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On the iPhone 4S.

Last week saw Apple reveal its latest phone – the iPhone 4S. It is “only” a refinement of the iPhone 4 and this has left many people wondering where the “iPhone 5” is. Some even speculating that it will appear much sooner than next year (and one other even going so far as to claim the iPhone 5 was pulled in light of Steve Jobs’ death). I think the break with the “New iPhone in June” cycle and having to wait until October has thrown these folks – i’d have said it was fairly obvious to expect a “4S”, a la the 3G and 3GS, over a “5”. It has just arrived a little late.

iPhone 5

So, what’s actually new in this refinement of the iPhone…?

New processor. Specifically, the A5, as found in the iPad 2. It’s a dual-core part and so “upto twice as fast”. Apple also tells us that graphics performance is upto “7 times” better. Which is nice.

New camera. The iPhone 4S sports a new 8 megapixel sensor with other improved optics, including a larger aperture and extra lens. Apple says they’re matching dedicated-point-and-shoot-camera quality with this device and judging by press reaction so far they may be right. The camera now also records video footage at 1080p HD, with image stabilisation.

The iPhone is now a “world phone” – they’ve put GSM and CDMA cellular tech inside, so there’s no longer separate versions of the phone for the different mobile networks. That really doesn’t mean much to us here in the UK (where we just use GSM) but we should see benefits from the fancy new antenna system, which will improve call quality and supposedly negate the signal-dropping (“antennagate”) issue (which upset the press but apparently not any potential customers).

And finally… Siri. This is Apple’s new voice assistant. A software feature really but specific to the iPhone 4S hardware (for the time being, i assume). Here’s how Apple describe Siri…

Siri on iPhone 4S lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it.

It sounds really cool. And if you watch Apple’s video of it in action (on this page) it does seem like truly futuristic, sci-fi technology. Whether Siri works in the real world remains to be seen, of course. I spent enough time messing about with Speakable Items in Mac OS X (trying to have it “tell me a joke”) to remain sceptical.

And that’s it, really. Well, that’s it for publicised updates. There will be other little things – such as the battery. The battery specs for the iPhone 4S are nigh-on identical to the iPhone 4 but given its much more powerful cpu (etc) then the powerpack has clearly received some sort of update too.

Personally, i like the updates – they make a brilliant phone even better – but there’s nothing there that has had me trying to work out the cheapest way of getting out of my existing mobile contract. I remain much more excited about the changes that iOS 5 will bring to my iPhone 4 come the twelfth of October.

For more in-depth discussion of the new iPhone hardware (including more reasons why there isn’t yet an “iPhone 5”), i recommend you visit Gruber and Dediu. Both excellent, as ever.

Update: Apple have announced that they took 1 million pre-orders for the iPhone 4S in the first 24 hours. Seems that quite a few people aren’t bothered that it’s not an “iPhone 5”.