Review: iPhone 4S is Snappier but not Mind Blowingly Awesome

I’m an early adopter of the iPhone 4S only because I’m the type of geek who can’t stand to know that I don’t have the latest and greatest tech available at my finger tips.  I didn’t get it for Siri, the new antennas, or the A5 processor.  All of these features made it easier to lay down the cash for a full priced iPhone 4S, but let’s be honest, it’s the same damn phone as the iPhone 4 except for a few hardware changes in the guts of its case.  Regardless, it’s still a beautiful piece of machinery, and considering how simple the migration process was I really couldn’t be happier about my decision.  Although, my bank account may disagree with that statement.


Verizon iPhone 4S Black – 16GB

EB 8 out of 10 Buddhas

The Awesome: Simple Setup, Overall performance gains, Siri

The Not so Awesome: Siri’s speed, Not the iPhone 5


The Awesome

Simple Setup

I raved about how simple it was to migrate from my iPhone 4 to the iPhone 4S in a separate post yesterday, which you can read here, but I thought it was worth mentioning one more time.  I think my over excitement in regards to this process is mainly due to the fact that I used to be an Android user, and anyone from that camp that isn’t full of sh*t will tell you that setting up new Android phones is a very lengthy process.  This is true even when you have to load up a replacement phone for your Droid after the original fails on you (and it will, at least once).  Like I said, I think my excitement in regards to how smooth this process was is directly related to my Android years, but the iPhone 4 to 4S migration process is still an operation to be blown away by.

Overall performance gains

The iPhone 4S is without a doubt much faster than the iPhone 4 in almost all aspects.  Screen animations are smoother, menu navigation is snappier, the camera loads quicker, and many other areas are also vastly improved.  Which they should considering the 4S has a shiny new A5 processor in it.  I noticed the greatest gains in performance in the Safari browser.  Apple wasn’t kidding around when they claimed that the 4S’s dual antennas would allow for much faster browsing speeds.

I owned a HTC Thunderbolt, which is a 4G phone, and I would have to say that the iPhone 4S holds its own when browsing speeds are compared.  I don’t have the resources to perform a battery of comparison tests, but if you check out this post from Gizmodo you’ll see that the proof is in the pudding when it comes to the increased performance speeds of the 4S’s browser.  I’ve included a snippet of their report below for you to see, which details the browser download speeds of the iPhone 4S versus the strongest Android handsets.  These tests were done on a wifi network, so 3G/4G connections are not reflected in this study.

Synthetic Speed tests via Sunspider

iPhone 4S: 2237.8 ms
iPhone 4: 3611.8 ms
Droid Bionic: 3963.9 ms
Samsung Galaxy S II: 3523.2 ms

Non-synthetic Speed Test

iPhone 4S
Awl: 6 sec
NYT: 5 sec

iPhone 4:
Awl: 7 sec
NYT: 8 sec

Droid Bionic:
NYT: 12 sec
Awl: 13 sec

Samsung Galaxy S II:
NYT: 5 sec
Awl: 8 sec

The new camera also sees a mega gain in performance.  It enables you to snap pictures much quicker than was ever possible on the 4, and with the addition of the 8MP camera it now shoots decent looking video in 1080.  It’s a much quicker operation to go from a locked phone to a camera phone on the iPhone 4S


Siri is Apple’s answer to the speech to text functionality found in the Android platform.  I’ve used both platforms as indicated earlier, and I have to say that Siri is much more robust that what the same software can do on an Android phone.  Siri nearly picks up every command without having to repeat it like you’re talking to a 2 year-old.  I was in a very loud bar last night, and Siri was still able to decipher what I was speaking to her.  It’s going to take me awhile to get used to all the commands that Siri can process, but it’s nice to know that I more or less have a working hands-free system to manage my iPhone 4S when I shouldn’t be using my hands to do it i.e. driving.

Mastering Siri’s command set will take some time

Although, I think most users are so used to managing their phones via button presses that I don’t really know how many of them will switch their way of thinking and ditch their digits for voice commands.  Not to mention that Siri isn’t the fastest piece of software in the world (see Not so Awesome section) either, so that could turn some people off to its features as well.


The Not so Awesome

Siri’s Speed

Siri is one of those double edged sword deals.  It’s functionality is very impressive, and the voice to text features work better than they do on the Android platform, but the time it takes to pull of some of these voice commands is excruciatingly long for people that have no patience.  It could very well take up to a minute just to send a text.  Sure it’s awesome to be able to just talk to your phone and have it send a text for you, but doing it the manual way is just so much more efficient.  This begs the question is it worth it to use Siri to mange your phone’s functionality at the cost of time to complete simple operations?

Honestly, your answer will depend on your patience level.  I have zero patience for software that takes too long according to my internal geek clock, so for me personally I think Siri is just too slow for me to use extensively.  Sure I’ll still use it, and as mentioned it’s way better than what Android has, but it’s just not efficient enough for it to become the go to tool to run my phone’s day to day operations.

Not the iPhone 5

Let’s face it, the iPhone 4S is an impressive piece of gadgetry, but it’s not a brand new model.  It looks and feels the same as the 4, and outside of some hardware differences you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.  Unboxing the iPhone 4S just didn’t feel as special as it could have if I was tearing through some plastic to get at a completely new model of the iPhone.  The 4S isn’t disappointing, it’s just not as exciting as getting an entirely new looking toy.


The Final Verdict

The iPhone 4S is a top tier phone in today’s market.  It’s new A5 processor makes it one of the snappiest smartphones on the market, and it makes the iPhone 4 look like an old piece of technology.  Overall the phone’s performance is noticeably better than what one would get with the 4.  With the inclusion of Siri the iPhone 4S has a solid speech to text platform that works better than its Android counterpart, but it just takes too long to do simple tasks like sending a text for it to be revolutionary.  If you’re in the market for a new smartphone I whole heartedly recommend the iPhone 4S.  I don’t think it’s mandatory to get one if you already have an iPhone 4, but if you have an upgrade hanging out there then it’s deserving of it.

Although you could still wait for the iPhone 5 and not really miss out on a revolutionary iPhone experience.  For this I give the iPhone 4S an EB 8 out of 10 Buddhas.  I love it, and don’t regret getting one, but now that I own one I can see that it really isn’t that much different than the iPhone 4.  Regardless, if you don’t have one just know that my phone is probably better than yours.  You’ve been thinking that the EB is starting to sound like an Apple fanboy…


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Tags : cool techfanboysImpressionsiPhone 4S
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.