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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”.

RIP Steve.

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011. Steve Jobs, 1955-2011. (image from

The world has lost a great, great man. I don’t recall ever shedding a tear over the death of a complete stranger before yesterday. Rest In Peace, Steve.

More from Apple here, here and here.

Also worth a look are Jason Kottke’s post “Remembering Steve Jobs”, The Onion’s take on the news and, if you haven’t seen it before, Steve’s 2005 Stanford Commencement Address on YouTube.

Update: In the sea of online obituaries and tributes, i thought Stephen Fry’s piece stood out as rather good. And i liked Horace Dediu’s style too.

5 ways to annoy computer users.

Are you a novice computer user? Would you like to annoy those friends, family members and colleagues that are “better” than you “at computers”? Here are 5 quite innocent techniques guaranteed to wind them up should you ever find yourselves sat together at a computer…

  1. Delete large bodies of text by tapping backspace to delete each character individually.

  2. Use Caps Lock to type a single character in uppercase.

  3. Double-click all hyperlinks.

  4. Switch between text entry fields by taking your hand from the keyboard to make use of the mouse.

  5. Make liberal use of the Comic Sans typeface in your work.

See? Easy-peasy! With a little stubbornness and determination you could give your chosen victim a brain aneurysm in no time at all.

A busy fortnight.

It has been a very busy two weeks for world’s tech journalists. Three quite unexpected – and thus very big – news stories. I’ve wanted to write about them individually but just not got around to it, so here’s a quick round-up in which i’ll pass you over to the bigger boys for more information, should you want it.

15th August – Google buys Motorola Or rather, Google have announced they’re buying Motorola Mobility – Motorola’s mobile phone and tablet business – for the princely sum of 12.5 billion dollars. Kerching! The official line is that this allows Google to “supercharge” the Android phone OS and ecosystem. Whatever that means. The surprise news prompted much speculation about whether this deal is about obtaining Motorola’s patents (to use against Apple, etc) or about bringing Android hardware design in-house. Or both, of course. The takeover also raises questions about the future of Android support from other device manufacturers, now that Google could potentially give itself preferential treatment.

More speculation available from This Is My Next.

18th August – HP looks to dump its PC business and kill off webOS devices HP has decided it’s going to sell off its personal computer division and also stop it’s webOS-based phone and tablet hardware operations. The shock here, of course, is that HP is the world’s largest PC manufacturer (by unit sales). And that they only bought Palm – the company behind webOS, the Pre phone and ultimately the TouchPad tablet – little more than a year ago (and only released the TouchPad less than 2 months ago). But then, HP’s new CEO is a software and services man, so maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Read more at Daring Fireball and Monday Note.

24th August – Steve Jobs resigns from position of CEO at Apple Yep, he’s stepping down. Apple’s legendary co-founder has decided to hand the reins over to Tim Cook. You’d think from the coverage in the mainstream media that Apple was up shit creek now, and from the out-pouring of stories and anecdotes about Steve on the mac-web that he’d died. Fact is, he remains an employee at Apple and will chair the board. In other words, this move is all about putting investor’s “succession” fears and doubts to bed. Steve will no doubt still have much influence over Apple’s future work.

Here’s an excellent piece on Mr Jobs’ resignation by John Gruber at Daring Fireball.