Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook had big shoes on since the departure of Steve Jobs last August, but yesterday’s iPhone announcement gave the executive a chance to jump into the limelight. Contrary to what many were expecting, however, the iPhone 5 was a no-show at the event, so there was no bigger screen and no slimmer profile. Instead, the iPhone 4S is an incremental update to the iPhone 4 that keeps the same exterior design with new hardware under the hood.
This is in comparison to the time we saw the iPhone 3G being succeeded by the 3GS. Apple has included some worthy upgrades in the venerable iPhone 4 that will go a long way towards wooing many new buyers as well as upgraders. If you’re on the fence about tomorrow’s update and what it means for iPhone users, here’s what you need to know.
The iPhone 4S looks similar to last year’s model, but comes in a new 64GB flavor and upgrades the camera to include an 8-megapixel sensor with better low-light performance and 1080p video capture. During the presentation, Phil Schiller said, “For many customers this will be the best camera ever and the best video camera they will ever have.” There’s better white balance, better color accuracy, facial recognition, and faster photo capturing.
In terms of performance, the new iPhone is reportedly 2x faster than its predecessor. The dual-core graphics engine is said to be up to seven times faster than the iPhone 4. Despite having a faster processor, there was a slight improvement in battery life as well. For CDMA users who travel frequently, support for GSM global roaming should also be a huge deal.
The new iPhone 4S is also capable of running on faster HSPA+ networks, reaching theoretical download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps versus 7.2Mbps on the previous model. Apple says they have replaced the antenna system, possibly to address the signal attenuation issue. Below is a comparison of what changes have been made in the new iPhone 4S:
iOS 5: Key Features Rundown
The next update to Apple’s iOS is due on October 12th and will run on iPhone 3GS or newer models, as well as iPads and both third- and fourth-generation iPod touches. It’ll be available as a free download and should bring more than 200 new features to Apple’s devices — many of which we’ve covered here. Apple highlighted a group of the most important people during yesterday’s event.
These include a new notification system (much like Android), an iOS messaging service called iMessage, which includes delivery and read receipts (BBM for iOS, natively), location-aware reminders, Twitter integration into the operating system, and periodicals. Features like newsstands are included. Magazines, a new camera app that’s easy to access and can use the phone’s volume button as a shutter button, a new Safari browser with support for tabbed browsing (it was almost time) and a “Read Later Convenience, a new Mail app and, at long last, PC-free setup and synchronization.
There is a separate service called iCloud that will work on Mac products and facilitate automatic synchronization of your contacts, calendar, mail, documents, photos, music, books, apps and backups. Apple’s iCloud offers 5GB of free storage and can be purchased for $24.95 per year combined with a music locker service called iTunes Match.
These are all features that were first detailed by Apple during WWDC in June, but the company saved a few surprises. The first and least interesting of the bunch is a new app called Cards that lets you create actual greeting cards on iOS. Users can choose from 21 different designs. Once you’ve created a card, Apple will print it out and send it through the USPS to anywhere in the US for $3 per card, or anywhere in the world for $5. Watch out for Hallmark!
Another new feature is Find My Friends, which is like Google’s Latitude but with better privacy controls. With Find My Friends you can choose to share your location with people permanently or temporarily, set up parental controls, or go off the grid with the flip of a switch. It’s included in iCloud for free and integrates with Contacts and Maps.
Last but certainly not least, Apple also includes Siri in the iPhone 4S, which will only run in this model (and possibly the iPad 2 since it uses the same A5 chip). Described as an intelligent assistant that helps you get things done by asking you in natural language, Siri lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, make phone calls, and more. It’s the standout feature of the iPhone 4S and promises to change how users interact with their phones.