Apple doled out iPhone 4S review units to a small set of publications and blogs and the initial verdict rendered by most is that the device is a solid upgrade--if not for the hardware, then for the voice-controlled assistant named Siri. Here's a look at the opinions, from around the Web
The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg seemed most impressed with Siri. In his well-written review of the phone, he said:
"The standout feature, not available in other iPhones, or in any other phone I've seen, is Siri. It answers questions and provides information using natural language and an intelligent understanding, not just of words, but of context and colloquial phrasing. It isn't perfect, and is labeled a beta, but it has great potential and worked pretty well for me, despite some glitches.
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"[Siri] offers too much to fully describe here, but it isn't a simple voice-command system. It understands a wide variety of ways to ask a question, grasps the context, and returns useful information in a friendly way, either audibly or by displaying results on the screen. It learns your voice as it goes along."
Mossberg went on to compliment the phone's speed and camera software, which he called the best of any phone he's ever used.
Joshua Topolsky, of ThisIsMyNext / TheVerge, was really happy about changes to the platform's notification system. He wrote:
"The biggest and probably most desired (at least by more tech-savvy users) is improved notifications. Gone are the maddening, intrusive pop-over notifications we’ve been living with since the first version of iOS. Now when you get a message or new email, you see a notification at the top of your screen which doesn’t interfere with what you’re doing on the phone."
Topolsky also complimented the iPhone 4S's camera and the Retina Display. He was sure to list things he didn't like, including the breakable glass and metal design, and went so far as to say that iOS is starting to look and feel a little bit dated. He also says the faster browsing speeds aren't that much faster.
Slashgear's Vincent Nguyen also praised Siri, pointing out in his review that it is great for handling multiple applications based on the context of the question. Nguyen noted:
"Siri’s ability to interact with multiple apps in one go [is impressive]: responding to a meeting request from a colleague, for instance, sees your calendar automatically checked for clashes–-with the iPhone 4S flagging up any issues--and then a reply sent as well as a new entry slotted into your schedule.
Last in this meta-review of the iPhone 4S, take into consideration The New York Times' David Pogue's review:
"It's mind-blowing how inexact your utterances can be. Siri understands everything from, 'What's the weather going to be like in Tucson this weekend?' to 'Will I need an umbrella tonight?' (She has various amusing responses for 'What is the meaning of life?')
"It's even more amazing how Siri’s responses can actually form a conversation. Once, I tried saying, 'Make an appointment with Patrick for Thursday at 3.' Siri responded, 'Note that you already have an all-day appointment about 'Boston Trip' for this Thursday. Shall I schedule this anyway?' Unbelievable."
Most reviewers dinged the iPhone 4S for being too similar to the iPhone 4, and perhaps not offering a significant-enough jump in features and functionality for iPhone 4 users to upgrade. Still, they all agreed that it was (almost) worth the extended wait.