Good but not great
As you will gather from my coverage of the Apple iPhone 4S launch event, my first feeling was of slight anticlimax, in that Apple pretty much launched what I expected, and nothing more. That's not necessarily a negative for Apple so much as a result of how my expectations have been set by previous events.
In the past couple of year Apple has launched a redesigned iPhone, which went on to be its best selling yet, and invented a new computing category with the iPad. So the launch of a product that shows no cosmetic changes, and is merely a component and software improvement on what's already out there, was a bit disappointing for me.
But what does everyone else think? Starting with the HEXUS community, the majority of commenters shared my sense of anticlimax. It was interesting to note that the vast majority of them consider the Samsung Galaxy S II to be the main alternative to the iPhone - something that will disappoint HTC I presume.
Kingpotnoodle represented the majority by writing: "It's just catching up with the latest from HTC and Samsung, who are chucking out new phones like they've hybridised them with horny rabbits and let them breed. The screen is pretty small in comparison to other high end handsets and the lack of a SD slot is making that memory very expensive from the go... Apple will have to do more than this surely?"
But Hoonigan insisted that the sum total of all the new features still makes the iPhone 4S a worthwhile upgrade: "2x Faster performance, 7x faster graphics, better battery life, Siri, much better camera, and then iOS5 to add on top. It may just be me, but I'm definitely getting myself on the pre-order list for this!"
Moving onto the broader blogosphere, The Verge was at the event had a play with the device. The killer feature for them was the Siri personal assistant, which looks like it has the potential to bring voice interaction to the next level. The writer didn't seem to have to train the device, or speak slowly, and got an adequate response to his spoken queries, even in a crowded room.
Slashgear concurred that Siri seems like a good thing, and noted that the faster A5 chip ensures the whole experience is pretty smooth. Engadget tried to stress-test Siri with a bunch of obscure requests and found it could handle all of them.
While Apple's share price dipped initially on the news, it mostly recovered by close of play. Equity analysts have been cautiously positive, with Ben Reitzes of Barclays Capital's response typical: "While there were few surprises, we believe the initial sell-off in shares is overdone and in the long term Apple has laid the groundwork to gain significant share. We believe today's launch is in-line with expectations heading into the event, but note that there are many new compelling features which should help drive upgrades. We believe our estimates for Apple could still be conservative."
Having conducted an albeit limited survey, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster reckons there will still be queues for the iPhone 4S as there is pent-up demand from people wanting an iPhone, but waiting for the next version. Even if people are a bit disappointed with the 4S, there are sufficient improvements to justify a purchase, especially for those unwilling o wait another year for the iPhone 5.
Lastly our developer friends at Mubaloo have wasted little time in letting their initial thoughts be known. "From a developer perspective, it is the new APIs and features in iOS5 brings that truly excite," said CEO Mark Mason "Siri for the 4S will show what is possible to bring truly innovative applications to end users, and what the new boost in processor speed is capable of handling with ease. This will have far reaching effects into the enterprise arena, providing not just contextual, but also highly functional capabilities.
"With 1,500 new API's, iOS 5 brings with it an awful lot of benefits to both the users and developers. While the external design remains largely the same, the internals and underlying software has been fully upgraded. Many may argue that Apple could have done more, I would say, ask Siri in two months and see what it tells you."
So there you have it - good but not great, with the wildcard being Siri. It is, however, worth noting that many of the new features that will be launched alongside the new phone had already been announced some time ago. I'll leave you with a few videos, including three that Apple has recently published, but starting with one that I keep thinking about whenever I read about Siri. Oh, and you can watch the whole Apple event here.