Apple's big announcement: Meet the iPhone 4S


Image Credit: Paul Sakuma/AP Images

Apple has officially announced the arrival of the iPhone 4S, which is definitively not the iPhone 5. The 4S does come with two big new changes. The first is an improved camera, which some are already calling a point-and-shoot killer. The second, and possible more epoch-defining, is the voice control system called “Siri,” which allows you to (among other things) ask your iPhone for the weather instead of tapping a few buttons or just looking outside. (Huzzah for the modern age!) Siri can be used in many different ways, and Apple was pretty confident in showing off the voice-recognition system — could be a gamechanger, could be incredibly annoying.

The other big news: The iPhone 4S will be available on Sprint, along with AT&T and Verizon. There was no announcement about the iPhone 5, which means the blogosphere has at least another six months to a year of passing around false rumors about the iPhone 5. Today’s iPhone summit was not streamed, but check out our play-by-play of the somewhat-underwhelming presentation below: 

1:03 PM (ET): Let’s all start judging new CEO Tim Cook’s choice of big-announcement fashion. It’s not quite as iconic as Steve Job’s turtleneck with rolled-up sleeves, which screamed “I’m ready for action” and also “I won’t just kill you, I’ll erase you from history.” But it’s also classier than Zuckerberg’s gray t-shirt look, which quietly mumbles “They’ve already made an awesome movie out of me, why keep trying?” [Engadget]

1:10 PM: Cook is laying the groundwork, talking about opening stores in China and the success of Apple’s newest wild-cat themed operating system, Lion. My old rhetoric teacher would call this “The part of the speech where the person anxiously reminds the listeners why they liked all the stuff that Apple released before whatever disappointing thing they’re announcing today.” [New York Times]

1:13 PM: Nearly 1 out of every 4 computers sold in the US is a Mac. Did anyone else grow up with parents who were too lame to switch to PCs in the early 90s, so they had to deal with you complaining for years and years that you couldn’t play any cool PC videogames, and now Apple is super-cool again and your parents look like geniuses? Anyway, Mom and Dad, this is me apologizing. [Wired]

1:15 PM: Cook is now finally talking about the iPhone. The rest of the interview will be Centaur questions.

1:20 PM: Wait, but let’s also talk about the iPad! Cook is talking about the iPad’s role in education and…in cockpits? Also, now Scott Forestall (senior Vice Prez. of IOS software) is coming onstage to talk about the iOS. It’s kind of like when a university proudly tells a group of assembled alumni that they’re doing great in literally every college sport except for football. [Mashable]

1:25 PM: Did you know that you can print iPhoto cards straight from your iPhone! And also, how would you like to buy a Rolex? Very cheap, my friend, best price! [Ars Technica]

1:30 PM: There’s a new “Reminders” app in OS 5 that will give you location-based reminders — the example given is “Remind me to pick up my laundry when I leave work.” Look, I’m loving the fact that modern technology means I never have to remember anything, but shouldn’t the real goal be to create robots who will just do your freaking laundry already? Lazy robots. [AllThingsD]

1:32 PM: There’s a new app called “Newsstand” that will help you manage all your subscriptions. Also, the iPhone camera will be better and will feature red-eye reduction, thus moving the iPhone’s camera technology into 1996. [New York Times]

1:36 PM: The new operating system will be available for free download on October 12. And that’s our show, ladies and gentlemen! So glad you came out today for these exciting announcements. In the immortal words of Homer Simpsons, “It was the most I ever threw up, and it changed my life forever.” [AllThingsD]

1:37 PM: Just kidding! Now Eddie Cue — who is actually a senior vice president, despite having a name that makes him sound like a guy who killed a superhero’s parents — is talking about the iCloud. In his words: “It just works.” [New York Times]

1:42 PM: You know how Google has to pay George Lucas for the name “Droid”? Well, Apple should just man up and pay Lucas for the rights to “Cloud City,” which would be a way better name than “iCloud.” And the tagline could be: “You truly belong here with us among the clouds.” And the pitchman could be Billy Dee Williams! By the way, no one is saying anything about iPhones.

