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final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Reception and call quality Generally fine, with the occasional dropped call. Data feels faster on this device. good
  • Display The display looks slightly washed out to me relative to the iPhone 4. It's still gorgeous, but I'm not sure the change is a step in the right direction. good
  • Battery life On heavy-use days the battery life is slightly worse than the iPhone 4's. so-so
  • Camera It's fast shot-to-shot and the pictures are gorgeous. great!
  • Ease of use It's like an extension of my body. great!
  • Design and form factor Gorgeous and highly functional. Last year it was a 5, this year it's a 4. good
  • Portability (size / weight) A 5 last year, a 4 this year, though, to be fair, it is substantially more capable than the iPhone 4. good
  • Media support Always a strong suit for the iPhone. There's so much competency here, I'm kind of bored. great!
  • Durability This case design holds up quite well in day-to-day use. It would get a 5 if I wasn't paranoid about dropping it. good
  • Ecosystem (apps, accessories, etc.) I'm not thrilled with the available cases, but there's definitely no shortage. great!
Detailed review
  1. The camera rocks. It's fast to the initial photo and even faster shot to shot. I've taxed video recording more than I ever did on my iPhone 4 and it doesn't seem to generate as much heat.
  2. After a spotty start (load due to initial launch novelty, I'm sure), I'm finding Siri genuinely useful. She sets my alarm every night, is my sole method for adding reminders, and does a remarkable job typing for me. Last night she set the timer while we were cooking, and she changed the duration when I realized it needed to be shortened. Prior to a trip last weekend, she told me about the weather in Orlando. She can do all these things faster than my fingers can. (Yes, she's a "she" and not an "it".)
  1. In general, it is subtly faster than the iPhone 4. AT&T cellular data speeds feel noticeably zippier.
  2. Vibrate mode is much less disruptive. (I never complained previously, but I appreciate the improvement.)
  1. The 4S seems to burn through the battery a bit faster than the iPhone 4.
  2. Still no 5GHz Wi-Fi. I know, I know, it will kill the battery. So, why hasn't anyone developed a more battery-friendly chipset?
  3. My WaterField Suede Jacket-covered iPhone 4 survived a few three-to-four-foot drops onto concrete and a wood floor without scratches or cracks. I'm using the same (thin, not very padded) jacket for my iPhone 4S, but I still worry about cracking the glass.
  4. I'm not sold that the slightly washed-out tint of the new display is an improvement over the iPhone 4.
  5. I loved the iPhone 4 form factor, but I used it for a whole 16 months and would have been excited by something more fresh. The same design with a few less millimeters would have done it for me.
review history
Edited comment on Camera
Rated Camera a 5
Edited comment on Portability (size / weight)
Updated detailed review