Initial Thoughts After Using the iPhone 4S

By , Oct 15, 2011

I’ve been using the iPhone 4S heavily for about 24 hours now. After finally getting the phone activated on AT&T yesterday afternoon, I’ve had a chance to use the device pretty extensively.

The iPhone 4S has three main selling points: a faster processor, better camera, and Siri. Here are my initial thoughts and impressions of Apple’s newest smartphone…

It’s Super Fast

While the iPhone 4S looks nearly identical to the iPhone 4 on the outside, Apple has tricked the 4S out on the inside. The A5 processor means super fast performance. I’ve noticed considerable speed improvements when rendering web pages in Mobile Safari, and games playback is much faster and smoother.

An excellent way to see the speed improvements Apple made in the iPhone 4S is to mirror the device with an Apple TV. After I enabled mirroring, I used my iPhone 4S as a controller to play graphic-intense games like Shawdowgun and Infinity Blade. The Apple TV’s response to my movements on the 4S screen were nearly instantaneous, and I didn’t notice any lag whatsoever.

Mirroring an iPhone 4S is also great for browsing the web and checking apps like Facebook. When compared with the iPad 2’s mirroring feature in iOS 5, the iPhone 4S actually looks better on the Apple TV than Apple’s newest tablet.

One thing I will say is that battery life on the 4S seems to be lacking. This could be because my handset hasn’t gone through a full charge cycle yet — I’m just not sure. I’ve also been using it pretty regularly over the past 24 hours. Apple claims that the 4S actually gives you an extra hour of talk time, so I’m going to give the 4S the benefit of the doubt for now.

The Camera is Great

Apple wasn’t kidding when it said that the 8MP camera in the iPhone 4S is awesome. It’s been discovered that the iPhone’s new camera is made by Sony, and Apple has definitely been working hard on creating a faster cleaner camera software.

Image quality is pretty nice, although you don’t notice a drastic improvement over the iPhone 4 in most cases. Where the iPhone 4S camera really stands out is shutter speed. Apple’s engineers apparently slaved to shave seconds off the time to takes to actually open and use the camera — and the work paid off. The iPhone 4S has the fastest and best quality camera of any smartphone on the market right now.

Macro focus on the 4S works well. It’s fun to take nature and up close shots. Overall, the camera on the 4S is stunning.

1080p video is also a nice addition, and what really takes the cake is the image stabilization technology Apple added. I suspect that image stabilization will be what really separates the iPhone 4S camera from its predecessor and competitors.

Siri is Incredible

Apple hit a home run with Siri. Like most people, I had trouble connecting to Siri yesterday (everyone was trying it at once), but it’s been working perfectly today. (If Siri still isn’t working for you, see this tip.)

Siri isn’t perfect — I’m not going to pretend like Apple doesn’t have work to do. First off, Siri needs to have third party app support. Once Apple opens up the APIs (which I’m sure they will), you’ll be able to have Siri order you movie tickets and tell you the score of the last football game. That will be grand.

For now, Siri is about as good as it can be. For a product that’s labeled as “beta” (Apple hardly ever calls its products beta), Siri is better than every other piece of voice recognition software on the consumer market.

What I love about Siri is that she has an attitude. It’s fun to just think of things to say to her. Most of the time, there’s a witty response to laugh at. Apple definitely went above and beyond with adding easter eggs.

Using Siri in public right now is definitely like using the iPad in public when it first came out. I’ve been stopped in public over 4 times today by different people that see me talking to my iPhone. “Whoa, is that Siri?” “Do you like it?” “Does it actually work?” People are fascinated by Siri.

The voice dictation on the iPhone 4S is utterly fantastic. I almost like it better than Siri. Since yesterday, I’ve been dictating about 90% of the things I would have otherwise typed into my iPhone — texts, email, tweets, etc. I’m already starting to get frustrated when I need to physically type something into my iPhone.

I’m learning how to dictate properly with punctuation on the 4S. If you don’t specify punctuation, you get nothing but words. Instead of saying “Hey what’s up could you meet me at 6,” say, “Hey comma what’s up question mark can you meet me here at six question mark.” The iPhone will do the rest.

I’ve noticed that speaking slower when dictating will result in faster and more accurate results. When you talk fast, the backend has to parse your language more to figure out what you’re really saying. If you speak slowly and clearly, the server will be able to pick up what you’re saying quickly and spit the text out faster. I’ve said 4 sentence paragraphs with semicolons and parenthesis while speaking slowly, and everything was converted almost instantly and inserted.

