When it comes to viewing photos, listening to music and watching video, the iPhone range has always offered a very easy experience, but only if you stick to Apple's rules. This remains the same with the iPhone 4S.
Although you can now setup an iPhone without connecting to a computer, you can't get any multimedia files onto it without using iTunes. If like us you wouldn't normally use iTunes, being forced to use it is a bit of a bind.
It's not just that you have to use the software – as actually iTunes is quite good, even on PC, now – but that you can't do anything manually. With music it's less of an issue as iTunes is useful for managing that side of things anyway, but having to faff about with syncing pictures and videos is such a pain.
Most irksome is pictures, as iTunes actually resizes all your pics upon syncing, meaning that if you've got a great quality picture you want to show people, you can't add the whole thing – then use the zoom function to show everyone the fine details – but must have it shrunk. Yes, this makes it easy for people that don't know what they're doing when it comes to resizing images but at least make it an option!
Video support is also woeful so if you've a collection of legitimately obtained MKV, AVI or DivX clips then you'll have to convert them. Thankfully there's plenty of software out there that can do just that quickly and easily.
Of course you can bypass much of this hassle by obtaining all your video (and music) content from iTunes. Pricing is actually quite reasonable as well, with Mastodon's latest album costing only £7.99, and the Green Lantern setting you back £3.49 to rent and £9.99 to buy.
Once you've loaded your media on the phone, it all looks superb thanks to that excellent screen. That said, watching video is one area where the smallish size of the screen does let it down – we wouldn't really want to watch a movie on it.
When it comes to capturing your own video and pictures, the iPhone 4S excels. Pictures pack in plenty of detail thanks to the 8 Mpixels on offer, while metering and colour reproduction is accurate. There is plenty of grainy noise in low light but there aren't any horribly distracting green or red flecks as you sometimes get, so images are still usable when viewed on the device itself or on Facebook.
Detail level is decent and colour reproduction, excellent in this shot.
Without HDR this picture looks washed out with blown out highlights.
With HDR it's still a bit dark overall but overall exposure is better.
In dark conditions there's a lot of graining.
And the flash only does so much to rectify it.
Video, likewise looks punchy and detailed in good light, and motion is smooth. The step up in detail from 720p to 1080p is noticeable, though not on the phone – you'll need a TV or monitor for that. Oh wait, the iPhone 4S doesn't have a video output…
The camera is not good enough on either account to replace a decent dedicated compact – not least because it lacks an optical zoom and Xenon flash – but if you're unlikely to spend more than £100 on a camera anyway then you can certainly get away with making do with the iPhone 4S. Moreover, it's competitive with the smartphone competition, with only the Nokia N8's 12 Mpixel model outgunning it.
Capturing your content is much easier thanks to the volume button doubling as the record/shutter button and the app being so simple and intuitive. However, with the onboard camera now being so much better, the continued lack of options can grate. While Windows Phone even offers options such as setting the ISO (great for trying to ensure you're night shots aren't grainy and noisy), the iPhone offers nothing but flash settings, HDR, and an onscreen grid for lining up your shots.
Likewise, video doesn't let you change even the resolution, with just an option for turning the flash light on or off.
Overall, though, the picture and video capturing experience is an enjoyable one, and it's easy to upload your photos and videos, and you can trim video clips down as well before uploading or sending to friends.