The days leading up to Apple's eagerly awaited "Let's Talk iPhone" event were a whirlwind for us. Between sorting the credible rumors from the insane ("Sprint paid how much for the iPhone?!"), our own expectations were starting to mount to epic proportions. Like many, I hoped that Apple would release a newly redesigned iPhone 5 alongside an upgraded iPhone 4S. However, once the presentation got rolling, it was clear that this was an impressive new iPhone, and it didn't really matter what name we used for it. Let's take a closer look at the iPhone 4S, and more importantly, let's figure out whether you should get it or skip it.
The iPhone 4S
It's what's on the inside that counts. The iPhone 4S has the exact same physical form factor as the iPhone 4. However, the insides are a whole different story, and Apple tried to make that very clear. The most notable improvements are the 8MP camera with 1080p video recording, the A5 dual-core processor (same as the iPad 2), and an improved battery life (8 hours of 3G talk time, 200 hours of standby). As far as the capabilities, the new Siri Assistant feature was the highlight of the show. The Siri Assistant recognizes natural language and can answer questions such as, "What's the temperature out today?" Combined with the iPhone's GPS, you can say something like, "Remind me to call my wife when I get to work." The Assistant will not only know who your "wife" is, it'll also know where "work" is and pop up a reminder to "call Marcy" when you get there. Other notable features include: iOS 5 and iCloud: All the benefits of Apple's new mobile operating system come included from day one. Sync all your documents and photos across all devices. Includes Find My Friends, iMessage, Twitter integration, and more. AirPlay mirroring: Stream content from your device to a bigger screen via Apple TV (great for playing games). It works wirelessly. Cards app: Create a greeting card with this app and physically mail it to anyone in the U.S. for $2.99 or internationally for $4.99.
Reasons not to buy it
Reason #1: You're waiting for the iPhone 5. A lot of people wanted an iPhone 5 with a newly redesigned shape and a bigger screen. If this is what you were expecting, then you may wish to wait until next year, although it means you'll have to endure another fresh round of wild iPhone 5 rumors. Reason #2: You got an iPhone 4 this year. If you just got an iPhone 4 this year, then you probably aren't in a hurry to upgrade. The bottom line is that you won't miss out on much if you don't upgrade. The iPhone 4 (and the iPhone 3GS) will still get iOS 5 and iCloud, which is where the majority of the new features and benefits come from.
Reasons to buy it
Reason #1: Siri Assistant If you want a personal assistant on-call 24/7, then you may wish to get the iPhone 4S. The ability to understand natural human language has long been a barrier for computers because they can't understand context and implied meaning. This is an impressive and exciting new feature that integrates with the rest of your mobile device; it's worth the price alone. However, the part of me that has watched too many Terminator movies also gets a little scared. I don't want to fight Skynet anytime soon. Reason #2: You're ready for an upgrade If you've been holding onto an older version of the iPhone for longer than you should have, the iPhone 4S is the way to go. It's a very nice jump in terms of hardware, usability, and familiarity. All the apps you've purchased will carry over, and the same iOS interface you've come to love will be enhanced. Also, if you get the iPhone 4S now, it means you'll probably be ready for another upgrade when the iPhone 5S rolls around.
The final verdict
If you're absolutely ready for an upgrade, then the iPhone 4S won't disappoint. However, if these new features don't do enough for you and you're still holding out for the iPhone 5, then waiting another six months to a year is a reasonable decision.