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Apple iPhone 4S - Calling, Contacts and Messaging

By Edward Chester

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

There's been little change to the management of contacts and the way you call people in iOS 5. It's all fairly familiar and easy to use but it definitely lacks a few features compared to the competition.

For a start, while contacts can have basics like pictures added to their contact information, they don't link to social networking handles or even show a message conversation. This makes the interface simple but it can be a bind if you just quickly want to check what the last thing was that you said to someone, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter or text message – on the iPhone you'll have to check all three separately.

Apple iPhone 4S 12

Also missing is smart dialling. This makes matching contacts appear as you start typing a number, making it quicker to get to the person you want, and it's simply not present here. Otherwise, the calling process is a cinch and call quality is excellent with a clear, relatively loud earpiece, good noise cancelling and a very good loudspeaker.

There's also the matter of signal strength, which the iPhone 4 rather suffered thanks to its external antennae. It was all blown out or proportion but thankfully, the new two-antennae design finally puts the issue to bed by providing much more consistent signal strength.

When it comes to messaging, the iPhone 4S has a new trick up its sleeve in the form of iMessage. This is a BlackBerry Messenger-style service for all iOS devices that uses a data signal (including Wi-Fi and instead of texts) to send real time messages back and forth. It provides read receipts and shows if the other person is typing but, most intriguing of all, it isn't a separate app. It integrates with the main messaging app, kicking in whenever it detects the recipient is also an iOS user. It's an interesting addition for the phone but it's most useful for iPad users as, assuming a decent number of their contacts also use iOS devices, they can keep in touch without putting their iPad down.

Apple iPhone 4S 8

One small new feature of iOS 5 is that when you scroll through messages, the keyboard will move out the way, allowing you to see more messages. There isn't, however, a way to close the text box to re-read previous messages when you've written so much already that the text box fills the screen – a little bugbear of ours.

Apple iPhone 4S 11

As for email, the iPhone has long had an excellent email interface in terms of ease of use with most email accounts being very easy to setup and the presentation of the messages themselves being very intuitive and simple. The ease with which you can view HTML emails also puts Android to shame, with the latter not offering a zoom function.

However, there are a few more power user features it still lacks, and one in particular really annoys; you can't attach anything to emails. You can send an individual photo from the pictures app, and do likewise for various other file types in various other apps, but if you just want to send a document along with a couple of pictures taken with your camera, there's no way to do it with one email.

When typing out messages, the onscreen keyboard is still class leading, with superb word and grammar prediction, easy text editing features and an intuitive, clean keyboard layout.

Apple iPhone 4S 7

There's a new addition, too, in the shape of Siri. We'll talk more about Siri's other abilities later but one use for the voice recognition service is it can dictate messages. Just tap the microphone shaped button and speak away. The success rate is good but not amazing with clear diction and a steady speaking pace required – colloquialisms are a no no. It coped well with noisy environments, though, so dictating a text message while in the car shouldn't cause it too many problems.

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Randy

October 5, 2011, 1:31 am

A massive, massive disappointment. Yes, we are spoiled by Apple, but it's a company that aspires to be the biggest in the world! New CEO, four more months of waiting and raging speculations, and we're presented with a minor upgrade. The specs are great - make no mistake - but it's on par with the competition, and they're available for months already.

If that is underwhelming, don't even bother looking at new Nano update. I'm sorry, but it's laughable. 16 new clocks, bigger icons, and that's it? At least they made a price drop. Oh my... only Apple can get away with it i guess.

ffrankmccaffery

October 5, 2011, 1:53 am

In some ways Apple has to be applauded for retaining the design of the original iPhone 4 despite it's flaws mentioned above considering the many companies who've based their various cases and accessories on it.
The new voice recognition service while impressive still seem little more than a gimmick, especially when features such as social network integration would have been more welcomed and as shown on WP7 with it's 'People Hub'.
All in all the stage seems more set than it has ever been for Nokia to make their entrance with their upcoming WP7 devices.

Ala Miah

October 5, 2011, 2:18 am

If this was released in June then I think they would of gotten away with a 4S device but almost 4 months later, competition and expectations have increased. Samsung and Sony are making huge strides in terms of specs alone. 4S is not a big enough upgrade imo compared to 3GS was to 3G, 3GS was miles faster then 3G so justified the extra cost, 4S at the moment doesnt warrant another 24 month contract IMO.

So close Apple, yet so far!

Wholesome

October 5, 2011, 9:07 am

4S...it IS pretty disappointing. But i think whats more disappointing is the price: $400 for the 64gig WITH a contract! Apple could've at least give us more memory for the usual prices.

