Despite the initial disappointment that the iPhone 4S didn’t turn out to be the iPhone 5, the new smartphone from Apple is garnering praise from the media as a worthy successor to the iPhone 4 and must-have upgrade for those still using iPhone 3G and 3GS models.
And, as has been the case with nearly every iPhone and iPad release since 2007, eager buyers have been lining up at Apple Store locations around the world. Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak got in on the action, despite already having his own iPhone 4S which was delivered to his home.
Given this enthusiasm, it’s a good bet that inventory levels at Apple stores in Canada will be depleted quickly and buyers may not get the model they have their hearts set on.
But the good news with the iPhone 4S, when compared to the launch of previous models, is that Apple has made a point of supplying their partners with healthy stocks of the phone so that no one need go home empty-handed.
There’s no question that Apple stores remain the emotional favourite when it comes to buying iPhones – this time around much more so given Steve Jobs’ recent passing. But if you don’t live near an Apple store, or if their supplies have dwindled by the time you head out to buy, here are your alternatives:
- Bell World
- Virgin Mobile
- The Source
- Best Buy
- Future Shop
The good news for folks who recently bought an iPhone 4 and were dreading today’s announcement: you don’t need to feel foolish.
Today, Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team unveiled the iPhone 4s. It’s a phone that looks outwardly exactly like the iPhone 4 (see image above). All of the changes are on the inside.
Those changes are all incremental improvements to an already very successful formula. Improved are the CPU, the data speeds, the graphics performance and the camera. The phone also gets an innovative interactive voice-controlled assistant known simply as “Siri.”
But as welcome as these enhancements are, they are barely enough to keep the iPhone ahead of an increasingly competitive field of smartphones, most of which are running Google’s Android OS.
iPhone 4S announced:
- body remains the same as iPhone 4, gets A5 chip which gives 7x faster graphics performance, 2x faster CPU performance (Dual core processor/dual core graphics)
- it Supports HSDPA at up to 14Mbps downlink
- Supports GSM and CDMA – giving it world-roaming capabilities
- Gets an 8MP rear camera 3264×2448, with improved backside illumination. Photo lag has been reduced and sharpness increased thanks to a 5-element lens design. Macro settings for extreme close-ups. Face detection.
- Video recording at 1080p, with image stabilization
- AirPlay mirroring: anything you can see on the iPhone’s screen you’ll be able to see via AirPlay on an Apple TV
- Voice-activated personal assistant “Siri” – ask a real question, get a real answer. Deep integration into iOS, settings, maps, calendars, reminders. You can ask it to define a word and it will scour the web for the answer. It can do voice dictation, but only where data connectivity is available.
- New iPhone line-up: iPhone 3GS (8GB, free on contract) iPhone 4 (8GB, $99 on contract), iPhone 4S (16GB, $199 32GB, $299 64GB, $399 – all contract prices) N.B.: All prices in $USD
- Sprint added as a U.S. carrier
- The iPhone 4S will be available for pre-order October 7th and ship October 14th in U.S. and Canada and in 70 other countries by December. Bell, TELUS and Rogers are all confirming they will carry the iPhone 4S.
Of these features, the biggest reason to buy an iPhone 4S – especially if you still own an iPhone 3GS – is the camera. Phil Schiller, SVP of Product Marketing at Apple made it clear that with the iPhone 4S, Apple isn’t going after other camera-equipped phones, they’re targeting the point-and-shoot category of cameras. They seem to be on the right track.
The iPhone 4S has a remarkably better camera than the 4 – it now shoots 8MP stills with macro capability and full 1080p video with image stabilization. With these specs, the only thing the iPhone 4S can’t do is optical zoom.
People who spend a lot of time commuting in private cars, or folks who have trouble navigating their phones with their fingers, will appreciate Siri. From all accounts, the demo Schiller gave of Siri’s abilities was impressive. Siri can understand natural language questions and respond in kind. It also understands context, so certain activities will feel more intuitive. Finally, Siri can even act as your personal dictation servant, though this feature requires data connectivity and there’s no word yet on just how much of your data will be consumed when connected via
Frequent travelers will appreciate the fact that with CDMA on top of HSPA, the iPhone 4S can literally go anywhere and keep you connected.
But none of these features are going to cause current iPhone 4 owners to gaze mournfully at their phones and wish they had waited for Apple’s next product. They’re good. But they aren’t must-haves.
