The iPhone 4S: The Software

Unplggd Test Lab

Product: Apple iPhone 4S
Price: $199.99 - $399.99 (provider subsidized)
Rating: Highly Recommended*

When the iPhone 4S was first announced, it wasn't considered to be the ground shaking announcement that everyone expected. But after some time in the store, we now know that Apple has no problems selling these new iPhones, and they probably won't for the near future. A little over a week ago we showed you what makes the iPhone 4S hardware so different from previous models, but what about the software? Let's delve into the 2nd half of our review, detailing why the software really is the killer feature in the new iPhone 4S.

The iPhone 4S has the best of both worlds. Not only do you get all of the advantages of iOS 5 available to other iPhone owners, but you also get a few features unique to just the 4S. So what makes it so special and why would you want the iPhone 4S over the iPhone 4?

Siri: We've talked a lot about Siri here at Unplggd, from the comical nature of the application, to whether or not it actually works. But even though it's technically in beta mode right now, we can already see the mammoth potential and hope for the future.

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For the uninitiated, Siri is billed as a personal assistant inside of your iPhone, and right now it's quite useful. Ask Siri what appointments you have for the day, how to get to your friend's house or even search for the answers to math questions. And this is just the beginning of what it can do, just wait until it leaves beta and an API is published for app developers. It's being billed as a killer feature, and it's certainly pretty impressive. We love using it for everything from calling a friend to sending a text message — the dictation accuracy is really quite impressive.

Camera Software: The camera got a much needed improvement in the iPhone 4S, but the software for it did as well. Not only is it snappier and much quicker to open up, but it's also accessible from the lock screen, a nice addition from iOS 5.

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Because of the upgraded camera, you can also shoot video now in 1080P. A weird side effect of the upgrade is the way the image is shown on the screen. The picture above is a screenshot of the Camera app before taking a picture. The one below is a screenshot of the Camera app in video mode, held in the same location as the previous. Take this in mind if you're trying to frame up a video, you're going to have to step further back to get the same image in the screen. We had this problem recently and as a result we couldn't get the video we wanted, missing a valuable family moment in the process.

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Backup and More: Although this is an iOS 5 feature, the added benefits brought forth really deserve a mention. You can now backup your iPhone to iCloud (a free service for up to 5GB of storage, or you can pay for more), and also sync to your computer via Wi-Fi.

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What does this mean for you? No more USB cable for one, but it also means that you can sync your iPhone and use it all at the same time. Moving movies and songs used to be a process that locked up your phone, but now you can still use it as usual, which is a vast improvement. As for iCloud backup, it just makes sense. We've been guilty of not backing up our iPhones before, and doing it automatically means that we're covered from data loss.

So why buy the iPhone 4S over keeping your current model? Although you can get many of the cool software features of the iPhone 4S just by installing iOS 5, it's the combination of the operating system and the upgraded hardware that really make using one so pleasurable.

In the week or so that we've been using the iPhone 4S, we can say that it's world's ahead of the iPhone 4. At one point we picked up the older model to make a phone call (mistaking it for our own, unfortunately) and noticed the difference almost immediately. The iPhone 4 is slower, the animation isn't as smooth, and it just doesn't feel anywhere near as peppy. It's akin to using an iPhone 3G when you had a 3GS, and that's quite the jump.

If your contract is up and you need a new phone, this is definitely worth the upgrade. If you're an iPhone 4 owner, know that you'll know a difference as soon as you use it. We love our iPhone 4S, and we think you will too.

Be sure to check out the 1st half of our review of the iPhone 4S hardware here.

Our Ratings:
Strong Recommend*
Recommend
Weak Recommend
Don't Recommend

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This review unit was purchased and paid for by the reviewer.

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