As perhaps some feared, the iPhone 4S announced by Apple on Tuesday is but an incremental update to the iPhone 4. It comes packaged in the same hardware, albeit with some vastly improved innards. While Apple added a number of great new features--including the Siri personal assistant--it managed to leave out a lot. Here's what's missing.
1. A Bigger Display: Apple disappointed people the instant it introduced the iPhone 4S during its press conference by mentioning that it carries forward the same hardware design as the iPhone 4. Why does that matter? It means Apple didn't change anything about the iPhone's display, which is small compared to most of today's Android smartphones.
The iPhone 4S will have the same 3.5-inch 960 x 540 Retina display as found on the 2010-era iPhone 4. Just today, LG (LG, for cripes sakes!!!) announced an Android handset that has a 4.5-inch 1280 x 720p HD display. Bad form, Apple. iPhone fanatics wanted a bigger display.
While the iPhone 4S's Retina Display will no doubt continue to be impressive in its appearance, Apple could have boosted it to 3.7- or 4.0-inches and kept the pixel count high enough.
2. No 4G: The iPhone 4S does not introduce HSPA+ at 4G speeds, LTE, or WiMax. In fact, its HSPA+ radio isn't nearly as fast as many had hoped. Rather than go for the gusto and support AT&T's fastest HSPA+ network, it supports a middle-of-the-road HSPA+ network at 14.4 Mbps on the downlink. Sure that's twice as fast as the iPhone 4, but with a huge percentage of Android smartphones already packing HSPA+ at 21 Mbps and 42 Mbps, or WiMax or LTE, 14.4 Mbps in the iPhone simply isn't going to cut it.
While it is great that the new iPhone 4S is a world phone and will work on the networks run by AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, the poor CDMA 3G customers over at Sprint and Verizon will be stuck with a device that's even pokier than AT&T's.
3. No Brand New Design: If the carried-over screen isn't bad enough, the iPhone 4S still packs front and back glass surfaces. This means it will be as apt as ever to break when dropped. The glass back plate, in particular, has plagued unfortunate customers with cracks and shatters. Apple didn't make mention of any improvements to the glass surfaces to toughen them up. A metal design would be stronger. It also would be nice to have some hardware that's thinner and looks nicer.
4. Standards-Based Technologies: Apple continues to shun industry standards in favor of its own. For example, the International Telecommunications Union has decreed that all cellular telephones use the microUSB port for charging and data transfer.
The iPhone 4S, likes its predecessors, uses a proprietary Apple-made connector for attaching it to computers, chargers, and other peripherals. This means people are beholden to purchase cables from Apple and its partners rather than use any old cable. Apple also didn't add an HDMI port for easier sharing with HDTVs. Instead, it wants you to spend $100 on the Apple TV and stream the content wirelessly.
5. NFC: Totally absent from the iPhone 4S is any way to make mobile tap-and-go payments. It doesn't support NFC (near-field communications), which means it won't enable customers to make mobile payments at retail stores on the go. Meanwhile, Google, Sprint, Visa, MasterCard, RIM, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and myriad others are in the middle of packaging together vast NFC-based mobile payment tech. When it comes to mobile payments, Apple is clearly allowing other companies to lead the way.