iPhone 4S first hands-on reviews

iPhone 4S first hands-on reviews

Following Apple's Let's Talk iPhone event, several members of the media were able to do brief initial hands-on reviews of the new iPhone 4S. Here's what they had to say:

Overall, the power of the iPhone 4S is impressive. Being able to use apps like Siri will be fun, but we’ll have to wait to see what coverage and call quality are like. - Jim Dalrymple of The Loop

Apple's new smartphone has a dual-core A5 CPU, an 8-megapixel still camera, a 1080p video camera, and of course, iOS 5. What does all this mean to the average user? We will have to get it into PC Labs before we issue a judgment, but in the short time I spent with the iPhone 4S, it seems like an improved version of an already very solid smartphone. - Dan Costa of PC Mag

Much in the same way that the 3GS improved the overall experience of the 3G, the 4S does likewise compared to the existing 4. The dual-core A5 chip is a laudatory improvement, and whisking about pages, loading the camera application and launching -- well, just about everything -- just feels zippier. As it should. The other major change, the antennas, weren't readily different at a glance, but as Mr. Cook stated, you'd have to be iFixit to notice (and we're sure they will). - Darren Murph of Engadget

In the hand it may feel like the same device, but in practice the “S” in 4S could easily stand for “Speed.” Now with the dual-core 1GHz Apple A5 inside, with what is claimed to be 2x the performance and 7x the graphics speed of the iPhone 4, it’s all round a faster phone. Navigating between apps has never been slow, but there’s literally no lag to be found. Webpages rendered instantly, while pinch-zooming was silky smooth. - Vincent Nguyen of SlashGear

The story with the iPhone 4S is obviously all about the software, and while you might be bummed about not seeing a major external hardware revision, you should know that Apple has introduced some serious new features into the language of the iPhone. - Joshua Topolsky of This is my next/The Verge

In aggregate, the casing is the same, the new A5 processor is fast, the camera is great, and Siri is very impressive.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone 4S first hands-on reviews


People still are going to complain like with the 3GS but in all actuality the 4 style Is gorgeous and stands apart any other phone out there. I contemplated switching from my 4 to the galaxy s2 till I used it. The software is garbage apple nailed it with the 4S in my view. Call me a fanboy Idc but the 4S destroys the competition.

really wanted the bigger screen so i dont have to lug around an ipad for reading. I wish apple would stick to their guns and impress us once again, maybe next year...

The 4S is significantly better than the 4. I really don't get where all of this bellyaching is coming from. Look at the difference between the 3Gs and the iPhone 4, and this is just as major a leap. Granted it took a little more time than their usual, but this is right in line with what users expect from Apple.
Worth the cost? Well, if you have an iPhone 4, you can currently sell it on eBay for $350-$400.... so um... yeah. Upgrade. Then when the iPhone 5 comes out, upgrade again. Why? Because it costs you nothing.
I am no Apple fanboy. I will not use a Mac, hate them. But so far, no OS has stood up to iOS. Android is a mess, and I don't care what hardware you put it on it will still be a mess. Hardware is important ONLY in as much as it runs software, and when the software is lacking your hardware will never live up to its potential. So far, Apple is the only company offering a smart phone that is cohesive, clean, functional, and beautiful.

I agree I do this every year because Apple is far better than Android OS. They might win the spec war but in the end it's how it operates that really matters. Android is garbage period.

"...cohesive, clean, functional, and beautiful."
I highly recommend you check out Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango)

Actually, my brother works for Microsoft and has the Windows Phone, as do both of my parents. They are actually quite nice, though I haven;t used them enough to get a complete handle on their strengths or weaknesses. I like them. But they still have a lot of catching up to do in terms of wooing app developers before I'd ever consider switching myself.