1:45 PM: There’s a new app called “Find My Friends,” which you can use to locate people you know and love via their iPhones. So now high school students will have to really plan their night around leaving their iPhones at their friend’s house before they go out for a night of carousing. Technology Will Never Defeat High Schoolers!!!! [San Francisco Chronicle]

1:49 PM: “iTunes Match” will automatically send your music library into the cloud, where you can listen to it from anywhere. Does that sound exciting? Now imagine Billy Dee Williams telling you that, possible while sitting in a golden throne wearing a purple velvet cloak, with a tiger on a leash. [Mashable]

1:51 PM: The iCloud will ship on October 12, so prepare for phone calls from your parents on October 13 asking you why the hell their computer is going up into the clouds now. iTunes Match will ship at the end of October. [New York Times]

1:53 PM: Phil Schiller, the head of marketing, is now onstage talking about the iPod Touch, which is now the most popular portable game player in the world. The new Touch will go onsale for $199 for 8 GB. Will the iPod Touch kill the Console Game Star? [San Francisco Chronicle]

1:54 PM: They’re talking iPhone again!

1:55 PM: Ladies and gentlemen, meet the iPhone 4S. [AllThingsD]

1:57 PM: The iPhone 4S will have an A5 chip, like the iPad 2, a dual core processor, dual core graphics. It apparently looks the same on the outside. The whole talk has taken a strange left turn — they’re mostly talking about how the iPhone 4S will making the game experience much better. Which, okay, but that’s not really the point. [San Francisco Chronicle]

2:04 PM: Exciting stuff! The iPhone 4S is a “World Phone,” which means it runs on both GSM and CDMA. (No clue what those are? See here.) [New York Times]

2:07 PM: The new camera does sound pretty freaking incredible: Five element lens, better color filters, something called a hybrid IR filter, and the capture time has improved by 1/3. [Arts Technica]

2:10 PM: Comparing the speed of the iPhone’s camera to the Droid Bionic, Schiller says: “I don’t know what Droid bionic users do between pictures. Get coffee, I guess.” Face, Google, you just got faced! [AllThingsD]

2:13 PM: So there may not be an iPhone 5, but Apple might have just officially killed the point-and-shoot camera. Not bad for a Tuesday morning. Somewhere, that girl from English class who took all those Polaroids is crying. [Wired]

2:16 PM: And now, for the big announcement: The iPhone 4S will indeed feature a voice recognition system. Schiller just asked the iPhone for the weather, and it told him. Unclear if you can select voices, but I imagine that will turn into a minor cottage industry for voice actors/Mark Hamill. [San Francisco Chronicle]

2:22 PM: Thanks to partnerships with Yelp, you can ask the phone “Find me a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto,” and it will say “I’ve located 14 Greek restaurants. Five are in Palo Alto. I’ve sorted them by rating.” As a Bay Area native, I can assure you that if the iPhone tells you there’s a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto, it is a dirty hippie liar. [New York Times]

2:24 PM: But seriously, this is an incredible evolutionary step forward, even if we’re all going to spend the next three years finding reasons to be annoyed by voice control. This is some awesome Star Trek stuff. Which, by the way, wouldn’t it be awesome if they could get Majel Barrett’s voice on the iPhone? [Mashable]

2:26 PM: Basically, Siri is the personal assistant who will never leave your side and manage your entire life for you. Let’s just hope that this doesn’t turn into a Devil Wears Prada thing where the personal assistant learns to resent you, or else we might have a Skynet on our hands.

2:29 PM: If you ask your phone, “Who are you, Siri?” it responds “I am a humble personal assistant.” Well, that’s certainly charming, in a horrifying we-are-the-dystopia-our-parents-warned-us-about way. [AllThingsD]

2:36 PM: The iPhone 4s will come free with a 2-year contract. It’ll be available October 14. [Mashable]

2:37 PM: By the way, Siri’s voice is apparently exclusively female.

