Review roundup: Siri makes Apple's iPhone 4S a worthwhile upgrade

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
With the iPhone 4S set to launch on Friday, publications have been given an early look at Apple's next handset, and found that while it has a familiar look on the outside, its new camera and Siri technology found inside are impressive additions.



The iPhone 4S will be available in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., France, Germany and Japan. It starts at $199 with a two-year contract for the 16GB model, and is available in capacities up to 64GB.



Reviewers said that while the iPhone 4S may lack the "wow" factor that comes with a completely redesigned handset, the latest iPhone still manages to impress by packing Siri and an 8-megapixel camera into a phone the same size as the iPhone 4.



The Wall Street Journal



Walt Mossberg declared Siri the "standout feature" of the iPhone 4S, but felt that Siri isn't enough to make the iPhone 4S "a dramatic game-changer like some previous iPhones."



"My advice is that owners of the iPhone 4 needn't rush to upgrade; they can get the new operating system," he wrote. "But owners of older iPhone models, or those with basic phones, will find this latest iPhone a pleasure and a good value."



Siri is "not perfect," Mossberg felt, but still "quite impressive." He said the system was accurate about 80 percent of the time, while the other 20 percent he had to try twice to get all of the words correct.



"But, in most cases, Siri didn't make more errors than I do typing on a virtual keyboard," he wrote.







Mossberg tested the AT&T version of the iPhone 4S, which he said average download speeds of nearly 7 megabits per second in three different locations in the Washington suburbs. A colleague's test of the iPhone 4S on Verizon found download speeds of less than 1 megabit per second.



He said despite Apple's claims of an improved antenna his AT&T model "dropped too many calls," while the colleague with the Verizon iPhone 4S experienced no dropped calls.



Mossberg praised the camera, stating it takes "the best pictures and high-definition videos I have seen on a phone." He said the pictures were of high quality, and the camera is much faster in taking the first shot and subsequent pictures.



While it's a "less dramatic" update, Mossberg believes that those buying the iPhone 4S will "likely be happy with it."



The New York Times



David Pogue singled out what he said are the "only four new things" of the iPhone 4S: the A5 processor, the 8-megapixel camera, the fact that the iPhone 4S is a world phone, and Siri voice recognition.



Pogue had praise for Siri, noting that it can be "mind-blowing" with inexact utterances and its ability to form a conversation. He called the range of tasks possible with Siri "incredible."



But, he cautioned, the system is not as smart as computers seen in science-fiction like "Star Trek." He expressed disappointment that Siri couldn't tell him how many minutes he has left with AT&T, or how to get ketchup stains out.



"And it's surprising that she doesn't interact with more of the built-in apps," he said. "It would be great if you could open an app by voice ('Open Angry Birds') instead of hunting through 11 screens, or turn on Airplane Mode by voice, or display a certain set of photos."







Still, Pogue said he has already found Siri to be a time saver, and Apple has even promised that the software will get better in the future as it learns the user's voice and Apple adds functionality.



He said other parts of iOS 5, which is also available for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS, play "catch-up" with Android, like the new Notification Center or the ability to access the camera application from the lock screen.



"Android phones seem to come out every Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. Apple updates iOS and the iPhone only once a year," he said. "So Apple had a lot of catching up to do, even some leapfrogging.



"There are some rough spots here and there; for example, every now and then the 4S's camera app gets stuck on its startup screen. And while the battery still gets you through one full day, standby time is shorter than before (200 hours versus 300). But over all, Apple has done an excellent job."



USA Today



Edward Baig said the iPhone 4S takes the Apple's best-selling smartphone to "even loftier heights," but it does not mean that everyone who owns an iPhone should upgrade immediately."



He noted that many enhancements will arrive for existing iPhone users with iOS 5, a free software upgrade packing more than 200 new features.



Baig managed to get 4-megabit-per-second download speeds with the iPhone 4S, which he said was "decent" but not as fast as some 4G phones he tested. He also said call quality was "quite good," and he didn't experience dropped calls.



As for the camera in the iPhone 4S, he said it "matches, if not exceeds, many decent point-and-shoots."







Baig called Siri the "neatest feature" of the iPhone 4S, praising the broad ability of the software to accomplish a number of tasks simply by voice.



Even in beta, Baig said Siri is "pretty darn cool," despite having a few "blemishes."



