Our First Look at the iPhone 4S

First Look
Our First Look at the iPhone 4S
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With extra grunt, a spruced up camera and the ability to talk back, is the iPhone 4S a worthy heir to the iPhone throne? Read our first impressions.

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No, it’s not the mythical iPhone 5 we’ve been waiting for. Instead we’ve got the iPhone 4S, an incremental upgrade following in the tradition of the iPhone 3G S unveiled by Apple two years ago.

The 4S is not a major redesign as we saw with the iPhone 4, but rather a refresh to keep Apple in the game as competitors go from strength to strength.

It may be an evolution rather than a revolution, but the iPhone 4S has a few tricks up its sleeve to tempt the Apple faithful to upgrade and perhaps win new users. The 4S’ key improvements are a faster processor, an improved camera and Siri intelligent speech recognition.

There’s a lot of ground to cover and for now we’ll focus on the hardware in this hot-off-the-presses First Look, courtesy of a new iPhone 4S on loan from Vodafone.

How fast is it?


It’s generally considered that the S is for Speed, so how fast is the new 4S compared to the 4 upgraded with iOS5? So far, we'vfe found that flicking between the menus we didn't feel a difference, nor when launching basic apps. This in itself is a blessing, as previous iPhones have generally been crippled by iOS updates and it’s taken several months for them to come good. The iPhone 4 seems fine but the news might not be so good for older devices and it will be interesting to see the reports from 3G S owners.

The time it takes to launch the camera has always been a telltale sign of a slow iPhone. With nothing else running, the iPhone 4 takes around 2.5 seconds to launch the camera and open the iris so it’s ready to shoot. The 4S cuts this down to around 1.5 seconds. The 4S also takes better shots, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Launch the browser and you also see the benefits of the speed of the 4S. Throwing complicated webpages at Mobile Safari, such as the front page  (non-mobile version) of PC & Tech Authority and other media sites, saw the 4S shave anywhere between 10 to 40 per cent off page load times. Of course we’re only talking about a few seconds difference, but it’s clear the 4S’ faster A5 chip is helping.

To really push the 4S we loaded up several apps that push the hardware to the limits. The graphics-intensive car racing game Need for Speed: Undercover showed off the clear improvement in the 3G S over the 3G, yet the performance is indistinguishable on the 4 and 4S.

Switching to Firemint’s newer Real Racing 2 saw the 4S prove its worth. Everything ran just a bit smoother, although the difference isn't great enough to tempt us to put our iPhone 4 in the bin. It’s not until you pay attention that you realise the game actually looks better on the 4S - for example, there is extra light flare, reflections and detail on the road.



Other intensive tasks helped demonstrate the 4S’ extra firepower compared to the 4, although it's far from a crushing defeat. When editing large files in Pages, the 4S keeps up with key strokes better, but not by much. A more telling test is firing up the Tom Tom sat-nav app, playing music in the background and going for a drive. 

Our first impressions are that the 4S registers unexpected turns sooner and recalculates routes slightly faster. The difference isn’t breathtaking, but certainly welcome if you’re frustrated by your sat-nav app’s sometimes sluggish performance on the iPhone 4. It’s multi-taskers that will most appreciate the extra grunt.

Sure Apple has made plenty of tweaks with the new 4S but, to be honest, if your current iPhone doesn’t feel sluggish after the iOS5 upgrade, then you’re unlikely to appreciate the speed boost. At least not yet.

If you are bumping up against the iPhone 4’s limitations then the 4S’ performance gains will offer welcome relief - but it's not perhaps enough to convince us that it's worth breaking our current contract. iPhone 4 owners on a 24 month contract still might want to hold out for the iPhone 5.

Keep in mind that app developers will now start taking advantage of the 4S’ improved capabilities, so we will see more of a day-to-day difference between the 4S and the older 4 in time. If you’re looking to buy a new iPhone today, spending extra on the 4S, instead of a discounted 4 would be a wise long-term investment. Real Racing 2 is a perfect example of how the iPhone 4S will get better over time as developers tap into its power.

Photo quality

Taken with the iPhone 4S. Image size reduced for Web. Click to Enlarge.


Taken with the iPhone 4. Image size reduced for Web. Click to enlarge.


Talk of an improved camera has always been a major drawcard for new iPhones and Apple hasn’t let us down here - boosting the resolution to 8 megapixels while improving the optics and dynamic range.

The difference between the two phones is more noticeable here, especially when taking photos in challenging light conditions. In the photo of the tricycle below, the 4S offers extra detail in the shadows without washing out the background bathed in bright sunlight. Meanwhile, the flower shot above shows off those extra megapixels, even though I’d say the 4 offers slightly better colour accuracy.


Taken with the iPhone 4S. Image size reduced for Web. Click to enlarge.


Taken with the iPhone 4. Image size reduced for Web. Click to enlarge.


There are a lot more new features to explore, particularly thanks to the iOS5 upgrade, and on first impressions the iPhone 4S seems a worthy successor to the iPhone 4. The gains aren’t breathtaking, but build a solid platform for iOS in the future. We'll reserve our final judgement for our in-depth, full review, but for now, if you are feeling the need for speed, the 4S looks like it won’t disappoint.

[Correction: The article originally stated that the new iPhone 4S has 1GB RAM. This is incorrect. The iPhone 4S has 512MB RAM. The article has been updated with this correction.]

Also read: iPhone 4S pricing recap: how much you'll pay


Source: Copyright © PC & Tech Authority. All rights reserved.

