Apple's latest blockbuster is manageable and secure.
We've seen this game before: The punditocracy expects Apple to hit a home run every time, with a groundbreaking, paradigm-shifting, market-changing, mind-bending device. When the company delivers only a double--a first-rate evolutionary improvement--they call foul. But customers don't seem to be listening: The company moved 4 million units in the first three days after release, and sales remain brisk at press time. If these devices aren't accessing your network, they will soon. And several new features in the device and its software make the iPhone 4S a more appealing enterprise tool.
The iPhone 4S shares the same facade as its predecessor, and combined with the 4S label, that fueled some of the initial, ho-hum reviews. But our extended review shows that, from its OS to its CPU, the 4S has valuable gains that make it more similar to its larger cousin, the iPad 2. As Apple executives from Tim Cook on down emphasized during the unveiling, in a well-rehearsed talking point, the innovation in this year's iPhone is on the inside--the hardware, operating system, and applications--not the industrial design and materials.
In hardware, Apple essentially took the guts of the iPad 2--a faster, dual-core (ARM) A5 CPU, with added graphics performance--and crammed it into a phone. However, this iPhone one-ups the iPad via a significantly improved rear-facing camera, including an 8-megapixel sensor.
The 4S features a multiband (GSM/ GPRS/EDGE, CDMA, HSDPA, HSPA+, and 1x EV-DO) RF transceiver, meaning the same basic device can operate on all the major U.S. carriers--AT&T, Verizon, and now Sprint, another major addition--as well as most foreign carriers. This makes the 4S a good pick if you support international business ventures, though how good depends on your carrier. As we discuss in our full report, the overseas roaming story is dramatically improved for Verizon and Sprint customers, less so for AT&T.
As with prior iterations, the 4S sports impressive battery life, particularly compared with Android--admittedly, a low threshold. Apple claims eight hours of talk time, nine hours of Wi-Fi use, 40 hours of audio play, and 200 hours of standby on a full charge; despite reports of problems, our test device was in this range.
A disappointing difference between the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, and one that could be particularly vexing for enterprises using wireless LANs as their primary client networks, is support for the 5-GHz 802.11n band: The iPad has it; the iPhone 4S, like its predecessor, doesn't. Thus, the influx of 4Ses will only add to the clutter on the already crowded 2.4-GHz band.
For remote users, the VPN stack is identical to the iPad's, with support for Cisco and L2TP IPsec and PPTP, but unfortunately, no native OpenVPN SSL client. Setting up and connecting to VPNs is a simple matter, unlike on Android. The only annoyance is that connections aren't persistent, on either iPhones or iPads. Unlike Wi-Fi connections, which are automatically re-established, once the screen locks, users have to manually reconnect to the VPN.
The final major hardware improvement is an updated dual antenna that, when coupled with new firmware, significantly improves RF reception for both voice and data and should eliminate previous antenna problems.