To iPhone or not to iPhone?

Is iPhone 4S worth your hard-earned pesos?

Hours before Apple unveiled the latest incarnation of the iPhone, Apple fans set the Twitter streams abuzz with excited rumors (more like wishlists) on what features the “iPhone 5” was expected to have.

While following updates on the presentation by Tim Cook and team, however, one could not help but detect disappointment from the posts by bloggers and journalists covering “Let’s talk iPhone.” (The event was not live streamed, the first source of disappointment.)

One of the biggest disappointments, it seems, is that it turned out the new phone is not the much awaited “iPhone 5.” Apple chose to call it a more modest iPhone 4S, despite the unusually long hiatus between this iPhone launch and that of the iPhone 4.

(I don’t particularly appreciate why this should disappoint, but that’s probably because I am not an iPhone fan. As far as fans are concerned, it seems, there is some mystique attached to being able to say the iPhone you bought is the latest model number. Nobody even asks what the new features are. Just give the thing a new model number.)

I could understand why Apple chose not to award this phone the honor of being THE iPhone 5. In terms of processor speed and camera specs, the iPhone 4S is basically just playing catch up with the latest high end Android models out there. Apple’s new phone touts an 8 megapixel camera and a dual core processor. Both features are already in the equally nice Samsung Galaxy S II.

Early articles talked about nicer-than-Android notifications. I reserve my judgment on which is better when I see that in action. Notifications, after all, is one of the most useful features of Android. This is also something you can get on your older model phone, it seems, if you upgrade your software to iOS 5.

Understand that we are not talking here of a major leap in technology similar to when Steve Jobs unveiled Retina display in the iPhone 4 last year.

Retina display is still in the iPhone 4S, but that’s an old story.

Having said that, Apple did unveil a few interesting features in iPhone 4S. Among them is Siri, dubbed as your personal digital assistant, which—using voice recognition technology–supposedly allows you to call people, get weather updates and make a restaurant reservations.

Voice recognition technology is not exactly new. My one year old Galaxy Tab can decently convert short voice clips to text. It also does pretty decent voice triggered search. There are also apps in the Android Market that talk of voice commands that I haven’t tested yet.

But the Apple demo made Siri sound more intelligent than voice recognition software on the Android.

Siri, at least according to the demo, could understand such commands as “On May 19, remind me it’s Dad’s birthday.”

My guess is that it probably breaks the voice command into chunks and associates actions with particular chunks? In this case, create an event in the calendar on May 19; set reminder; with “Dad’s birthday” being the name of the event.

Come to think of it, with a good voice recognition software, this is really the next logical step, which is really cool and potentially useful. Details on what Siri can do here.

Siri was labeled in the demo as still being in Beta stage. I am assuming there are still bugs out there that Apple is still fixing.

I also wonder how Siri will function in areas such as the Philippines where the information infrastructure is not yet that developed. To offer the ability to make restaurant reservations via voice command, you should at least have a directory of restaurants with online reservation facilities. Is there such a thing in Metro Manila already?

Without that, Siri will remain a nice feature that would likely end up like your Facetime, which you can only use to call friends on iOS devices and Macs. And we know how those are few and far between around these parts.

By the way, Siri will be available on the iOS, but apparently only to the iPhone 4S. The lock up, it seems, is not just because Apple wants to force you to buy their new hardware. It’s probably more because those older iPhones do not have the amount of processing power Siri needs. In short, no A5 dual core, no Siri?

Outside of Siri, two other features caught my attention. One is iCloud, the newest version of Apple’s cloud storage system which, according to the demo, has the capability to scan and match your music library against the iTunes database of over 20 million songs. I am assuming this helps ensure faster syncing across devices. (Oops! Will it be able to see if you have unlicensed stuff?)

The other feature that caught my attention is faster camera speed. According to the demo, iPhone 4S takes a mere 1.1 seconds to take the first picture and half a second to take the next picture. That could mean clearer photos. According to the demo, the Galaxy SII, the next contender listed, takes twice as long to take those shots.

Having said that, should you buy the iPhone 4S? If those features impress you, and you have the extra cash, by all means do—and help the economy in the process.

But you may also want to note that the smartphone landscape is no longer the same as when Apple launched its first iPhone. There are more options out there.

Latest data shows that more people now buy smartphones running Google’s Android operating system than buy Apple phones. Check them out, do research, before parting with your hard earned pesos.

By the way, there is no schedule yet for an iPhone 4S release in the Philippines. No report either on prices for unlocked iPhone 4S units. The price ranges announced so far are tied to service agreements with US  carriers. – Move.PH

 

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