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Seven Days with my iPhone 4S

I must confess, I held on to my 3GS for the full 2 years and I just finally got my iPhone 4 back in May. I really have been enjoying it, and by 2:30pm, on the day that iOS5 came out, I had quickly updated my phone, but had no plans to move on to the 4S.

When I was watching the 4S introduction at the Apple event a few days earlier, I remember immediately answering a poll on Mashable.com where they asked “Would you be upgrading to the 4S?” I quickly answered “No” and thought that was the end of it. But I am always interested in in these new devices so I keep a close eye on the technology. I was very intrigued by some of the new features of the iPhone 4S especially the voice control from Siri as well as the expected improved performance and speed.

On October 14, just a week ago, as I was heading home from some errands in the mid morning, I decided just to stop by my local AT&T Store. I noticed some barricades for the line and I noticed there were just two people standing at the front door (a worker and a customer). In fact, I didn’t even realize it was a line and just walked right for the door and was stopped. I had no intent to buy, but thought I would just come by and check out the excitement for the phone. (There wasn’t much, by the way.)

While waiting, I realized I could simply renew a family member’s contract (who was quite happy with her iPhone 3 – she uses it for phone calls!) for another two years and go ahead and get my iPhone 4S. I would just have to transfer it to my account. About an hour later, I walked out with the brand-new iPhone 4S 32GB unit and plans to sell my only five-month-old iPhone 4 on eBay.

So it’s been a week and I have some first impressions. First of all, the performance is indeed great. I ran a few benchmarks on the 4 and the 4S using BrowserMark from RightWare. (bit.ly/brmark) . When I ran it on the iPhone 4 running iOS 4.x, the reading came back 34,253. After the upgrade to iOS 5, that same device scored 53,353. So just by upgrading to iOS5, I saw a 55% increase in the benchmark. I ran the same on the new 4S and got a blazing 85649. That’s 2 ½ times the speed as my former iPhone 4 running iOS 4.x. The iPhone 4S is FAST.

I’ve been experimenting with Siri. In fact, I am dictating this now because Siri, not only is your personal assistant, but also provides a voice input for any application that would normally use the keyboard. I find it works well and gets most of the words right. Siri, on the other hand as a helpful assistant, is a bit temperamental. Yes she can read my calendar, tell me the weather, and do a Google search, but more often than not, when I need her, she cannot understand me and way too often, cannot connect to the Internet. Siri is a cloud-based app that depends on access to Apple servers in order to do anything other than local dictation.

I never really like talking to anything or giving verbal command in general. I enjoy talking to people through my phone but not to my phone, so I’m not sure if it will ever catch on for my normal routine, but it is an interesting feature nonetheless. I’m sure in time it will improve, but for me, Siri as a personal assistant is nothing more than a novelty.

Another nice feature is the introduction of shortcut keys, a little-known feature of iOS5. They have taken the much maligned “autocorrect” feature and allowed you to create your own abbreviations that help you rather than introduce errors. Nice concept! If you go into Settings, General, Keyboard, you will see the ability to create keyboard shortcuts. I created one for my email address because I type it so many times as a login entry.

Another feature of iOS5 that I certainly like is Twitter integration. For me it means being able to tweet directly from a picture. Now, it’s not such a big deal to add a picture in my Echofon client, but tweeting directly from the photo viewer is a nice plus.

The iMessage feature certainly looks good. It is an alternative to text messaging but, like FaceTime, it only works with the with Apple devices. We would be better off if we could get an open standard for this in the future. I’m sure the carriers don’t like this new competitor to their overpriced text-messaging feature.

The camera certainly is an improvement. Pictures are crisp and clear and the video is hi definition. Built in photo editing features also add convenience. Unfortunately you have no standard definition choice for video. So, here we go using up much more storage than we need. Plus, HD adds a lot of time to share your videos on YouTube or other services.

The new Newsstand features nice. So far, it is just a nice way to pull together magazines. That’s something I will likely use more on my iPad than on the iPhone

One of the real exciting new promises of iOS5 is the iCloud service that allows immediate synchronization of songs, photos and calendar entries. I found it works well with songs, but have been reluctant to try it with photos and disabled it for calendar entries. Using Google calendar I began to see multiple entries and, in some cases, missing entries so I turned it off. I think iCloud shows great promise but I think it can take some time: 1) for me to learn how to use it and 2) to see how it works with other Cloud services such as various Google services and 3) for all the bug fixes to be deployed.

One thing I did notice was that just by default it asked if I wanted to back up my device to the cloud. I thought that was great idea so I enabled it on my iPad, my iPhone and also my son’s iPod Touch. All began to back up immediately and I got a message saying I had used up all of my storage and I needed to purchase more. So the 5 GB provided by the cloud really is not enough and immediately you are encouraged to buy more.

They say the iPhone is really the same on the outside and totally different on the inside. I certainly won’t argue that but I did notice the silent switch moved down ever so slightly, enough that most cases will have a little trouble. It is the switch on the upper left side just above the volume switch that has moved down about 1/8th of an inch. I might just have to carve out my speck case a little bit with a razor blade to make it work perfectly.

Overall I’m pleased with the iPhone 4S mainly for it’s blazing speed. I’m also equally pleased that I was able to sell my old 16GB iPhone 4 for nearly equal the price that I paid for a new 32 GB 4S. Judging from the HD video, it looks like I will need that extra storage.

So, for this early adopter, I found it a good experience to upgrade. It will just take a little more time than I thought to learn the new features, and sorry but in my experiences regarding iCloud, I can’t say “It Just Works!”

So what do you think? Please add your comments below or on twitter. Are you going to spend the money to get the new 4S or can you wait for the 5? For me I am fortunate to have three AT&T contracts in the house and a family where I am the only one eager to upgrade the devices as soon as they come out. So when the iPhone 5 comes out in June or so, I will probably to get an opportunity to upgrade again.

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