Friday, October 14, 2011

Is the iPhone 4S a worthwhile upgrade?

Friday, October 14th, Apple launched the iPhone 4S, the next generation iPhone. The media was initially disappointed and started posting articles claiming that the iPhone 4S was a "disappointing upgrade" to the now out of date iPhone 4. But there are some notable new features in the new iPhone, that would make it a worthwhile upgrade, that is, if you are no longer enslaved in a contract with AT&T, Verizon or Sprint.

Unfortunately, up until now, the choices for an iPhone have been AT&T (exclusively for the first three generations) or Verizon with the iPhone 4. Thankfully, Apple has partnered with Sprint to allow Sprint to offer the iPhone 4S on their network. This does not mean much for many existing iPhone users, since they probably prefer Verizon or AT&T to Sprint since coverage on Sprint isn't exactly on par with AT&T or Verizon. However, for those who are not locked in an existing contract and subscribe to Sprint, the iPhone 4S is a noteworthy option.

While Sprint becoming the third wireless carrier option to the iPhone 4S is great, there are other important features to point out. The camera in the 4S has been upgraded specifications wise. Most people tend to compare cameras in terms of megapixels, or the amount of pixels a camera can capture. But that does not necessarily equate to higher picture quality. So Apple has decided to add five extra lenses to the iPhone, which allows for "precision elements to shape incoming light" and as a result, they claim that the image will come out much sharper.

The internal specifications of the iPhone 4S seems to be a noticeable feature that mainstream media picked up on.  The processor specifications have been bumped to two cores instead of one, which will make anyone's experience with the 4S much snappier than any of the previous generation iPhones. Applications can take advantage of the new two core processor to result in an overall faster experience.

The iPhone 4S will ship with the new iOS 5 operating system. iOS 5 introduces over 200 new features, but a few mainstream features that are absolutely worth pointing out. For one, iOS 5 includes a new "Notificiation Center" similar to Android's notification bar at the top of the screen. In iOS 5, any application or system notification will appear in a bar at the top that can be slid down to view more details about a given notification. This is a very efficient manner and elegant manner of storing notifications in a non obtrusive way. The new notification center in iOS 5 has been compared much to Android's notification system, which has had this mechanism for notifications much before iOS. At any rate, it's a welcome and much needed feature. iOS 5 also has many less significant new features.

Although most of the features so far don't seem mind blowing, the next one is. Apple has introduced a new digital assistant powered by your voice called Siri. Siri allows you to take control of your phone and perform  certain actions through your voice. For instance, you could send a text message with your voice, request for weather information for a given city, set a timer, or schedule a meeting, only using your voice. You could probably better understand the uses for Siri with a video Apple has provided on their website. Now it is to be understood that Siri is a first generation service, and that it may not work perfectly right away, but it will improve over each generation.

So the iPhone 4S may not be the major leap forward as the iPhone 4 was, but the 4S certainly does deserve credit for being innovative for the most part (notification center being an exception), instead of just copying competitors' features. The question that remains in consumers' minds is "is it worth it the upgrade?" If you are still bound within a wireless carrier's contract, then I would definitely say wait until the next iPhone comes out, since the now rumored "iPhone 5" is expected to be a much more substantial release. If you are in no rush to get a new device then I would wait. The iPhone 5 is expected to release next June with a bigger set of new features, so you should put that into consideration before rushing out to buy the 4S.


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