What Apple didn’t deliver were any next-generation features such as LTE, NFC or a larger display. Rumours of a thinner, wider body and re-designed home button failed to materialize.
What we see here is Apple once again mastering the art of the leap-frog. True-to-form, the iPhone 4S gives 3GS owners a strong incentive to upgrade. iPhone 4 owners can now sit back, relax and calmly tell themselves that they’ll wait for the “next one.”
The iPhone event, which took place at Apple’s headquarters at 4 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California also included updates on some of Apple’s other products, including some small tweaks to their iPod line of portable music players:
- OS X Lion update: six million copies sold to-date
- MacBook Pro and iMac are the best selling laptops and desktops in the U.S. respectively
- There are 60 million Mac users worldwide
- iPods are still 70% of the portable music market. Over 300 million have been sold
- 16 billion songs have been sold via iTunes
- iPhone ranks #1 in customer satisfaction according to JD Power but is only 5% of worldwide market share
- Every state in the U.S. has pilot programs for the iPad in educational settings
- 92% of Fortune 500 is testing or deploying iPads
- 3 out of 4 tablets sold in the U.S. are iPads
- With 250 Million iOS device, iOS is the #1 mobile OS worldwide
- 61% of mobile browsers are using iOS
- 1 billion apps are downloaded a month
- Apple has created a new app called “Cards” that let you create greeting cards on iOS and Apple prints them for you. App is free, each card costs $2.99 including trackable postage in the U.S.
- a re-cap of iOS 5 features
- iOS 5 will be a free update October 12th
- new feature: “Find my friends” – Like a highly customizable 4Square with better privacy controls
- iCloud launch October 12th – Free
- iPod nano gets an update: improved fitness features, navigation, 16 new clock faces, new pricing: $129/8GB
- iPod Touch now comes in white, $199/8GB
Though it seems a little odd that Apple has chosen the 4th day of a month to announce the 5th version of the iPhone, that’s what the gang at All Things D are reporting today. They feel very confident that this will be the date that newly-appointed CEO, Tim Cook, will take the stage and introduce the highly anticipated successor to the iPhone 4.
The report also suggests that the next Apple smartphone will be available at retail mere weeks after it makes its worldwide debut.
But this is by no means a sure thing. T-Mobile in the U.S. has already said that it is not going to offer it this year – a surprising statement given the cloak of secrecy that Apple usually enforces around all of their new products. Perhaps T-Mobile is right, insofar as AT&T is likely to be Apple’s chosen launch partner in the U.S., a relationship that dates back to the very first iPhone. T-Mobile might just have to wait their turn.
Of course, most of the speculation so far has been around which features will or won’t be a part of the next iPhone. We’ve pretty much heard it all. Every one of the following items has been tossed around as potential inclusions:
- LTE (the next iteration of 4G connectivity which both Bell and Rogers have recently launched in Canada)
- NFC (Near Field Communication) which is the technology behind Google Wallet and which has already been included in several other handsets including the newest BlackBerry and Google Nexus S phones.
- A5 processor – this one seems almost a given because it’s already at the heart of Apple’s iPad 2.
- 8 Megapixel rear-facing camera – I think this is a strong contender as Apple has made it clear they consider the iPhone’s camera to be a major feature. I would add to this that a dedicated camera shutter button on the iPhone 5 makes sense, given that the volume buttons are poorly positioned on the current iPhone 4 to act as shutter releases, even thought that is exactly what Apple is enabling in iOS 5.
- Larger display, thinner chassis – While it’s unlikely that Apple will re-tool the pixel ratio and resolution of their Retina Display, they might very well enlarge the dimensions of the screen itself. Most of the new “superphones” that have come to market this year are sporting displays in the 4″ range and it definitely gives these handsets an edge when it comes to readability and multimedia. A thinner chassis feels logical but I expect Apple to maintain the heft associated with the iPhone 4 – it’s one of the reasons the phone feels so solid in your hand.
But the other thing that some folks feel is a strong contender for October 4th’s announcements is a cheaper iPhone 4 – likely to be dubbed the iPhone 4s – that will be used to give Apple a more competitive product for emerging markets where price is a bigger barrier and where Apple has traditionally been outsold by RIM and other players.
We hope to find out more in the coming days so stay tuned!