The Neonpunch iPhone 4S Review

Wednesday 9 November 2011 9:30 am

The 4S is available on Friday – should you buy one?

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Open the pod bay doors Siri, the iPhone 4S is coming!

The latest and greatest iPhone from Apple is a mere 48 hours away from being made officially available in Hong Kong and we were able to get our hands on one so we could get one to give you our initial thoughts.

The biggest thing people say is that the 4S doesn’t look any different from the iPhone 4 – which is absolutely true; but who cares? The iPhone 4 design is pure, sleek sophistication, and should be enjoyed as long as possible – so while the physical similarities are minuscule everything “under the hood” is different and makes it a must buy for power iPhone users (i.e. anyone with more than 3 pages of apps).

If you are thinking of upgrading from iPhone 4 (older iPhone users MUST upgrade) the 3 key upgrades that will make you want to get a 4S are:

  1. Speed
  2. Camera
  3. Siri


Speed

If you’ve used an iPad 2 then you know how fast an iOS device can be, while the iPhone 4S chip is not as fast it’s still a dual-core A5 chip and that means everything zips around faster – if you’ve ever waited 10 seconds for an app to open (yes, we know) especially system apps – then you will see a massive upswing in response time especially when opening things like the built-in camera.

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As power users ourselves who rotate between social networking apps like Twitter, Facebook and Sina Weibo as well as having our iTunes playing and camera being fired up while having push notifications on our email and playing graphic-heavy games like Infinity Blade the bump in speed is a godsend and its noticeable if you are used to a 4 or anything lower.

Your reaction to the 4S speed performance if you are on a 3GS or lower will no doubt shock you. It’s a definite recommended upgrade if you are using anything under an iPhone 4 – if you are not a power user then the speed difference might not affect you as much since the 4 is still fast and efficient.

Camera

OMG! When Apple announced the 4S had an 8 megapixel camera our eyes glazed over…

BUT, but, but…

This is Apple, and they never just do anything for the sake of doing it. So, yes its 8 megapixels – but there is something better about the lens glass inside the phone as the photos come out stunning. We compared them with our Panasonic Lumix camera which is not DSLR but its not point-and-shoot either and the results were comparable.

Of course the Lumix has more settings and lens options because its primary function is taking photos – but the iPhone 4S camera is in another universe when compared to all the iOS device cameras. The 4S camera is so good you might not buy another P-N-S ever again.

Thanks Apple, you just put another industry out to pasture.

So, get ready to see a huge improvement in the still photos you take – and will still look great if you run them through photo filters in apps like Instagram or Camera+, and the 1080p video camera also takes away the use of those point-and-shoot video cameras as wel. Sure, most people don’t need 1080p video right now when they post to Facebook but when you want to show that vacation video to your friends on your giant HD TV…then you’ll be blown away!

Siri

You’ve all seen the videos of Siri and we’re here to tell you it works just like you see – we wouldn’t expect any less from Apple! You speak a command and Siri (a female in American English or dudes in British and Australian English) schedules meetings, writes text messages and answers philosophical questions for you in seconds.

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So the big sticking point is that a lot of the location-based functions of Siri don’t work in Hong Kong. Once of the biggest things we wanted to do was use Siri to locate the closest Starbucks to us or the nearest Dim Sum restaurant – oops, because we don’t have Yelp in Hong Kong (which is what is integrated into Siri in the US) Siri cannot find these things for you.

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All Siri can do in Hong Kong are the basics – which are still pretty impressive – like “Siri, reminder – call mom tomorrow at 10am” and like that its in your Reminders app and your iPhone will beep you at 10am – and not only one on your iPhone 4S but it will also show up on any other iOS5 devices you have using the same user account like your iPad.

Yes, we’re all getting lazier, but it’s a great tool.

OK, so what is the downside? This will be a huge debate once it propagates into the Hong Kong market – most likely if you do not have a clear North American English accent Siri will not understand you the first time around. We tried our 4S with some friends with a Hong Kong English accent and this gave Siri a bit of a runaround. Even certain British accents too, get misinterpreted.

The cool thing is that Siri learns – every voice command you send goes back to Apple’s servers to define accents, speech patterns and even context so that Siri can get smarter. So while we’ve had no problems (outside of loud Yum Cha restaurants) Siri may not work 100% for you just yet; and it definitely does not support Cantonese or Mandarin just yet.

But when in our office – it’s just so easy to hold the home button, and tell Siri to book lunch appointments for us than to launch iCal. All the “open the pod bay doors” questions Siri answers is just added fun – and apparently the public has yet to find them all yet.

4 vs 4S Face-Off

Being in Hong Kong and China, having an iPhone is a status symbol, and while Apple doesn’t really care about that – we know it’s an issue here and also why there was a lot of disappointment when the iPhone 4S was announced a month ago with no visible difference.

And to be honest, there really isn’t anyway to tell the 4S is a 4S apart unless you look at the top of the phone to see that the antenna lines have moved around. The back of the phone doesn’t even say 4S. So if you’re looking for some cosmetic change to show-off at your next poker game; you ain’t going to find it in the 4S – but what you do with it, will improve greatly over any past generation iPhone.

Another sticking point – some iPhone 4 cases will NOT fit on the 4S. The sound control buttons on the left side have moved DOWN a bit thus making SOME cases not fit properly – but we’re guessing that means it’s a good time to buy a new case since Hong Kong will no doubt have millions of new ones next week to choose from.

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Also we must make a note of the battery life – which is terrible, probably the worst battery life we’ve ever seen on any iOS device. Apple has admitted there is a problem and have already released a patch to developers to fix it, so we’re happy that its a software fix and not a hardware glitch. But again this is a major problem across all smartphones and again only impacts you if you are a heavy user of web services which again you probably are since you are using an iPhone. So look to buy an external battery pack or recharging case when you get your iPhone 4S as it will always come in handy

iPhone 4S Round-Up

So, to summarize if you are a heavy iPhone user and do everything on it like we do, then the iPhone 4S is a must buy – the speed, the camera and Siri are all worth the upgrade. If you just use it for making calls and checking email then probably not – but then again, why are you using an iPhone anyways?

With the recent released iOS5 you get so many new features that you it already makes you feel like you have a new phone, but we’re guessing throughout the year Apple’s upgrades will make the extra punch of the 4S invaluable to playing those graphic heavy games and multi-tasking even better.

The iPhone 4S goes on sale on Friday, November 11 in Hong Kong. 

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