Saturday, September 22, 2012

Seven Days And No Regrets

A week ago today I opted not to get the iPhone 5. I decided, instead, to upgrade my iPhone 3Gs to an iPhone 4S. I decided that the difference between the 3Gs and the 4S was enough to make the upgrade worthwhile but the difference between the 4S and the 5 wasn't enough to spend an extra $100 for the extra screen space.

When I wrote about my decision I listed differences between different models, weighted them and scored them. In the past seven days I have updated the phone to iOS 6 and with experience have changed some of my ratings - for the better. A selection from my original list looked like this:

iPhone 4s v 3Gs
Feature / Importance / Score (scale -10 to +10)
Improved camera / 5 / 6
FaceTime camera / 5 / 5
Siri / 4 / 4
Battery life improvement / 9 / 8

Here's the amended version:

iPhone 4s v 3Gs
Feature / Importance / Score (scale -10 to +10)
Improved camera / 5 / 7 (panorama mode is awesome)
FaceTime camera / 7 / 8 (I can video call my dad!)
Siri / 6 / 6.5, especially with iOS 6 enhancements
Battery life improvement / 9 / 9
Dictation / 5 / 7 (it's quite accurate and very handy)

I wanted so much to play with the phone and discover all of its bells and whistles in that first night but the overall experience and basic features are the same as the 3Gs. That in itself is extremely impressive. Think of how many times you've updated a Nokia or Motorola or Samsung phone only to have to get used to a completely different look, feel and function. Alas, I would have to wait for real-world usage to discover what Siri was capable of, how the maps app did, what the hell passbook is and how it works (still don't know), and what I could do with a gyroscope.

The gyroscope was the first thing I played with. The other items would have to wait until Wednesday with the launch of iOS 6. I plugged "gyroscope" into the search bar of the app store and came up with a couple of freebies that I downloaded. One of them is called Planets. Planets maps out the stars in the sky for you showing you where they are in relation to where you are. The gyroscope lets you tilt up and down as well as turn left and right. I would tell you how cool it is to gaze at the stars with the assistance of this app but I haven't had a clear night sky to test it yet.

When I tried out Siri that first night I was... underwhelmed. There didn't seem to be too much she could actually do for me beyond the standard voice control except search the web without opening the browser and give me a weather update. With the iOS 6 update she can post to FB and Twitter for me (she pronounces it tweeter, it's kinda funny), give me a rundown of the movies that are playing, tell me if the OSU cowboys are playing this weekend and give me score updates, and she can "take me home" using the turn-by-turn navigation in the new maps app.

The maps app itself is just depressing. I didn't think it was possible to make maps flat, boring and utterly generic but Apple managed it. Plus there are several stories and reviews of mistakes (like, misplacing an entire town), distorted satellite views and other shortcomings to be found on the web. I've tested the turn-by-turn and it's not bad but I'm keeping my Tom Tom. The iPhone screen is just too small (even if it was taller) and the speaker is not loud enough to hear clearly in normal situations. In a pinch, though, I imagine it would serve adequately.

I posted a similar article to this eight days after getting the 3Gs. In it I created a (very short) wish list which, for the most part, has come true. There's still no adjustable default alarm for the calendar app but we have the ability to flag mail and customize alerts for calendar, mail and voice mail. I will be very interested to see what the iTunes update brings us next month but I'm thrilled with the phone. And like that original article, there's no looking back.

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