He listed the pros of the iPhone 4S as Siri, a good camera, iOS 5, iCloud, the broad selection of the App Store, the new A5 chip, and the fact that it's a world phone. As for negatives, Baig singled out that there is no LTE version, and noted he encountered a glitch with Photo Stream where pictures taken didn't appear on all of his devices immediately.



Other takes



In addition to the mainstream media, a number of other publications have reviews ahead of Friday's launch of the iPhone 4S. They, too, came away with mostly positive impressions of Apple's handset.



Check out reviews from Jim Dalrymple at The Loop, Jason Snell at Macworld, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, Brian X. Chen at Wired, MG Siegler at TechCrunch, and Joshua Topolsky of This is my next.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    irelandireland Posts: 17,125member
    Walt should test Siri himself in this video. Testing it is better than talking about it; It would probably work very well. But I can see why he wouldn't, because he cares more about making Apple look good to get great access for future products than potentially having the thing fail on camera (which it probably wouldn't do). Although now that Steve is dead and gone he might be a little more brave in the future - just like those Infinity Blade guys shouting the release date of that app from stage-left. They wouldn't have dared doing that with Steve there. Steve was a true visionary, a genius and remarkable many with many talents, but he could also be temperamental, childish, pig-ignorant and cruel and you just know he would have punished those guys for doing that - somehow!



    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Gsky67O5NY
  • Reply 2 of 57
    Has everyone forgotten about this already, all these reviews and not one mention of the grip issue? Does the 4S lose signal by gripping without a bumper or not?
  • Reply 3 of 57
    svnippsvnipp Posts: 430member
    All these reviewers say pretty much what I've been saying for a while now. This is going to be a great upgrade for anyone who doesn't have an iPhone 4 already. If you've got an iPhone 4 now, I would recommend hanging on to it until the 5 appears next year.



    It will be very cool to see the enhancements made to Siri. iOS updates are going to be more interesting now as I'm guessing that many of the incremental updates will tie in more and more apps to Siri.
  • Reply 4 of 57
    64mb option should be in their lists



    The 4S's 64mb storage capacity option should definitely be included in the list of noteable improvements over the iPhone 4. I've found 32mb a bit cramped lately, so this capacity bump figures in on the '+' side of 'upgrade or not' for 4 owners.
  • Reply 5 of 57
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ericlmercer View Post


    The 4S's 64mb storage capacity option should definitely be included in the list of noteable improvements over the iPhone 4. I've found 32mb a bit cramped lately, so this capacity bump figures in on the + side upgrade or not for 4 owners.



    Be glad it is GB and not MB, which you probably mean with "mb".
  • Reply 6 of 57
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by techguy911 View Post


    Has everyone forgotten about this already, all these reviews and not one mention of the grip issue? Does the 4S lose signal by gripping without a bumper or not?



    Oh get over it troll.



    15 months with a naked iPhone 4 and no issues.
  • Reply 7 of 57
    irelandireland Posts: 17,125member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by techguy911 View Post


    Has everyone forgotten about this already, all these reviews and not one mention of the grip issue? Does the 4S lose signal by gripping without a bumper or not?



    Good question. I do know that the death grip hasn't affected me on an iPhone 4. I think the death grip has probably more to do with "crowding" the phone than anything else.
  • Reply 8 of 57
    irelandireland Posts: 17,125member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Flash_beezy View Post


    Oh get over it troll.



    Don't call him a troll for saying that. It's a legitimate thing to say. Don't be influenced by that sometimes-a-RIGHT-BASTARD Gruber.
  • Reply 9 of 57
    irelandireland Posts: 17,125member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Check out reviews from Jim Dalrymple at The Loop, Jason Snell at Macworld, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, Brian X. Chen at Wired, MG Siegler at TechCrunch, and Joshua Topolsky of This is my next.



    Joshua Topolsky always does the best reviews.
  • Reply 10 of 57
    walshbjwalshbj Posts: 864member
    Does it matter if you mail and calendar are iCloud or Google when it comes to Siri setting appointments and whatnot?



    Can't find that answer anywhere.
  • Reply 11 of 57
    irelandireland Posts: 17,125member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by walshbj View Post


    Does it matter if you mail and calendar are iCloud or Google when it comes to Siri setting appointments and whatnot?



    Can't find that answer anywhere.



