Apple iPhone 4s Review

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Apple iPhone 4s vs iPhone 5

Reviewed by Charlotte Kertrestel

Launched late in 2011, the iPhone 4S was expected to steal the smartphone spotlight away from Samsung’s all conquering Galaxy S2. Shrugging off disappointment that this wasn’t an iPhone 5, the updated 4S still managed to create an awful lot of fuss.

One of the main reasons for all the attention was the introduction of Siri to the world. Siri, effectively a personal assistant, is a feature which has been added to the iOS to provide answers to the user’s simple questions, as well as giving recommendations and even directions.

However the Samsung Galaxy S3, released with much fanfare earlier this year, has taken the spotlight away from the 4S, and still manages to dominate even the new iPhone 5. With disappointment about Apple’s new model spreading, it is still the iPhone 4S which proves most popular in the smartphone market. But why is this? Let’s take a look at the iPhone 4S and find out.

iPhone 4S Review

Build Quality

As soon as you take it out the box you will be struck by the similarities the iPhone 4S has with its predecessors. The phone, at just over 4.5 inches high and 2.3 inches wide, has exactly the same dimensions as the iPhone 4, but at 140g, it is 3g heavier. Its 3.5 inch screen is nothing against its closest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S3, which boasts a mega 4.8 inch screen. Though you may argue that bigger isn’t necessarily better, the general trend of the smartphones market would suggest that the iPhone is close to being left behind. Especially when the Samsung Galaxy S3 weights almost 10g lighter than the iPhone 4S.

That said, the lightness of the S3’s casing is one area where the 4S is superior; the iPhone 4S’ shell feels more solid and hardy, perfect for those of you with clumsy hands. Furthermore, although the S3 beats the iPhone in terms of size, the 4S still holds its own with a ppi of 330 compared to the S3’s 306, which demonstrates the high viewing quality that the iPhone 4S sports.

One downside of the iPhone when compared with the Galaxy S3 is the inability to remove the battery on the 4S, which can be a little irritating after owning the handset for some time.  However, unlike HTC phones, the iPhone gives you the option of expanding the phone’s internal memory of 16, 32 or 64 GB (better than the 16-32 GB range of the iPhone 4’s memory), by inserting an external SD card into the side of the handset. 

iPhone 4S Review

Phone Set Up

The iPhone 4S is using a Dual Core A5 chip, which is an improvement from the iPhone 4’s A4 chip. The model has a dual core 1 GHz processor, which comes in at a little lower than the S3’s 1.4 GHz.

The operating system (OS) used in the iPhone 4S is iOS 5, though the model can be upgraded to the latest iOS 6 version, which was released in the iPhone 5 in September last year.  

 The interface of the iOS is the tile system for applications that many users are familiar with. The OS displays your apps and widgets in organised folders on your home screens, which makes it extremely straight forward to use. However, Android phones give you a greater level of customisation, allowing you to select, move and resize all of your apps onto numerous home screens according to your personal preference, making Google operated models more user friendly than the apple OS.

Furthermore, the Samsung S3 is capable of doing multiple things at the same time such as watching a video and texting. This is down to a combination of the processing power and Android’s Jelly Bean OS, which is something that the iPhone 4S does not benefit from. 

iPhone 4S Review


Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, Apple has consistently set and raised the bar for what a smartphone should behave like. The iPhone 4S is no exception to this as it comes packed with features, some which are new while some are merely improved.


The one feature that everyone was looking forward to with the iPhone 4S was Siri; a virtual personal assistant which responds to your voice, answers your questions and even gives you directions. When trialling Siri, I wasn’t expecting a great deal from the iPhone 4S’artificial intelligence, but some people have been disappointed by Siri’s limitations.

Siri is amazingly helpful at answering the majority of questions and doing what you say, as long as she can understand you clearly. This is a great feature, especially when your hands are doing a million and one things. That said, there have been problems with understanding accents that are quite thick, so you might find yourself having to annunciate and repeat questions at times.

Compared with the Galaxy S3 (and most other Android phones to that effect), the voice recognition features on this Apple model really isn’t something which makes the iPhone 4S stand out, and it has now become somewhat of a common feature of all smartphones.


iMessage is a new feature that came preloaded with iOS 5. With texting being one of the most used forms of communication in the world, Apple has taken the opportunity to make it free to communicate between different iOS 5 devices. This effectively took away any advantage that the BlackBerry BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) had over Apple in the smartphone market.

In my opinion it is an improvement on the BBM as it works through the text function with no need to identify if the other person is an Apple user or not. It automatically detects an iOS run device and switches to the appropriate message type in a smooth fashion. This does away with BBM’s antiquated user management system, which many find far too complicated. iMessage is an easy to use and seamless system that saves you time – and money off your bill.

