Apple relying on camera, Siri voice commands to sell iPhone 4S

Summary:The iPhone 4S claims to be different, but much of it still feels the same except for two areas: the camera and voice recognition.

Apple introduced the iPhone 4S on Tuesday, and thanks to all the countless rumors and leaks, it turns out there weren't many surprises.

Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing at Apple, stepped up to introduce the next generation of the iOS smartphone in place of former CEO Steve Jobs and even current CEO Tim Cook. That alone couldn't have been an easy job, nor was it easy to introduce what some are calling Apple's biggest blunder in years. That's certainly saying something for a company that hasn't made many missteps in the last decade or so.

Nevertheless, there are two bright spots that were highlighted at Tuesday's event -- likely because they're the only two features that Apple can rely on to sell this device.

Those would be the rear camera and the Siri voice recognition technology. First, here's a rundown on the standout specs on each of these features.

Rear Camera:

  • 8-megapixel, backside illuminated CMOS sensor
  • 3,264 x 2,448 resolution
  • 60 percent more pixels
  • Snaps photos a third quicker than its predecessor
  • Apple-designed Image Signal Processor (enables face detection and 26 percent better white balance)
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Advanced hybrid infrared filter to keep out IR light and produce more accurate colors
  • Larger f/2.4 aperture lets in more light for brighter photos

Siri Voice Commands:

  • Users can use their voices to send emails and text messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls and more productivity tasks
  • Automatically uses Location Services to find where you live, where you work, and where you are for better responses
  • Uses nearly all of the built-in apps on the iPhone 4S to answer queries
  • Dictation also works with third-party apps (i.e. Facebook)
  • Understands and talks back like an actual human being rather than a robot (or droid?)

Apple took time to compare itself to its competitors when it came to the camera, although the voice commands (if they work as well as the demo) are arguably better than anything we've seen on that from as well -- even if it is only in beta testing mode still.

For example, Apple is promising pretty much instant shooting (within a second) with the iPhone 4S, compared to two seconds on the Samsung Galaxy S II, 2.1 seconds on the HTC Sensation, and a whopping 3.7 seconds on the Motorola Droid Bionic. That might not seem like much of a difference on paper -- although three seconds to shoot a photo with a point-and-shoot really is an eternity these days.

Also, usually my concern with cameras is usually focused on quality of the photographs over the speed (although the two can go hand-in-hand, but that's a separate discussion).

Nevertheless, smartphone photography brings along a new set of priorities, and speed is chief among them. For the most part, smartphone cameras are for shooting on-the-go moments more than anything else. And granted how stellar the rear camera on the iPhone 4S seems to be, then Apple really does outshine the competition, at least on this front.

Sure, there are some other advancements, such as the inclusion of the A5 dual-core processor as seen in the iPad 2 and the improved graphics. But those items aren't enough to sell the iPhone 4S when so many other advanced devices are coming out with Android. (CNET's live webcast hosts repeatedly pointed towards Google's Nexus Prime as a looming threat...unless, of course, it gets delayed and/or is just as much of a letdown as the iPhone 4S is for some consumers and tech insiders.)

Apple could also be relying on the release of iOS 5 and iCloud as incentives for the iPhone 4S as well, but both of those items will also be supported by the iPhone 4 and 3GS. So 3GS owners don't necessarily need to upgrade if that's what they're looking for.

So, unless you really care about having 16GB or more of internal memory (which is totally fair considering apps and video content), and/or you love the camera and Siri software, you could save a lot of money by going for the iPhone 4 at $99 on contract or even the 3GS, which is completely free on contract.

And Apple was smart to retain the Retina Display and the same glass exterior from the iPhone 4. That design is simply gorgeous. MacBooks and iMacs don't go through as many drastic exterior design changes from one version to the next, so perhaps the iPhone shouldn't be much different.undefined

Related:

Topics: Apple

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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