2:38 PM: The iPhone 4S will be available on Verizon, AT&T…and Sprint (loud cheers). [AllThingsD]

2:40 PM: And that’s it! Not sure how the general public will respond to this, but I know specifically how my friends who’ve been keeping their poor old iPhone 3G devices going on fumes will feel: Betrayed, disappointed, and angrily confused about whether they should buy the 4S or just go phone-free until the 5 arrives sometime next year.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich


Comments (129 total) Add your comment
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  • umadbro?

    This may be the single funniest article I’ve read today. And I just came from Cracked. Thanks for the updates, Franich! I’m guessing they were way more interesting than the actual press conference.

    • EPK

      Totally agree! Brilliant article! This is why I look forward to reading Darren’s stuff – just the right amount of information, with a healthy dose of wit and a smattering of snark… :)

    • bfd

      A real photographer doesn’t consider a phone a camera.

      Talking to your phone, oh my god what freakin’ genius concept!

      • Lyle

        A “real” photographer can take great pictures regardless of the gear being used.

      • Hmm…

        iUnderwhelmed and iDisappointed. At least I can upgrade to a 4 for only $99 now—I might as well, since my contract is up and I hate AT&T.

      • @Lyle

        True dat.

    • Cygnus

      Wait a little longer for the 4G, redesigned iPhone 5 next summer. Not a good start to the post-Jobs era.

      • Acaseofgeo

        The only REAL difference from an iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S is that they call one 5 and one 4S. I mean really. They could’ve called this one “5” and the one that comes out next year “6”. I don’t get the emphasis on “This is decidedly NOT the 5″.

    • John

      It is the same looking phone. I’m not going to be part of this ridiculiousness anymore. Thank you Apple for a cool phone, but that doesn’t mean you can stick it in my butt every year for a new one. Thanks but no thanks. If it was holographic 3d or something, I could see the expensive purchase being justified right now, but in the middle of a recession? You have got to be kidding us.

      • HotdogWithSauce

        Agreed, John. These “in between model” updates are nothing but a total attempt at money gouging its customers. The problem is that there are enough ignorant and naive iPhone users that will be more than happy to line up and get one because it’s “cool” and “something new.”

        I’ve had an iPhone 3G; I skipped the 3GS and waiting for the 4 and got that. My next phone will not be an iPhone. I am sick of Apple’s marketing and their constant business strategy of making any hardware they release obsolete every six months.

      • Ted

        Who the hell is shoving it up your butt, and if possible I recommend calling the police.

        Apple sure as hell isn’t forcing anything on you.

      • Mark

        I’ve been using my ipod classic for like 4 years now and it works great. Nobody suggests you should upgrade each and every time they release a new product.

      • Michelle

        For iPhone 4 users, this isn’t a huge upgrade unless you want a significantly better camera, faster processor and improved graphics. However, for the many who are using a 3GS or earlier model, this is a HUGE upgrade. No one says you have to upgrade with every single model, and for 3GS users, this is a welcomed upgrade.

      • Nick

        All of you guys know just as well as I do, that as soon as Apple releases a new product, everyone wants to have it. Maybe not everyone can afford them, but come on? A new iPhone again? The iPad2? Why can’t these guys invent something new for us to purchase? In a way it is forcing people to buy upgrades on stuff, when what we really need is Apple Netbooks, which could be entirely in the cloud. But no. I can think of a bunch of things Apple could sell me on, but another stupid cell phone isn’t one of them.

      • Marcy Runkle

        As someone who has been stuck with Sprint, pulling my hair out over my crappy flip phone, I am ecstatic. This is a big deal for many users.

      • Doyok

        I’m one for who it’ll be my first iPhone, having fialnly got annoyed with the sheer hideousness of Android’s app infrastructure and the disastrous design faults on the HTC Desire that basically stop you ever using apps in the first place.Can’t be alone.

  • endo

    What kind of stupid name is Siri?

    • Kevin

      Don’t blame Apple for that one. Apple simply bought out the company previously known as Siri.

