The editors and friends of iMore and Mobile Nations weigh in on the reliability and relevance of Apple's 2011 iPhone 4S six months after release

6 months ago Apple released the iPhone 4S. Some of us bought it immediately. Some of us waited. Some of us still haven't decided. Since Apple only releases one new phone a year -- if that -- the longevity of any new iPhone model is really important. So we polled the staff here at iMore, our compatriots from the Mobile Nations network, and our friends from the podcasts to find out how the iPhone 4S was holding up. Are we still happy? Is it still our one and only? Or with all the hot new devices on other platforms, are we harboring any secret lust in our hearts?

Georgia, iMore

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The iPhone 4s was a wonderful upgrade to the iPhone 4. With Siri, the new camera I am more than pleased. It has amazing apps and games, and the choice of accessories just can't be beat. And as much as I love my iPhone 4S, it's the apps and accessories that make me love it even more.

Seth Clifford, Nickelfish and Iterate

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Six months into owning the iPhone 4S and my experience isn't any different. I'm still very much enjoying the device, despite the introduction of its larger, sexier sibling (iPad with Retina Display) into my life. At its core, it's quite simple: I measure how great a device is by a few key metrics.

  • Does this device allow me to manage my life in a better way?
  • Do I enjoy using this device on a daily basis or is it a series of compromises?
  • Does the software available continue to meet my needs?

Those seem like pretty obvious things to think about, but if you really examine them closely, you'll discover a lot about how you use your device. For me, experience is king, and the 4S brings it in spades. Terrific camera; still unparalleled in a mobile device at this point. Siri integration; the cause of great consternation at times, and childlike wonder at others - net result, however is that I still like her. Antenna upgrade; this phone is so much more capable than the iPhone 4 in terms of reception, my only regret is not switching carriers yet (but that's a much longer story). And software? I've tried every platform, and while you can get a lot of things in a lot of places, you simply don't have the variety of choice and selection that you do on iOS. Add to that a predilection toward purchasing lovely apps, and it's pretty clear where my bread's buttered for now. I play with everything I can get my hands on because I'm curious, but no single device or platform can perform (for me) as well as this one. The iPhone 4S remains the best iPhone I've ever used, hands down.

And now that I've seen what LTE can do for iOS, I can't wait to see what's coming next.

Marc Edwards, Bjango and Iterate

I consider the iPhone 4's hardware to be Apple at its very best. At the time, there was nothing that felt lacklustre or in need of improvement. The iPhone 4S extended and improved in some vital areas — the camera really is significantly better. It doesn't yet feel like it's on par with top point and shoot cameras, but the gap is closed enough that I now don't own a separate small camera.

I never had any antenna issues with the iPhone 4, so there's been no significant change for me with the iPhone 4S — it's been smooth sailing all the way. Siri is still a bit of an unknown. I've used Siri quite a bit for dictation, which I didn't think I'd do. However, battery usage seems noticeably higher with Siri running, so it's currently disabled on my phone. Hopefully battery tech will improve in the next update to the point where I can leave Siri on. Overall, and in hindsight, the iPhone 4S is the best pocket computer I've ever owned.

Leanna Lofte, iMore

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When the iPhone 4S released, my biggest concern was if I was going to actually use Siri. The idea of "her" seemed great, but would the novelty wear off? Would I still be using Siri 6 months later?

Turns out the answer is yes.

I use Siri on a daily basis to set alarms, timers and appointments, send messages and make phone calls. It may sound stupid, but after six months, I can't imagine not having Siri.

And of course I'm still in love with the camera on the iPhone 4S. But that's a given.

Chris Oldroyd, iMore

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Six months after the launch of the iPhone 4S and I stand by everything that I said two months after the launch of the iPhone 4S. I am still happy with it as it’s the best smartphone on the market by a mile but it just wasn’t much of an upgrade from the iPhone 4. Siri is turned off on my iPhone 4S as most of the time it just doesn’t work for me or anyone else that I know in the UK. It is in beta for a reason; it needs a lot more work. The camera is the one saving feature that makes me smile, it is simply awesome.