And the saddest thing of all... i still want one.

ChaosDefinesOrder

October 5, 2011, 1:01 pm

I think Engadget shows this off best; They have a comparison table between the iPhone 4.1 and the Galaxy S II, the Droid Bionic and HTC Titan.

The Galaxy S II wipes the floor with all the others in all but a couple of points. Maybe that's why Apple is going on the offensive so much against Samsung, they knew that even their newest and latest device is STILL behind the competition and the S II was released "ages ago" by technology standards!

JonDavid

October 5, 2011, 1:57 pm

I think this is what happens when you sue your major supplier. It will take them a while to get ahead of the curve again.

BobaFett

October 5, 2011, 2:06 pm

The announcement is definitely a disappointment for all those wanting to see a new hardware design, but in some ways doing an 'S' version like they did with the 3G makes a certain amount of business sense. The iPhone is still very popular and there's no compelling reason to use up that R&D expense prematurely: they can launch the iPhone 5 next July.

With regards to criticism of disappointing CPU, I'm not sure how relevant it is. Surely it's the software that matters and how it actually performs? Let's not forget that a possibly significant proportion of Android apps are not natively coded but actually run within a virtual machine, likewise Windows Phone 7. Without a genuinely useful benchmark to compare across platforms, these CPU comparisons are somewhat meaningless. You might just as well compare a 3.6 litre 473bhp Porsche 911 Turbo to an 8.4 litre 600bhp Dodge Viper SRT-10.

Keithe6e

October 5, 2011, 2:51 pm

I must admit with it been such a long time, I was expecting more. Will I upgrade?, I think it depends on what reviewers say about the the Camera.

It pains me to say @frank makes a good point about keeping the design the same, especially since this is just an S version.

HeyZuZe

October 5, 2011, 3:55 pm

Was there not some EU law coming in that all new smart phones had to use the same charger connector.....hmmm

Just off the top of my head mind you I could be completely in a parallel universe where common sens ideas happen

HDRE

October 5, 2011, 4:20 pm

I think people have been spoilt by Apple and need to get a grip. I don't need a super computer in my pocket or a 32inch monitor for that matter. I just need a phone that works. I'm an Android (HTC) user, I made that decision over 12 months ago, and when my contract is over I'm hoping on over to Apple. Why? Usability. Simple as that. I like the styling of the phone always have, always will. I don't care about the technology in the screen or CPU Speed or the number of pixels in the Camera (as it takes more than that to produce a good picture). I want a phone that's enjoyable to use, not frustrating, and apple offer that experience. The hardware isn't key, it's the software and Apple have that down to the T, Android are way behind with a poor user experience. The only thing I can see as a features I'd like to see are NFC and conductive charging. Increased screen real-estate would be welcomed too, but not at the expense of overall phone size. Maybe these will be apart of the iPhone 5. Who knows. What I do know is that sometimes too much choice in the combination of hardware and software can be a bad thing. Keeping it simple like Apple do with limited products can be reassuring to the consumer and a good thing.

Gk.pm

October 5, 2011, 4:22 pm

"Galaxy S II wipes the floor with all the others" haha, not really.

Plus there's a few missing points in that table, namely 3D performance (a clear win for the 4S) and number/quality of apps that actually use all that power.

Chris

October 5, 2011, 7:38 pm

I'm disappointed not to see an iPhone 5. I had hoped that, given how many of Apple's competitors now feature large screens in increasingly svelte bodies, Apple would have bitten the fragmentation bullet and increased the screen size a little.

Apple may have shot themselves in the foot with the Retina display in this regard, as finding a supplier for a large, super hi-res screen might be challenging. Samsung, perhaps? :)

stranded

October 5, 2011, 7:58 pm

Are still people spending hundreds of money to buy "smartphones"?
Yes? Really?
It's 2011 and i thought people should know by now how dumb these phonies are.

DrDark

October 5, 2011, 8:32 pm

What's happened to the 50+ comments flame threads of old? :'(

P.S. It's a worthwhile upgrade on the inside. Some people need to stop whining about the name and design (not necessarily refering to here - check Twitter). It's also more aimed at those with a 3G/3GS who never upgraded to the 4.
P.P.S. Not that I care, I'm still drowning in Nokias :P.

rsrd

October 5, 2011, 10:40 pm

I am actually quite glad that Apple haven't been goaded into rushing out massive leaps in design etc. To me they appear to be responding to the constructive criticism of previous devices without getting dragged into the wish list oneupmanship specs of many other manufacturers which I think demonstrates a more mature company. Clearly it won't attract diehard Android fans or the budget conscious but it consolidates on what they must clearly believe is a stable and solid device (iPhone 4). Taking a bit more time over these things can make the difference between novelty and useful real world tool. As another poster has said I think this is aimed more at iPhone 3/3GS folk who felt the 4 was too soon to upgrade and as long as they keep developing iOS it will encourage a more natural progression rather than abandoning customers through a sprint like lifecycle. You only have to look at how fast Android and Android devices are superseded to see how risky a strategy it can be for the consumer who can be left holding a semi defunct unit within a matter of months.

