We've just spent some time with Apple's new iPhone 4S, and the good news is it's shaping up to be a great phone. Anyone hoping for a major redesign is going to be cruelly disappointed -- it looks identical to last year's model, the iPhone 4 -- but that doesn't make it any less of a good mobile.

The standout feature is Siri, Apple's take on voice recognition. This isn't the voice recognition you might be used to, the type where you say "call Jason" and it rings whoever is associated with that contact. What's clever about it is that you can give it relatively complex commands, such as "Convert £50 to dollars", or "Do I need an umbrella today?" Siri will interpret your commands and use Internet services such as Wolfram Alpha to figure out the most appropriate response.

We've tried many voice recognition services over the years, so we're a bit sceptical as to how this will work when it's windy, or whether a thick regional accent will throw it off, but based on the short time we had with the iPhone 4S tonight, it seems very promising. Both the weather and the currency conversion questions produced successful responses, so we look forward to testing this properly in our full review.

We also had a quick look at some of the new features of iOS 5, including the new notifications screen, which looks like a prettier version of the one you get on Android phones; iMessage, which is basically the old text messaging interface re-worked slightly; and the new Cards app.

As we've already covered, the iPhone 4S has new innards, including a faster processor, an 8-megapixel camera with re-designed lens, 1080p video recording and better battery life, at 8 hours of talk time on 3G.

Have a click through our hands-on images in the gallery above and let us know what you think of the new phone in the comments below or on our Facebook wall.

The side of the iPhone 4S with lock and volume buttons.
The back of the iPhone 4S looks the same as the previous model -- it doesn't even say 4S.
Here's where the micro-SIM card goes.
You double-tap the central button to get the Siri menu to appear.
The iPhone 4S has understood the spoken question "Will I need an umbrella today?"
Siri works out that rain is not forecast today and tells you that you won't need an umbrella.
The new notifications screen.
Reminders are a lot like tasks, but they can be triggered by your location, such as when you leave the office.
The Newsstand app makes reading magazines and newspapers easier. If that's what you're into.
This is what iMessage looks like.
Here you can see your photo stream, which is synced to iCloud.
Siri being used to set an alarm with the command "set alarm to 7am".
Siri confirms the alarm has been set.
You can turn it off by swiping the on-screen switch.
Asking Siri to convert $65 to Her Majesty's British pounds.
Siri tells us that $65 is worth £42.08 today.
And here's the new Cards app.


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