Apple’s new iPhone 4S, which sold a record 4 million units on its first weekend, may be seen on the surface as an iterative upgrade to its predecessor, the popular iPhone 4.
Same form factor, same screen size but now powered with a faster dial-core Apple A5 processor, much improved graphics performance and slightly faster Internet access speeds, features which may not sound all that compelling to upgraders.
The recently released iPhone 4S, however, may be the start of something much bigger.
This could be the device that marks when we started talking to our computers and they started talking back.
Siri is breakthrough technology
Certainly, using the Siri Personal Assistant , which listens to questions and requests and uses the power of the Internet and Apple’s own iOS 5 applications to get things done, could change the way we interact with devices.
Siri, still in beta and with some rough edges, isn’t a gimmick but the best implementation of artificial intelligence and natural language speech recognition we’ve seen so far.
Requiring the muscle of the Apple A5 processor, constant Internet connection by WiFi or 3G, Siri leverages cloud computing and Apple’s various server farms to work.
Siri can access information from the stocks app, weather app, reminders app and Wolfram Alpha’s computational search engine to find answers to spoken questions, solve math problems or to fulfill spoken requests.
One of the biggest features appearing on upcoming rival Android smartphones from Motorola, HTC and Samsung are larger 4.5 to 4.7-inch screens, quickly approaching the size of small tablets.
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With the iPhone 4S, touch-typing on its smaller 3.5-inch screen may not always be optimal but users can now dictate and respond to text messages, e-mail and Apple’s new iMessage service by voice.
The dictation component of the iPhone 4S can be a valuable input method that can eventually surpass the fastest thumb typing.
Smartphone camera on steroids
The iPhone 4S might also be the device that weans us away from handheld HD video cameras and cheaper dedicated point-and-shoot digital cameras.
The best camera, after all, is the one you have with you, and the iPhone 4S brings a major upgrade in this area.
The 8-megapixel iPhone 4S camera can take crisp and accurate photos that can yield stunning 8 X10 prints.
The larger f/2.4 aperture lets in more light, advanced lens components and algorithms in iOS 5-enable colour accuracy and facilitate better white balance, and greater dynamic range. All of this is present in one of the fastest phone cameras we’ve used.
Best of all, users don’t need to tinker with any settings or do anything more than point-and-shoot to get spectacular photos in almost all lighting conditions. Adjustments such as cropping and red-eye removal can be done within the camera app as well.
Improvements in iOS 5 now allow camera access from the home screen and now the iPhone’s Volume Up button doubles as a shutter button when using the camera in landscape mode.
1080p HD video recording is nothing new to smartphones but the iPhone 4S ups the ante by adding built-in image stabilization, which eliminates much of the shake and blur that separates good video from garbage.
These iPhone 4S HD video and photo taking features will give any $200 dedicated cameras a run for their money.