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See more about:  phones  |  iphone  |  4s  |  review

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Comments: 9
14 October 2011
Much better camera pictures. Great phone just like the 3gs but my concern now due to owning a 3gs is how is the battery going to go powering that new A5 chip but old 45nm manufacturing process (2008). Cause i loved the extra speed in the 3gs ban man, those 65nm chips before it became a soc in the A4 was and still is a power munching feind. Why they did not use 32nm tech i will never know since you could fit so many more chips on a single wafer by comparison. I like apple products but im not going down that road again, quite happy to wait and use iOS5 on my 3gs until a more power effecient chip presents itself. Like i said though, still a great phone.

Comment made about the PC & Tech Authority article:
Our First Look at the iPhone 4S?
With extra grunt, a spruced up camera and the ability to talk back, is the iPhone 4S a worthy heir to the iPhone throne? Read our first impressions.

What do you think? Join the discussion.
14 October 2011
iOS5 is a huge disappointment.
Despite all the hype, the lock screen remains an utterly useless picture.
It looks like its back to alternative methods to make the device useful again.
My next phone will be either Android or Windows Phone 7.5.
This iPhone is the most infuriating piece of tech I have ever owned as has put me off Apple for life. Can't wait for my contract to expire.
17 October 2011
Image processing is clearly better and a better lebs is always too.

It uses a variation of shadow enhancement technology. You can do this with bibble gimp photoshop etc.,

It saves work if the camera does it, for the more serious, unprocessed files are the best to have so if it can be turned off you might consider that. Better yet get a real point and shoot if you know you need the extra IQ.
17 October 2011

Strange, your experience seems to be at odds with every customer survey published.

Satisfaction levels above those of Andorid phones. More customers swapping from Android to iPhone than the other way round by a factor of 50%.

But then what would they know?

When I see supposed customers who go on about 'biggest piece of crap, toy compared to.., infuriating' I tend to see someone who either has an agenda (fanboy for the other side) or is incompetent with tech.

Every review thus far rates the phone as on par with the Galaxy 2S, screen size apart. I intend to try them both side by side now that we have a staff member with a 4S purchased Friday, and the accountant with a G2S. Will be interesting to see if your 'unbiased' assessment is anywhere near the mark.


The reason for the 45Nm is that is the process Samsung run for Apple. I believe at the time they didn't have a smaller one for ARM processors. Reviews give it slightly longer talk time than the old 4, at over a full day.

TSMC will be making the A6 next year on a much smaller process which will make the 4 core a lower power device than the current A5 2 core.

Edit - took a while to find it. TSMC should be a 28Nm 3D process. Much smaller die and greater power efficiency.

Edited by amcmo: 17/10/2011 03:58:53 PM
23 October 2011
It seems nice, but still encumbered with the locked down "ecosystem". You know, the one where apps are supposedly "security tested".


Enterprises using iPhones and iPads need to be concerned about the possibilities of data leakage and regulatory non-compliance ...

Australian software architect Troy Hunt is the latest blogger to point out that apparently-legitimate iOS apps are spying on us.
Of course, these are apps that are downloaded from Apple's supposedly-secure and carefully-curated App Store.
They're sending back detailed information about actions in applications, including the unique device ID and often the location.

That's malware just as it exists in the "unsafe" ecosystem ... want YOUR corporate data given away by iphones and ipads?

That's easy! Just blindly and fanboyishly trust that the apps are "secure"?
The post and research it points to seem to indicate that no matter WHAT you buy, you need to carefully vet what may be installed on these devices.

Android facilitates writing and installation of software that regularly sweep for known offenders and deletes them from the device.
To guard against users deleting your app because it "interferes", you'd need to get your corporate network to scan for the existence of the app and run it before connecting.
Better yet (slower, more secure) turn on wifi when in range, reinstall from the corporate repository and run it before allowing it to connect to the company network.

No compliance, no connect - it's YOUR data after all.

With all this spying going on, it's little wonder that phones sometimes unexplainedly eat batteries and slow down (all brands).

23 October 2011
This same code is present in some Android and Blackberry programs according to the article, so this is an issue that effects all smartphones, not just IOS.

That the data is collected is worrying to say the least, and will be the subject of discussion, however it is a whole different work from the criminal malware becoming more prevalent in the Android eco. That, to date HAS been blocked from the Apple App store.
5 December 2011
Just had another look at my Sammy phone and tried sich a shot ( similar flowers, sunlight and shade). To my surprise, the result looks a lot closer to the 4S than to the 4. Quite good for a phone - also means it was way ahead of the 'old' iphone in late 2009.

Nice surprise.

I know, I know, in three to five years time these things will all be as good as a real camera - maybe.
5 December 2011
The evil empire (that's anything non-apple) has copied apple's er... 'lead'.

Not in OZ, luckily - I hope the storm keeps it away - permanently!
24 December 2011
VirtualWorkforceAsia aims to bring together skilled and talented virtual workers from Asia, and employers from Australia and New Zealand, for the benefit of all parties.

Most virtual workers look to the USA and Canada for opportunities – often at great cost to their social and family life because they become night workers. Australia, and to a lesser extent, New Zealand are geographically AND chronologically Asian. This gives Asian virtual workers the option of working during their day so that they have time for family and friends!

Add to that the strength of the Australian economy – complete with a well documented skills shortage, and it is obvious that both workers and employers stand to gain by forging ties.
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