Two years is a long time in the world of smartphones. The iPhone design hasn’t changed since June 2010, when the iPhone 4 was announced.
It was followed by the iPhone 4S in October 2011, which made internal upgrades but kept the same exterior design. You don’t change a winning formula, but is it any wonder that in some respects it’s starting to look a little old hat?
The 3.5in screen is smaller than key Android players on the market, smaller even than that of the Nokia Lumia 800.
There’s a fair amount of bezel at the top and bottom of the screen, which seems wasteful compared with the new kids on the block, while the home button at the foot of the screen, while simple, has been done away with elsewhere.
Apple iPhone 4S
Yet it remains in many ways as straightforwardly a work of genius as it ever was. The 960 x 640 resolution screen looks brilliantly sharp and colourful, packing in 326 pixels per inch, more than all but the Sony Xperia S.
The iOS interface is still the one to beat in many ways: more intuitive and effortless to navigate than rivals. The screen’s responsiveness is second to none.
While your old iPhone 4 might chug at times, there’s not a bit of it with the iPhone 4S, which races through web pages as fast as any rival. Text is pin sharp, the scrolling motion is weighted perfectly and video loads quickly and looks great.
Of course the iTunes Store together with the App Store remains an unrivalled package. App developers have made Apple their OS of choice and the selection of remarkably clever and powerful apps is staggering.
More after the break
Of course Apple has a couple of tricks of its own up its sleeve, too. Siri is Apple’s voice control technology, and it’s cleverer and more versatile than any other voice-powered control system we’ve seen – even if UK businesses are still missing from search results.
An increasingly important feature is Apple AirPlay, Apple’s own take on wireless streaming. You’ll need an AirPlay receiver – an AirPlay speaker or Apple TV box for example – but then instant streaming of music, movies and pictures is at your fingertips.
Sound quality does drop off and the technology isn’t infallible, but it remains the most intuitive wireless experience around.There’s no gripe when it comes to audio performance via headphones (or docked for that matter).
Apple nailed the iPhone’s audio sound from the off, and the latest incarnation is better than ever and still more detailed, more musical and simply better than the competition.
For absolute quality video playback remains right up there. It’s a more subtle delivery, colours lacking the punch and colour of the best about now, but for sharp edges and finite detail it still takes some beating.
That said, the smaller screen simply can’t compete when it comes to comfortable watching for any length of time.
It’s testament to the quality of the iPhone as a piece of design and a piece of hardware that it remains so competitive. For audio quality, ease of use and the entertainment on offer from apps and iTunes, it’s hard to beat.
But the screen looks small and some of the shine has gone from the iPhone’s crown. With a new model due in the autumn, Apple will surely look to deliver something revolutionary rather than evolutionary.
We can’t wait to see what it does next.