Tip: Try speaking emoticons: “winky face,” “smily face,” etc. ;)

After using Siri and dictation on the iPhone 4S for only 24 hours, I never want to use another phone without this voice technology. I’m frustrated that it’s not available on my Mac.

Conclusion

The iPhone 4S is Apple’s best phone ever. It’s not leaps and bounds better than the iPhone 4, but it’s certainly worth an upgrade for those than can afford it.

Apple refined the aspects of the iPhone 4 that were already great and added a breakthrough interface called Siri. The iPhone 4S is evolutionary, not revolutionary. And sometimes it’s ok to just evolve.

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  • lol

    lol

    ask it what lol means

    • Fernando T

      Haven’t seen the SPECIFIC topic so I will ask here. What’s up with the toggle between Edge and 3G being taken away??
      iPhone 4S battery life would drain even faster this way. Any alternatives??
      I don’t have 4S yet but this is something that concerns me since I have a 4.

  • http://tinyurl.com/parcelaalgarrobo Felipe

    Hi Alex, can I ask you a favor. Could you please dictate something and then try if you can ask siri to translate it with google translate or something please. Thanks :)

    • Tomb198269

      Won’t work it’s very limited in functionality. More like a gimmick after the first few questions you ask it.

      • Eddie

        Siri only works with the default apps like notes, calendar, contacts, messages, phone, maps etc. If you ask it anything beyon that it will just do a google search

  • Gus

    Good stuff. I’ve been playing with the phone all night and day, and I think the battery might be a little better.. Also, is it just me wanting the speaker to be better, or is it actually better/louder?

  • http://jarofclay73.blogspot.com/ Clayton Wakida

    I tried Real Racing 2 on my iPad 2 with iOS 5 mirroring wirelessly and I had a lot of lag. Perhaps that could be because my router in my bedroom which is far from the HDTV in the living and every so often Wi-Fi cuts out. I hope that’s the case.

    • Horst

      Pretty pointless post, way off-topic. Have you actually *read* the article?

      • Coach

        Shut up.

      • Random Person

        @Coach
        Stfu.

      • Coach

        @random
        You stfu. You’re not going tok do anything. I can’t stand people who talk shit to people with question. Stay random.

      • hxclos

        @Horst did YOU read the article? It mentions mirroring and lag thus not off topic.

        @Clayton I had a slight lag on my iPad 2 too. I’d say about half a second.

      • rbrjr

        Agreed. Article is about iphone and not ipad. ipad mentioned only as a comparison for mirroring speed. Why not ask include imac questions in the thread while you are at it ;)

  • Larry CT

    I thought the speaker sounded better to

    • Woody dog

      The speaker is a lot louder than the one on my 3GS

  • http://lelebuonerba.wordpress.com Lelebuonerba

    Great bottom line, Alex! This article has really good quality content, this is why I read iDownloadBlog! Keep up the great work, guys!
    Btw, after owning (and almost hating) an iPhone 3G for too much time to bear an iPhone 4S must be like heaven. I just can’t wait! I have to wait till November, since i live in Italy and the Unlocked won’t be available till then. It’s not changed that much (but I can tell you that f/2.4 camera is awesome and Siri seems fantastic) from the 4, but in comparison to what we had three years ago this is stunning.

  • Sb

    Do you think Siri will someday be available for, and designed for, the iPhone 4? I know I heard someone hacked it and Put it on their 4, but it didn’t work properly. Maybe after a few months and following initial 4S sales?

  • ZiggyEss

    Does anyone know how to (a) set destination points for Siri i.e. gym/grocey store etc..? (b) do the equivalent of pressing the return key while dictating? Thanks

    • Tomb198269

      You must ask it to say, “Siri closest hy-vee” and it will bring up a map with it using a search engine. It does this really fast when it does work. When it works,and it is 98% accurate if you speak decently clear.

  • Sb

    Do you think Siri will someday be available for, and designed for, the iPhone 4? I know I heard someone cracked it and put it on their 4, but it didn’t work properly. Maybe after a few months and following initial 4S sales?

    • Tomb198269

      Yes

    • http://www.passwithlee.com/ ShavedApe

      No, I think it highly unlikely sure they completely revamped the inside of the phone but most people will overlook that for available features and if you take away siri there isnt a lot more.

  • BLckAapL

    “The Camera is Great

    Apple wasn’t kidding when it said that the 8MB camera in the iPhone 4S is awesome.”

