‘Let’s talk iPhone’, and it talks back: iPhone 4S announced with intelligent assistant
The waiting is over (announcement-wise), and wild rumours about Nano-sized models and tapered designs are being quickly forgotten: the new iPhone has arrived (or will do, starting on 14th October). Given the intensity of the competition that has increased as Android vendors have started to push the envelope (3D, biometrics, NFC, etc.), one might have expected more bells and whistles hardware-wise: but Apple is a leader, not a follower. While some or all of these technologies will likely appear on future iPhones, it was software that caught the eye and one piece in particular: Siri, a voice-recognition/responsive intelligent assistant. That’s not to say the 4S doesn’t stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the latest and greatest in the premium smartphone market. Key additions include:
Apple’s A5 processor: introduced in the iPad 2, this dual-core processor (a key addition in 2011 in many top-end smartphones, balancing performance and power consumption) provides 2x faster CPU, 7x faster graphics than the previous model – important for mobile gaming, the largest sector in the apps market (App Store developers rejoice)
14.4 MBps uplink compared to 7.2 with iPhone 4 – matching key Motorola, LG and HTC handsets
Both GSM and CDMA – it is a “world phone”
A 64 GB model (previously the upper limited was 32 GB)
8MP sensor (3264 x 2448) rear-facing camera (again, in line with its competitors flagship devices, if not better) with 1080p HD video recording
In one respect the iPhone 4S remains faithful to its forebears: a 3.5-inch display. While other leading vendors are upping the ante, with 4.3-inch screens being the general benchmark (a nod to Samsung though with its 5.3-inch Galaxy Note though), perhaps Apple feels as tablet adoption continues to increase meteorically, users will see smartphones in a different light. Certainly, Siri – the iPhone 4S’s “intelligent assistant” – suggests this might be correct. While touchscreen technology has been one of the key drivers of smartphones, this new software addition will take touch out of the equation in some respects. With smartphones being used more ‘on-the-go’ there are occasions where even superior touchscreen technology can be time-consuming. Apple highlighted a wide array of operations Siri can perform simply through voice command: “what’s the weather like today?”; “wake me up a 6am”; “how do I get home?”; “define mitosis”; “remind me to call my wife after work”. In our recent smartphone report we forecast that there will be one billion smartphones shipped by 2016, and notably with one-third of these having an unsubsidised retail price of under $150. It was interesting that Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook highlighted the fact that smartphones are a small proportion of the total handset market, but that he expected smartphones to become the majority in the future. We knew this already, but it gives an insight into where Apple may go next. He noted the 100,000 visitors to Apple’s new store in Shanghai during its first weekend of being open: and China is one of the best prospects for smartphone growth. Apple extended the continuation of its back catalogue from one model removed, to two – with the iPhone 4 and 3GS remaining on sale. While this is not a tiered catalogue of smartphones, it is tantamount to it – given that the older models match the specifications of standard smartphones. It is a testament to Apple’s brand strength that consumers in some cases will opt for these continued older models rather than competing devices. While the iPhone 4S is an 'S' model - code for upgrade (albeit significant in many respects) - we await with anticipation the iPhone 5 to see if it heralds a more concrete, new hierarchy of iPhones.