After all the backlash over antennagate last year, Apple claims they've rebuilt the technology to supposedly offer better voice quality and call handling. Until I got my hands on my iPhone 4S this past week I wasn't too sure how much of a difference it would make. Turns out the newly designed antenna really does function better.
Death grip and death touch
We all know about the iPhone 4 death touch issue. So is the iPhone 4S affected by it? In short, no.
It appears whatever Apple did to the antenna design fixed not only the single-point-of-failure death touch, but also made it more resilient agains the industry wide death grip issue. I've been trying to reproduce the issue since the day I picked up my iPhone 4S in various locations and haven't had any success. Sure a bar may fluctuate here and there but in my experience that's simply due to signal strength in general. I fluctuate between 4-5 bars in my office. As you can see from the video above, the iPhone 4 drops bars when the bottom is held. The iPhone 4S does not seem to drop bars. It fluctuates a bit towards the end but I'm almost certain this is just due to signal strength in my office.
When tested in other locations and even in downtown Chicago I was not able to reproduce the death grip issue on my iPhone 4S.
As stated above, I haven't noticed too much of a signal strength difference from what I experienced with my iPhone 4. This could be due to the fact that my area is heavily blanketed with AT&T HSPA+. I receive 5 full bars of service in most places.
To test this theory I made a note of my bars in the one area I typically have issues getting signal -- the lake. In this scenario I seemed to maintain a signal (2-3 bars) and was able to make and receive calls or use data services just fine. My iPhone 4 has a few issues holding connectivity on a call or using data services on the lakefront. So the newly designed antenna seems to be a bit more constant when it comes to holding onto a signal.
Overall call quality
So far call quality on my iPhone 4S has been exceptional. I've not had one dropped call so far. I never had too many on my iPhone 4 either as we have very good service with AT&T in my area. It also appears that the volume when you're on speakerphone has been enhanced and is quite a bit louder than my iPhone 4 ever was. (A volume increase would make sense given the addition of Siri.
I've had next to no issue with or without a headset either. It seems noise reduction is just as good if not better as well. Several times while on the phone I felt the need to ask if someone was still there since I could hear next to no background noise at all. I always noticed it a bit on my iPhone 4 but I can't notice it at all with iPhone 4S.
All in all, the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S are both great phones. When it comes to call quality, however, the iPhone 4S is clearly ahead. If you're in an area that has great service you probably won't notice a big difference . If you're in an area with somewhat spotty cellular service the iPhone 4S is a safer bet.