iPhone 4S: First Impressions

I’ve had my iPhone 4S for a couple of weeks, long enough to know what I like and don’t like.

What I Like

  • It’s fast. I didn’t think my iPhone 4 was slow, and it isn’t, but the iPhone 4S is faster.
  • Siri is handy and fun. I use it all the time, especially to make reminders and to set timers.
  • In general, I like iOS 5, which comes pre-installed.
  • I really, really like the over-the-air software updates. This works extremely well.

What I Don’t Like

  • The battery drains very quickly. iOS 5.0.1 came out yesterday and is supposed to fix “most” of the battery problems but my iPhone 4S still seems to drain more quickly than I’d like. The biggest problem is the inconsistency. Sometimes (tonight) the battery hardly drains at all. Other times it drains 5% an hour just sitting on my desk.
  • Some iPhone 4S screens have a yellowish tint. My previous iPhone (the iPhone 4) has a cool blue screen, which to my eye is nicer. This seems to be a problem specific to some of the AT&T iPhone 4S devices.
  • The sound quality for phone calls ranges from superb to terrible, without changing locations. Sometimes the sound is so great it’s like having the other person right there in the room. Later, in the same call, the sound can be so bad that I can’t continue the conversation. Hanging up and redialing solves it, but geez man. This has to be fixed.

Odds and Ends
Siri is beta software, and it shows. There are so many things that seem not-quite-ready. For example, Siri can read your text messages to you, but it can’t read an email. It can tell you that you have an appointment at 9 AM tomorrow but it can’t read that to you either. Here’s an interesting conversation I had with Siri about it:

  • Siri requires an internet connection, something that wasn’t made obvious in the promotional materials. When the internet is slow, Siri is slow. The slowness is a drag, not because I’m in a rush, but because when Siri is fast, it’s indistinguishable from magic. When it’s slow, the magic goes away.
  • Reminders are cool. But the Reminders app is harder to use than it ought to be. And why isn’t it part of the calendar app? Reminders and To-Dos are pretty closely related. I think the Reminders functionality ought to be part of the calendar.
  • Notifications are also cool. However, Notifications are a lot of work to set up, and for some reason different apps have different notification methods by default. Some use the banner across the top of the screen, some use the larger “alerts” in the middle of the screen. There’s no explanation why you’d want one app to show notifications at the top of the screen and others in the middle. Why not make them all the same, or at least give me that as an option?

Conclusions and Advice
It seems to me that the iPhone 4S, and iOS 5, were a little bit rushed. That’s sort of funny to say, considering that many industry people believe that the iPhone 4S came out three or four months late, but I still think it was rushed. Siri’s in beta (and that’s the first time that Apple’s released anything with a “beta” label), and there are battery issues, and there are sound quality issues, and there are more than a few clunky interface issues. If you’re looking for pre-purchase advice, I’d say wait until Apple puts out iOS 5.0.2. Hopefully, that update will solve the rest of the battery problems, and maybe solve the sound problems too. The lines will be shorter then anyhow.


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