voice or controlling music playback.

The new Siri feature on the iPhone 4S looks impressive. It's a natural language interface that should be able to understand and reply to most questions, even if they can be worded in numerous different ways. In a demonstration at Apple's press conference, Siri was used to check an incoming text message, check the calendar for any upcoming appointments on a particular day before replying back to the sender. Android-style dictation is also available.

Siri is likely to be exclusive to the iPhone 4S - its dual-core A5 processor is almost certainly needed for Siri to work. Even if Siri doesn't catch on with the general public, it's likely to be greatly appreciated by the blind and visually impaired.