Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

iPhone 4S Unveiled with Fast iPad Chip, 8-Megapixel Camera, but No iPhone 5 Yet


Could Apple's media event Tuesday at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters possibly live up to the hype preceding it? Put it this way: if you're an Apple fan you'll probably love the tweaks that the company has made to iOS5 to better integrate the iPhone and iPad and their apps. But if you're already in the Google Android camp or still carrying a torch for Microsoft or Blackberry, Apple's news today isn't likely to impress. Particularly in the absence of the highly anticipated, but currently nonexistent iPhone 5 (although Apple did roll out the iPhone 4S).

Such is the challenge for consumer tech companies as their products mature. Faster processors, better graphics and camera, more apps, longer battery life—Apple CEO Tim Cook hit all the right notes during the company's first major event since Steve Jobs stepped down as chief executive last month. Still, Tuesday's announcements lacked the blockbuster product introduction to which Apple's fans have become accustomed.

That's not to say that Apple hasn't been hard at work improving iOS and the iPhone. Perhaps the most innovative technology Apple trotted out was the voice recognition technology it acquired along with Siri last April and integrated into the new iPhone 4S. Scott Forstall, Apple's iOS chief, posed questions directly to his iPhone onstage, such as where could he find "great Greek restaurants in Palo Alto," and promptly received answers, in this case, "I've located 14 Greek restaurants. Five are in Palo Alto. I've sorted them by rating," The New York Times live blogged.

The iPhone 4S—which begins shipping in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. on October 14—features a new dual-core A5 processor, the same used in the iPad 2. Apple claims the 4S runs graphics up to seven times faster than its predecessor. The 4S also has the ability to switch between its two antennas to transmit and receive signals, a feature expected to improve call signal quality.

Not to be overlooked is the 4S's 8-megapixel digital camera (the iPhone 4's camera is 5-megapixel). Apple claims the new camera has 60 percent more pixels than the iPhone 4's camera and can snap photos 33 percent faster. The camera's quality is likely to further threaten makers of stand-alone digital cameras (remember those bulky cameras that don't double as phones and Internet devices?).

In the U.S., the iPhone 4S will operate on the AT&T, Verizon and Sprint cellular networks. A 16-gigabyte version will sell for $199, with 32-gigabyte and 64-gigabyte versions selling for $299 and $399, respectively.

Image courtesy of tbradford, via

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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