Apple announced on Tuesday a new version of its popular iPhone product line, including several key updates to the processor and camera. One of the biggest updates came in the form of a piece of software known as Siri, an artificial intelligence that acts as a kind of virtual assistant. Speculation was widespread among members of the tech community that the iPhone 5 was going to have a multitude of features including everything from a different shape to a built-in projector. The actual updates Apple announced were much less extraordinary, but still significant enough to tempt current iPhone 4 users to make the upgrade.
For starters, the single core A4 processor has been replaced by a dual core A5 chip. Apple states that this update will improve graphics performance by up to seven times, splitting graphics processing between two faster cores. This is the same A5 chip included with the iPad 2.
Users of the iPhone 4 and 4S will both share a larger selection of carriers including AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. Both models will also include black and white color options in addition to almost identical form factors. As far as measurements are concerned, the only difference between the two models is that the 4S is one ounce (three grams) heavier. Both devices will also have FaceTime enabled over Wi-Fi only.
Where the iPhone 4S really appears to have an advantage is through a built-in artificial intelligence assistant known as Siri. Siri is a voice-recognition program that interprets commands and relays data without the user even needing to see their phone’s screen. Using Siri, an iPhone 4S owner can schedule appointments, send text messages, set reminders, ask for weather and event information, look up information from Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha, and more by using voice commands alone. Siri will even read your messages to you, preventing potentially dangerous road conditions by eliminating the need to see and interact with the phone in order to send and receive text messages.
Another big update comes in the form of an updated camera. An eight megapixel sensor replaces the five megapixel chip found in the iPhone 4. This ups image resolution to 3264 x 2448, which translates to roughly 60% more pixels. Both cameras include autofocus, tap to focus, LED flash, and a front camera with VGA resolution capabilities. The backside illumination sensor has been improved in the iPhone 4S, allowing for more light in the image. A fifth element lens has also been added, making images sharper and more defined.
1080p video with real-time image stabilization and temporal noise reduction has also been announced for the iPhone 4S. Currently, the iPhone 4 is only capable of 720p video with no real stabilization capability. Both of these phones record in their native video formats at 30 fps.
In reference to the new camera hardware, Chris Pirillo posted this statement on Google+:
“Like MOST people, I have been using my iPhone to shoot photos and videos. The optics upgrades (alone) are compelling. I’m hopeful that the 4S will produce fewer blurry still shots, though the 1080p stabilized video is also promising. The boost in processor speed over the 4 is, to me, just a bonus. Better yet? I don’t need to wait for form-fitting accessories to be released to outfit the 4S.”
The display hasn’t changed at all. The iPhone 4 and 4S both feature a 960-by-640 resolution retina display with 326 ppi and multi-touch capabilities. In comparison to the iPhone 3GS, that’s double the ppi and resolution across the same surface area.
It appears that instead of having separate models for GSM and CDMA, both technologies are included in a single device. Intelligent switching enables the phone to switch between antennas, automatically. Both devices feature Wi-Fi across 802.11b/g/n.
3G speeds are said to have improved dramatically on the 4S, giving users up to 14.4 Mbits of download bandwidth across existing 3G networks. That’s up from a previous theoretical bandwidth limit of 7.2 Mbits down.
One of the most overlooked differences between the two devices comes in the form of Bluetooth. The iPhone 4 is built to the Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR standard while the iPhone 4S is made to work with Bluetooth 4.0. Bluetooth 4.0 can send and receive data using practically no energy, making it a significantly more energy-efficient method of wireless data transmission. While it is a different technology than the wireless transmission features used for in-shoe runner tracking, the principal behind their communication standards are very similar. In essence, your iPhone 4S could communicate with a multitude of different low-power devices Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR simply isn’t able to.
Battery life has improved in the iPhone 4S, giving users eight hours of talk time compared to the iPhone 4’s seven. The iPhone 4S does have 100 hours less standby time, likely resulting from the always-on Siri.
Prices for the new iPhone 4S range from US$199 for a 16 GB model to $399 for 64 GB. The iPhone 4 has been reduced in price to US$99 for its 8 GB model. Also of note, the iPhone 3GS is now free with a two-year contract. The iPhone 4S will ship on October 14, 2011.