Opinion: Apple iPhone 4S pros and (mostly) cons

Editor's Note: With respect to Steve Jobs, we'd like to be clear that this post was written before his death. The criticism here would not change, but there are no parallels between Stewart's take on the iPhone 4S and what's happened.

As I mentioned I might be when last I bloviated about the new, then-pending iPhone:


I've GOT an iPhone 4. I don't WANT another iPhone 4. I've waited patiently for 18 months, a third longer than necessary, just to be told I can get ANOTHER iPhone 4?

Seriously, a 3.5-inch screen? That's practically a peep hole compared to today's Android phones, which all seem to have 4-inch screens, and the Galaxy S II models from Sprint and upcoming from T-Mobile have 4.52-inch screens — that's more than an inch larger than iPhone 4S's suddenly dwarfish display.

And you're trying to tell me I won't be able to tell the difference between 3G 14.4 Mbps EV-DO or HSPA and HSPA+, LTE or WiMAX? Really? Sure, and Charley Parker and Kenny G? Both saxophonists, no difference.

And we're supposed to seduced by Siri? She looks and sounds clever, but all I can think about is Skynet, and I get the sense I'll feel and look as silly talking to my iPhone as Scotty did in Star Trek IV talking to a Mac through the mouse. "Computer?" Now, if Siri had Majel Barrett's voice

All I can say is, horse pettuties. Okay, all I can say that is printable.

So is there anything good about the iPhone 4S? Yeah, a couple of things.

Okay, iPhone 4S has a 1.2 GHz processor. Okay, it's a faster iPhone 4. An 8 megapixel camera and 1080p video — as if 5 MP and 720p video weren't plenty.

And the innovations in iOS 5 look pretty neat, even if Apple cribbed from Android on the pull-down Notification menu.

But it seemed to me Apple tried to scurry past the actual iPhone 4S hardware stuff. This is what the Apple presentation yesterday sounded like to me:


In other words, a lot of obfuscation over iPhone 4S's actual innovations, or lack thereof.

What I Like About You

I, of course, will buy the iPhone 4S — I am ensnared in Apple's velvet ecosystem prison. And I have to write about it. And my wife hungers after my current iPhone 4.

But all is not 4S bleak. I like that there's finally 64GB of memory, which will make iPhone 4S the highest-capacity smartphone extant. I have 60 GB worth of music, so it'll be nice not to have to parse my library into a limited iPhone playlist, or to even re-rip my CDs in lossless so I can go deaf sooner.

I even like iPhone maintaining the exact dimensions. I can actually — gasp — hold onto my case for once. (Nice, considering it's no simple wrapper: Energizer's AP1201.)

But Apple could have made an iPhone 4S or 5 with a larger screen, even if it was just an increase to 3.7 inches, and still included iOS 5, iCloud, Siri, a 1.2 GHz processor, an 8 MP camera, and 64GB of memory, and Energizer would have made a rubberized charger case for it.

Damn it.

An iPhone For Your Mother

While I and my fellow geeks are sorely disappointed over iPhone 4S lack of physical improvement, non-smartphone consumers are overjoyed.

A free iPhone!

Perhaps glossed over in all the other Apple high-tech hullabaloo and brouhaha was the announcement of the first free iPhone and an 8GB sub-$100 iPhone 4.

I know a lot of non-tech heads who've delayed stepping up to a smartphone, partly because of technophobia (to you and I a smartphone is as simple as a rubber band, but to the uninitiated, facing that touchscreen with all those icons is a powerfully scary proposition), but largely because of price.

By expanding to Sprint, plus offering cheap iPhone options through the three largest U.S. carriers means a lot of folks who never considered an iPhone before will now be tempted to overcome their gadget fears.

I wouldn't be surprised if Apple sold/gave away more 3GSs or 8GB iPhone 4s than new iPhone 4Ss.

And that makes these new iPhone buyers future step-up customers for a true iPhone 5.

Which is what Apple should have announced.

Horse pettuties.

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