concluded its ‘Let’s talk iPhone’ event in Cupertino an hour ago and the first impressions of its “new” iPhone 4S are starting to set in.
On the whole early reviews were mixed at best. Of course, the tame Apple press flaunts the phone’s many virtues, but in reality it was an underwhelming launch, quite unfitting for Apple. Although the 4S has been the darling of the rumour mill for months, punters, fanboys and investors expected quite a bit more. Basically they expected the 4S to be just a footnote, while the headline grabber should have been the iPhone 5, which is proving as elusive as Gaddafi.
While the lack of a proper next generation iPhone is and should be a bit disappointing, in reality the 4S is everything we expected, no surprises here. It’s based on the A5 processor, which should deliver twice the CPU performance of the A4 and up to seven times more graphics performance. Apple promises the new processor and other components should also improve battery life, while the new antenna design improves reception, which was the Achilles heel of early iPhone 4 units. HSDPA speeds were also improved.
Apple is particularly proud of the new 8MP camera, although we can’t exactly figure out why. It features an entirely new five-element lens design and some clever features. On the upside, the camera app seems to be a lot faster this time around and now you can take image-stabilized 1080p video. The camera seems to be a nice effort, but that's about the only difference visible from the outside.
Small wonder then that Apple chose to focus on new software features rather than new hardware. The big news is iOS 5 and Siri, a clever personal assistant with advanced voice recognition and some neat features. Apart from some marginally useful gimmicks, Siri can also read text messages, perform web searches and take care of dictation, which comes in handy, but only if you have a data connection. Basically don’t use it abroad and don’t use it too often, as ordering your phone around could be seen as an invitation for men in white coats.
In terms of pricing, there are no surprises, either – $199, $299 and $399 for 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions respectively, with a two-year deal with the devil. As for the old iPhone 4, it will sell for $99, but with just 8GB of memory. The 8GB version is now the only iPhone 4 on offer in Apple Store and the price is still $549 contract free. Ouch. The 3GS 8GB is still on sale, free with a two-year contract or $375 unlocked.
Availability in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and major EU markets is slated for October 14, while smaller markets will get it two weeks later, October 28.
Also, investors seem to be hating the new phone. Apple stock shed about 5 percent minutes after launch, after picking up 1.5 percent earlier in the day. Or maybe it's just Nick unloading his shares.