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Apple iPhone 4S, Part 1: More Horsepower, Better Hardware

Apple iPhone 4S, Part 1: More Horsepower, Better Hardware
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Apple's latest iPhone, the 4S, is here. Is it evolutionary, or all-new? Most of us already know it's a small step forward. Still, we take a technical look at what makes the iPhone 4S different, noting why you shouldn't judge a phone on appearances alone.

Apple's iPhone is now the benchmark by which all smartphones are measured. No matter your opinion of Apple as a company, you have to acknowledge that there's clearly something special about its products. Chalk it up to unparalleled design or simply being in the right place at the right time (if you must), but the iPhone is a device that everyone seems to want.

iPhone 4 (left) & iPhone 4S (right)iPhone 4 (left) & iPhone 4S (right)

Of course, it's one thing to set a standard. It's another to continue redefining that upper bound of innovation. There's certainly a case to be made that the new iPhone 4S doesn't change the game in the same way Apple's iPhone 4 improved on the 3GS. But that ignores Apple's proclivity for building something more than just impressive specs on the foundation of great hardware.

iPhone 4 (left) & iPhone 4S (right)iPhone 4 (left) & iPhone 4S (right)

That's why it's wrong to judge the iPhone 4S on appearance alone. Yes, it looks just like an iPhone 4. And if you set aside the fact Apple is adding Sprint to its list of carriers, you can still count the changes on one hand. Notably, the iPhone 4S features the A5 SoC, an improved antenna design, HSPA+ support, and better camera hardware. However, those evolutionary improvements, taken together, make for a more compelling experience on a day-to-day basis.

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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    jimmysmitty , October 15, 2011 11:47 PM
    My only question is why is it only being compared to competition in the form of tablets? Why is there no Droid Bionic or the Galaxy SII?

    Are we to think the iPhone 4s is equal to a tablet? Especially considering the Bionic has a faster dual core (1GHz Core), more RAM (1GB), Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) and is a phone, like the iPhone.

    Honestly this review is lacking since it doesn't compare actual phones from other companies (be it Android or WP7) and instead compares it to tablets.
  • 21 Hide
    acku , October 16, 2011 1:05 AM
    Quote:
    My only question is why is it only being compared to competition in the form of tablets? Why is there no Droid Bionic or the Galaxy SII?

    Are we to think the iPhone 4s is equal to a tablet? Especially considering the Bionic has a faster dual core (1GHz Core), more RAM (1GB), Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) and is a phone, like the iPhone.

    Honestly this review is lacking since it doesn't compare actual phones from other companies (be it Android or WP7) and instead compares it to tablets.


    Agreed. Excellent point. We'll add other smartphone as reference points.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 16 Hide
    Anonymous , October 16, 2011 2:45 AM
    I would point out that the hardware is not the whole story. From day 1, it's the combination of hardware, iOS, software and the whole Apple ecosystem. Love it or hate it, it works to make for a more complete experience.

    I'm not a zealot or apologist, just pointing out most consumers....not nerds like us....just dig the warm and fuzzy of a phone that works and lets them play Angry Birds.
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    maddogjt , October 15, 2011 10:15 PM
    On the CPU spec chart, iPhone 4S is mislabeled as iPad 2
  • 1 Hide
    halcyon , October 15, 2011 10:18 PM
    Its a nice phone.
  • 2 Hide
    acku , October 15, 2011 10:22 PM
    maddogjtOn the CPU spec chart, iPhone 4S is mislabeled as iPad 2


    Thanks for catching that. Fixed!

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 8 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , October 15, 2011 10:23 PM
    ...that's what you'll get with an SGX543 MP2. Imagine the performance of the PS Vita with an MP4 and twice the Cortex9 cores.
  • 21 Hide
    jimmysmitty , October 15, 2011 11:47 PM
    My only question is why is it only being compared to competition in the form of tablets? Why is there no Droid Bionic or the Galaxy SII?

    Are we to think the iPhone 4s is equal to a tablet? Especially considering the Bionic has a faster dual core (1GHz Core), more RAM (1GB), Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) and is a phone, like the iPhone.

    Honestly this review is lacking since it doesn't compare actual phones from other companies (be it Android or WP7) and instead compares it to tablets.
  • 14 Hide
    aznshinobi , October 16, 2011 12:08 AM
    Why do people think the iPhone 4S is revolutionary or just amazing? The Galaxy S2 is thinner, has a better CPU, and has a much larger screen. To me the 4S is a huge rip-off. iOS5 has a few things they've stolen of Android that people think are "new".
  • -3 Hide
    tramit , October 16, 2011 12:22 AM
    aznshinobiWhy do people think the iPhone 4S is revolutionary or just amazing? The Galaxy S2 is thinner, has a better CPU, and has a much larger screen. To me the 4S is a huge rip-off. iOS5 has a few things they've stolen of Android that people think are "new".


    I don't know about you but I also think it is amazing that a year later any iPhone can hold its value much better then its competing Android counterpart. When I purchased my Nexus S it wasn't to bad, but a couple months later and a huge chunk of the value was lost. Whether you like it or not the iPhone can hold its value due to the large demand.

