The iPhone 4S – one month on

So how is it? Was it worth the upgrade? How is Siri? How’s the battery life? Camera any good? Phone fast enough? iOS 5 any good? Do I miss jailbreaking? Hopefully in the next few (or more) words, I’ll be able to explain my thoughts on Apple’s new phone, the iPhone 4S.

The major reason for me upgrading was that my contract with O2 was at an end and I wanted a change. 3G coverage with O2 is terrible (in my area at least). At work, 3 was the only one with a 3G signal and their all you can eat data plan with the ‘One Plan’ is the only plan on any network for non business users. Deal. So far they have been exceptional with the ability to stream content at work (useful for lunchtime entertainment) and great coverage and speeds. I get 4-5mb at work with a mate’s iPhone 4 getting at least 2mb less, so at least the HSDPA+ abilities of the 4s are a great bonus. In stronger areas I get 6-8mb, which is great for iTunes downloads on the fly. Not close to it’s max rated speeds, but that’s not Apple’s fault and we’re even less likely to reach those than the US.

Well let’s get the big issue out the way. Yes it looks exactly the same as the iPhone 4, and to be honest, I don’t care. I’ve always liked the design and having it again is no problem. I’ll admit it would have been nice to have a new shape, if only to shut up the jibes from Android owners at work. My girlfriend wants a Galaxy S II and while it’s thin, it doesn’t feel or look as nice. So for this, I’m still a happy bunny.

As many Android users remind me, the iPhone has now just caught up with their S II’s, only with a smaller screen. Huh, okay but looking at web pages still trounce yours and for the foreseeable future, I think we have all now hit a power/battery limit and now it is all about the software. So on that note, here’s my thoughts on iOS 5 and the features that I use the most.

My old iPhone was jailbroken, and since only a tethered jailbreak is out for iOS 5, I’ll be reviewing this as intended by Apple.

PC free meant that by the time I walked out the shop, the phone was up and running. Now that was something that was long over due. Okay so it’s only something you do once, but it’s still very nice. This then leads to wireless syncing which again was something that we suffered for far to long, (jailbreaking aside).

Despite this being such a huge release, we still get same 4×4 icon layout and dock. I don’t see any reason why Apple is sticking so rigidly to this. With pages of apps and folders, I need more than the four shortcuts Apple offer in the dock.

Finally we get Notifications! It may eat your battery, but they are well done and it provides a great shortcut to open the app it was taken from. It may only be a couple of touches to do the same, but shortening a process is rarely a bad thing. It looks great and is very customisable, but why, oh why, can’t I open notifications from the lock screen?! Having to unlock the phone to check completely defeats the point since I’ve already done half the work to opening a specific app!

iMessage is a great touch, with quicker sending and receiving. But with so many texts no bundled with your contract or top-up, the ‘for free’ boast is hardly the biggest pull. They only issue is a delay in sending when your intended receiver in not on 3G or wireless. An option to send as text or iMessage each time would be nice rather than ‘on or off’ or ‘If iMessage is not available’.

I also love the new Safari with ‘Reader’. I use this all the time on my MacBook Pro and iMac, so its great to see this finally in the iPhone. Not much else is new or else on the iPad which is my newest purchase and yet to be explored fully, along with newsstand, which I find pretty pointless for the phone.

Next up Twitter, which contributed to a HUGE uptake of new members myself included. It’s slick quick and well, pretty awesome. I’m yet to get fully savvy and when on nights my postings are rare, but I love it and another reason not to go anywhere near Facebook.

And so to Siri. I find it very odd, that Apple would given the millions of new users something that is in beta. I can’t think of anything else recently that Apple gave to the public that was beta. If I was bold, I’d say that due to Apple knowing no new design would not be all that well received, giving us Siri was a must. But then since when did Apple and Steve Jobs give a shit about what we thought?

Beta or not, Siri has a major problem. Outside the US it is crippled by not having maps or business’ added. That leaves us UK people with a great access to Wolfram Alpha, ad-free Google and ways to add reminders etc, but also gives us a very boring Siri. Tell Siri in the US you are horny and you will get escort agencies(!), or being told where to bury a body when asked… But sending texts and playing music is really useful and it’s something I regularly use when travelling in the car. Setting reminders like “ring mum when I get home” is very cool, however, anything where Siri needs to track your movement is a problem. Since doing so then enable the location abilities of the phone and so unless your charging the iPhone, wave bye bye to your battery.

The other problem Siri has is the embarrassment factor. Not many people will find it too comfortable to do all these things where anyone can hear them. Probably it may be the fact that no-one has done it before. But this kind of interacting with our gadgets is only going to get more and more standard and so this is only be beginning, so I expect Siri and Android’s versions will become commonplace and just another way to use your mobile.

