Apple iPhone 4S: hands-on and first impressions

Last night’s unveiling of the iPhone 4S was a mixed affair. After all, weren’t we all hoping for something completely new and different? So the initial reaction was definitely one of disappointment.
But when we got to see the phone up close – it was a whole other story. The new phone may look almost identical to the current phone but it performs very differently.
The A5 chip gave the iPad 2 a massive increase in speed over the first tablet. Now it’s the phone’s turn to benefit from a speed bump. So apps launch instantly, games play beautifully: with greatly improved graphics and stunning effects. The preview of Infinity Blade 2 looked remarkable, using eye-candy designed for console games like Gears of War to show off the processor’s capabilities.
I tried a racing game, Real Racing, which was sparklingly high-definition, with butter-smooth movements and not a hint of the dreaded pop-up (where the distant landscape bursts jarringly into place) as I banked round corners. It didn’t help me drive any better, mind.
The camera is also a different beast, with extra features. Touch the screen where you want your subject to be and it automatically focuses on that, setting the exposure for that part of the image, too.
When you’ve finished shooting, the Photos app is similarly upgraded, offering one-touch improvements to rid the image of red-eye, for instance. There’s no doubt the camera could be a real killer app when people are looking to upgrade.
And Siri, the sophisticated voice-recognition program,exclusive to the new handset, is decidedly cool. Unlike some apps, you speak quickly and conversationally. Ask if you need an umbrella today and Siri understands you’re enquiring about the weather, getting you a local forecast and answering you that it looks like rain (so, yes, pack that brolly).
While never coming clean about the fiasco that was Antennagate – where the launch of the iPhone 4 was undermined by the discovery that the handset wasn’t reliably good at making and receiving calls – Apple at least explained that the new phone had a cunning new approach to make the antenna work twice as fast, twice as hard, so dropped calls should be a thing of the past. And data traffic should be faster, too matching speeds on some of the newest smartphones which claim to be 4G. That’s academic to us in the UK as 4G won’t arrive before 2013, though.
So, should you buy a new iPhone? If you’re a 3GS user, don’t hesitate. This takes the great design of the iPhone 4, fixes its one big fault (the antenna) and adds a heck of a speed increase to everything you do. It has an impressive camera and the Siri voice control feature is just great.
For iPhone 4 users, it’s a less obvious choice. This is definitely a better phone, but many of the improvements are software driven and you’ll get those on the iPhone 4, too.
We’ll bring you a full review as soon as possible.

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