Fourteen months — that’s how long it’s been since Apple released the iPhone 4. That phone touted a 3.5” (640×960) “Retina” display, speedy A4 processor, a problem-prone external antenna, a 5MP camera, and has been a huge success for the company. Sales of the iPhone 4 account for over half of all iPhone models sold since 2007.
Since the iPhone 4’s introduction, however, the Android competition has grown even more fierce and now command 56 percent of the U.S. smartphone market. Apple needs another hit to keep its smartphone momentum (and cash) flowing, so the company today announced the iPhone 4S.
I. The “new” iPhone 4S
Judging from its exterior appearance, not much seems changed from the iPhone 4 we’ve all come to know since June 2010 (April 2010 if you count the Gizmodo leak). In fact, the design looks nearly identical to the CDMA iPhone 4 with its improved antenna design that debuted on Verizon’s network earlier this year.
On the inside, however, things have changed for the better. Instead of the single-core A4 processor, the iPhone 4S is now packing a scaled down version of the dual-core A5 processor that initially debuted on the iPad 2. Apple claims that the processor is twice as fast and the updated graphics core in the new iPhone 4S allows it to be up to 7 times faster than the iPhone 4.
When it comes to battery life, Apple claims up to 8 hours of 3G talk times, 14 hours of 2G talk time, 6 hours of 3G browsing, and 9 hours of Wi-Fi browsing with the iPhone 4S.
The iPhone 4S now also a fully functional dual-mode “world” phone that can operate on CDMA and GSM networks (the iPhone 4S supports the “4G-esque” HSDPA standard; 14.4Mbps down). IFixit initially pointed out in early February that the Verizon iPhone 4 contained a dual-mode CDMA/GSM chip that supports HSDPA, but that functionality was disabled.
An important note — this iPhone does not have HSPA+. HSPA+ (aka. “evolved HSPA”) requires a fast downlink and a fast uplink. The new iPhone has a high-speed downlink, but a traditional 3G speed uplink.
The iPhone 4S has an 8MP (3264×2448) camera with backside illumination to allow for 73 percent more light. It also includes what Apple calls a Hybrid IR filter and a five-element lens. In addition, the iPhone 4S is capable of recording video in 1080p and includes video image stabilization.
Also new with the iPhone 4S is an “assistant” called Siri. Siri allows you to speak to your iPhone using normal speech patterns and receive a response. For example, “What is the weather like today” will give you a readout of the forecast for your current location. You could also say “Set alarm for 8am” and Siri will automatically fulfill your request. Or saying “Find me an Italian restaurant in New York City” will provide you with a listing of restaurants in that area, and so forth. Siri will you to do anything from setting calendar event to respond to text messages. It can even read back message text for you (or compose it if you wish, like in an email for example).
Siri functionality is featured in most of Apple’s built-in apps for iOS.
Of course, with each new iPhone release comes a new version of iOS, and this year is no exception. The iPhone 4S comes pre-loaded with iOS 5 (which we have discussed in detail here). IOS 5 brings a host of improvements to the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad/iPad 2 including a revamped notification system, wireless updates, system-wide Twitter integration, updates to Mail and Safari, iMessage, and iCloud.
IOS 5 and iCloud will be available to download on October 12. The iPhone 4 will be available on October 14 for $199 (16GB), $299, (32GB), and $399 (64GB) with a two-year contract. Pre-orders start October 7.
Also, as has been widely reported, Sprint is now jumping on the iPhone bandwagon. The third-place U.S. wireless carrier will get its own version of the iPhone 4S that operates on a 3G network instead of WiMAX. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has made it clear that its loss of subscribers (and hence revenue) can be partially attributed to not having the iPhone on its network. That excuse won’t fly anymore, however, so we’ll be eager to see how many new customers Sprint picks up when it reports its earnings for the quarter.
II. New iPods are also on the way
The iPod nano has been updated to include swipe functionality to navigate between apps and 16 new clock faces (for those that are “hip” to turning your iPod nano into a watch). The new nano is priced at $129 for the 8GB model and $149 for the 16GB model.
Apple hasn’t updated the hardware for the iPod touch, but it did announce that it would now be available in white with price points of $199, $299, and $399 for 8GB, 32GB, and 64GB of storage respectively.
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