    – Should be 8M’P’ buddy.
    Nice review btw. Can’t wait for it to arrive here month end. ;)

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Alex Heath

      Thanks. Fixed.

  • Daniel

    I agree with Clayton, there is way too much lag for Apple TV mirroring to be useful during gaming. Which isn’t surprising, because even using the HDMI cable with an iPad 2 has too much lag.

  • Tomb198269

    Siri sucks for now! And my battery seems to drain noticeably faster on my new 4S.

    NOT A FAN OF SIRI am I the only one blinded. Evolution is the best word for it.

    • Tomb198269

      How can they use Siri as a main selling point when it doesn’t offer the functionality with it. This had to be a rushed product. I guess I’m really disappointed with my new iphone 4S. And the battery is an issue with me.

  • Adeeb

    I hope Apple integrates Siri into Mac OSX sometime in the future… would be cool !

    • Tomb198269

      Have you used Siri?

      • Tomb198269

        Siri is a gimmick for now. How many times can you ask it a question with no relevance to anything.

      • Adeeb

        nope…

  • Tomb198269

    Adeeb
    What you mean by nope?
    Do you have Siri?
    Vlingo is just as good without the weird robot voice.

    • Adeeb

      I mean I haven’t used Siri yet because I didn’t get my hands on an iPhone 4S, but since it’s a beta it isn’t a good idea to expect much from it…

      • Tomb198269

        I expected more because it was a major selling point.

  • Nomi

    ask it can u suck my &$$$

    • IISavioRII

      HAHAHAHAHAH….

  • Tomb198269

    Oh okay!

  • Nomi

    ask it can u suck my… &$$$

    • Tomb198269

      Froze my Siri and shut my phone off! WOW

  • bob

    great article.

  • Greg

    So basically, the iPhone 4S is all about Siri. Considering it doesn’t work properly outside the USA, most people might as well give it a miss..

    • Tomb198269

      If your upgrading from a 3GS is a MUST!!

      • Tomb198269

        WTF

    • Tomb198269

      If you have a 3GS, you MUST upgrade!!

  • Conall

    Nice article , but quite a lot of spelling mistakes lol , and btw the most obvious “8MB Camera” lol

  • Joe

    To set destination points you have to put the address in your contacts. So when u say remind me to get batteries at Walmart. Siri will check ur Walmart contact info for the address.

    • ZiggyEss

      But if you have your gym in your contacts list (added by using Google Maps so the location is exact and using “Gym” in the name field) and you ask Siri for directions to the Gym….she still says she doesn’t know what the address of the gym is…..

  • http://bedd.us Eric

    The best thing about this article is that it’s written by Alex. He’s by far the best writer on the idb team. He definitely has a sense of fanboy in him but not annoyingly so.

    The worst thing about this article is that Alex doesn’t write all the articles on this site and he’ll probably (and deservingly) move on to a bigger publication.

    • Tomb198269

      …..

  • http://trenpennrepairs.com Jj

    On another note why do my outlook contacts not sync to the cloud? There on my phone. But not the cloud?

  • iMo.

    There’s actually a downside when u use dictation with Siri.

    Like if you wanted to text your friend Mark to ask him a question.. That said “can I ask you a question Mark?”
    Siri would make it: “can I ask you a?”

    Apple should have known better
    Tisk tisk

    • Danger

      You should put a comma between ‘question’ and ‘Mark':
      “Can I ask you a question comma Mark question mark”

  • iMo.

    @danger.. I know!

    I was just joking

  • Dave

    I bought the 4s on Verizon yesterday to try it out. 3G speed averaged half a megabit. Bought one on at&t and I’m getting 4 MBs down. Way faster. I live in Illinois

  • Dave

    I bought a 4s on Verizon yesterday. Data speeds were averaging half a megabit down. Bought a 4s on at&t today and I’m averaging 4mbs down. I live in Illinois

  • Tom

    Mac book air also has an voice command.
    But it makes me frustrated. It cannot catch up my voice…
    How about 4S ? Its quite different with that ?

  • Masters

    How is the battery life for everyone else? Mine seems to be really bad! Dropping a % every two minutes with brightness less than half. At 80% and only an hour and seventeen mins use.

  • http://lucas.com LUCAS

    Alex, this is a great article, congratulations.

  • Bianca

    I am dictating this message on my iPhone 4S. I love the dictation. and I have had no problem with Siri. It’s awesome! I have used it to set reminders for when I reach places, to set my alarm at, and to make phone calls. It also remembers who my fiancé is and all members of my family. I can’t wait until it’s available for third party apps!