ChrisC

October 6, 2011, 12:36 am

As an iPhone 4 owner with 6 months left on his contract - I'm quite pleased about this in my own selfish way. It's not enough of an upgrade to make me think my phone is out of date (not that I'd rush out and get out of my contract just to have a new one if it did.) So it's got more graphics power that won't be realised properly by apps for months, a slightly better camera and a clever voice control system that you wouldn't dare use in public anyway. Glad they've kept the glass & steel materials because this is still the most premium feeling phone out there as I've stated before - compared to the creaky plastic Android masses. It might not be the most comfortable- but then that's what the bumpers are for - you can still take it off and marvel at it if you want to ;-)

Guest

October 6, 2011, 3:26 pm

@drdark, lol! I think you can blame the "improved" TR site for the volume of comments in threads like this. Though one upside, it does seem to have filtered out a lot of the extreme "Appley fanboy/ Apple hater" comments!

Guest

October 6, 2011, 3:30 pm

To me it feels like a similar step up that the Ipad 1 to Ipad 2 was. I don't see it as a massive disappointment or a major step forwards either. Middle of the road evolution.

krissjw

October 7, 2011, 1:06 pm

This phone was very predictable. Which is a shame but I guess it is impossible these days for Apple to produce products on this scale with out the details sneaking out. I had a stab at guessing what we might get back in April and was about spot on.

http://ipadnews.co.uk/2011/04/iphone-5-how-about-iphone-4s/

David Gilbert

October 7, 2011, 1:12 pm

Take a bow sir, you did indeed get it pretty much spot on!

LetsGo

October 7, 2011, 1:48 pm

The Phone will now doubt sell well.

However the IPhone no longer leads the smartphone market, the Samsung Galaxy S line does (no wonder Apple is fighting it in the courts).

Not increasing the screen size is a mistake, however if they did that they could no longer call it a retina display with out dramaticaly increasing the pixels count, which would mean Apps would need to be changed again.

Putting in a dual Core chip was a good move should increase battery life as well as giving App developers more computing power for the next generation of Games/Apps.

The IPhone 4S looks like a catch up to Android's Highend devices while being much more expensive.

I can understand why some people are dissapointed.

Kashif Bhatti

October 8, 2011, 1:32 am

As an upgrade, I'll be happy trading up from a iPhone 3gs.

Apple have never done the monumental leaps... it has not happened for any of their others lines, so why should that change for the iPhone? Android phones have large screens.. larger screens.. big screens.. and what else? There is only so much that can happen with a device to fit in the pocket on an annual basis. After all, I change macs maybe every three years - and only out of greed, really - as my old MacBooks work (albeit slower yet) fine.

When an android phone is built with the build quality of an iPhone, I may be interested.

Mitch

October 8, 2011, 5:40 pm

Apple never said they were going to release an iPhone 5.

Everyone assumed they would.

Everyone was wrong.

Your disappointment is your fault.

They made another iPhone, NOT a new iPhone - judge it on that, not your assumptions.

Skyt

October 9, 2011, 3:05 pm

Not having Flash should be under pros. Not having some crappy banner hogging my phone's resources is something I am really happy with. The fact that it urges site-builders to stop using flash on websites is a second positive thing. ( no more crappy banners on my laptop too.. :-))

shewbrookj

October 9, 2011, 4:29 pm

All products have a life cycle - take the ipod for example where it is clear that it is on the downward curve where its best and most profitable days are behind it. The mighty iphone itself that was once at the top of the curve for so long, is fighting for customers amongst a mass of smart phones that have caught up (from a hardware perspective).

Even the richest of companies have a finite amount of resources for R&D and perhaps they are focusing their priority on the new tablet market that they are currently dominating. Focusing on iPad3 would make much more business sense as currently their competitiors are still way behind the curve. Apple have a great opportunity to push on from the great lead they have created. Even if they had brought out an iphone 5, Apple would be launching it up against a much more competitive android market than in the past. They probably realise that the golden age when they used to dominate the smart phone market has come to an end.

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