Smart Apple iPhone 4S Review Philippines : Postpaid Plans and Prepaid Price, Design, iOS, Camera, Video, Siri, Verdict

TechPinas Reviews Apple iPhone 4S
by Mark of TP

In a few words: "Apple iPhone 4S is the best smartphone Apple has released so far - both in terms of hardware and software. Aside from running what I call 'the most mature operating system out there with the smoothest interface and the richest ecosystem', the handset - wrapped in a gorgeous glass and metal enclosure - also has one of the best smartphone cameras I've tested."

Overview: Announced in an event in Cupertino CA October last year, iPhone 4S is the latest iteration to Apple's smartphone, which is quite inarguably the most successful in the world. This fresh release runs the latest iOS5 operating system with a dual core Apple A5 processor - similar to what powers iPad2 and features a Full HD video recorder and an 8 MegaPixel camera with CMOS backside illuminated sensor that's capable of capturing 73% more light and is 1/3 faster than the sensor of the previous iPhone in snapping photos. Software-wise, (aside from giving users all the latest iOS5 features) iPhone 4S also has Siri, a voice-powered virtual assistant that gets things done just by asking. You can ask Siri all kinds of stuff, like where the nearest restaurant is or what's the capital of the Philippines. You can even ask Siri to read your messages to you and to define words!

On December 16, 2011, Smart Communications officially announced that Apple's most amazing iPhone is finally with "the Philippines' most amazing network". But more than making the phone available to its millions of subscribers across the archipelago, the Smart-er iPhone also means that Filipinos can now take a bite of the latest Apple gadget at prices that agree with any budget. In fact, it came as a surprise to many that Smart is offering the high-end handset at such affordable plans. The device can be purchased for as low as P999 per month on Plan 999 and is available for free at iPhone Plan 2499. For Smart subscribers who would like a taste of the Apple lifestyle without a monthly bill or a contract, iPhone 4S 16GB is also available for only Php 33,200 on prepaid.

1. Gorgeous design and solid construction
2. Mature operating system
3. The best applications
4. Still camera that performs very well in not so well-lit conditions
5. Powerful Full HD 1080p video camera
6. Gorgeous Retina Display
7. Fast and Reliable Internet Service from Smart Network

Points for improvement:
1. Small display
2. Rather short uptime
3. Hardware Fragility

Design and Ports:

apple iphone 4s
The face flaunts the phone's 3.5-inch 960 x 640 resolution LED-backlit IPS TFT Retina Display, which - thanks to its ultra-tight pixel density - is one of the clearest - if not the clearest - out there; This you'd have to actually see to appreciate. Above the screen, we have the earpiece, the secondary VGA camera, and the proximity and ambient light sensors. Below, you'll find the solitary home button.

apple iphone 4s
On the right side, we'll find the SIM card slot with the tray, and the pinhole for releasing it.

apple iphone 4s
The left side has the silent or mute switch, and the volume up and down buttons.

apple iphone 4s
At the top panel, we have the Power button, which also works as a Screen on/off switch, and the 3.5 mm audio jack.

apple iphone 4s
At the rear, we'll find the microphone, the connector slot, and the speaker, in that order.

apple iphone 4s
Finally, the back flaunts the lens for the 8 MegaPixel camera and the Full HD 1080p video recorder, the LED flash, and of course, the Apple logo.

TP Design Verdict: Apple iPhone 4S is expensive and its design reflects that. The 'real metal band sandwiched by two sheets of scratch-resistant glass' construction exudes elegance and corporate sophistication. Handsome, gorgeous, beautiful; this phone is worthy of all those positive adjectives.

But that doesn't mean the design leaves little to be desired. As an owner of Samsung Galaxy Note and HTC Sensation, I don't just feel that iPhone 4S' display and overall build is small, I think it's very small; It follows that the virtual keyboard feels cramped, the keys too small. Also, while I like the springy feedback I get when pressing the Home button, the volume controls and the power button feel just a tad too stiff. Finally, like almost all things beautiful, glass-clad iPhone 4S feels so fragile - like it can slip from your grasp if you aren't careful and break in a million pieces - that getting a rubber bumper for it is almost a requirement.

Key Strengths: Software, Applications, Imaging

Like what I often way, iOS is the most mature mobile operating system out there. When I say mature it doesn't just mean that the platform has the most refined user interface - that's already a given - but also, that it has richest ecosystem with good developers creating the best applications for consumers who are willing to spend money on them.

While it lacks the rich customization options of Android, iPhone 4S' iOS5 operating system nonetheless has the sleekest page and panel transitions and practically the best games you can get on a mobile platform. Add to this the enhancements that come with iOS5 refresh including Notification Center, Twitter integration, iMessage, and Newsstand, and you get a mobile OS to beat. Oh, and there's also iCloud, which aside from giving you additional storage space (in a way making up for the lack of a microSD card slot), lets you access your content on all your iDevices.

apple iphone 4s
Safari browser on iOS5 feels noticeably faster than the previous version. Opera Mini, however, remains to be the best browser for iOS in terms of speed. Just telling it like it is.