      • endo

        No, I’m still gonna blame Apple. They could have easily changed it. Ideally though, they’d make it completely customizable by letting the user name it and choose a voice style.

      • John

        Probably a small team of slave labourers in Sri Lanka who got the short end of apple’s stick.

      • Annushka

        Siri commands. This list will enblae you to know the most primitive ways in which you can use Siri.Basic Siri Commands You Need to Know to Improve Your Interaction With iPhone 4S. Three Useful Siri Tips for iPhone 4S.There are a lot of useful Siri tips, but we have just

  • Brian K

    The voice control thing is going to drive people nuts as it becomes common to have to listen to bystanders dictate dumb texts out loud.

    • John

      MY-BUS-IS-LATE-Um-Damn (start over)


  • Chuck

    “2:36 PM: The iPhone 4s will come free with a 2-year contract. It’ll be available October 14. [Mashable]”

    Think it’s actually $199 for 16GB $299 for 32 and $399 for 64.

    • HotdogWithSauce

      I think you’ll find those prices are to purchase the phone outright, without entering any contract.

      • Samuel

        I think you’ll find that Chuck is correct, and that the EW writer has very bad proofreading skills. The iPhone 4S starts at $199 ON CONTRACT, to buy the phone outright is around $600 I believe.

      • Ted

        I wish.

  • rusty_cd

    I’m one of those sorry folks that have a 3Gs that has been running on fumes since August and was desperately awaiting the iphone 5. It looks like there are some cool new updates with this model, but I feel extremely bummed it’s not the 5. Grrr….

    • Ally

      I’m in the exact same situation. My 3GS is the biggest POS and I was waiting it out to use my upgrade on the iPhone5…really disappointed in this fakeout. Guess I’ll have to settle for the 4S :( I was really hoping to keep the curve of the shape of my phone like my current 3GS since iPhone5 was rumored to go back to that shape instead of the clock shape of the 4. Bummer.

      • Ally

        block* shape…

      • Asemka

        Specifications:Features common to both veirnoss: * Screen size: 3.5 in (89 mm) * Screen resolution: 480d7320 pixels at 163 ppi, with 3:2 aspect ratio * Input devices: Multi-touch screen interface plus a Home button * Built-in rechargeable, non-removable battery * 2 megapixel camera * Location finding by detection of cell towers and Wi-Fi networks * Samsung S5L8900 (412 MHz[5] ARM 1176 processor, PowerVR MBX 3D graphics co-processor)[82] * Memory: 128 MB DRAM[8] * Storage: 8 GB or 16 GB flash memory * Operating System: iPhone OS * Quad band GSM / GPRS / EDGE: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 * Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) * Bluetooth 2.0 with EDROriginal model: * 4 GB model (discontinued after two months) or 8 GB model * Size: 4.5 inches (115 mm) (h) d7 2.4 inches (61 mm) (w) d7 0.46 inch (11.6 mm) (d) * Weight: 135 g (4.8 oz) * Battery has up to 8 hours of talk, 6 hours of Internet use, 7 hours of video playback, and up to 24 hours of audio playback, lasting over 250 hours on standby.[15] * Headphone jack (recessed) * Digital SAR of 0.974 W/kg[83][84] 3G model: * Color: Black (8 GB or 16 GB) or white (16 GB) * Size: 4.5 inches (115.5 mm) (h) d7 2.4 inches (62.1 mm) (w) d7 0.48 inch (12.3 mm) (d) * Weight: 133 g (4.7 oz) * Headphone jack (non-recessed) * Battery has up to 10 hours of 2G talk, 5 hours of 3G talk, 5 (3G) or 6 (Wi-Fi) hours of Internet use, 7 hours of video playback, and up to 24 hours of audio playback, lasting over 300 hours on standby.[9] * Tri band UMTS / HSDPA: UMTS 850 / 1900 / 2100 * Assisted GPS, with preference to location based on Wi-Fi or cell towers * Digital SAR W/kg

    • Michelle

      So? It’s still a huge upgrade from the 3GS in that the camera is much better and the phone itself is faster. The only difference between the 4s and the 5 will likely be a slightly bigger screen and LTE capability. If you can live without the bigger screen and are OK with 3G speed (I find it to be sufficient), then the 4s is actually a pretty solid update.