Finally we come to the much improved camera. Now I am not a massive fan of camera’s on phones since they usually suck and of little use. For serious stuff of course my digital SLR is still the only thing to have and phones will never ever replace these. But as the camera on mobiles get better and better, at the standard of the one we find on the iPhone 4S I certainly have found myself taking more pictures when out about. Dark scenes are still a problem and this won’t change since the sensors will always be the weak point. But as certain improvement to the iPhone 4, I have to say it’s a half decent shooter.

On the video side it is pretty impressive also shooting 1080p at 30 frames per second. As Apple have said, it’s the best video shooter I’ve ever owned. However, the inability to zoom while shooting is a bummer. Why this is I do not know, but it’s a common place on phones. Get this sorted and I’ll be super happy with shooting video on a phone.

All these features are handled very nicely with the 4S thanks to it’s dual core A5 chip. It’s not massively quicker dotting around the user interface, but it never falters either like the old iPhone 4 did. It’s always speedy and I cannot wait for optimised apps for the 4S, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto, I’m looking at you!

Just as a quick note at first my battery life was diabolical, but disabling the auto time zone sorted it for me. Also disabling the a few ‘System Service’ location options helped further still, and now it’s as good my old iPhone. However since browsing with 3G is so much better, I find I use my phone more, so lose out in that respect!

However, despite all the nice changes, I miss my jailbroken features. I’m not talking the free loading Installous, since how can you not afford 69p for some great games, cheapskates. Nah I really am talking about homebrew. When an untethered jailbrake is released, I could not resist. One of the best things you can get is SBSettings. This gives you ultra quick access to turning Wi-Fi/Bluetooth etc. I cannot fathom why turning Bluetooth on/off is buried under six actions from a locked phone. Wi-Fi is better as it’s on the main settings, so why not Bluetooth? Linking my iPhone to the car is always a race before it times out.

The other thing I missed most is BiteSMS. This has been slightly tempered by Notifications’ action of not stopping whatever your doing to display a text. But Bite goes one better by letter you text while playing a game, or the ability to text from any screen. Press volume, then touch the Bite icon and your texting where ever you are on the iPhone. Very, very useful.

So Apple has gone some distance to make the iPhone more seamless, but as with just about any hackable device the home devs are way in front. Remember, just about everything in iOS 5 has come from jailbreaking or Android or someone else having an idea Apple didn’t want? Remember the volume as shutter button? So as soon as an untethered jailbreak is out (Google it if you don’t know what that means), then I don’t think I could resist.

But overall, the iPhone 4S is a great phone and as I tell everyone, it’s a better phone than the iPhone 4 in every way. Also being a better network has opened the iPhone as so much more than I am used to. Is the mobile better enough for every iPhone 4 user to upgrade? Well no, but for iPhone 3G or 3GS owners, it’s a no brainer. I was just in the right position to upgrade that it was worth doing and with the excellence of 3, I’m very glad I did.

Here’s some links – 4S video versus the Canon 5D mk II

Extensive review by Invisiblekid.

2 thoughts to “The iPhone 4S – one month on”

  1. Great review Invisiblekid on the iPhone 4S. I am extremely pleased with my new Apple mobile since upgrading my old 3GS to the latest handset. The sharp screen looks incredible with clarity in viewing photos and text (especially websites).

    The speed of the iPhone 4S is impressive even though the iPhone 4 is quite fast in handling multiple apps running in the background.

    As for the camera, the photos taken on the iPhone 4S do look fantastic, providing you shoot in the perfect light conditions.

    Sure, people are still complaining about the battery life and Apple responded with a new firmware update this week (version 5.0.1). And for the first time ever, you can do it over the air (via Wi-Fi) instead of connecting to a PC or Mac via iTunes, making the process of updating painless. But does it improve the battery life? Well, some users are saying nothing has changed and the iPhone 4S still drains its battery, while others say a small improvement.

    In my case, it’s too early to say but I do think the battery life has been extended… only slightly. Although I do switch off the many features (like constant 3G coverage, notifications and location services) to make the iPhone 4S last longer.

    Casting the negative stuff aside, I do believe the iPhone 4S is the best mobile Apple has designed. The white colour looks really nice and it’s a good change from the all-so common black iPhone 4 I see everyday from other people. The built-in Twitter support is great and you would have notice an increase in Tweets I have made over the last couple of days! As for the newsstand feature, I think this has potential. It just needs more newspapers and magazines subscriptions to increase it’s popularity.

    But overall, I love the iPhone 4S. My 3G coverage on the Vodafone network is pretty good and it would be an interesting test to see which UK network provides the best coverage.

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