    I think on the Apple site it says something about Reminders being able to sync to Google. Scrap that, my mistake, it actually says Outlook.
  • Reply 12 of 57
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Flash_beezy View Post


    Oh get over it troll.



    15 months with a naked iPhone 4 and no issues.



    Ok, that's great for you. It would have been nice to see the early reviewers confirm that the issue is 100% gone in this new phone.
  • Reply 13 of 57
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,276member
    Siri is a paradigm shift in the time line of personal computers. A major one. While many Android fans are saying they have had this for a long time they simply haven't begun the realize that they call voice recognition compared to Siri is like comparing Microsoft DOS to OS X. I wonder how much of the new Apple facility is dedicated to Siri compared to the more well understood iCloud services.



    The really big question for me is how much of a lead has Apple over all those that will be hard at work trying to copy Siri at this very moment? In the coming months Siri is going to be the single biggest reason many will move to an iPhone 4s.



    I also sincerely hope Apple have an iPad version close at hand not to mention OS X! The later maybe a non starter for many reasons (although I hope not) but iPad seems a logical path.
  • Reply 14 of 57
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,276member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by walshbj View Post


    Does it matter if you mail and calendar are iCloud or Google when it comes to Siri setting appointments and whatnot?



    Can't find that answer anywhere.



    My guess is we will be able to do far more with Siri when using Apple's own ecosystem but with some limited abilities with 3rd party ones until they modify their software. If I were Apple I'd be very wary of who I'd help in this respect given the history of such moves such as allowing Gates access to Mac OS and Eric Schmidt's inside knowledge ... but that's just me
  • Reply 15 of 57
    walshbjwalshbj Posts: 864member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


    My guess is we will be able to do far more with Siri when using Apple's own ecosystem but with some limited abilities with 3rd party ones until they modify their software. If I were Apple I'd be very wary of who I'd help in this respect given the history of such moves such as allowing Gates access to Mac OS and Eric Schmidt's inside knowledge ... but that's just me



    I'm talking about using the built-in calendar and mail apps but with Google services instead of iCloud. My guess is Siri WILL work with other services and that Siri talks to the app and doesn't need to know what service the app uses.
  • Reply 16 of 57
    adonissmuadonissmu Posts: 1,770member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by techguy911 View Post


    Ok, that's great for you. It would have been nice to see the early reviewers confirm that the issue is 100% gone in this new phone.



    It's not 100% gone from any phone. So why would you expect them to confirm that?
  • Reply 17 of 57
    jnjnjnjnjnjn Posts: 588member
    Remarkable how negative Walt Mossberg is in his seemingly positive review.

    If he was hired to temper iPhone enthusiasm and thereby reducing iPhone sales he would do a great job.



    J.
  • Reply 18 of 57
    jnjnjnjnjnjn Posts: 588member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by techguy911 View Post


    Ok, that's great for you. It would have been nice to see the early reviewers confirm that the issue is 100% gone in this new phone.



    It was never an issue, so yes, it's completely gone.



    J.
  • Reply 19 of 57
    desarcdesarc Posts: 642member
    sure the integration w/ the os is great, but i've had siri on my iphone for more than a year and use it everyday. it provides links to phone numbers and addresses that, when clicked on, switch to the phone app or google maps. in iOS5 there is nothing new and groundbreaking, just better integrated.



    having my notifications/texts to stop popping up in the middle of what i'm doing is the biggest new feature for me.



    regardless, this article should say Siri makes iOS 5 a worthwhile upgrade. not the iPhone 4S.
  • Reply 20 of 57
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AdonisSMU View Post


    It's not 100% gone from any phone. So why would you expect them to confirm that?



    Denying that there was ever any problem with the iPhone 4 or claiming that it's the same for all phones is sticking your head in the sand, the hysteria blew over but there is still improvements to be made with this antenna design. Walt himself expressed that there was an excessive amount of signal loss and call dropping while handling the phone in certain ways, more so than other phones, this was confirmed by many reviewers. Placing a bumper on the phone caused a noticeable difference in call dropping.



    Since Walt and other reviewers confirmed the issue last year, they should now try again and provide new observations. When I said 100% gone, I don't mean 0 signal loss, I mean that there is not enough of a difference to warrant putting a bumper on the phone, which is something that other phones don't need.



    If anything, I just want them to help Apple by commenting that bumpers are not needed anymore.
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