    The GSII some would say is not revolutionary as well compared to the GSI which is the same approach it seems that the iPhone took from the 4 to the 4S. Even though the GSII has amazing hardware, the software still crashes quite often. You would think that with all the power under the hood that it would work more smoothly but it does not. My Nexus S with the most up to date Android software is still buggy at the most annoying times. If I weren't with T-Mobile I would have probably gotten the 4S. Hopefully the Nexus Prime will come to T-Mobile as well and ICS will have fixed even more bugs and work on a seemless and fluid user experience without crashing or having to send an error report.
  • 21 Hide
    acku , October 16, 2011 1:05 AM
    Quote:
    My only question is why is it only being compared to competition in the form of tablets? Why is there no Droid Bionic or the Galaxy SII?

    Are we to think the iPhone 4s is equal to a tablet? Especially considering the Bionic has a faster dual core (1GHz Core), more RAM (1GB), Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) and is a phone, like the iPhone.

    Honestly this review is lacking since it doesn't compare actual phones from other companies (be it Android or WP7) and instead compares it to tablets.


    Agreed. Excellent point. We'll add other smartphone as reference points.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 0 Hide
    AbdullahG , October 16, 2011 1:11 AM
    aznshinobiWhy do people think the iPhone 4S is revolutionary or just amazing? The Galaxy S2 is thinner, has a better CPU, and has a much larger screen. To me the 4S is a huge rip-off. iOS5 has a few things they've stolen of Android that people think are "new".

    I have yet to find someone how thinks the 4S is revolutionary. Innovative, yes, but not revolutionary. And people think iOS5 has new features which Android had simply because people are more aware of the iPhone rather than Android phones. Living in NY, there are a lot of busy routes. One such route which is commonly used to get to Manhattan has a huge billboard advertising the iPhone. Remember, these routes are full of busy people getting to work and so on. The iPhone is going to look appealing to such people. Why? Because they make of majority of the market for smartphones.
  • 0 Hide
    jimmysmitty , October 16, 2011 1:42 AM
    Quote:
    Agreed. Excellent point. We'll add other smartphone as reference points.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com


    I just happen to have gone from a LG Ally to a Droid Bionic (holy crap major difference.

    I can give you my sores but I am a bit afraid they might be off since Verizon tend to load the most crap they can.

    Overall its not too bad, its got a PowerVR SGX 540.
  • -7 Hide
    del35 , October 16, 2011 2:21 AM
    This comparison is a fraud.
  • 16 Hide
    Anonymous , October 16, 2011 2:45 AM
    I would point out that the hardware is not the whole story. From day 1, it's the combination of hardware, iOS, software and the whole Apple ecosystem. Love it or hate it, it works to make for a more complete experience.

    I'm not a zealot or apologist, just pointing out most consumers....not nerds like us....just dig the warm and fuzzy of a phone that works and lets them play Angry Birds.
  • -6 Hide
    sinfulpotato , October 16, 2011 2:56 AM
    Ernst56....just dig the warm and fuzzy of a phone that works and lets them play Angry Birds.


    You can't play angry birds on any previous smartphone. The 3GS or iPhone 4 are not up to snuff on that one.

    This point alone makes me come to the conclusion... upgrading today is pointless. More so when even with a new contract you still need to burn a few Benjamin.
  • -3 Hide
    mcd023 , October 16, 2011 3:15 AM
    I thought that the 4S was only 100 MHz faster, but this may make it worth the upgrade. Now I'm gonna have to take back a lot of my bashing! Of course, my friend said that 100MHz was going to be noticeable and he'd buy it. (Still would never buy Apple, though, but I do enjoy the objective reviews. Thanks Toms!)
  • -1 Hide
    sceen311 , October 16, 2011 3:15 AM
    sinfulpotatoYou can't play angry birds on any previous smartphone. The 3GS or iPhone 4 are not up to snuff on that one

    I play angry birds on my iPhone 3g, and aside from some jitters after loading a map for like 5 secs, it works smoothly after that.

    On a different note, I bet the save a bunch of money by using the same body style as the iPhone 4. Not really sure why you need a new body every year anyways, if it ain't broke why fix it?

    jimmysmittyAre we to think the iPhone 4s is equal to a tablet?

    Well, it has the same processor as a tablet, so in that matter it is equal to a tablet. But totally agree with comparisons to phones, just had to make the point.
  • -3 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , October 16, 2011 3:21 AM
    I would love to see the Android 4.0 phones compared to the iPhone 4S. Can't wait. First up is the DROID NEXUS PRIME, I believe. It should've already been out, but I think it was delayed in respect to Steve Jobs' passing.
  • 5 Hide
    frostweaver , October 16, 2011 4:36 AM
    battery life?
  • -6 Hide
    Anonymous , October 16, 2011 6:56 AM
    Yeap well 4s is a flop just hope the iphone 5 offers something more and better then the nexus prime phone that comes with 1.5 dual cpu HD screen etc. Apple really needs that new thing to make it stand above the crowd.
  • 8 Hide
    tacoslave , October 16, 2011 7:10 AM
    so toms is doing a 2 part on this and not Bulldozer?
  • 1 Hide
    Maziar , October 16, 2011 8:23 AM
    Quote:
    Why do people think the iPhone 4S is revolutionary or just amazing? The Galaxy S2 is thinner, has a better CPU, and has a much larger screen. To me the 4S is a huge rip-off. iOS5 has a few things they've stolen of Android that people think are "new".

    S2 may have a better CPU on paper but it's slower than 4S in benchmarks.
    Also,screen size is something personal IMO.For me anything up to 4.0" is perfect,also 4S has a better screen resolution.
    As for features,well I definitely agree that the notification center looks awfully similar to Android but aside from that,what features were copied ?

    Overall,4S is a decent phone IMO,but I really wanted to see a re-design too.
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