While some were disappointed that Apple didn't roll out a new "iPhone 5", there is some truth to the observation that the iPhone 5 is hiding inside the new iPhone 4S. Many of the features rumored to be on an upcoming iPhone 5 are in the 4S, including:
- It's driven by Apple's own A5 dual-core processor, with 7X faster graphics.
- Faster upload and download data speeds.
- "World phone" baseband chip - both GSM and CDMA.
- Significantly upgraded camera, with 8MP and a bigger sensor, better lens.
- 1080p HD video recording with image stabilization.
Leading off new features that are driven by Apple's A-GPS chip and location capability is the Siri personal assistant. Siri accepts voice instructions and uses artificial intelligence to provide you with answers, directions, calendar management, voice-driven texting, and more. For example, you can ask (press and hold the home button) Siri to "find the nearest ATM" and the app will engage the map app and show you ATM locations. More complex queries, such as "Are there great burgers around here?" work as well. In addition, Siri can tackle location-specific queries, such as "Take me to the Empire State Building," or even "Take me home." Evidently in need of some high-end processing power, Siri works only on the iPhone 4S and not previous editions of the iPhone.
A new feature not just for the iPhone 4S, but for most iOS5 devices, is Find My Friends. Find My Friends uses the iPhone's A-GPS to send your location up to the iCloud, as it also gathers and displays the locations of friends who have opted to show you their locations. It's meant to be a temporary function; used, for example, when a group of people is to meet at a specific location and they want to track each others' progress. Strong privacy protection and notifications/permissions are built in. With iOS5 and iCloud, the device-locating "Find My Friends" feature extends to the iPad and to the iPod Touch, as well.
Uses Apple suggests for Find My Friends include meeting up at an outdoor concert or ski slope, or noting when the person you are picking up at the airport clears baggage claim. Find My Friends has easy settings for sharing your location for an hour, a weekend, a week, etc. Find My Friends has parental control settings available, as well.
The new Reminders feature in the iPhone 4S is a souped-up to-do list that is integrated with Siri, as well. Reminders lets you set a geofence around specific areas, such as home, work, and supermarket, and lets you control location-based actions around these. For example, you could instruct Siri to remind you to pick up eggs, milk, and bread (and any number of additional items) at the supermarket, and your shopping list would appear as a reminder as you enter the supermarket geofence. Same for work tasks pegged to specific locations.
With iCloud, Find My iPhone is more versatile than ever. If your phone is lost or stolen, you can locate it on a map. Depending on where the lost phone is located, you may choose to display a message or play a sound to help people find it, or you can set a passcode lock remotely. The latter protects your phone's contents without wiping out information. As a last resort, you may "wipe" your iPhone remotely to prevent your data from getting into the wrong hands. The free Find My iPhone app is available for a range of devices, including Apple's laptops and desktops, iPads, iPod Touch.
The iPhone 4S is also an excellent turn-by-turn in-car navigation device when paired with one of the top ten iPhone GPS Navigation apps.
You can further increase the utility of your iPhone 4S as an in-car navigator by using one of the top five charging car mounts for the iPhone.
GLONASS: Apple has quietly added "Assisted GPS and GLONASS" (rather than the previous "Assisted GPS") to the technical specifications of the iPhone 4S model. Using GLONASS (the "Russian GPS") in addition to the US-operated GPS satellite constellation, roughly doubles the number of satellites available for location and navigation services. It also means a faster location fix, and improves accuracy in difficult terrain, such as urban canyons.
The 16GB-memory version of the iPhone 4S sells for $199, 32GB, $299, and the 64GB, $399 (all prices with a 2-year contract).