However, with Google’s ChatOn, and more importantly, WhatsApp (a free app which offers instant messaging to any other smartphone for no additional cost), iMessage is another feature which no longer makes the iPhone 4S stand out as superior when compared with more modern phones on the market.

App Store

The iPhone 4S like every other one before it comes preloaded with a variety of apps such as Safari to browse the internet, iTunes to download movies and songs and Maps to find your way home. This is one feature which has always set the iPhone apart from other smartphones, and is set to continue with the iPhone 4S.

The huge app store gives users the opportunity to install a number of apps from an enormous variety of games, videos, books and more. With free and paid applications available across a number of different categories, the user has an abundance of choices. Currently there are over 700,000 apps available in the App Store with 30 billion downloads, with both growing daily, and the saying is “there’s an app for that” isn’t just a tagline – it’s true.

This is where the iPhone is still unrivalled when compared with any Android on the market. Although Google are reapidly catching up, Apple's App store still reigns superior. 


Camera & Video

The camera and video functions are enough to make or break a smartphone. This is especially the case with phones like the iPhone 4S which has a lot invested in its screen and its use of and interaction with images that can primarily come from the on-board camera.

To compare the photograph quality of the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, have a look at our iPhone 5 Review


The iPhone 4S has an 8MP iSight rear camera, which has become standard issue with most top-of-the-range smartphones, including the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3, and is 3 MP bigger than its predecessor. There are a variety of features that can be used with the camera such as LED flash, auto as well as tap to focus and face detection capabilities in still images.

The above pictures show off the picture quality of the main camera and most of all the capabilities of its zoom. The camera is really is easy to control, simply stretching my fingers across the screen I am able to regulate how much to zoom in or out of an image. It also allows you to choose to have the flash on or off, have a composition grid and whether to have HDR on. The images of the clock tower are to show off the range of the camera’s zoom, with all the images being taken from the same spot.

A colleague of mine recently returned from a trip to New York and was generous enough to show me a selection of her photos taken with the iPhone 4S. As you can see, the images look very clear, and capture the bright lights of the Big Apple well. Although some pictures taken in dull light don’t appear as sharp as they possible could, when the flash was activated, the results were much more satisfying.


The video recording has also been improved from 720p to 1080p which is basically a better form of HD. It has a video stabilisation function which works quite well for people like me who have shaky hands at the best of times.

This 30-second shot shows the clarity that the video gives alongside the video stabilisation. It’s clear, crisp and looks great with the 1080p HD recording. 


Camera and Video Summary

The 8MP camera and video are enhanced when coupled with extra features such as tap to focus. It pales in comparison to the efforts of some of its competitors such as the Sony Xperia S which has a 12MP monster as its main camera and arguably leads the market. Overall I would say it is a solid camera and video that will not leave users unsatisfied with results.


iPhone 4S Review

Battery Life

The battery life of a phone is again one of the main factors which determine the extent to which we like a phone. This rings especially true considering there is no option to replace the battery, like in other non-Apple handsets.  

Luckily the iPhone 4S didn’t prove to be problematic with regards to its battery life. As with all smartphones, its usage determines how quickly the battery is depleted. Applications not needing a lot of processing power such as messaging software will not tax the battery as much as, say, watching videos for an hour.

A recent journey I had where I forgot to charge my phone had me starting out with 40% battery life on the day. I ended up watching four 45 minute videos that I’d downloaded, which took up approximately 7% of battery per video. I spent about 16 hours out that day with the phone being able to survive for 13 hours – not bad considering that it started with less than half of its battery.

In order to test standby levels, I have left the phone idle for 24+ hours on as little as 20% battery life and still found it operational the next day. So I would have to say the battery life of the phone is very good, but heavy and consistent usage can speed up the process of draining it.


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Comparison Test

Apple iPhone 4s 16GB black Apple iPhone 5 16GB black Apple iPhone 4s 16GB black
115 × 59 × 9 mm 124 × 59 × 8 mm 115 × 59 × 9 mm
  Operating System  
iOS 5 iOS6 iOS 5
140 g 112 g 140 g
  Talk Time  
8 hours 8 hours 8 hours
  Standby Time  
1 week and 1 day 1 week and 2 days 1 week and 1 day
  Date Released  
October 2011 September 2012 October 2011
  Today's Best Deal  
  1000 minutes
Unlimited texts
1000 MB data

£29 handset
£25.00 a month
24 months

Go to deal

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Comments (1)
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