So, it turns out all those rumours about a larger display, faster HSPA+ 21Mbps modem and radically redesigned case were just that - rumours. Apple has unveiled the latest addition to the iPhone family, and it looks much like the old one.
Rather than the dual phone launch that many were expecting, today's Apple event saw the launch of just one new handset: the iPhone 4S. (Despite the bated breath of the attending press, there was no "and one more thing..." announcement at the end of the presentation.)
As its name implies, the new phone is an updated version of the existing iPhone 4, rather than a completely new model. The physical design, including the screen, home button and case, is practically identical: "The iPhone 4S has the same beautifully thin glass and stainless steel design that millions of customers around the world love," explains the Apple press release, which is PR-speak for "it looks the same".
Those expecting all-new software, features and services are likely to be disappointed, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to get excited about. Indeed, the new phone comes with plenty of improved hardware specifications that put it in line with the current crop of leading Android smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S II.
iPhone 4S: what's new?
The chief improvements over the current iPhone 4 include a dual-core A5 chip that will purportedly deliver "seven-times faster" graphics, an 8-megapixel camera with image stabilisation, noise reduction and 1080p video, a redesigned antenna for improved call quality/quicker downloads, longer battery life (eight hours talk time on 3G), a 960x640 Retina display and a new voice recognition service called Siri.
The new handset will also run on iOS 5, which comes with more than 200 new features, including the overhauled messaging system; iMessage. (Read an overview of Apple's latest operating system here.)
Apple's freshly inaugurated CEO Tim Cook spent most of the presentation bigging up the iPhone 4S's new camera and Siri functionality. The new camera will boast a Hybrid IR filter for "greater accuracy", and a new five-lens system that offers a wide f/2.3 aperture and "30% more" sharpness.
The new A5 chip also means it can take snaps faster – 1.1 seconds to take the first shot, and half a second to take the next. The new camera app will feature optional grid lines to help line up your shots and a focus/exposure locking tool to prioritise specific subjects.
Siri, meanwhile, is a voice recognition 'personal assistant' that gradually learns as you speak to it. You can ask Siri a question using any phrasing you want, and it will attempt to recognise the request and answer you. Specific examples that were mentioned at the event include asking the weather and finding out about nearby restaurants. Answers can be 'spoken' back to you or displayed on the iPhone's screen.
Siri can also read your messages to you, and do voice searches via Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha.
The service will be landing in beta form to begin with and will be available in Australian English – so no need to add a US twang to your accent.
iPhone 4S: how much will it cost?
Apple has announced Australian pricing for the iPhone 4S on its website. There will be three iterations of the phone at launch: a 16GB version for $799, a 32GB for $899 and a 64GB version for $999 (all unlocked). The 8GB iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS will also remain available for $679 and $449 respectively.
The early online reaction for the iPhone 4S seems to be less than positive, with many commentators left disappointed or underwhelmed. Tellingly, Apple shares on Wall Street have dropped by more than four per cent following the iPhone 4S announcement.
Personally, we think a lot of the ire has to do with that yawn-inducing name. With a vastly improved imaging system, zippier processor, improved call quality and inbuilt assistant tool, the Apple iPhone 4S is a significant evolution over the iPhone 4 (on paper, at least).
Time will tell whether its sales will be able to match its predecessor and maintain an edge over its Android challengers.
Does the Apple iPhone 4S offers enough improvements? How will it fare against the latest Android smartphones? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.