The display hasn’t changed in the iPhone 4S. It’s the same 3.5-inch, 960×640 Retina display that knocked everyone’s socks off when it was introduced on the iPhone 4 in 2010. No one can argue that the 326ppi density is just simply beautiful and eye-catching.
Android users claim that bigger screens are better, but I’m not so sure that is true considering how easy to hold and use the iPhone 4S is in one hand and with one digit — your thumb. I like the size of the iPhone 4S display and I not sure a bigger display would be something I’d care for, especially in everyday use. Sometimes, smaller is better.
The iFixit teardown of the iPhone 4S showed that the new iPhone has a new slightly bigger battery pack than the iPhone 4’s. Its capacity is 5.3Whrs vs. 5.25Whrs in the iPhone 4. A combination of the new frugal internal components and this new battery mean that your iPhone 4S will have a bit better usage times than the iPhone 4.
I have had the iPhone 4S for less than a day so determining the actual battery life will take several days to a week to figure out. Taking everything into consideration I don’t expect the battery life to be any less than the iPhone 4.
The iPhone 4S is the first smartphone camera that feels like a solid replacement for a point-and-shoot. The picture quality has noticeably improved from the iPhone 4 thanks to a new sensor, lens array, and color balancing.
The 4S now supports an eight-megapixel, backside-illuminated sensor with an entirely new lens arrangement. That new lens arrangement has an F/2.4 aperture, which is better than the iPhone 4 (which has a f/2.8 aperture).
One thing that is definitely better is the zippy new hardware, which makes capturing photos quick and snappy. If you liked taking pictures or videos with your iPhone 4, you’ll really like taking them with the iPhone 4S.
Testing the iPhone 4S beside my iPhone 4, it was obvious that Apple put a lot of work into squeezing the best possible performance out of the camera. Low lighting conditions that were problematic for the iPhone 4 are no longer an issue for the iPhone 4S. The enhanced white balancing and color improvements provide contrast and definition to pictures that would have otherwise been washed out in too much light or too dark.
Notice the richness of detail in the iPhone 4S compared to the iPhone 4?
Other significant changes to the 4S camera include software updates that have decreased the amount of time it takes to capture a photo. The Camera app is noticeably faster on the iPhone 4S than the 4, and the shutter speed seems to have improved as well. Speaking of shutters, snapping pictures with the volume button makes the experience feel more natural than tapping the screen to release the shutter.
The new camera shoots video at 1080p. One of the underrated features of the new camera is the new image stabilization. No longer plagued by the choppy, amateurish quality of video that pains the eyes, the 4S’s image stabilization provides smooth, high-def videos. The image stabilization isn’t perfect though. The algorithms sometimes give the videos a kinda gelatinous, wavy texture, Even so, it’s a huge improvement over video capture on the iPhone 4.
Check out the amazing difference the iPhone 4S’ new camera makes compared to the iPhone 4’s. Not only are the colors richer and more vibrant, the brights brighter and the darks darker, but the image stabilization is just out of this world. If you rely on your iPhone’s camera a lot, this might be as important as Siri.
It’s not the iPhone 5. It doesn’t have a larger, 4.44-inch screen (see this rumor). It doesn’t have a sexy, tapered profile. It doesn’t have NFC, or other new hardware improvements tipped for future iPhones.
But let’s be realistic about Apple’s business strategy and supply chain. Apple would be running at a loss if it retooled its factories every year for radical new models. It needs to extract the money it invested in the supply lines first. Besides, as I said before, the iPhone 4 hardware is rock solid.
As for actually faults of the 4S? They are few and far between. Some will complain that there’s no replaceable battery, or a memory card slot, or USB. But these aren’t real deficiencies: just wish-list items for would-be Jonny Ives. The only thing I can think of? Battery life could be better.
Thanks to Siri and the awesome camera, the iPhone 4S is the best smartphone made better.
In the Box
David Martin and Buster Heine contributed to this review. Thanks David and Buster!