Is Apple iPhone 4S Worth the Upgrade?

Jennifer LeClaire,

It's not an iPhone 5, but it is a marked improvement over the last model. Apple on Tuesday rolled out the iPhone 4S, complete with a fresh operating system and other bells and whistles that aim to woo new and existing iPhone users alike. But is it worth an upgrade from an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4?

The iPhone 4S may be tempting for consumers. It offers a dual-core A5 chip that promises up to twice the processing power and up to seven times faster graphics. An all-new camera offers advanced optics and full 1080p HD resolution video recording. A new dual-antenna design lets the phone switch between two antennas automatically to send and receive. And a voice-control app called Siri Assistant takes voice commands to find information and perform other tasks on the go.

For its part, iOS 5 has more than 200 new features of its own. And iCloud brings a set of cloud services that work with the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac or PC to automatically and wirelessly store digital content in the cloud and push it to various devices.

Steve Jobs-Like Remarks

Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, made the types of statements former CEO Steve Jobs used to make, calling the iPhone 4S, iOS 5 and iCloud combination a breakthrough. He also took a jab at the competition (read: Android.)

"While our competitors try to imitate iPhone with a checklist of features," he said, "only iPhone can deliver these breakthrough innovations that work seamlessly together."

The iPhone 4S comes in either black or white and will sell for $199 for the 16 GB model and $299 for the 32 GB model with a two-year contract. There's also a new 64 GB model that's going for $399. The iPhone 4, meanwhile, is getting a price drop to $99 for an 8 GB model, and the iPhone 3GS is free with a two-year contract.

"This is definitely an evolutionary upgrade with revolutionary features," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner. "The same way that users upgraded from 3G to 3GS, I think we are going to see that pattern here."

Should You Upgrade?

The camera on the iPhone 4S is all new, with an 8-megapixel sensor that offers 60 percent more pixels. More pixels means higher quality. iPhone 4S includes a new custom lens with a larger f/2.4 aperture and an advanced hybrid infrared filter that works to produce sharper, brighter and more accurate images. With the iPhone 4S, Apple said, the camera app launches much faster and the shot-to-shot capability is twice as fast.

Meanwhile, new features in the camera and photos apps give users instant access to the camera right from the lock screen, and users can also use the volume-up button to quickly snap a photo. Optional grid lines help line up the shot and a simple tap locks focus and exposure on one subject. The new Photos app lets users crop, rotate, enhance and remove red-eye, and organize photos into albums.

"The faster processor is going to give way to a lot of new applications that just won't run well on the older devices. The new imaging and the new voice assistance all make it kind of worthwhile," Gartenberg said. "What's nice is that Apple is keeping the old models in the line all the way back to the 3GS. It means that we are going to see new customers coming in at these new price points. So I'd say it's a pretty successful day for Apple."