Apple Announces The iPhone 4s – Was It Worth The Wait?

Talk about a balancing act. At the same time Adobe is running through their second general session, announcing their own new breakthoughs and offerings, Apple is starting off their own conference to talk about something you’re probably very interested in… the next iPhone. 

As both of these are going on, I’m sitting here trying to cover both of them – taking pictures of the Adobe session, and furiously hitting F5 on Engadget’s Apple Live Blog to get the deets on the new iPhone.

Well, here it is. Apple just announced the iPhone 4s. So, what do we have to look forward to?

From what I can tell so far, the big improvements are all in the internals – it’s faster, more powerful, and has better battery life. Looking at the keynote’s pictures on Engadget, I can say that the phone looks pretty much exactly like the first iPhone 4 on the outside. However, the inside is where things get interesting… kind of.

It’s obvious that the iPhone 4s is a marked improvement over the iPhone 4. Specifically, it improves upon the original in some key areas:

  • The processor is now a dual-core A5 chip, which is up to 2x as fast as the old A4
  • Graphics performance is now up to 7x better
  • The camera has been upgraded to 8MP, and video can be shot at 1080p with image stabilization

However, many people (myself included) don’t believe the 4s is enough of an improvement to justify a full press conference – indeed, it’s not even enough of an improvement to justify the 16 months we’ve gone without an update. Looking at other smartphone offerings currently on the market, the iPhone 4s doesn’t really innovate in any area – it’s simply playing catchup. Check out Engadget’s comparison article to see what I mean (the comments are worth looking at too).

Still, what’s on display is admittedly pretty good, and millions of people are sure to buy it. In particular, the graphics performance is stunning; this is made obvious when watching the trailer for the new Infinity Blade game:


So, at this point, I’m happy to see the new features but not particularly impressed with what Apple has to show after 16 months. They could have done a lot more to push the envelope hardware and feature-wise; instead, they chose to focus more on iOS5 features and took the hardware just up the point where it’s about on par with current Android offerings. I probably won’t be upgrading early.


Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek. After paying off $14K in student loans before graduating, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Instagram

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  1. I expected more too. I just guess I wasn’t disappointed with what was offered. Hopefully, the 5 will be a big jump.

  2. @veritas.rn true, the sales numbers are impressive. I’m not saying it’s not a good phone – it’s just that the refresh cycle was longer than normal, so I expected a little more than a catch-up.

  3. As an engineer, I was initially surprised that people were disappointed by the incremental release of the new iPhone 4S. Both the inside ‘guts’ (hardware) and the software include massive improvements. The outside was, of course, unchanged. So why all the whining? Then I recalled that most comments I read were written by people with a traditional consumer electronics mindset. Almost all of the commentary made regarding hardware spec comparisons versus the ‘rest of the smartphone market’ were simply inaccurate. Just noise.

    Apple does not need to, but could, enumerate all of the reasons why the iPhone 4S is market leading both technical-wise and business-wise. So I am not surprised that the masses are lazy and just parrot things they read by ‘quick to press’ journalist. People are obviously craving this kind of info, so I suppose someone will appease them. I mean it is kind of fascinating, and I bet most folks would like someone to sit down and explain it to them; in terms they can relate with. Just watching the entire Apple presentation video might help a large set of whiners.

    Not trying to be elitist, just honest. Most people just don’t ‘get it’. Those that do, don’t really have teaching skills or the time to lay it all out.

    Apple basically aggregated a list of things that were poor or mid quality about the iPhone 4 and fixed them. Since time had past, and other products were released prior, they took the opportunity to add in new chips from the iPad2 project. The iOS 5 feature set and the iCloud integration was a major achievement. For most consumers this means absolutely nothing when stated in written form. But when they have a chance to experience this ‘live’ they are literally dancing with joy.

    So the hardware, software and networking integration of iPhone 4S is unmatched. Individually, each part is superior, but that is not what is most important. The overall experience of using the product(s) and is what counts the most.

    What is missing?

  4. @CheapScholar I just got an iPhone 4 in March, so I won’t be getting this at all. I’ll probably be due for an upgrade around iPhone 6 time, which will hopefully just be a brain implant 😛

  5. I was left wanting after the iPhone press release. Based upon Apple’s press releases in the past, I guess I expected a little more. Maybe a bigger screen a little bit different body design and some really awe inspiring features that separate the iPhone from the rest of the pack. I am due for an upgrade so I think will probably trade in my 3GS and go for the 4S. Now if they come out with an iPhone 5 in the next quarter or so, I may feel a little jaded…

  6. This was not that impressive at all. I don’t really see lines being out the door or people freaking out to purchase this device at all. I mean with no really big changes to this device I don’t see that much of a big HOORAHH moment at all.

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