Oct 10, 2011
While the “Let’s Talk iPhone” event and iPhone 4S announcement pale in comparison now to the news that Steve Jobs died this week, the release of the iPhone 4S is still news that needs to be analyzed along with the impact that it has on the future of Android phones.
While Apple hasn’t necessarily competed directly with Android in terms of hardware features, it is interesting to note that the iPhone 4S’ selling point is primarily that it’s the most powerful iPhone; it has a dual-core A5 chip and a better camera. Now, in terms of pure resolution it is on par with other new Android phones, particularly the Galaxy S II, which also has an 8 MP sensor and 1080p video recording. The camera sensor on the iPhone 4S may be more advanced than the Galaxy S II’s, but when terms like “backlit CMOS sensor” have to be used as qualifiers to determine that their camera is better, it seems as if Apple’s losing the war on proving the iPhone 4S is actually more advanced.
Of course, a lot of the disappointment is thanks to the Apple hype cycle and rumor scene. Many rumors of a brand new iPhone 5 swirled about, and people seemed to be disappointed when nothing of the sort was revealed. The performance of the Apple executives is impressive in retrospect considering the heavy hearts of those who likely knew of Steve Jobs’ condition. The rehashing of iOS 5 features seemed like an attempt to stall for time, or to remind people of what they were getting; instead, it just seemed like delaying the inevitable, a phone that was only a minor increase. While many of the rumors turned out to be straight-up lies invented by sites that troll for pageviews, it is Apple die-hards’ fault for taking them hook, line, and sinker. An incremental update seemed more likely than a brand new phone after a massive redesign just a year earlier, similar to the iPhone 3GS. Of course, Apple still needed one big feature to sell the 4S besides more impressive hardware.
That feature appears to be Siri. It will be interesting to see how Siri works for iOS users. Remember that Google has voice actions and speech to text recognition enabled across the platform; while Siri appears to be something more advanced, the idea is not necessarily new. The question as to Siri’s effectiveness will always be the quality of the voice recognition; sometimes Google’s voice recognition comes up with errors. Apple’s demonstrations never show any errors or what would happen if Siri doesn’t recognize speech properly; I doubt that Siri has a 100% recognition rate. This has been the struggle of adoption of voice recognition services; Apple’s Voice Control currently in iOS doesn’t have a great track record for accurate voice detection. In fact, I forgot that it even existed for a very long time! Apple will have to push Siri more for it to be useful.
The question is also, if the iPhone 4S has the same 512 MB of RAM as the iPhone 4, and if Siri has existed as a standalone app before, is it really all that necessary for Siri to exist on the iPhone 4S only? It reeks of an attempt to justify the 4S’ existece.
While Steve Jobs’ death lead to the delay of the Ice Cream Sandwich reveal this week, the time may be right in the near future for Google to strike while the iron is hot, and reveal their new Nexus phone with the new Ice Cream Sandwich user experience. iOS is still strong, but the reveal of the iPhone 4S did not necessarily light the world on fire (though that hasn’t stopped preorders from coming in large numbers, though this may be from users who have ready upgrades anyway), so Android has a real chance here to win over some users potentially disillusioned after that announcement. At worst, it’s a chance to show that Android phones can exist ahead of the curve that Apple is trying to set.