Here it is at last, ladies and gents — your new iPhone. The last time we saw one of these was back in June 24, 2010, over a year ago. For a company that released them pretty regularly on a yearly schedule, the gap between the fourth and fifth generation was painfully noticeable.
That said, wait's over. Step inside and let's break down the most important features of the newly minted iPhone 4S.
1. Faster Processing, Better Batteries, Big Storage
The iPhone 4S may not be the second coming the idea of the iPhone 5 represented for many, but it shows a strong foundation and a seriously attractive upgrade for anyone who doesn't already have an iPhone 4.
Improving upon the iPhone 4's snappy A4 processor, Apple is rolling out the iPhone 4S with the dual-core A5 chip, which is what's under the hood in the iPad 2. The 4S is supposed to be twice as fast as its predecessor in general, and can render graphics — for games, say — seven times as fast. If you use your iPhone as a gaming device as well, it'll help with the kinds of games that try to emulate a console experience, such as Infinity Blade 2.
All that power won't come at a terrible price, however. Apple says the iPhone 4S will get a whopping eight hours of 3G talk time, six hours of Web browsing (up to nine on Wi-Fi), 10 hours of video playback and 40 for audio, and 200 hours of standby time, so you probably won't pull a dead phone out of your pocket.
If you don't mind spending a little more, the top tier iPhone 4S offers a first for the iPhone family: a roomy 64GB of storage.
2. Dual-Antenna Calling "Just As Fast" As 4G
Perhaps trying to avoid another "Antennagate," the 4S also comes with two antennas that can switch between transmitting and receiving in real time, according to the company. Apple's Philip Schiller, SVP of worldwide marketing, says that this will allow the iPhone 4S to reach 4G speeds without the power drain: "Where have I heard these numbers before? This is what our competitors call 4G. The iPhone 4S is just as fast as all of these phones, even faster in real-world use."
We're not exactly sure how this works just yet, and we're definitely interested in seeing it in action.
3. A Beefy New Camera, Now with HD Video
Apple is boasting of the iPhone 4S's photographic prowess with an 8 megapixel camera that can take images at a mighty 3264x2448, with a "33 percent faster capture." That translates into about half a second. Schiller, who took aim at 4G networks with the dual-antenna makeup of the 4S, is also taking potshots at out camera phones, saying, "What do Droid Bionic customers have to do between taking pictures? Get coffee?"
Another thing to love about the camera: it will take 1080p HD video for the first time, with "real-time video image stabilization."
4. "Siri," Your Personal iPhone Assistant
Here's a big feature Apple is saving for the end and is apparently excited about. Want to know how Apple is trying to reinvent your iPhone experience? Siri is just that, and it's apparently only available on the iPhone 4S.
Also called Assistant, Siri turns your iPhone into an interactive computer you can talk to. You could, say, ask Siri how the weather is, and your iPhone would reply and show you a forecast. You can go deeper than that, too, such as asking if you need to wear a raincoat. If it looks like rain, Siri will tell you that you do. Looking for food? Apple's Scott Forstall, SVP of iPhone software, told Siri he was in the mood for Greek. Siri replied that it found five Greek restaurants nearby, and had them already sorted by rating. "Now whenever you see a keyboard, you'll see a microphone," says Apple's Schiller.
Siri can do more than just field questions, too. It could read your text messages to you, schedule meeting, queue up reminders, perform dictionary searches for you (Apple is partnering with Wolfram Alpha for this) and more.
How deep is it? Well, we won't know until we get to try it for ourselves as it's still in beta. A system like this rides a fine line between gimmick and game-changer, largely dependent on how robust it is. ThisIsMyNext is saying that Schiller had to talk to Siri "like you would to a child or a foreign language speaker," and that sounds more the former. Bear in mind, however, that this is a demo on a big stage.
5. Made for The iCloud
It's not a feature that's exclusive to the iPhone 4S, but we're sure it's going to become more and more important once Apple rolls out its iCloud service on October 12. What's iCloud? Well, it'll make it so your music, photos, apps, contacts and pretty much everything else exists in one place, similar to the services offered by the likes of Amazon and Google. The difference? Apple has a wider family of devices to tie into that cloud, and those devices aren't the end point any more. Your iPod isn't just for music and your iPhone doesn't have to be the place for all your photos. The iCloud will push your digital content to pretty much anything Apple you own.
Price & Availability
The iPhone 4S is slated to come in black and white in the follow flavors: 16GB for $199, 32GB for $299, 64GB for $399. That's the first time an iPhone has packed in a 64GB drive. Pre-orders start October 7, it ships on the 14.
The iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS aren't dead, either. You can still get the iPhone 4 for 8GB at $99, and an 8GB iPhone 3GS for "free" with a contract.