Question: What is the best phone? Siri: You're kidding, right? Wait... there are other phones....
Apple's domination of the smartphone market is the result of a combination of excellent design, extensive features, application support and savvy marketing. The Apple iPhone 4S, announced 16 months after the iPhone 4, was a device that many did not expect given the speculation about the impending release of the iPhone 5. Instead, we got an iPhone 4S available with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB internal storage options. The phone has been criticised as merely a cosmetic upgrade of its predecessor, so how does it stack up against the competition and against Apple's own iPhone 4?
The iPhone 4S does not bring anything new to the table in terms of design, and is highly similar to the iPhone 4 in colour, material, dimensions and at a thickness of 9.3mm. The screen remains a 3.5" IPS display, but offers a higher resolution and more vibrant colour. The only marked difference to the iPhone 4 is the change to a dual-band aerial fitting - which will be a comfort to those iPhone followers who experienced antenna difficulties.
At 140g it is heavier than its rival, the Galaxy S2, despite the Galaxy being the larger device. Still, there is little to complain about the iPhone 4 aesthetically: it remains an economical size that is elegant on the eye, easy to use and sits comfortably in the hand. It also remains less robust than its competitors however it’s more prone to screen cracks if dropped.
All the difference is under the bonnet, where it shows itself to be more than just another iPhone 4. The phone's innards have been given a considerable upgrade, to a dual-core CPU, improved GPU and a maximum storage of 64GB, making the device noticeably quicker, more responsive and with more rapid load-times for internet browsing and apps.
The iPhone 4S is a welcome upgrade that brings the handset in line with its speedy competitors such as the Galaxy S2, Nokia N9 and the Motorola Droid RAZR. The touchscreen is vivid, displaying even the smallest text in superb detail, and responsive, making the interface easy to navigate. The new iOS 5 operating system, which integrates with the iCloud resembles the interface of Android in its use of drop-down menus to display events, updates, weather reports and messages.
Notifications now appear across the top of the screen, rather than in the centre, reducing disruption to task-flow, and also sit on top of the "Locked" screen, within easy access. But there is plenty here that is by now classic, including home screens filled with app icons that can be quickly and easily swiped between.
Multitasking is a breeze – tap twice on the home button to view all open apps, or swipe left for iPod menu access, or double-tap the home button on the "Locked" screen for camera functions. All of the core contacts, notes, reminders and organiser apps are here. The iMessage app has undergone improvements, with an excellent on-screen keyboard that is markedly more accurate than that of many rival smartphones, and a new transcribing ability that provides a very strong hands-free experience.
Improvements in multimedia are also welcome. Its upgrade to an 8-megapixel camera with a new sensor and greater aperture, in line with the top end of the smartphone market, really shines in point-and-shoot photography. The phone app is fast and uncluttered, and the camera focuses quickly and accurately, producing some great shots that are noticeably brighter and deeper than captures on the iPhone 4.
Video quality is excellent, recorded in 1080p high-definition, producing stable and clean capture. Integration with social media remains strong, and the new notifications systems means that you will not feel inundated with Twitter updates. The Facebook app in particular integrates well with iOS 5.
iCloud - Apple's new remote data management service, comes to the iPhone for the first time with this model, offering sync and back-up. It’s a very welcoming feature that