The iPhone 4S: First Impressions

After waiting for months for the official announcement from Apple, we now have the iPhone 4S. And as of yesterday, it’s now available for purchase.

In my case, it took until after 4 PM yesterday to receive my preordered iPhone, and although I got it activated almost immediately (no small feat, from what I hear), it still took a little bit to get everything set up to my satisfaction.

So what’s it like to go hands-on with the new iPhone 4S? Here’s what I experienced.

Feel

When I first opened up the box, there wasn’t really a big surprise. It was what I already owned — an iPhone 4 — albeit with a few minor cosmetic differences. The buttons on the left of the phone were moved down a touch, and there were a few different breaks in the stainless steel band around the perimeter. Other than that, no major differences.

The iPhone 4S

The iPhone 4S

But I knew that going into things, so that wasn’t a huge revelation. But with the first boot it just felt different. I’m not sure exactly how to quantify it, but the screen looked amazing like I had never touched it before. It was quick for sure, and just firing up a few apps here and there made it obvious that this wasn’t my old phone. I didn’t regret the decision to buy it at all.

Siri & Dictation

The big game here is Siri, and out of the box I had a few issues with it. At the time my apps were still syncing via Wi-Fi, and I guess that soaked up enough of the connection that Siri just wasn’t able to function. What this tells me is that CDMA iPhone users such as Verizon and Sprint in the U.S., won’t be able to use Siri while they’re on the phone. I haven’t tested this theory yet, but I guess we’ll see how it goes once more people get their hands on it.

Gaming is a blast with the faster processor.

Gaming is a blast with the faster processor.

When I was able to get Siri working, it did have some hiccups for me. Yes, it worked well for the most part, but in a weird twist, I found myself saying “please” way too often. It also didn’t remember my father’s name right off the bat, and it wasn’t able to map out directions to my mom’s house.

But what was awesome was the dictation features added to email and texting. I held an entire conversation with my wife just dictating the whole thing, and she never caught on. It only had one mistake, and even then it was a quick correction. She probably wondered if my fingers were getting hot from typing so fast. Dictation really is a killer feature here, and I think it will get more attention as the days go on.

Speed

I remember owning an iPhone 3G, and when it came time to upgrade, I wasn’t really sure if the 3GS was worth the price. I mean, it was just a speed bump, right? Maybe so, but that speed made the phone fly compared to my wife’s iPhone 3G, and the same can be said for the iPhone 4S compared to the iPhone 4.

Ever open up the App Store to check for updates and wait what seems like forever just to have the screen load up? When I did that action last night, the App Store snapped alive, faster than I had ever seen it move before. In fact, everything I threw at it seemed to fly by pretty easily, without a single hiccup. This thing is definitely a speed demon, and I loved every minute of it.

Random Thoughts

I read the teardown on iFixit, and I remember reading that the vibration motor in the iPhone 4 on the AT&T model was different than the Verizon, and that for the iPhone 4S the Verizon vibration motor was used. Strangely enough, I noticed that difference almost right away. It wasn’t quite as jarring as my old iPhone 4, and yet it still was quite powerful.

Reminders is a quick and easy GTD app.

Reminders is a quick and easy GTD app.

It’s the same phone, but it’s not. I bought the 64GB model, which meant that transferring my videos and apps took a long time to do. I tried at first to do it through restoring an iCloud backup, and although that worked for restoring most of the information, the apps themselves just started downloading later out of their own free will. It was taking forever, so I eventually restored by plugging it in to my laptop to get it going, and even then it took over an hour.

I love the camera, and it’s a noticeable difference from the iPhone 4’s model. I spent a good 30 minutes playing around with it, and between shooting video and taking lots of pictures of everything in sight, it just was a blast to use. You can use it in lower light conditions as well, which is particularly convenient when shooting indoors. This could very easily replace your point and shoot.

Summation

I plunked down the cash to make the purchase for two reasons. For one, I should really have one as the editor of this site, and it’s a business expense. For two, I wanted it, but I didn’t lust after it the way I did for the iPhone 4. It just wasn’t that sexy a sell out of the gate, so I wasn’t positive about it. But now that it’s in my hand, I can’t imagine thinking that it’s anything but the best phone I’ve ever used.

Right now, there are a few hiccups in the software here and there, but nothing that can’t be worked out. And time will tell if Siri becomes the next big thing or if it just kind of fizzles the way FaceTime does. But for right now, I’m very happy with my purchase, and I think that for those that haven’t pulled the trigger yet, you really should consider adding an iPhone 4S to your Apple family. It’s not just a minor upgrade, it’s a whole new phone.