iPhone 4S makes it’s entrance, but no sign of the iPhone 5

When Apple call a press conference, it always garners a disproportionate amount of coverage and today was no different (with tech blogs literally exploding under demand) as the company finally lifted the lid on it’s iPhone 4S.

The 4S is the successor of last years iPhone 4, the best selling Smartphone to date –  but surprisingly it isn’t much more than an incremental upgrade. When you look at the new hardware, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as the original iPhone 4. Apple themselves have said that the exterior is pretty much identical to the 4, but the inside is quite different.

What they mean by that is that the iPhone 4S will sport a new A5 processor (the same as in the iPad 2) boast CU speeds of double it’s predecessor and graphical speeds of up to 7 times faster than the iPhone 4. And to be fair, the new processor does look impressive in action, a demo of Infinity Blade 2 ran smoothly in real time on the device with stunning visuals – although I’m sure draining the battery rather rapidly. While were on the battey, Apple claim that has been improved, but only marginally (it sounded about the same as the iPhone 4 to me with 8 hours 3G talktime).

Its clear that Apple have targeted the compact camera market (the iPhone 4 is the most popular camera model used on Flickr) and have made a very concerted effort to continue this with their new releases. As well as iOS5’s camera upgrades revealed in June the 4S has a completely rebuilt camera. That’s a 8MP resolution as opposed to iPhone 4’s 5 and a completely redesigned sensor designed to let in more light and improve sharpness. Speed has also been improved with Apple claiming the camera can launch within 1.1 seconds and have a gap between photos of no more than 0.5 seconds – a big improvement over the oft clunky iOS4 camera app.

Video is also high on Apple’s agenda. The 4S will shoot 1080p HD and includes real time video stabilisation. This is a biggie in my opinion (it’s amazing how unsteady those iPhone videos can be) and with Apple’s experience in this area with Final Cut, I expect a pretty near perfect experience from this one.

If the iPhone 4 had any issues with it’s design, it was that antenna which could drop calls when held in a certain way. Well guess what -Apple have solved it (only 15 months too late!). With new antenna switching software, the phone can work out which side your holding and switch to a different part of the antenna. Apple did say this was to help combat if the user is ‘holding it the wrong way’. I might have known it was all our fault!

It wasn’t all iPhone 4S at the press event. It was revealed that the iPhone 4 and 3GS would continue to be sold at a lower price. The 3GS will be provided for free with a contract – a big pull for the lower budget market.

We also learned that the heavily documented iOS5 will finally launch in eight days time on October 12th alongside Apple’s highly anticipated iCloud. iOS5 will be on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, but it’s unclear if it will run on the iPhone 3GS. iCloud will be available across all iOS5 devices and OS X Lion from launch with iTunes match (the system which will match your entire iTunes library in the cloud) launching in late October.

There was also a few moments dedicated to iPods (the former Apple stronghold). The iPod nano will be refreshed with some nifty new features including an exercise app which will track your runs. iPod touch gets a new 64GB model and iPod shuffle will remain at 2GB. But sadly, it seems that the iPod classics time has finally come after there was no mention during the event.

The final and biggest announcement was Apple’s new assistant – Siri. I say new, but of course American readers have been enjoying a form of Siri on their iPhone 4’s for over a year (it was available through the app store, but never released worldwide).

Siri is voice recognition software baked into the operating system. You can ask your iPhone questions, what’s the weather like?, How are the stocks doing? Where am I? Siri will then respond, trying to mimic a human conversation and providing you with the info your after.

What’s impressive is quite how much Siri understands. If you ask for example, ‘who was the first man on the moon?’, Siri will get that info. You can then continue that conversation by saying, ‘how old is he?’ Siri will know you mean Neil Armstrong without you saying his name again. It’s a very intelligent piece of software and if it works like Apple claim, it could be revolutionary.

Siri will also send texts, set up meetings, book restaurants, set reminders, set your alarm (just by saying wake me up at…) and can of course do dictation. It is the best speech recognition software I have seen, but I am wary of technology this week. After experimenting with friends Android devices with similar tech, the results were…very hit and miss. It will be interesting to see how much Siri can refine this.

Siri will launch with the iPhone 4S on October 14th – which is a launch in the US, UK, Germany, France and Japan – and will be available in 16GB, 32GB or 64GB models. Oh and it’s also available in white!

But where was the iPhone 5, the device so many were expecting tonight. In all honesty, I’m not too surprised at the lack of it, we’ve been prepared for a small increment for a while. Although it would be good to see Apple drive the market with a new iPhone, they don’t really need to and with the 4S are clearly targeting existing 3GS owners looking for an upgrade. I do doubt that many iPhone 4 owners will upgrade, I for one will certainly be holding out for an iPhone 5 next year.

But despite the 4S being enough of an announcement, the whole conference did seem a little low key for Apple. It was Tim Cook’s first gig in charge and maybe this is why things were toned down, but something seemed to be missing from tonight – that spark of ebergy and excitement Apple provide with their products was missing. And of course we were all missing a certain Mr Jobs, no-one could launch a product like Steve…

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