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Apple iPhone 4S

 Apple iPhone 4S Available now
4th October 2011

Almost identical in outward design to the original iPhone 4, the Apple iPhone 4S has a better camera, faster processor, advanced speech recognition and a new version of the iOS operating system for an improved user experience.

Although there are several major improvements, many potential customers will be disappointed to learn that the iPhone 4S retains the very sharp but slightly small 3.5" 640 x 960 pixel panel of its predecessor. High-end competing devices have larger screens, typically 3.7" to 4.3" or so, but perhaps we will have to wait for the iPhone 5 if we want a bigger display.

On the back is an 8 megapixel camera with a redesigned sensor to improve picture quality. Although previous iPhones have always tended to be a little on the low side when it came to the megapixel count, iPhones have always produced good quality pictures and this looks set to continue. Camera phones can be very slow, but the iPhone 4S takes just 1.1 seconds to take the first photo and 0.5 seconds between shots, which easily beats most of the competition. The camera is also capable of 1080p HD video recording.

The operating system has been upgraded to iOS 5, which has several improvements. Home screen notifications (a bit like the Metro interface on Windows Phone), the very interesting location-based reminder system, tabbed browsing, instant synchronisation of photographs across devices and very much improved mail. Improved iCloud integration is a key feature of the new iPhone as well.

 Apple iPhone 4S A novel feature of the new operating system is "Siri", a voice recognition system that is designed to understand natural language, allowing for free-form commands and queries, to which it draws on a variety of sources (such as Wolfram Alpha and  Yell) to provide information. Siri will work in English, French and German at launch, although you can be sure that other languages will be supported in time. Although modern Android devices have good speech recognition built-in, it looks like Apple have raised the stakes here in the same way that they did with video calling and the original iPhone 4. We expect that competitors will be working very hard to catch up.

One issue with the old iPhone 4 was the antenna design which could sometimes drop calls. The iPhone 4S can now automatically switch between antennas to improve reception, and as a bonus maximum download speeds on HSPA are now 14.4Mbps, in line with most of the competition.

The processor is an Apple-designed CPU called the "A5", based on the common ARM architecture used in most mobile phones worldwide, with a dual-core CPU which is pretty common these days in high-end handsets, except here Apple have also given it a dual-core graphics processor which makes games run up to seven times quicker. Despite the faster processor, the battery life has been improved - talktime is quoted as 8 hours on 3G, with 10 hours of video playback or 40 hours of music.

 Apple iPhone 4S There will be 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions of the iPhone 4S available, in the US these will cost $199, $299 and $399 respectively when taken with a 2 year contract. Apple have also adjusted the original iPhone 4 to make it cheaper, cutting the flash memory to 8GB and the price tag to $99 with a new contract. You will still be able to get the iPhone 3GS, which will now be free in the US with a contract.

One highly unusual feature is the inclusion of both CDMA and GSM standards in one phone. For customers on CDMA networks in the US (Verizon Wireless for example, and now also the Sprint network), they can use the phone worldwide with the addition of a GSM micro-SIM. It's of less use to customers outside the US where CDMA is very rare, but we guess that it simplifies manufacturing a lot.

Apple say that the iPhone 4S should be available in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan from October 14th onwards, with most of the rest of Europe by the end of the month, and by December it will be available on 100 carriers in 70 countries.

Images courtesy of Apple, Inc.

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Apple iPhone 4S at a glance

Available:

Q4 2011

Network:

GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 +
UMTS 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 +

CDMA / EVDO 800 / 1900

Data:

GPRS + EDGE + UMTS (3G) + HSPA + WiFi

Screen:

3.5" 960 x 640 pixels

Camera:

8 megapixels (primary)

0.3 megapixels (sub)

Size:

Medium tablet smartphone
115 x 59 x 9.3mm / 140 grams

Bluetooth:

Yes

Memory card:

None (internal 16GB / 32GB / 64GB)

Infra-red:

No

Polyphonic:

Yes

Java:

No

GPS:

Yes

OS:

iOS 5

Battery life:

8 hours talk / 8 days standby (3G)

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