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Apple iPhone 4S expert review

The Apple iPhone 4S looks deceptively similar to iPhone 4 and has many of the same basics, but is packed with improvements too. The sharp and crisp Retina display is still the same, superb quality but a little disappointingly proportioned at just 3.5".

The iPhone 4S is powered by the same Apple A5 chip as the iPad 2, so everything runs smoother, faster and more streamlined than before. You'll notice the difference when switching between apps or playing power-intensive games. The new 8MP camera comes with improved optics and a better lens, and the integration of Siri, your new personal assistant, has been greatly improved with the latest iOS software update. Not all of Siri’s features are available in the UK yet, and the battery life of the device isn’t anything to shout home about when you activate Siri and all your network connections, but you're definitely looking at one of the most desirable smartphones on the market.

Pros

  • Slick design, hugely improved camera, faster processor, signal issues fixed and Siri better after software update

Cons

  • Limited battery life, Beta Siri, lack of improvements to the overall look and feel of the phone

Design

Externally, there’s nothing revolutionary about the iPhone 4S, it looks almost exactly the same as the iPhone 4... in fact, it is the same as the iPhone 4, apart from the slightly lowered volume buttons and the new antenna pieces. That being said, although the design could have maybe done with a bit of modernising it's still appealing, with glass panels on both the front and back that feel good in your hand - no more horrible plastic! You will need to be careful with the phone though and think about adding a protective case, as it's too easy to smash the glass when your phone suffers from a drop or bump.

Hardware

In terms of the brand new processor, the A5 is a respectable 1GHz . Even though Apple have under clocked it to 800MHz to save on battery, the phone still feels slick and smooth to use. 4S still sports a 3.5” display with a 960 x 640 resolution, though it has an upgraded 8MP camera, as well as an all-new “5 lens optics system” which allows for clearer photos with better light and contrast. You can now capture and play 1080p HD videos too, and the video stabilisation, auto enhance and face detection software make this a capable camera. The front camera hasn’t been touched, it's still VGA quality and capturing 30fps video. I would have liked at least a Megapixel or two more, as self-portraits come out a little grainy due to the lack of pixels.

Software

The Apple iPhone 4S comes with iOS 5.0.1 out-of-the-box and is upgradeable to the latest software. It comes with key improvements over the previous software, such as a more appealing interface, homescreen folders you can add up to 12 apps to, and a quick search bar you can use to search for anything that’s stored locally on your phone or available online. I was disappointed when Apple removed the data tethering feature from most iPhones after the latest software update, as this makes it impossible to share your mobile's internet connection with other devices and seems like a strange decision on the part of the manufacturer. Siri, Apple’s new personal assistant, allows you to perform everyday tasks with ease, although as it requires a data connection to work, this could eat into your data allowance quite quickly and easily.  

Managing your mobile - top tips

  • Consider purchasing a portable charger or a charging case to improve the battery life 
  • When you don't need to be connected (for instance if you're on the train or in a meeting), enable Airplane mode in settings to disable your 3G, location-based services and Wi-Fi. This will conserve your phone's battery life and your data allowance
  • Download Skype for iPhone and use it over Wi-Fi to make free voice calls to your family and friends (this will conserve your call allowance)
  • Download WhatsApp Messenger for iPhone and use it to send text-like messages to your contacts without using up your SMS allowance

The iPhone 4S is available now from Carphone Warehouse

Alternative devices:

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