These are my impressions so far of the iPhone 4S . I’ll be writing a separate post about my impressions of iOS5.
Back to the title. So what does the S in iPhone 4S stand for?
S is for Speed – Well, there’s a faster processor and the camera is faster to take photos but it doesn’t feel blazingly faster than the iPhone 4. Those upgrading from older devices will definitely notice a difference though. Also, if you get a 4S on At&t (see more below), you’ll see faster data speeds, but not on any other carrier.
S is for Sucky Battery Life - for some minority of users (myself unfortunately included), it
seems that there’s some software bug causing sub-optimal battery life. Apple has announced that they’ll be putting out a new release in a few weeks to fix these bugs. It seems to be specifically due to something that happens when restoring from an older back-up. I am hopeful that a software fix/patch will fix this in the next few weeks. In the meantime I’ve changed a lot of settings to manage for now. This doesn’t seem to be affecting most people.
S is for Siri (not for Speech)- Aside from the aforementioned relatively minor performance gains, the main difference the iPhone 4S brings is Siri. Siri is a personal assistant that was developed by a company of the same name acquired by Apple. Conjecture is that Siri requires a lot of processor power and hence only (for now) works on the iPhone 4S. Contrary to popular understanding, what makes Siri remarkable is not speech recognition. Siri uses the same state-of-the-art speech recognition (from Nuance) that most companies use these days. What makes Siri unique is its artificial intelligence. Siri understands natural language commands and questions. This is what’s remarkable, you can speak to it like you would a real person and it understands what you mean an astounding percentage of the time. To clarify what I mean, speech recognition simply translates what you say to text. Natural Language Processing actually interprets that text to try to figure out what you mean based on context, idioms and more.
Siri’s utility is limited to a few specific apps for now (mail, weather , stocks, SMS, Yelp, Wolfram Alpha, send a search to Safari) but I’m sure it will get opened up to other apps soon. It’s quite an amazing demonstration of technology but I’m not sure it will become part of my daily or weekly use of the phone just yet. I’m still not used to using voice to interact with my devices. The transcription is pretty great though for writing quick text messages or emails, particularly for the car.
S is for Service - this is really what it means just for me, as this is why I bought the phone. I switched from At&t to Verizon and the difference in service is nothing short of astounding. I can make calls anywhere and they don’t get dropped. I get data access in parts of NYC where I never would have tried with the iPhone4. Unfortunately Verizon has their own issues, namely poor customer service, high prices and like all carriers, hidden fees and complex plans. The availability of the 4S on Sprint gives another option for those eager for a working device in NY or SF. On that note, for those folks, S is for Sprint.
S is for Steve Jobs – A lot of folks made this connection. The unfortunate timing of the device’s launch before Steve’s passing will connect it for many people to Steve (even if it’s not the quintessential representation of the stuff he built or even a device he personally worked on very much). I am late to the game to write about Steve so I will just reiterate that he was a truly rare individual that disrupted so many different industries: technology, computing, telephony, music, film and retail. We need heroes in our cynical era and Steve was a hero, despite many flaws.
What do you think it stands for? Do you have one, like it?