iPhone 4S fails to impress

It may well be the first time an Apple product launch has had such a limp reaction - but at least the iPhone 4S has a cheerful and sunny disposition...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 21 Oct 2011
Well – that was a bit of a damp squib, wasn’t it? With the world’s technology pundits enraptured, waiting to see what shiny new gadget it was about to put before them, Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO, unveiled – a ‘humble butler’, aka the iPhone 4S. The ‘S’ stands for ‘so-so’: rather than the anticipated iPhone 5, Apple presented the iPhone 4, but with an improved voice recognition feature. After months of delays, Apple’s loyal army of fans could be forgiven for feeling a bit let down. Although its relationship with rival Samsung might be about to take an interesting turn…

Cook, who was making one of his first appearances since Steve Jobs’ departure from Apple, highlighted the device’s ‘Siri’ system, which apparently allows users to use voice commands to ask the phone to do everything from reminding them to do the shopping when it reckons you’ve left work, to asking it what the weather’s like. ‘Do I need a raincoat today?’, asked Cook. ‘It sure looks like rain today’, replied the phone (not un-reminiscent of the self-satisfied doors in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 'It is its pleasure to find out the weather, and its satisfaction to tell you with the knowledge of a job well done', etc).

On the more technical side, the new device also includes an A5 chip, which is in the iPad and will apparently speed up game-playing and web-surfing. Marvellous. It also includes an 8 megapixel camera, and an ‘upgraded antenna’, which should improve the quality of its calls – and presumably will prevent those antenna issues the first iPhone 4 had.

As with all new Apple product launches, the iPhone 4S got people talking – although not much of it was positive. ‘It is good news for (Google’s rival) Android Camp,’ said Richard Windsor, of Nomura Securities. ‘Very little has come to pass.’ That was reflected on the markets, where shares fell 4.3%. None of which does much to reassure investors that Apple will be able to function without the guiding influence of Steve Jobs.

It probably won’t help, then, that rival Samsung, with which Apple already has a long (and exceptionally dull) history of suing and counter-suing over alleged copyright issues, has just announced that it’s close to ‘all-out war’ with the firm. The South Korean company is planning to file lawsuits in France and Germany today, which will seek to ban sales of the iPhone 4S. Whether it’ll get its way or not is unclear – but it does suggest that Apple is beginning to lose the edge over its rivals in the battle of the smartphones.

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