Gadgets Magazine

Should I Upgrade My iPhone?

Posted on the 07 October 2011 by Nerdywerds @NerdyWerds

Many people are considering upgrading to the new iPhone, but should you?


  • The Hardware
  • The Software
  • The Verdict

For better or for worse, it's been a huge week for Apple. First, The press release of the iPhone 4s; which was met with mixed reviews. Then stock prices took a hit in reaction to the new iPhone. And finally, the worst news of the week, former CEO Steve Jobs passed away. It is tempting to write an tribute to the late technology giant, but you can find 1,000's of article out about Jobs and his greatness all over the internet. What I want to cover today is whether or not you should upgrade your iPhone.

Everyone that watched the unveiling, or has looked at the specs on the phone, can tell you it's an excellent device. I'm by no means saying it's not a good phone. In fact, if you don't have one and are thinking about going Apple, this would be an excellent first iPhone. But that's not what we're talking about here today. We want to know if the iPhone 4S is worth upgrading to right now. Without any further delay, let's find out.

The Hardware

Apple has never marketed there products as the most powerful, technologically advanced options. They've never needed to. But that's not to say the hardware is in any way lacking. The iPhone has always been at least on par with the other major devices out there, and this current version is no exception. But this article isn't about iPhone vs. other types of phone, it's iPhone vs iPhone. So does the iPhone 4S have the hardware to merit a new contract and the minimum of $200 for a new phone?

If you're a tech geek, or very interested in the specs of a phone, then the iPhone 4S should have enough to please you. Just like with a car, this baby starts under the hood. And the iPhone 4S is very well equipped in that regard. It is sporting a dual-core A5 processor, the same chip that powers the iPad 2. This means the iPhone actually has 2 processing cores, as opposed to the iPhone 4's single core. Apple estimates that this new processor will provide double the speed of the previous version. That means apps load up lightning fast and multiple processes running at once is child's play for this device. Apple has also greatly improved graphics processing, to the tune of a 7x performance boost. So games and graphics heavy websites on the iPhone 4S and unlike anything the iPhone 4 could handle.

The physical memory hasn't really been updated on the new device. You can choose from 16GB, 32Gb, or a 64GB option. From a pure physical, on device memory standpoint, it's not worth the upgrade. But who buys a phone just because of the memory? And, if you'll notice, I'm only talking about physical memory; this baby has an ace up it's sleeve in the storage department. But we'll get to that in the software section. The iPhone 4S also makes no leaps forward in the physical design. The size and weight are almost identical, with the iPhone4S being .1 grams heavier. The beautiful Retina display from the iPhone 4 has made a return, with almost no improvements. But with a display that good, what can you upgrade?

Tech geeks will tell you the biggest upgrade from the previous iPhone is the processor. And for people of my ilk, that may be the most exciting feature. But many people I've talked to are much more excited about the camera. Apple really upped the ante with this one in the camera department. The previous iPhone had a 5-megapixel camera that could shoot 720P video at 30 frames per second. The iPhone 4S sees the iPhone 4's 5MP camera and raises it an 8MP camera. It calls the 720P video recording and throws down new 1080P recording. It also throws in face detection just because it can. If that weren't enough, Apple adds in video stabilization just for the heck of it. The camera returns features like auto focus, an LED flash and the front facing camera is the same as the prior version.

As a final note on the hardware, the antenna in the iPhone 4S has been revamped to ameliorate the problems with the iPhone 4's antenna. The new design promises to provide signal, regardless of how you hold the phone. Many of my friends have speculated about that recently, so to clear the air, antenna will not be a problem in the new device.

The Software

What good would it be to have all of that hardware if there were no software to support or take advantage of it. If Apple took strides with the hardware upgrades, they took massive leaps with the software. Apple announced three huge software components that really make this phone worth owning; iOS 5, iCloud and Siri.

iOS 5 is the next iteration of Apple's mobile operating system. It's based on Apple's wildly popular OS X desktop operating system, and if you've owned an iPhone or Mac, you know it's extremely solid. But iOS 5 isn't appealing because it's stable, the new features offered are what makes this device worth having. Android users have long enjoyed a pull down notification bar at the top of the screen, and now, iPhone users can do the same. The notification bar allows you to easily keep up with all of your notifications in one place, no more hunting through various icons looking for them. Your notifications will reside at the top of your screen, waiting for you to access them. For the social birds out there, iOS 5 features new twitter integration. This allows you to tweet from multiple location across the phone, like from Safari, your photos or your camera and youtube. iMessage allows you to send messages to any device running iOS 5, be it an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Messages sent through iMessage are unlimited, so talk until your heart's content. But wait, there's more! If text just doesn't capture the essence of your message, you can send videos, pictures, location and contacts.

For the forgetful types, iOS 5 has a nifty reminders feature. You can set yourself reminders to pick up certain items at the store, or to get flowers for your wife when you leave the office. Once your iPhone detects your position has changed, and you've left the office, it will actually remind you to get your flowers. It works with the location services in the phone to provide location aware reminders.

The next major upgrade is iCloud. This the ace up Apple's sleeve as far as memory goes. iCloud gives users a complimentary 5GB of cloud based storage. Not only that, but iCloud syncs up all of your iDevices instantly. So if you download a song on your Mac at home, it is instantly loaded through the cloud to your iPhone or iPad. If you take a picture with that amazing camera, it will show up in your pictures on the Mac. If you make changes to a document on your iPad, it will be updated on your Mac and iPhone. All of your data, be it documents, music, photos or anything else, is kept in sync and up to date through the cloud. If you download an app on your iPhone, it'll be available to use on your iPad. Pretty much anything you do on one device will be available on all others. And should you need more cloud storage, there are subscription plans that allow you to purchase more space.

Lastly, there's Siri. Siri is a personal assistant app, and in my opinion, possibly the coolest new feature of the iPhone 4S. If you read my review of Vlingo a month or so ago, you'll be familiar with the basic premise. Siri looks to improve upon much of what Vlingo brought to the party. From the promotional video, it appears Siri allows for more natural communication with your phone. People are shown asking "what is the weather like in San Francisco?" and getting an answer from their phone. If this is an accurate representation, Siri will surely change the way you use your phone. Siri can read your messages to you and let you reply, all without your hands. Siri can take reminders, play songs, access traffic and weather information, and much more. Without going hands on, I can't really tell you all the things Siri can do; but I feel very comfortable saying it's an incredible piece of software.

The Verdict

With all of that said, is the iPhone 4S worth upgrading to from your iPhone 4 or 3GS. For me, if I had one of those devices, I wouldn't upgrade just yet. It's no secret that the chefs at Apple are cooking up an iPhone 5. And the iPhone 4S does leave a few things to be desired; no 4G capability, it's browser still won't play Flash and it's screen is smaller than most of it's competitors. Many rumors say the iPhone 5 should be addressing most, if not all, of these issues. And if that's the case, I wouldn't feel comfortable locking in for 2 years when the iPhone 5 could come out as early as next summer. And iOS 5 will be available for older iPhones soon. But if that isn't a concern of yours, or you're one of the early adopters that needs the newest stuff, this is an excellent device and you won't be disappointed. The iPhone 4S can go toe to toe with any device out there; and while there are a couple of phones I'd rather have, this is a must have for any Apple fan. But since people are looking for a definitive yes or no out of me, I'd have to go with no. With all of the other factors in play, I'd wait on preordering this until after the holiday season. We should be learning more about the iPhone 5 in the coming months, and if it is slated for a summer release, you'll be happy you've waited.

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