New iPhone 4S: anticlimax?

The full run-down on Apple’s latest baby

Oh dear. Apple released its new iPhone yesterday, and the tech geeks are - well, a little underwhelmed. This is in part because Apple decided to call the gizmo “iPhone 4S” rather than “iPhone 5”. Such things apparently matter to the blogosphere.

The markets reacted badly too, wiping 5 per cent off Apple’s share price within minutes of the launch of iPhone 4S. The BBC reports that this was because, according to analysts, “investors and Apple fans had expected the latest version to be a more radical improvement over its predecessor”. The company recovered quickly to close down only 0.6 per cent, but it wasn’t a great start.

Before we get into the tech spec and reactions to the iPhone 4S, resplendent with an unnerving sci-fi robot personal assistant, very useful cloud storage and nerd-fodder extra processor, it is worth making one thing clear - few of the technology analysts who have so far expressed their rather “meh” reactions to the iPhone 4S have actually had a chance to touch the thing.

Still, they know better than the rest of us what all the fancy bits actually mean, so we duly defer to them for their take on whether the iPhone 4S lives up to expectations. Here goes:

iPhone 4S: the basics

Here’s Apple introductory video to the iPhone 4S:

Source: Apple on YouTube

Apple's introductory video to the iPhone 4S

  • The outside is exactly the same as the iPhone 4.
  • It will be available in white and black.
  • Flashy bit number one: “Siri” - a voice controlled built-in personal assistant that you give voice direction in order to send emails and texts, find out football scores, local pizza places and what the weather is like, and to manage your diary, among other tasks. Siri talks back to you. Apple describes it so: “And then it hits you. You’re actually having a conversation with your iPhone.”
  • Flashy bit number two: “iCloud” - all your Apple apps, documents, photos and music will now be stored in an Apple cloud. This means you can automatically access them from any device using iCloud without needing to “sync” your iPhone with your laptop (both will automaticaly update).
  • Battery life is improved.
  • Eight megapixel camera.
  • Dual-core A5 chip.
  • Highly-feted iOS (Apple’s new operating system).
  • 1080p HD video filming.

iPhone 4S: the techies’ verdicts

Luke Peters, editor of gadget magazine T3 (talking to BBC News):

“Some people were looking for a brand new phone and they haven’t got that today, so some will be disappointed. But the update to iOS5 and Siri could be enough to sway people to make the investment.”

Chris Nuttall, FT:

“Personally, I’m disappointed the rumoured slimmer, curved, bigger screen iPhone 5 never materialised to tempt me away from my Android device. But, hopefully, there will be a chance for a hands-on second opinion and for me to write a full review of the latest iPhone in the next couple of weeks.”

Chris Taylor, Mashable.com:

“For the past year, we’ve endured a near-daily slew of rumors about a device called the iPhone 5. When Apple delayed its release of a new phone until Fall 2011, it only heightened expectations. Surely, if we were to wait more than the usual year between versions of the iPhone, the result must be something spectacular.

“Now, at the last minute, we discover that what the company was preparing all along was the iPhone 4S — a faster, smarter, world-phone upgrade to the iPhone 4. It is on more carriers. It has a better camera and supposedly great voice recognition. But it is, as Tim Cook [Apple’s ceo] all but admitted, merely an iPhone 4 with more advanced innards. This isn’t the new, iconic, must-have device that a redesigned iPhone 5 would have been. (Which also means that Apple just lost a lot of potential iPhone 4 upgraders. Why buy the upgrade if no one can tell the difference?)

TechCrunch.com:

TechCrunch review of iPhone 4S

Techradar.com:

“There are also some slighty twee but satisfying Easter eggs. Ask Siri who she/he is brings up “a humble personal assistant” asking it the meaning of life was met with “To answer questions like these”.(Although the obvious answer is 42, right?).

“It’s a very nice integration of something that any sci-fi buff has been expecting on their personal communicator for some time now, and, although even Apple are clear that it is not perfect, it is a tool and not just a fad.[…]

“All in all, the iPhone 4S lives up to its billing as the best ever iPhone, bringing it a clear step up from the iPhone 4.

“Many with that handset will question if the upgrades are worth it, and that’s something that could impact on the iPhone 4S - especially if people feel that they should hang on for an iPhone 5 instead.

“But with Siri, an awesome new camera and a powerful new processor, this is clearly once again the phone to beat for the competitors - even if it has not managed to put as much fresh air between it and the chasing back as other upgrades have managed.”

For more analysis of the iPhone 4S, including comparisons with other smartphones, we recommend you visit Engadget.com, which has very comprehensive coverage of almost everything iPhone 4S you could hope for right now.

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