iPhone 4S: Apple's getting Siri-ous

iPhone 4
From the outside it's identical, but the 4S has better innards

The internet, and the stock market, is disappointed: rather than unveil an iPhone 5, Apple merely made the world's most popular smartphone much better.

It seems that I'm in a minority: I much prefer the iPhone 4 design to any of the iPhone 5 mockups I've seen online, and every change Apple announced suits me just fine.

In my head I know that the Siri personal assistant will be a bitter disappointment - my accent, a mix of Scottish, Irish and English, is guaranteed to flummox any voice recognition system - but my heart's already ignoring the screams of my bank manager and wondering how many days I can go without food in order to afford an upgrade.

A better, faster camera addresses one of the things that annoys me about the iPhone 4. Better battery life is always handy. And more storage never goes amiss.

But the interesting thing here isn't the iPhone 4S. It's the 3GS.

Shiny new thing joy

It's easy to get caught up in Shiny New Thing Joy, but the 3GS is only two years old, works just fine and will run iOS 5 - and now, it's free (on contract, anyway; SIM-free it's a "how much?" £319) while the new 8GB iPhone 4 will be a pretty reasonable $99 on contract.

The combination of up-front costs and hefty monthly fees exclude a lot of people, so free/cheap iPhones with low contract prices could mean significant sales in sectors where Apple isn't currently playing.

Meanwhile at the top end, the iPhone 4S addresses the key criticisms of the iPhone 4 (camera, processor, storage, battery life), adds a sprinkle of iOS 5 goodies and gets the impressive-looking Siri too. So there's an iPhone for the early adopters, one for the "I'll wait until the price comes down" crowd and one for people who fancied an iPhone but couldn't justify the cost. That's a lot of market coverage.

What's happening here is history repeating. Ten years ago, there was just one iPod, and rivals cackled: "Haha! Our MP3 player is smaller!", "Haha! Our MP3 player is cheaper!", "Haha! Our MP3 player has an enormous hard disk!".

And over time, Apple launched iPods that were smaller, iPods that were cheaper and iPods with enormous hard disks, not to mention a whole new kind of iPod that nobody else was making, the iPod touch - now, according to Apple, the world's most popular portable games device.

In 2007, there was just one iPhone. "Haha! Our phone is cheaper!" "Smaller!" "Has a better camera!"... you get the idea. Now, there are three iPhones spanning most of the market, and come next year there'll be an iPhone 5 too. Factor in the iPod touch and the iPad 2 - and next year's iPad 3 - and Apple's quarter-billion iOS device sales could just be a warm-up.


Liked this? Then check out iPhone 4S: our first impressions

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.