iPhone 4S: Review roundup

October 12, 2011

The reviews are in and there’s nothing but love for the iPhone 4S. There’s across-the-board praise for the faster handset, particularly for Siri, the AI “personal assistant” that will set your appointments, give you directions and tell you when it looks like rain.

Thisismynext’s Joshua Topolsky said in his review of the phone that Siri “understands what you’re saying and the context in which you’re saying it.” He says it’s one of the “most meaningful updates to the iPhone we’ve ever seen.” Siri, Apple’s magic at the design desk and the software bump overcome the lack of LTE, larger screen or other fancy features.

Overall, reviewers talked more about Siri than the other upgraded features in the phone such as the 8MP camera or the fast, A5 processor.

As for the upgrade question, most reviewers said that 3G and 3GS owners who want to upgrade can do so without hesi­ta­tion. Owners of the iPhone 4, however, may want to wait and see if they can survive with their Siri-less, iOS 5-upgraded phones for one more go-round of the product cycle.

Here are snippets from some of the other early reviews:

Wall Street Journal,Walt Mossberg: “The iPhone 4S is one of Apple’s less dramatic updates, but, when combined with the Siri, iOS 5 and iCloud features, it presents an attractive new offering to smartphone users. Some may be content to skip the new hardware and just enjoy the software and cloud features with older models. But those buying the phone will likely be happy with it.”

New York Times, David Pogue: “Apple updates iOS and the iPhone only once a year. 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.”

Macworld, Jason Snell: “The iPhone 4S has speed, a great camera, some cool voice-recognition features, and the same beautiful industrial design that was introduced in the iPhone 4. It’s destined to be immensely popular.”

Wired, Brian X. Chen: “Though these are all nice improvements, the antenna, camera and processor upgrades are minor compared to the addition of Siri. The previous iPhone 4 already took great pictures for a phone, the antenna was OK (despite the notorious grip-of-death design flaw), and it was already plenty fast. Siri is the fancy bow on the package that makes this a sharp upgrade overall.”

Daring Fireball, John Gruber: “I found it extremely fun to explore Siri — primarily because so many of the things I tried actually worked. It’s a completely different interface for interacting with your iPhone. You’re not driving or commanding the existing iPhone interface with commands. There is no syntax to memorize. You’re just, well, talking to your iPhone.”

Bloomberg, Rich Jaroslovsky: “With the iPhone’s continuing advantage in number of apps (500,000 and counting), its arrival on the Sprint network and its ability to function as a world phone, the 4S doesn’t leave many holes for the competition to plug.”

USA Today, Edward Baig:The real power comes in the many ways you can converse with Siri and be understood. Asking “Will it rain tomorrow?” yields the same weather results on the phone screen as “What is the forecast for the week ahead?” When you ask a question of Siri, you’ll see that question typed out on the screen, followed by the appropriate response. (In that way, Siri isn’t always hands-free.)

Associated Press, Rachel Metz: Sure, the 4S doesn’t render the iPhone 4 hopelessly obsolete, and on the surface they’re nearly identical. But with a faster processor, new software, a voice-activated personal assistant and a souped-up camera, it’s a major improvement over the current iPhone.

Related stories:

More technology coverage from The Post

Apple iPhone 4S review: It’s the software that’s a surprise

iPhone 4S: Should I upgrade?

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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