I disagree. Apple if anyone, knows how this market works and I don't think any of us have a clue, unless of course that is your job. Apple don't need to advance in the market quite yet? Yes the Samsung SII has a bigger screen but I'm sorry how big do you want a phone to go?
I tried a Sensation and that was far too big in my hands. To the human eye and what people want from a smartphone, this difference in the screen is minimal. The difference is that an iPhone just works and it works well for the consumer so comparing the SII to an iPhone 4, the iPhone usability wins hands down and will for a while. I won't go on too much about the specs comparison but it's clear that the iPhone4S is and will remain at the top of the smartphone chain.
Apple were successful with the iPhone3GS over the 3G and they will continue with that on the iPhone4S because they are dictating what the next step is. You forget all the other competitors are trying to keep up with Apple and that is clear with all past smartphones and the introduction of the iPad.
Come next year when we see smartphones start to leap a little, then you can expect Apple to release the 5 with major changes, until then they will just ride the wave and continue to sell millions of phones and take market share.

what tech world do you live in??? The iphone has been lagging behind every other phone since it first came out. They added copy/paste functions on their phones years after every other smartphone had it. Apple has not led technology in the phone market. They have simply done what everyone else has been doing years prior. Granted, their operating system is very smooth and fluid. Apple is very good at what they do, but leading the smartphone market in anything is not it.

RAM is mentioned nowhere there, we'll have to wait for the teardowns. It is worth noting that every model except the 3G has come with double the RAM: 128MB on the 3G, 256 on the 3GS, 512 on the 4.

The only mistake Apple made was calling this device the 4s. If they named it iPhone5 everyone would think it was genius and get a new one.

I agree, android is poping new phones right and left that are suppost to be the fastest but when u actually use them they lack speed. I own a EVO n even when it came out I thought n still think its super slow compared to my iPhone 3gs.

For some reason Verizon says I'm good to go for an upgrade, even though I got the iPhone 4 in February, so I guess I'm getting this!

I use Google Android but me and my wife are jumping to the iphone 4S, looking forward to Siri, A5 speeds, a buttery smooth OS, killer camera, and apps that work, a phone that works and has real battery life. Yes I wish they would have delivered a larger high res screen with NFC in tow, but bluetooth 4.0 is a surprise. I may actually move to a headset that I will use because of the long 4.0 battery life and Siri integration.

Well I believe the iPhone 4S will have 1GB of Ram, and Siri requires it. There was even a report earlier released by Mac rumors about interviewing one of the Siri guys saying that the new system will require more ram then 512.

I look at what Apple does as a yearly improvement. Thy put out a phone, the competition counters it. Apple then puts out an "S" version, until the next major hardware update. This to me is a prelude to their five, and some of the features you'll get with 5. The major improvement in 5 is what is not available now, which is the LTE tech, which is available, but not small enough to fit within Apple's size constraints. I'll get the 4S, and the 5, and best buy will may it affordable for me. ;-). I really do like Apple!

there will be no 5 this is the 5th generation phone! I understand you mean the next gen but it will be the 6th installment so they would never call it the 5

A lot of complaints are about the lack of innovation. Faster, more memory, more megapixels are not innovations. That's not what Apple was known for...

Yup. Why am i dissapointed? Coz last year, everyone tries to catch up Apple. And now iPhone is at their position.
I was expecting more then just spec upgrade. It's cool to had faster iPhone. But not that standing applause from what we get when iPhone 4 announced.

If you think an iPhone will ever have a port other than dock connector, you're high. The only thing would be thunderbolt if it ever becomes widespread enough. The problems with LTE are that itisnt deployed enough yet, and the chips draw way too much power right now. iPhone 5 will be LTE. The only thing I really wanted was a 4" screen, but I'm going to get the 4s anyway for the speed increase and Siri. The better camera ain't too shabby either.

It's not all about specs. Plenty of phones out there with superior specs but inferior performance and user experience.

huge improvement for me, because I have the 3GS. so I'm getting a better screen, better camera, faster cpu, more ram and more storage.
what not to like?

Quick question, Apple said that the iPhone 4S will do 14.4 Mbps which is 4G on AT&T what about Verizon and Sprint, will it do 14.4 Mbps on those networks?

In reality the iPhone 4 without the S is still better than almost all of the phones on the market. If by better you mean specs, which is all Android users talk about then the only thing you can say is bigger screen and 4G. The problem with specs is that no Android phone works as good as the specs say it should. And since the 4G speeds we have in America are no better than the 3G speeds in other countries i'm glad it's not included. I for one don't enjoy getting ripped off.

