Granted, Apple called it iPhone 4S rather than iPhone 5. This, as iPhone3 GS is to iPhone 3, is Apple’s way of saying there is no big change. However, compared to iPhone 3 to 3GS upgrade, there is practically nothing that says it is worth the asking price when compared to the discounted iPhone 4.
Only significant change is the Half Definition camera (720p) becomes a High Definition camera (1080p). That looks like the distinguishing feature from iPhone4. Pay the premium just for a camera upgrade? No. Especially that upgrade looks to me like a catch-up rather than something groundbreaking.
Siri, the new voice-based assistant, it is a very difficult software to get working correctly for everyone. One have to wait and see. I am worried it might be Face recognition in iPhoto for me, i.e., not working well. [As I recalled correctly even Steve Jobs had problems during the demo.] Therefore I has to exclude it from consideration. Furthermore, since it looks like Siri is exclusive to iPhone 4S, it looks like Apple is simply trying too hard to make 4S stands out from 4. Sorry, but it does not work.
iPhone 5 in early 2012. They better, if only to keep their market lead.
Yes, the antenna is redesigned. Apple already said there is no fault in iPhone 4 antenna design. In other words, users hold it wrongly. Therefore it is not surprising that it is not going to pay much attention to the redesign of the antenna. From the pictures, the antenna cage looks like it has four notches (top left, top right, bottom left and bottom right) and left/right symmetry. Compare it with iPhone 4 which where there is only three notches (top, bottom left and bottom right). From engineering point of view, with external antenna, when you hold it, you change the impedance of the antenna and that is going to change your signal reception. The engineering trick is to either (1) make your hand part of the antenna design such that your grip will actually alter the impedance of the antenna to your advantage, i.e., enhancing the reception [difficult] or (2) to make sure whichever way you choose to hold it, you do not change the impedance so badly that your signal drop is going to be too bad [easier]. The unfortunate problem with iPhone 4’s antenna is if you cover the bottom left notch, you alter the impedance of the antenna in an extremely detrimental way to your signal reception. The good news is even a slight alteration of the antenna design, e.g., changing the length of the antenna by a bit can do a lot to improve the reception so an extra notch might make the different. I think it is possible that we have a more-than-two-pieces design here. Whatever the case, the left/right symmetry suggests to me that antenna designer took left/right handedness into account. May be, just may be, he is making a statement with the symmetry.
All in all, with iPhone 4S, I think Apple just left the door ajar for its competition to catch up and overtake it. 15 months passed and this is all Apple can muster? No wonder Apple’s share dropped after the announcement. Apple may simply be a victim of events which includes Steve Job’s illness, management transition to Tim Cook and the Japanese Earthquake. However, that won’t stop its competition from dethroning it.
I am not in a charitable mood today, so I am going to say that I finally understood why Apple felt the need to sue the competition over patents: It knows that iPhone 4S is not as groundbreaking as the market need it to be to justify the Apple premium. Therefore, just like Microsoft, it chooses to use patents to put obstacles in the way of the competition to show them down.