First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S

Old bottle, new wine.

Rating 4 /5
14th Jan 2013
First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S
Fluid UI; Impressive camera; Spectacular display; Great audio quality; Superb battery; Excellent for gaming; Rich App Store.
Ridiculously expensive; iTunes dependability; Limited codec support; Siri is not practical; No FM Radio; No file sharing over Bluetooth; No mass storage mode.

Apple iPhone 4S 16 GB
MRP: Rs 44,500

UPDATE: The video review of the iPhone 4S is now available here. Additionally, check out how Siri reacts to the Indian accent in this demonstration video.

The 4S isn't the iPhone 5 that everyone has been waiting for. However, it's still a significant upgrade over its predecessor. Additionally, going by the ads, Siri seems very impressive. Apple is known for charging a premium for its products, and this one is no exception. Let's find out whether this phone impresses enough to make you overlook its price.

Design And Build Quality
The retail package comes with the phone, USB cable, charger, earphones, and Apple stickers. The 4S looks exactly like the iPhone 4, and weighs the same as well. Despite the lack of innovation in design, it's still one of the best-looking phones in the market.


First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S

First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S

Although the exterior remains unchanged, the new phone has received some serious upgrades under the hood. What lies beneath is a powerful A5 chip, which houses a 1 GHz dual-core CPU and PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU. Other specs include 512 MB of RAM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, an 8 MP camera, 3.5 mm jack, and a 1430 mAh battery.

The 3.5" display of the iPhone also hasn't changed a bit. It has pixel dimensions of 640x960, which is still brilliant. The glass is scratch-resistant, but at this price Apple should have thrown in Gorilla Glass.

This feature, which lets you control the phone through voice commands, made a lot of noise during the launch event. In Apple's ads, you can see it working perfectly, and that might even be true in the US. However, it's a different story altogether in India, with Siri unable to work well with our accent. For example, it often confuses the word "Cancel" with "Grandson". It also can't find places or pinpoint your location by saying "Where am I?". What's worse is that even basic commands such as "Send a message" or "Dial a number" don't work without an internet connection. Therefore, manually performing actions is still way faster than asking Siri to do them for you. On the bright side, the feature can be fun if you ask weird questions. In effect, consider Siri as a form of entertainment, rather than a killer app.


First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S
As expected, Siri is very loyal to Apple. Note: These are actual responses.

UI And Applications
Aesthetically, the iOS hasn't changed much in its fifth iteration. However, it's the most flexible and useful version of the platform yet. Other than Siri, the most notable addition is the Notification Centre, which is a blatant copy of Android's notification bar.

There's also an option to replace the usual pop-up alerts with banner-like notifications, as seen on the WP7 platform. This is a welcome change, as pop-ups appearing in the centre of the screen can get quite annoying.


First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S
The Notification Centre can be seen on the right.


The phone also has dictionary support implemented throughout the UI. This means you can select a word in any native app and choose to see its definition. Moreover, dictation support has also been integrated, and it does the typing for you - provided you speak slowly and clearly into the mic. Apple has also been generous enough to offer 5 GB of free storage in iCloud, a service that's somewhat similar to Dropbox.

In the web department, Safari still doesn't support Flash, and probably never will. On the bright side, the browser is blazing fast, and handles multiple tabs without any problems. The speed of Airtel's 3G connection for browsing and other internet applications was pretty decent, ranging between 50-60 KBps at its best. The 4S from Airtel is not locked to its network, giving you the freedom of choosing the best plan for you.


First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S

Airtel's page displaying the tariffs for its 3G services.

The Maps app still uses Google Maps for navigation. It's good enough for finding locations, but not fit for navigation. Since Google also has its own mobile platform, it has stopped showing love towards iOS by not updating its voice-guided navigation feature. Makes me wonder why Apple still hasn't revealed plans for its own sat-nav solution.

Thanks to the A5 chip, the iPhone can now challenge any Android when it comes to gaming. It ran Real Racing 2 without any lag or slowdowns. Those who love playing games will be delighted to see the huge number of high-end titles available in the App Store.


First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S

Real Racing 2 looks stunning on the iPhone 4S.


The music player has the good old Cover Flow interface, and as expected, the device's sound quality is great. On the flipside, Apple has continued with its tradition of shipping mediocre earphones. Another little annoyance is that the equaliser settings are located in Settings > Music > EQ, which is stupid.
Thanks to the dual-core CPU, the gadget can now play 1080p MP4 videos without any problem. Unfortunately, DivX and XviD clips are still a no-go. Once again, the dependability on iTunes and the lack of a mass storage mode continues to be a pain.

First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S

The device's camera is one of the best 8 megapixel modules I've seen in any mobile phone. The snaps look sharp and crisp. Moreover, it captures natural colours and a good amount of detail. Apple has claimed the iPhone's camera is the fastest, and after testing, I'm convinced it's true. However, it's still no N8 when it comes to image quality.


First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S

Camera sample.

The device is also capable of 1080p video recording at 30 fps, in the MOV format. The video quality is superb, with a great level of detail, but the mono audio recording is a downer.

Video sample.


Telephony And Messaging
Unlike the iPhone 4, the latest iteration hasn't got any nasty surprises such as the infamous death grip. Apple seems to have worked pretty hard in repositioning the internal antennae, and the great signal reception is evident of that.

The messaging app now supports iMessage, which lets you send messages to other Apple devices over a Wi-Fi internet connection. Moreover, the dictation feature lets you reply to messages and emails without having to type. As usual, the portrait and landscape keyboards are well-designed and pretty accurate.


First On TechTree: Review: Apple iPhone 4S

The Mail app hasn't changed much.

Battery And VerdictDespite the CPU upgrade, the 1430 mAh battery's performance is extremely good. With a 1080p video playing on an indefinite loop, the battery managed to keep the device powered for 9 hours.

The 4S is ridiculously expensive, but still it's a great phone. Whether or not it's a good upgrade for current iPhone 4 users is a tricky question though. The device looks exactly like the previous generation, which is a turn-off. Siri is a broken promise, and the goodness of iOS 5 has also come to the iPhone 4. On the other hand, the new gizmo is blazing fast, and has a better camera.

This leads to the following conclusion: if you're using an iPhone 3GS or older models, the 4S is a great upgrade. However, if you already own an iPhone 4, buy it only if you fancy a great camera and also want to play the latest games.

Design And Build Quality: 4/5
Features: 4/5
Performance: 4.5/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Mojo: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4/5

Test unit provided by Airtel.


TAGS: Mobile Phones, Apple, iOS, iPhone, ck

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