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Apple iPhone 4S: Siri and better specs, yet a disappointment?

October 4, 2011 |  7:18 pm

IPhone4S with Siri

The Apple iPhone 4S was arguably the most anticipated new gadget of the year, but after its unveiling Tuesday, questions remained over whether the new handset lived up to the monumental hype that preceded it.

We'll know for sure whether the 4S can continue the blockbuster success of previous generations of the iPhone once the phone is released and consumers can choose between buying or passing on the 4S. The iPhone 4 is the bestselling iPhone so far, having sold more units than all other versions of the phone combined, but it's clear that the 4S is an upgrade -- an evolution, not a revolution.

Many seemed to be let down by the fact that the iPhone 4S wasn't a new device called the iPhone 5, complete with the rumored new form factor or larger screen, while others in the blogosphere seemed to be focused more on what's on the inside of the new iPhone than its name or looks.

Apple got a bit of a mixed reaction in the stock market as well, with shares falling as much as 5% during day trading but ultimately closing down just 0.6% to $372.50 per share.

Photos: Apple iPhone 4S announcement

The insides of the 4S are almost worthy of the hype, worthy of the made-up ideal iPhone 5 that was rumored but never mentioned officially by Apple.

The 4S has a dual-core A5 processor, similar to the chip found in the iPad 2. Apple said the A5 will boost graphics performance by about seven times and that overall performance should be twice as fast as before. The 4S will also feature an 8-megapixel camera capable of shooting 1080p video and a new antenna system that promises to offer 4G-like download speeds while maintaining a 3G-like battery life of about 8 hours of talk time.

Other features of the iPhone however were left unchanged, such as the front-facing VGA-quality (i.e. low-quality) camera. The prices, too were left alone (thankfully) at $199 for a 16-gigabyte 4S, $299 for a 32-gigabyte unit and $399 for a 64-gigabyte handset.

The biggest unchanged aspect of the iPhone 4S, however, was its exterior, which is identical to the iPhone 4 that was released about 16 months ago.

Of the new features on the 4S, the most important might end up being Siri, a new voice command personal assistant app that Apple says will be unlike anything else seen on a smartphone thus far.  

"It's your intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking," said Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president in charge of all iOS software.

Demonstrating Siri on Tuesday, Forstall launched the Siri application and spoke into an iPhone, asking "What is the weather like today?"

The Siri app replied, "Here's today's weather," and up popped the weather forecast.

Forstall then asked "What is the hourly forecast?," to demonstrate that the Siri could understand different versions of the same question, taking speech detection in a more conversational direction than what most phones today have.

He also asked "Do I need a raincoat today?" Siri's response: "It sure looks like rain today."

Siri can find restaurants, movie times, concerts, sporting events, read text messages and calender events.

Forstall called the software "blowaway."

What do you think? Does the iPhone 4S live up to the anticipation or does it fall below expectation? Sound off in the comments below.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Times staff writer David Sarno contributed to this report.

Image: Apple's iPhone 4S smartphone running its Siri voice command assistant app. Credit: Apple Inc.

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