Apple thoroughly disappointed all iPhone 5 hopefuls. Despite the general conviction based on solid rumors that there would be an iPhone 5, there is just an iPhone 4S.
Trust me, I am not confused, even if I did post an article with reasons why you should upgrade to the iPhone 4S (because of Sprint, the camera and Siri). The fact that the new iPhone 4S is only an incremental update is quite surprising. One would have thought that CEO Tim Cook would launch an exceptional device and not some leftover legacy innovation from Steve Jobs. Analysts are already all over Apple and, like Rob Enderle, consider the iPhone 4S a "miss." At this point, I am not sure if I agree and would not go so far as to call it a miss, considering that Apple's rivals are still catching up. However, the feature lineup in the iPhone 4S certainly makes you think. If you are on a budget, there may not be an immediate need to update, even if you live and breathe Apple.
Here is some food for thought.
1. It looks like the iPhone 4 and feels like the iPhone 4.
It's an incremental update. Period. It's a refresh like a restoration for an old car – a new engine, a few new options, LED lights and sporty wings on the back. It's not a new model. Would you get rid of your car a year or two into its financing (which would result in a huge monetary loss) for the privilege of getting those new features? Of course, it depends on the situation, but spending the extra cash to get out of a 2-year plan and paying a premium price on a non-discount iPhone 4S may be difficult to do if the new device you buy looks exactly like your old one. A better idea may be to wait another year so that you don't have to pay a penalty, and then you will receive the full discount from your carrier. Remember, when the iPhone 5 comes around, you'll have to play the same brain game again. At that time, you may have much better reasons to break your contract, if you must.
2. It supports 14.4 Mbps? Whatever you say.
HSDPA is a big deal. It brings the iPhone 4S up to speed with its Android rivals. However, the validity of that claim depends upon where you live and where you use your phone. I have an HSPA+ Android phone and enjoy the massive 4G-like bandwidth provided by T-Mobile, but it is a very temperamental and inconsistent connection which quickly deteriorates when I leave my home. I can claim with confidence that 4G speeds are not quite a reality in the Chicago area because either the network isn't deployed yet or because it is overcrowded. What we typically get today is 3G, and that is what we expect. AT&T's 3G coverage is worse than other carriers’ from my experience, so until there is an LTE iPhone, it's really no contest. Once the network catches up with the marketing claims of carriers, bandwidth will become much more important. The fact that the iPhone 4S supports 14.4 Mbps downloads is largely irrelevant today (depending upon where you use the phone); give it another year or two.
3. No exceptional features
Is it just me or are there no exceptional features in the iPhone 4S? There is a dual-core processor, the 8-megapixel camera with 1080p video, and a beta version of Siri voice recognition. Siri is rather impressive, but it's not finalyet, and you will have to be a beta tester to help mature the software behind it. Getting rid of your contractual obligation for your iPhone 4 for these new features sounds like a bad idea to me, unless you have an extra $500 sitting around to spend on whatever you want. There was ample opportunity for Apple to innovate and move beyond a few hardware upgrades. Mac OS X integration would have been a big one; the completion of Siri and much improved voice recognition overall another. The iPhone 4S may have been disappointing because it was not an iPhone 5, but the true letdown is that Apple packaged a few nice-to-have features in an out-of-proportion presentation. Let's be honest. None of the announced features are in a must-have category; you can easily survive without them.
Which iPhone is the best deal today?
Conceivably, you may have no idea which iPhone to get if you have been looking for a new phone and want to get one within the next two or three weeks. Starting October 16, there will be the free iPhone 3GS, the $99 iPhone 4 and the $199 to $399 iPhone 4S (16 GB to 64 GB storage capacity). However, the price difference is negligible if you consider the fact that you will pay nearly $100 every month for your phone (most likely more if you consider all those extra fees and taxes) and about $2,500 over the course of the next two years. So, if you wonder which phone to get on October 16, it's an easy decision to purchase the iPhone 4S. For a $100 premium over the iPhone 4, you get the better camera, HSDPA, a dual-core processor and Siri. If you must sign a 2-year contract, do so with the iPhone 4S and not with the regular iPhone 4 or the iPhone 3GS. Even better, keep your current phone and wait for the iPhone 5.
U.S. Carrier choices
Much more significant than the purchase of the hardware is the choice of the carrier. Now you can choose between AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, and I recommend researching which carrier will best fit your needs. Sprint is likely to offer a flat-fee, an unlimited bandwidth package for $100 per month, and will be much more interesting to those who use the iPhone 4S as a data phone. Both AT&T and Verizon are cheaper only if you restrict yourself to 2 GB of data usage per month. The fact that this new iPhone 4S is a CDMA and GSM phone also makes the choice of the carrier much cheaper if you must travel outside the United States and use foreign carriers.