Apple IPhone 4S Review: Fast 4ward: Unboxing, 360-degree View, Display, Design And Construction

By 09:22 Wed, 11 Aug 2021 Comments

Unboxing the Apple iPhone 4S

No surprises with the packaging. As usual, the box is barely bigger than the iPhone 4S itself and has room for just the bare essentials. We found the usual charger, a Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable and the same set of 3.5mm earphones as the one we got with the 3GS and the iPhone 4.

Nothing surprising in the Apple iPhone 4S box

Amidst the booklets (an iPhone 4S brochure and product guide) there are the SIM eject tool and a couple of Apple logo stickers. That’s that.

We though we'd find the newly announced microUniversal Serial Bus (USB) adapter in our European retail package, but there’s no such thing. We wonder what the EU commission has to say about it.

Apple iPhone 4S 360-degree spin

The iPhone 4S has exactly the same size and styling as its predecessor. It's still one of the best-looking smartphones we’ve seen. The impressively slim handset measures 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm and has put on only 3 grams of weight as compared to the iPhone 4.

The Retina display - we know you want one

The iPhone 4 had probably the best classy screen on the market in June 2010. Of course Super AMOLED’s and ClearBlack’s had a thing or two to say, but the LED-backlit IPS Retina classy screen had the highest resolution at 960 x 640 and eye-popping pixel density.

The gorgeous Retina display

A year later, Super AMOrganic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) screens are making their HD debut in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus we have the first HD display on a mobile phone. That’s obviously something for the iPhone 5 to try and best but the recent Retina is still among the standard-setting screens.

If you’re looking for hard arguments in favor of upgrading from an iPhone 4, the display is not one of them. But the honest truth is few can match the Retina for its crisp graphics, vibrant colors, deep blacks and remarkable sunlight legibility and viewing angles.

Here's our Retina display brightness test:

Display test

50% brightness

100% brightness

Black, cd/m2

White, cd/m2

Contrast ratio

Black, cd/m2

White, cd/m2

Contrast ratio

Nokia N9

0 349 ∞ 0 596 ∞

LG Optimus Black P970

0.27 332 1228 0.65 749 1161

Apple iPhone 4S

0.14 205 1463 0.52 654 1261

Apple iPhone 4

0.14 189 1341 0.39 483 1242

HTC Sensation

0.21 173 809 0.61 438 720

Samsung I9000 Galaxy S

0 263 ∞ 0 395 ∞

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc

0.03 34 1078 0.33 394 1207

Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II

0 231 ∞ 0 362 ∞

Nokia E6

0.52 757 1456 0.57 1004 1631

Nokia 701

0.64 619 964 1.12 1022 905

Design and construction

Alright, Apple may’ve raised their own bar too high with the Retina display, but we think they’ve got an even bigger worry. Improving a classy screen is a game of numbers. If all else fails, up the resolution. But what about something intangible and elusive like personality and fine looks. They’re in for a massive challenge with the iPhone 5.

And it’s all their fault. We think it’s next to impossible to repeat the iPhone 4 magic. But go ahead, prove us wrong, Apple.

The iPhone 4S next to the iPhone 4

It’s been more than a year and we still find the iPhone 4 hard to resist. One of the most minimalist phone designs is one of the most compelling. Of course, there is a flipside. The handling is a bit tricky, so be careful at least in the beginning. The finish just doesn’t allow as secure a grip. The glass back is relatively resistant to scratches but unlikely to survive drops. The design has a weak spot - four of them actually - the corners. And the antenna problems were embarrassing, to say the least. The fine thing is they’ve been sorted.

The iPhone 4S next to the iPhone 4

In the discontinue though, the iPhone 4S is nothing short of beautiful. Fifteen months and counting, and very few flagships have been able to come close.

Let's acquire back to work though and put things into a more practical perspective. Although it’s virtually the same design, some of the recent iPhone 4 accessories won’t fit the 4S. The Mute button is the reason, it’s slightly offset compared to the iPhone 4, but it’s just the same as on the iPhone 4 for Verizon.

Let’s have a closer see at the iPhone 4S then shall, we? There is nothing surprising at the front. The Video Graphics Array (VGA) back facing capturing camera and the earpiece are above the screen, with hidden proximity and ambient light sensors in the vicinity, The round Home button is below the display doing its usual job of closing apps and opening the multi-tasking bar. It now launches the Siri virtual assistant too.

The iPhone 4S front

The left side of the Apple iPhone 4S has the usual Ring/Silent switch and the two round volume control knobs. In iOS 5 the volume up key doubles as a capturing camera shutter too. This part of the iPhone 4S is the main reason your recent case may not fit – the Mute key has been moved a few millimeters down, the volume keys have moved a millimeter too. We guess the recent antenna design might have something to do with that.

The left side has some changes

On the correct side is the microSIM card slot. To open it you'll need the enclosed SIM eject tool. A paper clip or a pin would do too.

The microSIM slot is on the right

The top is where the Sleep/Wake button is, as well as the standard 3.5mm audio jack. There is an extra mic too used for the active noise cancelation.

The 3.5mm audio jack is on top

The iPhone 4S has the proprietary Apple Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable/charger/dock connector at the bottom, as well as a tiny loudspeaker grill and mouthpiece either side of the connectivity port. No stereo speakers, yet again.

The bottom side of iPhone 4S with the usual inhabitants

The rear features the 8 megapixel capturing camera lens and the single Light Emitting Diode (LED) flash. The iPhone 4S Li-Po battery has been upgraded to 1430mAh and is non user replaceable. There is no microSD card slot either, not that we expected to see one.

One last change to mention is the antenna design. Speaking of which, the bumper cases are no longer needed other than for protection. Apple learned their lesson from the iPhone 4 and while the iPhone 4S looks practically the same, it features two antennas to combat the "death grip" issue. Note that we don’t mean the dual Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) / CDirect Memory Access (DMA) radios. It’s actually two separate antennas, each of which support both standards.

The phone can intelligently switch between the two as needed (even in the middle of a call), so if one antenna is blocked, the other takes over. This means no death grip, no matter how you hrecent the iPhone 4S.

Unfortunately, the SAR values have gone up and are twice as high on the iPhone 4S. Those are still within the accepted standards for these sorts of things, but it’s something that’s worth noting.

Handling the iPhone 4S

What we know for sure is the iOS 5 is not skimping on the upgrades. A lovely phone has just become better and faster. Twice faster at times, which was really impressive. The iPhone 4 is nowhere near sluggish but it’s fine to know you have the extra torque when needed. And last but not least, the iPhone 4S finally makes the A-list with 8MP stills and Full HD videos. We’ve got a dual-core smartphone and a full fledged cameraphone waiting in the lab. Let’s not haged it idle.



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