I sold my iPhone 4 before the iPhone 4S was announced. Because of that I had no choice but to upgrade. If I hadn’t sold it, I would still be more than happy with an iPhone 4. In my opinion the iPhones 4S is a great upgrade for those with a 3GS or earlier iPhone, but just not worth it for those already with an iPhone 4!

Gary Mazo, Mobile Nations

Like many of you, I stood in line and waited (not so patiently) for my shiny new iPhone 4S. I had the iPhone 4 (and the 3GS before that) but I just had to have the better camera, faster processor and, of course…Siri.

So, after about six months, the time for evaluation is upon us; did this phone meet all my expectations? Does it meet all my needs? Is it better than anything out there?

Well, let’s start with expectations. For the most part, the 4S did meet my expectations. I expected it to be faster –and it is. I expected it to have a great camera – and it does. I expected it to look just like my old phone – and it does.

Does it meet all my need? I would say that it does. I truly manage my life on my iPhone 4S. I no longer pack a separate camera as I find the iPhone camera, HDR and using the guides very effective for almost any picture I need to take. Since there truly is an app for just about anything – I have yet to feel like I really need to do something on my iPhone but am unable to do it. Siri can be awesome – like dictating text messages in the car – but it can also be frustrating as the voice recognition is still not perfect. I find I am using it less and less each day.

Is it better than anything out there? That’s the big question. The short answer is that if I could have only one phone I would still go out and buy the iPhone 4S. The longer answer is that there are things I am starting to see on other platforms that I would really like to see on my iPhone. I would love to see something like the People hub on Windows Phone 7.5 or the unified Contacts app on the BlackBerry PlayBook. To me, those contact apps trump iOS.

On my desk at the moment sits a BlackBerry 8520, a Nokia Lumia 900, a Samsung Galaxy Note, an iPhone 4S and a couple of tablets as well! The only phone I enjoy holding and using as much as my iPhone is the Lumia 900. I can say that I actually prefer the polycarbonate uni-body design to the glass and steel on the iPhone. I also really like the UI on the Lumia. iOS is starting to get “stale” for me; Windows Phone is moving beyond icons to more intuitive gestures and an interface that is very cool, very hip and fun to use.

So, I still love my iPhone 4S but I am starting to look forward to something new and different in my next iPhone – I would like a polycarbonate shell, a UI upgrade, all the current great apps and…a slide out BlackBerry keyboard so I can finally type long emails.

Ally Kazmucha, iMore

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I don't think my impression of my iPhone 4S has changed much from my initial impressions. I still think I got what I bargained for and exactly what I expected. I don't notice a huge speed difference between my iPhone 4S compared to the iPhone 4 but I didn't expect one.

I'm still blown away by the camera in the 4S and I find myself using it quite often for quick shots on the go. And I'm always impressed when I upload them to a computer. The quality is just stunning and it has made me want to utilize services like Instagram more than ever.

I also find myself using Siri quite often. I know some users seem to have issues with Siri understanding them but I've found that if you treat her like a person (no, I'm not joking) and talk to her in full sentences, she understands you better. Breaking things down seems to only confuse her. I constantly find myself using Siri to set reminders, dictate e-mails or texts while on the road, and to find phone numbers and search the web from my home screen. I can honestly say I'd miss the functionality if I didn't have it anymore.

Other than that, I find my experience to be exactly as it was on my iPhone 4.

Kevin Michaluk,

Every time I pick up the iPhone 4S, I find myself wishing the display was bigger. It feels so small these days, especially after spending time on a device like the Galaxy Nexus (who's screen is arguably a little too big). I really hope we see a bigger display on iPhone 5. I'm also finding Siri just doesn't yet fit into my mobile lifestyle. I never find myself instinctively using it, and even when I put it to use it's more of a hassle. In retrospect, I probably could have stuck with my iPhone 4 another year and waited for the iPhone 5, vs. going to the 4S.