  • Lauren Adam

    Re: your last comment at 2:40…My iphone 3G and I are locked in a sad and “what do we do now?” stare…

  • GeeMoney

    The fact that people are bummed about the fact that it’s called the ‘4S’ and not the iPhone 5 are RIDICULOUS! Get a life.

    • Dave

      people were hoping for a new features like a larger screen, thinner phone, curved screen, tear drop shape, sturdier construction, yadda yadda yadda… It sounds like this is the same phone with minor updates. Hence the “disappointment” … The “S” indicates less actual innovation/change. This seems less ground breaking, and more like just playing catch-up to competitors. (Could we have your life, it hasn’t been used yet?)

    • Ally

      It’s not a big deal for the people w iPhone4s..but for us 3G people who have been waiting to get a new one it’s a huge let down.

      • Acaseofgeo

        Those of us who have a 3G would be very Frakking happy with it IF they DIDN’T make the technology too technical for the 3G to function. I’ve had mine less than 2 years and its slow as molasses. That is ridiculous. You sell something for 100s of dollars and its a technically advanced device it should work at top speed regardless of “new innovation”.

      • Michelle

        Seriously? Look at the speed and overall functionality of the 3G. Compare that to the 4s or even the 4. There’s no comparison. I can guarantee one thing right now: the 5 will not be that huge of an upgrade from the 4s. Sure it may have 4G/LTE, but it will not do much more than what the 4s and even 4 can do. Just what were you expecting out of the new iPhone, out of curiosity?

    • Nick

      This thing isn’t worthy of being called a ‘5’ because it is basically the same as the last phone they released last year. It is the same exact cell phone everyone already knows, or has. There is no real selling point, and certainly not worth calling it a 5.

  • Liz

    So happy that my iPhone 4 I got just over a month ago isn’t already going to have an out of date appearance. I think I may be the only one not bummed out by no iPhone 5 yet.

    • jennie

      I’m totally with you on this one.

    • Jane

      I’m with you too.

      • John

        I like being trendy.

    • e4ia

      Too bad you didn’t wait a little longer. The iPhone 4 will be $99 starting mid-month.

  • Dave

    Finding out there is no iPhone 5 is like finding out there is no santa or no easter bunny. I can’t believe I got suckered in by all the hype. Oh well, back to my antique iPhone 3G and the Foxy Knoxy news updates …

    • @Dave

      I know, right? I’ve still got my 3G and hoped to get a 5 this time. My contract is up, so I might as well get a new phone—I doubt my current one is going to last much longer.

  • Chase


  • joe luck

    Awesome! More excuses to spend above our income and go deeper into debt!

  • Trey

    No Iphone 5? Meh.

  • Jay

    I was hoping the new CEO would finally allow Adobe Flash support. Too bad…. all this work, and a droid from 2 years ago is still better

    • Michelle

      Better at crashing, perhaps. I’ve had an iPhone 3GS and Droid X for the past year. I liked the Droid at first, but it’s a bit annoying how frequently it crashes…especially when using flash. Which would you rather have? A phone that is generally more reliable or a phone that occasionally manages to run flash? Also, if you really want to see flash videos on the iPhone or any other iOS device, use Skyfire.

      • Jay

        @ Michelle: What were you doing to your Droid? I’ve never had mine crash from online use. I’ve had a couple bad Apps crash my phone before, but thats it

    • Michelle

      Just using it to view Youtube and other similar sites. I’m an IT Technician by profession, so I know all about tweaking phones and using a task manager to speed things up. I did all of those things and still had the same issues with my Droid. Believe me, I hate the Mac and wanted to love Android, but the unreliability of it was a huge turn off.

  • Alex

    They never promised us iPhone 5. But we know it’s coming because there are cases and such being manufactured for it!

  • Gokhan

    So way is better to have the iphone4 or 4s ?

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