People complained about the iPad 2 and look how that turned out... Can't wait to get my hands on it!

Call me delusional if you wish, I can't help the feeling that Apple had something else up their sleeve that they didn't want to release just yet.
The Iphone 4s is great but looks somewhat half-baked given a) the extra time they had to work on the product, b) the mountains of cash they have to innovate faster and c) the one model per year policy which has led to hugely increased profits due to the exploding volumes
Perhaps its a patent issue and legal advice from their in-house lawyers not to take a risk, perhaps its about production issues for curved glass, who will tell.
But it's clear that the Iphone 4s will do well in sales nevertheless simply because it comes at the same price point as the Iphone 4 costs today.
Apple knows how the human mind works when it comes to such deciding on such purchases and their marketeers or Cook himself have probably done all the math and came to the conclusion that it is "good enough for now".
And we should most of all not forget June 2012 is just 8 months away...

I think I might just go ahead and upgrade. I love my VZW iPhone 4, but the camera for me is huge selling point. I just upgraded when the iPhone 4 was released at VZW, so I don't know why they have me available for an upgrade. Might as well take advantage of it.

To me this is big. It's very big. It just still looks the same. Big deal. All the other features you talk about that are on other phones don't work properly. It's comparing apples to oranges.

WebOS > Android.
I'd say it's also better than iOS but WebOS is basically an Apple product without Steve Job's tight reins ala Rubinstein and the apple employees he brought to Palm with him. Of coarse the geniuses made him CEO even though he's an engineer, not cut out for administrative roles.
Apple isn't failing here, this refresh follows phones like Incredible 2 or Evo 3D or Moto Droid X2.
The issue being expectations and Android's Microsoft emulating strategy of market saturation.
As such it does get distaining to the eye when a plethora of phones get dual core 1- 1.4 Ghz processors and at the end of the year Apple with their only release of the year just matches it and doesn't outdo on software either.
But the competition is good. They'll realize not upping the bar and letting the mass of high end Android phones outdo them this christmas to mid-next year was a baaad idea.
=) Means better devices and features for all
If only WebOS hardware was still being made....


I have been an advocate of the android phones since they came out. I have had 3 of the top android phones from verizon. They all worked great and had great applications. However, stability was another issue. Due to the fact that almost anyone could submit an application to the app store without any quality control. Once you download a bad program your phone would fail when you neeed it. I resisted the iphone for years untill the iphone 4 came out. I ditched android and have been happy ever since. No fails, no missed calls, great and stable apps. Now with the addition of the siri aplication the iphone is unbeatable. Android is still good system but with no quality control its unstable.

Ultimately it is what I expected. I see Apples thinking in keeping the same exterior design the way they did with the 3G to 3GS. It allows them time to work on the operating system and craft the next exterior design. Many folks are on 2 year renewal contracts so it makes since to have a major hardware revamp every 24 months. Many folks are not hell bent on a new phone every year. I have a 3GS and it has been great. I waited out this last cycle as I jump a generation. Went from the original to 3GS. Now to 4S.
I know everyone is griping on the screen size, which I think is the root of much disappointment. My response is- that's what the IPad is for.
RIP Mr. Jobs. Thank you for your attention to detail, forward looking vision, letting nothing hold you back and always striving for something better.

It may be, if it has the 1gb ram. But with a comment form one of the developers, it appears to have ONLY 512mb. That is a deal breaker for me. Specially since I know, iOS could use it.
I always have 20-30mb free of ram on my i4 and the phone is always sluggish.

I wish Apple would have replaced the glass back with a sturdier material. I have a habit of dropping my phone! A larger screen would have been nice too but it's not a deal breaker for me...

There is a new android every 3 months because they are continually trying to catch apples current models. The i phone is a solid good looking stable smooth running computer phone. That's why they don't have to change so much so fast. You ever feel one in your hands? You can feel the quality. How many phone's are made from stainless steal and strong glass. Most are made of plastic. Say what you want about your droids and all those other ones in the pack. but its Apple for me. They stand alone for a reason..