iPhone 4S has landed

The wait – or excruciating hype, depending in which smartphone camp you sit – is over.

Apple’s new iPhone 4S is available from today (Friday), through Apple’s website, Telecom's and Vodafone’s, plus respective company's respective stores and resellers.

While the iPhone 4's initial launch was something of a farce, with tiny quantities quickly selling out, the iPhone 4S should be widely available instore from 9am today.

Telecom (which wheeled out Dan Carter) and Vodafone (who roped in rock band Midnight Youth) staged rival launches last night (see photos right).

For New Zealand iPhone buyers, it was all good. Never before has there head to head competition (see Telecom and Vodafone contract plans head-to-head here and a data-focussed chart summary here).

Delivery times
A Vodafone rep told NBR this morning that iPhones ordered last night should arrive tody in Auckland and in two to three days for the rest of the country.

A Telecom spokeswoman said that "Customers who have pre-ordered through our website before the launch, should receive an email from us over the coming days, confirming their order status. These 'pre-order' customers should expect delivery around three to five days from today."

The 64GB model is a different story, with a two-to-three week delivery time listed.

Apple's NZ online store (which still only links to Vodafone) has a broader time frame, stating "Pre-order an iPhone 4S now and you'll receive it between 17/11 and 2/12."

Off-contract, an iPhone 4S with 16GBcosts $1049; a 32GB model $1199 and a 64GB model $1349 (or about a third more than the most expensive smartphones from Samsung and others running Google’s Android software – admittedly most have less memory, but there’s also some brand premium thrown in).

The price of the (now “old”) iPhone 4 has been reduced to $899 (with memory chopped back to a single 8GB option) and the iPhone 3GS to $599.

It's worth noting that a number of recent new Apple developments, such as its iCloud online syncing and storage service and iOS 5 – which allows tricks such as displaying message alerts while your phone is locked – don’t require the 4S. They’ll work fine on the older 3GS, which now ships with iOS 5).

Catch-up hardware upgrades
The iPhone 4S looks the same as its predecessor. All the hardware upgrades are under they bonnet. Most simply see Apple pull level with smartphones in the Google Android camp, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S II and HTC’s Sensation.

They include:

  • camera resolution is bumped from 5 megapixels to 8
  • the camera is also much faster to take its first photo, and there’s added image stabilisation for when you’re taking video
  • a full high definition (1080p) video cameara (the iPhone 4 was 720p)
  • the 4’s single core processor is traded up to a dual core A5 (the same chip that powers the iPad 2) 
  • a new 64GB onboard storage option (one area where the iPhone does put every Android in the shade) 
  • a whole new (though identical looking) wraparound metal antenna that should improve reception
  • HSPA, allowing for faster data downloads (theoretically, up to 14Mbit/s, or twice the iPhone 4's top speed)

All about Siri
But it’s on the software side that the iPhone 4S really shines: specifically, its new “virtual assistant”, dubbed Siri. This unique query lets you use natural language voice commands to, say, create a new diary entry, or query your phone – for example, “Siri, when is my next hair appointment?” 

Many Kiwis might find it excruciating to talk to their phone in public, but no fear – Siri can be used with the iPhone 4S pressed to your ear, so it looks like you’re making a regular phone call.

Apple: Siri can learn Kiwi
Many assumed Siri wouldn’t ship with the iPhone 4S in New Zealand. It will, but there are catches. Apple Australasia’s Vispi Bhopti told NBR the virtual assistant has been developed for five "dialects": US English, UK English, Australian English, German and French.

Mr Bhopti’s first order of business was to emphasise that - wherever you are, and whatever your accent - Siri is a beta (or trial) product, not a finished piece of software (a point emphasised by a two-day Siri failure last week that left all iPhone 4S’s mute; it turns out she needs a connection to Apple’s data centres to answer even a simple diary query).

His second: while Siri has not been optimised for a Kiwi speakers, it can be "taught" and should get better over time for any accent.

If Siri is unsure of a voice command, the transcribed text is underlined in blue (in the same manner as a txt or email typo) and you can choose from options to correct it.

Read about two early Kiwi adopters experiences with Siri here.

  • The camera is also much faster to take its first photo, and there’s added image stabilisation  for when you’re taking video
  • The camera is also much faster to take its first photo, and there’s added image stabilisation  for when you’re taking video
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