The latest incarnation of the iPhone, otherwise known as the 4S, has arrived. If you are the impatient sort, you likely ordered yours on Oct. 7, the first day the phone became available for preorder. Now that you're holding this precious technological wonder in your hand, you're probably thinking "Now what?"
You might be like many smartphone users who are jumping ship and moving from an Android to an iPhone. The iPhone was once exclusive to AT&T, so Google phones became the go-to for those who either didn't want to break their cellphone contracts or didn't like AT&T's terms. As a result, Google's phone sales multiplied, and according to Consumer Reports, Google currently claims about 44 percent of the cellphone market, while Apple holds close to 27 percent. However, many Android owners suspected that their phones were merely a stand-in until they could get their hands on the "real thing." But as Android users make the transition, they will have to adapt to the iPhone's differences. While most of these variations are improvements on the smartphone experience, some are not.
THE BAD NEWS
-- GPS Woes: We admit that our Android's built-in GPS system spoiled us. You could type in an address (using Google, of course), click it and it would take you to the Google Navigation app. As you were driving and following the directions, a friend would call, and you could click your hands-free headset and continue the conversation unabated. With the iPhone, these glory days are long over. You can still get Google directions, but they exist in a step-by-step format - not the real-time routing that the Droid's navigation program offered. (Sure, you can manually follow the dot that represents your location, but if you make a wrong turn, it won't reroute you.) We downloaded the free version of Telenav (www.telenav.com), which offers silent commands (new users can sign up for voice commands for a special $9.99 annual price). Although we were impressed with the app's ability to get us to our destination, we were dismayed to discover that a phone call brings the navigation - and you - to a screeching halt.
-- Gotta Recharge: We were hoping that the iPhone would have a better battery life than the Android. Our Samsung Epic 4G could barely go seven hours without a charge, and that was with the network turned off, the brightness turned down and the GPS and notifications turned off. Basically, it was a very dumb smartphone. We started weeping into our bloated credit card balance when we saw that the iPhone doesn't fare much better. All those Facebook, Twitter and e-mail notifications need to be shut off. This means you can't utilize Apple's Push Notification feature, which allows you to receive notifications even when an app isn't running. And unless you plan on kissing your juice goodbye, don't even think about using your GPS for location services on apps such as Siri or Google. To preserve battery life, you should shut down both the network connection and the Wi-Fi while you're at work or at home. Otherwise, you'll find yourself void of battery power. So basically, you can either have a pretty phone that receives and makes calls and sends text messages, or you can have five hours of battery life. It's your call.
THE GOOD NEWS
-- On Cloud Nine: You are going to have to move to a different cloud. The iCloud, which is perhaps Apple's most strategic chess move against Google, aims to serve as an all-in-one center for your most important information. Everyone gets 5GB of free storage, but you can always purchase more space ($20 for 10GB, $40 for 20GB and $100 for 50GB). Additionally, you can sync and store your media, contacts, calendars and even your e-mails between all your devices with just the click of a button. So the movies, music and photos that you download on your iPad will automatically transfer to your iPhone. Now, Google has been doing some of this for a while and has been offering a far larger share of free memory to its users. But Google has a disadvantage in that it doesn't actually control the hardware portion of the cellphones; Google only controls the software. Apple oversees everything within its "closed" system.
Warning: Extracting yourself from Google and falling completely into the iCloud is not without its bumps. For instance, we noticed setting glitches after adding our Gmail to the iPhone's Apple Mail; some users are reporting dupes in their address book after syncing iCloud. Plus, you can't sync your Google contacts to your Mac anymore. iCloud makes you choose between one or the other.
-- Home Sweet Home: Unlike Android devices, apps reside right on the iPhone's home screen. You don't have to enter into the application center either; the home screen is the application center. While Android phones had home screen widgets and shortcuts that would take you to your apps, it always felt like an unnecessary step, like opening a door only to get inside and find another door.
-- Picture Perfect: The iPhone 4 camera was amazingly advanced. A Macworld magazine cover was even taken with it. And though the HTC Evo also has a magnificent camera, most other Android phones rely on a flash to get a picture in low light. Besides the 8-megapixel photos it produces, the iPhone's f/2.4 aperture allows for some extremely low-light photos to be taken without flash. Save for the HDR (high dynamic range) feature, which forms a composite photo using the best overall exposures, there is minimal pre-shooting tweaking available to the user when compared to my Samsung Epic, which had night modes and settings for slower flash. Instead, the iPhone's photo manipulation is done in postproduction through the use of popular apps like Hipstamatic (http://hipstamatic.com) and Instagram (http://instagr.am/). This makes the iPhone as good as or better than many digital point-and-shoot cameras.
-- Siri, Talk to Me: Perhaps the flashiest addition to the iPhone is Siri, an interactive digital assistant. Androids have voice recognition technology, but the results are often spotty and it requires users to press a button on the phone, which means it's inconvenient, especially when driving. On the other hand, Siri can be set to activate whenever the phone is picked up and placed to the ear or via the Bluetooth headset button. You can ask the software useful things like, "What's the weather?" and the feminine robotic voice will tell you if it's going to rain.
You can also coax some more interesting things out of Siri. This Huffington Post article shares amusing exchanges people have had with the voice-activated feature. Musician Jonathan Mann serenaded Siri and posted the entertaining duet on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?vhckrig2BwNY), and there's even a Tumblr for Sh*t That Siri Says (http://shitthatsirisays.tumblr.com/).
We asked Siri, "What is the meaning of life?" and she replied: "Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations." But our personal favorite was the response to "Siri, talk dirty to me." She said: "I'm not that kind of personal assistant."
Tricia Romano is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle. She likes reading on her Kindle and writing for http://www.RetailMeNot.com -- the No. 1 online coupon site in the world.
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