Thoughts on the iPhone 4S

Apple yesterday announced the iPhone 4S, the next iteration of the powerful smartphone that inspired the mobile revolution. This is major news for the technological sphere, because after all, when Apple breathes, the world shakes in its wake. The original iPhone left many of its competitors stumbling, and fumbling to provide a significant challenger (of which, to date, I don’t really see anything worthy of taking on this titan).

As with any Apple product announcement, the iPhone 4S was preceded by months of speculation. Rumours were abound about the possibility of an iPhone 5, and its failure to appear at yesterday’s media unveiling at Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California actually caused the company’s shares to plunge down over 5% – quite contra to what the usual reaction is to Apple announcements. Thousands of fans the world over were left feeling dejected at the seemingly modest update to the iPhone – but they fail to realise that there was no official iPhone 5 to be launched – merely speculation. On the other hand, the iPhone 4S provided many clues to the rumour-mill in the guise of case designs, part leaks and the usual “analyst speculation” and “sources familiar with its development”.

So while the iPhone 4S looks almost exactly like its predecessor (the iPhone 4), I still believe that it provides a formidable threat to the competition. And the power of that threat is packed largely into a new and exceptionally futuristic tool called Siri. Some are even likening it to the Terminator series. It’s that good. Basically, Siri is an artificial intelligence that you can hold in the palm of your hand. Instead of the archaic and cumbersome speech that we often have to apply to voice-recognition software, Siri takes a natural approach to actually speaking back to you, and understanding natural human commands. Take a look at this video for a better understanding of what this technology can do:

The crux of the iPhone 4S is certainly Siri. This technology reminds me a lot of the old science fiction stories of artificial intelligence – and what a coincidence that Apple launches it the same year that I did an English presentation on AI technology and the concept of the “Singularity”. Siri will pose a great threat to the competition: coupled with the power of the iPhone 4S’s A5 processor, the technology provides a natural feel to voice-driven navigation of a user interface. And as history has shown us countless times before, Apple excels at providing a product that has all parts – software and hardware – designed and built in-house. Samsung and the cloning competition do not have this advantage – they piggy-back on the Android OS, simply customizing it to fit their hardware, and churning out a new model with a confusing name like SG1245-S* (and usually appending a seemingly cool, generally “cosmic”-themed codename like Galaxy…).

As with all Apple releases, there will be disappointments. Yes, I am a little saddened that there is no “iPhone 5” per se, but in actuality, the 4S is the iPhone 5 –it’s the next iPhone after the iPhone 4. Whilst it may look like the previous iPhone, we should take heed of the adage that “looks can be deceiving” – the 4S packs a considerable punch in its internals. The current design of the iPhone is beautiful – it makes the plastic and carbon-copy competition pale a sickly colour in comparison. Why would Apple want to change the aesthetics of their flagship mobile product a mere year and a bit after it was introduced? I do believe that we’ll see a visual change in the next iPhone, but for now, I am once again in awe at the work of One Infinite Loop.

*Product name fictitious.

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