by Tom Kaneshige

iPhone 4S: What Does the “S” Stand For?

Oct 14, 20113 mins
Consumer ElectronicsiPhone

Is it speed, Siri or something else? An unusual iPhone 4S customer explains her reason for buying the latest iPhone.

My friend, Leslie, a San Francisco Bay Area native, was finally ready to dump her iPhone 3G for an iPhone 4. She figured Apple would cut the price on the iPhone 4 with the arrival of the iPhone 4S. Apple did cut the price of the iPhone 4 to $99 for an 8GB model with a two-year wireless contract.

To my amazement, Leslie pre-ordered the iPhone 4S. She’s not much of an app person, preferring to use her phone mostly for texting and – gasp! – voice calling. She’s not a photo nut or tech geek. She also counts her pennies.

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So why would Leslie buy an iPhone 4S? I had to find out what the “S” meant to her.

“Did you get it because of Siri?” I asked. “You know, Siri is probably what the ‘S’ in the iPhone 4S stands for.” Siri, of course, is the voice artificial intelligence engine baked into iOS 5 and running on the fast A5 dual chip in the iPhone 4S.

“What is Siri? I heard something about that,” she said.

Well, it wasn’t Siri. I do recall her telling me how frustrated she was about how slow her iPhone 3G became, especially after Apple fumbled the upgrade to iOS 4. The upgrade turned iPhone 3G and previous models into a soggy, slow mess.

“You wanted the super-fast download speed,” I said confidently.

The iPhone 4S doesn’t run on 4G wireless networks largely because the chipsets and protocols drain battery life. But even on 3G networks, the newly designed iPhone 4S dual antenna system touts 4G-like speeds. Downlink speeds double the iPhone 4: 5.8 megabits up, 14.4 megabits down. The more efficient 3G chipsets also mean the iPhone 4S has killer battery life, such as eight hours of 3G talk time.

“After all, the ‘S’ in the iPhone 4S stands for speed,” I said.

“Really? It’ll be faster?” she asked.

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I was getting desperate.

“Okay, I got it: ‘S’ is for suped-up camera,” I said.

The iPhone 4S camera really is impressive. The camera takes eight-megapixel pictures and boasts backside illumination, a sensor that gathers 72 percent more light, a hybrid IR filter, 5-element lens for 30 percent more sharpness, f/2.4 aperture, and a 1.1 second shooting time. It even shoots 1080p HD video. That’s got to get the blood stirring.

“Yeah, okay, it’s the camera,” she said, slightly annoyed. For a moment, I thought she was just agreeing with me to end our conversation.

“So, Leslie, why did you get the iPhone 4S?” I asked.

“The truth? Well, it’s kinda silly,” she said. “I got it because of Steve Jobs. It was the last thing he touched.”

That’s when I knew: The “S” in the iPhone 4S stands for Steve.

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