Despite the omission, it's a fun and useful feature that we imagine many people will like. The challenge for Apple will be to fully integrate hands-free technology. You will be able to activate Siri with a Bluetooth headset (no word on if you can do it with a wired headset), but we understand that car integration is "coming." Given the abundance of hands-free driving laws, Apple will need to make Siri fully accessible to drivers while they keep both hands on the wheel. Siri will be in beta mode when it launches and will support English, French, and German. More languages will come later.
The iPhone 4's 5-megapixel camera was already great, but it's about to get better. The iPhone 4S has an 8-megapixel camera with autofocus, flash, f/2.4 aperture lens, and a backside-illuminated CMOS sensor that allows 73 percent more light than the previous sensor and should deliver better low-light performance. A hybrid IR filter is also onboard for better color accuracy. Apple also claims the new camera performs 33 percent faster than the iPhone 4's camera, and the A5 processor has a built-in image processor that adds face detection and 26 percent better auto white balance.
We tried a few indoor shots with the camera and definitely noticed a change from the iPhone 4. In addition to the sharper details, most colors were brighter. We'll have to save our final opinion until we can gauge the camera under several conditions (a sunny day, with a flash, and so on), but we like what we see so far.
Videos also get a boost with the ability to shoot 1080p HD video clips at 30 frames per second and with video stabilization. Yet, even with all the improvements, CNET digital imaging editor Lori Grunin is quick to note that while the iPhone might have a killer camera, it's no camera killer.
Though it received very little attention during Apple's presentation, the addition of Sprint is one of the day's high points. Over the past few weeks, it was pretty obvious the iPhone family would expand, but that doesn't take away from the fact that millions of new people can now join the iOS family without switching carriers. What's more, Sprint is promising that it will keep its unlimited data plans, at least for now. That alone is a big point in the carrier's favor over AT&T and Verizon Wireless. On the other hand, we'll have to see just how the increase in data-hungry users will test Sprint's network and how the carrier's strong Android lineup will withstand the new competition.
Once we get iPhone 4 review devices we'll do a close comparison of how the Sprint models stack up against the AT&T and Verizon versions in both data speed and call quality. But at the very least, we're always glad to see more customer choice.
As widely reported, the iPhone 4S is a dual-band world phone, meaning it supports both GSM and CDMA. This is more significant for Verizon and Sprint customers, as it will allow them to use the iPhone even if they travel overseas. What's yet to be determined is whether the carriers will unlock the preloaded SIM card, so users can swap it out for a prepaid international SIM card at their destination. We also don't know if the CDMA models will offer simultaneous voice and data over the CDMA network. At present, that's a significant limitation of the Verizon iPhone 4.
Meanwhile, for GSM customers, the iPhone 4S now supports HSPA+ 14.4, so the smartphone is capable of reaching theoretical download speeds of 14.4Mbps down, 5.8Mbps up. It's certainly an improvement over the current model, but disappointing that there's no compatibility with the faster HSPA+ 21Mbps networks.
Of course, the lack of "real" 4G support for LTE on Verizon or WiMax on Sprint is troubling. Apple has its reasons, no doubt. Battery life remains an issue for high-speed phones and Apple must have decided that, at this point, it couldn't offer its optimal customer experience on a 4G handset (remember that customer experience is really what Apple is all about). Secondly, Apple never jumps on a technology that is still growing, and it must think that 4G doesn't cover enough people quite yet.
As we noted earlier, the iPhone 4S' design is nearly identical to the iPhone 4's. Aside from being 0.1 ounce heavier, the iPhone 4S is exactly the same size as its predecessor. It also features the same 3.5-inch, 960x640-pixel Retina Display with a glass back and front.
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