The Camera

If there's any new iPhone 4S feature that totally impressed me, it must be the camera. The handset comes with an 8 MegaPixel camera with advanced optics created by Sony and a backlit sensor that's made to perform extremely well in low-light conditions. I tell you, it's really good. But don't take my word for it. Here are a few shots I took using Apple iPhone 4S with automatic settings and in various lighting conditions;

Now, I don't know about you, but I think the image quality of these shots can almost rival what we can get from a full-fledged point-and-shoot digicam. I particularly like that first shot - the one with the cookies. It was taken in a low-light setting and I'm quite surprised with how well it turned out. I guess users can really rely on that backlit sensor to do its thing in dim environments -- even when taking Full HD videos;

Dual Antenna

A bit of history: One of the biggest problems faced by iPhone 4S' predecessor was the 'antennagate' issue; A reception problem caused by gap in the metal band around the phone which also serves as its antenna. When the two sections of the band are bridged by the hand of the user, reception issues occur. Initially, then Apple CEO Steve Jobs simply accused users of holding the iPhone 4 the wrong way and showed the correct way to do it. Eventually though, following a deluge of complaints from users, Apple offered either a full refund or a free bumper case to solve the problem.

Fast forward: Apple iPhone 4S effectively addressed this issue by having dual antennas and by intelligently switching between them for better reception. Also, two metal gaps have been placed near the top of the phone so they're out of the way when you hold the handset -- these gaps have, in fact, become a distinguishing design detail of the iPhone 4S. Thanks to this antenna improvement, data can now be downloaded up to twice as fast.

Battery Life

I get only around 8 hours of uptime with iPhone 4S with regular use and just a little over 5 hours of web-browsing on Wifi. Clearly, battery life isn't one of the strengths of this handset - but at least there are ways to get around it. First, you can turn off Wifi, Bluetooth, and Mobile Data if you don't need them. And second, you can get an extended battery pack like BoostCase, which promises to double the uptime of your iPhone. More about that case on TP soon.


Siri is a voice-powered virtual assistant for iPhone 4S, which answers your questions and accomplishes tasks for you. You turn it on via Settings and activate it by long pressing on the home button. In the Philippines, Siri will answer all basic to encyclopedia-level questions, send messages, make calls, but can't really help you with location-based queries or services. Largely because of this and the fact that Siri doesn't work when the phone is not connected to the internet and rarely if at all gets my dictation correctly, I think it's more of a gimmick than anything -- for now, at least.

Smart iPhone 4S Postpaid Plans and Prepaid Prices

Smart Communications currently offers very competitive - and as such, very attractive - iPhone 4S plans and prepaid bundles.

Prepaid Prices

Smart iPhone 4S 16GB prepaid - Php 33,200
Smart iPhone 4S 32GB prepaid - Php 38,200
Smart iPhone 4S 64GB prepaid - Php 43,200

Smart iPhone Plan 999 with Php 999 add on per month for two years, I think, is very sulit* (*Filipino term for cost-efficient or offers great value for money). That's practically just Php 24,000 for the 16GB unit itself if you're going to look at the other Php 999 as monthly payment for the bundled services, which include 100 minutes of calls, 40 SMS and 250MB of mobile data. Not bad at all, don't you think?

TP Verdict:

All things considered, I'll give it a 9.8 out of 10. Because really, it's an amazing handset; a landmark of a device. I would have given it a 10 had its dispay been bigger or had Siri supported location-based services in the Philippines. I mean, come on, Apple! The Philippines is the undisputed Texting and Social Networking Capital of the World. Your loyal Filipino fans deserve so much more than that.

TechPinas Smartphone Technical Specs Table (TSTST)
Name Apple iPhone 4S
Type Slate Form Factor (Full Touchscreen)
Price Category High-End (Flagship Release)
Dimensions115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm
Weight 140 grams
Available Colors Black, White
Operating System iOS 5
Display 3.5 inches (~326 ppi pixel density), 960-by-640-pixel resolution, LED-backlit IPS TFT Retina Display capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 800:1 contrast ratio (typical), 500 cd/m2 max brightness (typical)
Processor Dual Core 1 GHz Apple A5 Processor
Camera 8 MegaPixels with autofocus and LED flash, VGA front facing camera
Video Capture 1080p Full HD, 30 frames per second
Audio and Video Playback Audio formats supported: AAC (8 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), HE-AAC, MP3 (8 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, 4, Audible Enhanced Audio, AAX, and AAX+), Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV

Video formats supported: H.264 video up to 1080p, 30 frames per second, High Profile level 4.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; MPEG-4 video up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in ulaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format
Ports 3.5 mm audio jack, 30-pin dock connector
Connectivity CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz)4, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4GHz only), Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
Network 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, 3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
Memory 16GB, 32GB and 64GB storage options, non-expandable
Sensors Accelerometer, Digital Compass, Proximity, 3-axis Gyroscope
Battery Li-Po 1420mAh
Uptime Talk time: Up to 8 hours on 3G, up to 14 hours on 2G (GSM)
Standby time: Up to 200 hours
Internet use: Up to 6 hours on 3G, up to 9 hours on Wi-Fi
Video playback: Up to 10 hours
Audio playback: Up to 40 hours
Value-Added Features Dual-core CPU, 2x as fast at CPU tasks. Also dual-core graphics. Up to 7x faster in the previous iPhone. Improved stills and video capture
Announcement October 5, 2011 (1:30 AM Manila Time)
Availability Q4 2011
Price Smart iPhone 4S 16GB prepaid - Php 33,200
Smart iPhone 4S 32GB prepaid - Php 38,200
Smart iPhone 4S 64GB prepaid - Php 43,200

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