US$199 – 16 GB
$299 – 32 GB
$399 – 64 GB
(all prices assume a two-year contract)
After 16 months of anticipation, the iPhone 4S was greeted with a collective “is that it?” from the tech press and many Apple lovers who wanted an iPhone 5. The iPhone 4S didn’t introduce enough changes, was too similar to the iPhone 4, they said. For owners of the iPhone 4, those criticisms may hold a bit of water. For everyone else, though—from owners of earlier iPhone models to those who don’t own an iPhone at all—those reactions are drastically misguided. The iPhone 4S is an excellent phone that introduces a potentially revolutionary technology.
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Anyone who’s got an iPhone 3GS or earlier, or doesn’t yet have an iPhone, should seriously consider getting one.
A Smooth TransitionMany complained that the iPhone 4S is too much like the iPhone 4; that resemblance starts on the outside. The iPhone 4S uses a nearly identical case to the iPhone 4, with the exception of a redesigned antenna that corrects the antenna problems that plagued the iPhone 4. Pick up an iPhone 4 or 4S, and unless you’re looking closely at a few minor details, it’s hard to tell them apart.
Use them for a few minutes, though, and the improvements become apparent quickly.
That new antenna design—the result of two independent antenna systems that the phone can switch between dynamically to prevent dropped calls—seems to be working. I haven’t made any scientific tests, but my 4S seems to drop fewer calls than my iPhone 4. Certainly I have fewer calls where I need to begin the conversation by apologizing for a dropped connection.
The 4S is also much more responsive than the 4, thanks to its A5 processor. This is the same processor that powers the iPad 2 and the successor to the iPhone 4’s A4 chip. The iPhone 4S is noticeably faster than its predecessor in everyday use and significantly faster in launching apps. I tested three processor- and network-intensive apps that can be slow to start and found the 4S to be generally at least twice as fast as the 4: