Apple iPhone 4S (64GB) review: Apple iPhone 4S

Review Sections

BrowserMark benchmark results

  • 87,665
    Apple iPhone 4S
  • 82,763
    HTC Sensation XL
  • 65,913
    HTC Sensation XE
  • 63,266
    Samsung Galaxy S II
  • 52,938
    Apple iPhone 4 (iOS 5.0)
  • 38,010
    Apple iPhone 4 (iOS 4.3)
  • 28,596
    Apple iPhone 3GS (iOS 4.3)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Siri

Apple's new "virtual assistant", Siri, has gained a lot of attention and it is a fun new toy to mess around with. But apart from asking for the weather (from iPhone's overseas-based sources), and voice control of music, reminders and messaging, plus some witty banter with a virtual friend, Australia misses out on a lot of the best Siri has to offer. Siri's real-world smarts are tied up with Yelp!, a US-only service that means Siri will do nothing but apologise for knowing nothing about restaurants in your area. Maps and directions are also US-only at the moment, relegating Siri to an occasional dalliance rather than a full-time BFF.

We can hope that once the "beta" tag drops we might see a more global experience.

Camera

The iPhone 4S camera upgrade pumps up the volume to 8 megapixels and 1080p video recording at 30 frames per second. There was nothing too shabby about the iPhone 4 camera (for a phone) but the 4S camera is notably better than its predecessor. Beyond the pixels, the new hardware improves the lens aperture and CMOS to give better light sensitivity. This means better subtlety and better low-light performance.

By direct experience, taking pictures is perhaps where the 4S most obviously leaves the iPhone 4 far behind. Both running iOS 5.0, the iPhone 4S takes pictures faster (whether you've tapped on screen or clicked the volume button to take the snap), colours are more naturally vibrant, less oversaturated, fidelity is well captured and the quality is obviously a solid step forward.

Comparing with competition elsewhere in the market, the 4S loses some of its sheen. Its performance in high contrast situations brings out different details to a phone like the Samsung Galaxy S II, not for the better. Depending on your eye you may prefer the colour definition of the S II as well.

Overall, it's a wonderful smartphone camera. The best smartphone camera ever? It's one of the best, but other options could argue better for the top spot.

Colour and sharpness
(Credit: CBSi)

Contrast and backlight
(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

On so many levels this is an ecosystem debate. Apple iPhone still possesses the best arsenal of software for smartphone users. This advantage will last as long as Android lets its Marketplace operate like a red-light district and as long as Microsoft and RIM fail to attract greater diversity to their own offerings. This advantage cannot last forever, but today it is still a critical factor for anyone seeking an experience that gives access to diverse software with minimum fuss and maximum reward.

If you want a big screen, if you want a new style or if you want fresher experiences like live widgets, the iPhone 4S is not for you. There are quite a few justifications now for choosing something else, so the crown no longer rests comfortably on the iPhone's head. But it is the standard bearer for an amazing platform and keeps frustration to an absolute minimum.

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