iPhone 4S: Five killer features

Summary:A look back at today's Apple announcement, and the killer features that will make the next-generation iPhone stand out.

The next-generation iPhone has been announced, and naming aside, it is set to upgrade the hardware of one of the most popular smartphones in the U.S.

Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, spoke today to journalists to unveil the new iPhone 4S.

While many improvements were listed and pointed out, the one overriding fact is that the device itself will not change in size or shape. It is, in effect, an iPhone 4 with a few hardware improvements to make the iOS 5 experience worth it.

But amid the web melting down and live blogs crumbling under the weight of the readership, there are five things to take away from the crucial announcement this afternoon.

1. iOS 5 (obviously)

The core to the phone itself is Apple's next-generation operating system. The upcoming iPhone, with all due respect to the device and Apple, is merely a holder for the content inside; the hardware upgraded to enable iOS 5 to run smoothly and to make the smartphone en par with other comparable smartphones on the market.

'iTunes in the cloud' will be a game-changer in itself, along with iCloud which will be deeply integrated into iOS 5. Even with announced 'Find My Friends', a native application which will no doubt be heavily questioned by privacy groups, will lead the way in displaying the location of close friends and family members on screen.

But with over 200 new changes and features added to one of the world's most popular mobile operating systems, the power is in the software rather than the hardware.

iOS 5 will be available on October 12th.

2. A much needed hardware boost

The iPhone 4S, as expected, has been given a much needed hardware boost. Souped-up from older generation iPhones, you can now expect content to be delivered to your screen at a lightning speed. No more slow downs, sluggish behaviour or application outages -- at least, we hope.

The same processor in the iPad 2, a dual-core A5 chip will go into the new iPhone 4S to make graphics and gaming capability run far smoother and at a better response rate.

It also includes, as expected an 8 megapixel camera, taking pictures up to a 3264x2448 resolution. It will be a third faster in taking photos; something reflected in previous complaints by iPhone 4 users.

3. Universal carrier support: A true 'world phone'

The iPhone 4S will come in two flavours: CDMA and GSM, depending on the carrier. But the next-generation iPhone will be compatible with both CDMA and GSM markets, reducing manufacturing costs, which should then reflect on the wallets of the customer.

Thus, a universal iPhone which will work across all markets also means a phone that can be taken anywhere with you, across borders and throughout continents. I'm talking to you, Verizon customers.

4. Better battery life

Each and every time an iPhone is let loose into the wild, we see battery life improving over time. Battery improvements enabled a 40 percent increase in power in the iPhone 4, up from the iPhone 3GS.

But the iPhone 4S will include 8 hours of 3G talk time, along with 9 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, and ten hours of video playback. On 2G networks, however, the battery should last up to 14 hours. On the whole, this does not quite reach the expected 40 percent, but it certainly balances out for the improved hardware capability.

5. Voice controls

"It's about our voice", Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of product marketing said. Voice control will be heavily integrated into the device, after an acquisition last year made it possible.

Known as "Siri", the intelligent assistant built into your iPhone, it allows you to make things happen simply by asking your phone to do something. This rivals Android's less than desirable voice function, which Apple believes that its system hits the nail on the head.

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Topics: Processors, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Mobile OS, Mobility, Smartphones

About

Zack Whittaker is a writer-editor for ZDNet, and sister sites CNET and CBS News. He is based in the New York newsroom. His PGP key is: EB6CEEA5.

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