Mickey Papillon, the Cell Phone Junkie

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Has it been six months already? Feels like the 4S was just releases, yet like I've had it for years. And I guess both feelings are valid, as I've strayed from iOS a bit over the last four months, though ultimately now find myself back with the 4S as my main device. The overall elegance and simplicity of iOS, coupled with the solid hardware of the iPhone 4S make it still the most well rounded device in my book.

During my time using both Windows Phone and Android recently, I realized there are some features and small things that add up to what makes the iOS ecosystem so great. You have iMessage, Reminders and Find my Friends. While each of these are services that can be found with third party apps like Google Talk, Wunderlist and Latitude, the version for the iPhone are superior.

Then there's the camera. An 8MP unit that works better than any other camera I've used on a mobile device. And with a family, the importance of having the best camera available is on the top of my list. Add in that all the photos are synced through Photostream to my iPad and Mac, and this is the best combination for photos.

Siri - Yep, its there, and yes I use it. Not as much as I did when I first got the phone, but mostly for dictation of messages or adding reminders when on the go.

Antenna - no issues, it works fine, with or without a case. A novel concept...

Overall, my wandering cell phone junkiness has led me in a circle, back to using and loving the iPhone 4S. As someone that constantly writes about and reviews phones from various platforms, I find myself yearning for something new and exciting. However, at the end of the day, there just is nothing that can beat it.

Chris Parsons, Mobile Nations

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The iPhone 4S was the first iPhone that I actually managed to purchase on launch date. I got a 16GB white version and it has been rock solid for me. No issues with the device at all in terms of hardware. The camera blows away any other device I have used thus far. Siri and I have issues. She's not living up to her potential in my opinion -- and yes, I am keeping that beta tag in mind.

All that said; I still live in a world where I must carry 2-3 devices at all times. iOS works for some things, BlackBerry works for some things and Android works for some things. The iPhone 4S doesn't solve all my problems or fill or my needs for a mobile device but in the full aspect of things, it is my "most used" device these days. It always comes down to my iPhone 4S and whatever other device with me. The iPhone 4S is the only constant.

Rene Ritchie, iMore

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6 months later and a new generation of competition is staring down the iPhone 4S. On one side we have latest, greatest Android devices from HTC, spearheaded by the HTC One X and on the other, the first real hero device from Windows Phone, the Nokia Lumia 900. Taken spec by spec, feature by feature, each of those devices and their respective operating systems have aspects that surpass the iPhone 4S. When taken as a whole, however, this year like every year before, none of them come close to eclipsing 6 month old Apple technology.

The Retina Display is still one of the best in the industry, the 8 megapixel camera is still among the best in mobile, the quality and quantity of apps and accessories are still second to none, and accessibility features and customer service provided by the Apple Store are simply unmatched.

That's part of the value Apple instill in the iPhone 4S. Buy it in October, 2011 and it retains an incredible amount of its value and relevance in April, 2012. There aren't many other devices on the market that can make that claim, and there are very few not made by Apple. Those are real specs and those are real features that matter to real consumers.

Sure, compared to an iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S isn't and wasn't a huge upgrade and that exactly proves my point, given the iPhone 4 was released in June, 2010, almost 2 years ago.

Now, in the mid-point of Apple typical product release cycle, is the iPhone 4S still a good buy for a prospective new iPhone owner? Or should they wait for the next generation iPhone, potentially to be released this coming October? My boiler-plate advice remains the same -- if you absolutely need a new phone now, today, buy the iPhone 4S and you'll be incredibly happy. It's still among the best phones, and is the best supported phone, on the market today. If you can wait, then wait as long as you possibly can. If you can wait another 6 months, you'll likely get an even better iPhone.

Your review, 6 month later?

So that's our take on the iPhone 4S now that it's been on the market for 6 months. But we want to know -- what's yours? If you have an iPhone 4S, are you still happy with your purchase? Is it still competitive with the newer phones on the market today?

If a friend, family member, or colleague asked you for a recommendation, would you tell the to get an iPhone 4S? Save some money and get an iPhone 4? Get an Android or Windows Phone or BlackBerry device instead? Or wait for the next generation iPhone in another 6 months or so? What's your iPhone 4S review, 6 months later?

Jump on over to the iPhone 4S Forum and let us know!

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