The iPhone 4S is exactly what it sounds like -- a slight upgrade to the iPhone 4 with a beefed-up processor and a spangly new camera. We were disappointed with the lack of a new design, especially as the smart phone competition is hotter than ever. Let's see how Apple's new gadget compares to its greatest rival.
The Samsung Galaxy S2 is one of the finest blowers ever crafted by human hands (assuming that it was crafted by humans, and not sent down by a hyper-advanced race of alien technophiles), and blew our socks clean off our feet when we gave it the review treatment.
So which is better? Let's get these phones oiled up and into the wrestling ring.
The Galaxy S2 is a hot slab of tech and no mistake. It measures an atom-slicing 8.49mm thick and it weighs just 116g, which -- when you consider all the gadgetry packed inside its shell -- is completely baffling, but very impressive.
The chassis itself looks the business too. It's a glossy black rectangle like all other smart phones, but the back has a textured finish, and an indent that makes it feel very slim in your hand.
Our only complaint (and it's a complaint we've heard from others) is that the plastic casing feels a bit... plasticky. We suspect that's an unfortunate by-product of making the S2 so light, but nevertheless this oil-based blower doesn't feel as luxurious to hold as some metal mobiles.
That's not a complaint you could level at the iPhone 4S however, whose heavenly glass front and back are complemented by a ludicrously classy metal frame around the edges. It's not as thin as the Galaxy S2, measuring 9.3mm, but it's still a very slim phone, so we'll let that millimetre slide. It's a shade heavier too at 140g, but we think it's worth it for the cold, industrial metal styling.
In previous head-to-head comparisons, despite being the best-looking phone around, the iPhone 4 never won in the design stakes because of its enormous flaw -- the fact that the iPhone 4 drops signal like a pirate dropping anchor if you hold it in your hands, due to a rubbish antenna.
Apple is confident it's fixed the antenna issues with the iPhone 4S -- there's a new wireless system that enables the phone to switch between two different antennas to improve call quality, and makes the 4S capable of faster downloads.
So has Apple fixed the antenna issues? We can't know for sure until we give the iPhone 4S the review treatment. So this one is a tie for now.
Design winner: Draw
The Galaxy S2 packs a great camera, and in our review we were impressed by the high quality images it was able to snap, as well as with the actual camera software itself, which is jam-packed with scene modes and such.
The sensor itself is an 8-megapixel job, capable of capturing 1080p video footage. Impressive stuff indeed.
The iPhone 4 had a mere 5-megapixel camera, but the 4S ups those stakes with an 8-megapixel snapper, also capable of snagging 1080p video footage.
Despite its lower resolution, the iPhone 4 takes incredibly sharp and colourful photos, and Apple has gone nuts with the tinkering this time around, packing a CMOS sensor, face detection, backside illumination (giggle) and improved white balance. The actual process of taking a photo looks to be pacy too -- Apple reckons taking shots takes 1.1 seconds, with the second photo following just 0.5 seconds later.
While the S2 has a great camera, the iPhone 4S looks to make the best even better, and with the camera software being deliciously simple to use, we reckon the iPhone 4S will edge the S2 when it comes to the fine art of taking photos. But we haven't tested it yet, so for now we're cautiously calling it a draw.
Camera winner: Draw
Forget boring hardware -- software is the category that separates the legends from the amateurs. Just look at phones like the Nokia N8, which was a hardware powerhouse, but tragically let down by its annoying, unintuitive operating system.
The Galaxy S2 is running Android, Google's mobile operating system. Android is amazing, putting an astonishing amount of power in the hand of the user, letting you tinker remorselessly with your gadgets until they can fill out your tax return, walk your dog and make popcorn. Or they might just break.
Android's not perfect though. It feels quite geeky, and you'll find yourself getting lost within complicated menu systems. Widgets can complicate or overwhelm your home screen, and the app offering is quite poor because there's no approval process. As a result the Android Market is rammed with rubbish apps, and it can be hard to find the few that are worth bothering with.
We think that unless you're the kind of person who loves getting a bit mad scientist on your kit, you'll probably prefer Apple's iOS 5. It's incredibly simple to use, with apps arranged in grids of 12 across multiple screens, and navigating through the phone's menus is blissfully easy.
There are some decent additions in this version of iOS too, such as a better notifications system and iMessage, a free messaging app for Apple users.
Apple may throw down some mean restrictions when it comes to apps, but the flipside of that is that the App Store for iOS devices is filled with much better bits of software, and it's easy to find cool new games and tools too, thanks to the App Store's pleasing layout.
That's not all though -- the iPhone 4S has a secret weapon, in the form of Siri.
Siri is a voice control feature that lets you bark instructions at your mobile. Everything we've seen of Siri so far has been impressive, with the AI assistant appearing to be quite sophisticated. If you ask it, "What's £50 in dollars?" for example, it'll do the conversion for you, and display a helpful tile of information.
Android has its own voice-control apps, but so far no company has ever given us the kind of sci-fi voice control over our tech we dream of. If Apple can take us there, we'll be happier than a dog with two sausages.
Software winner: iPhone 4S
Deciding which of these two mobiles packs a better screen is really tough, because they're both incredibly good, but in different respects. The Galaxy S2's 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display is one of the brightest things we've ever seen, and will fire colours into your eyes like a Sherman tank loaded with paint.
That might not sound pleasant, but it is. We could stare at this massive screen all day, watching adoringly as our retinas sizzle away to nothing. Photos and hi-def movies look ace on this display, and possessing it will make you look just as glorious by proxy. Probably.
The iPhone 4S may have a considerably smaller 3.5-inch screen, but Apple's signature retina display boasts an astonishingly high resolution. While the S2 manages with a 480x800-pixel resolution, the iPhone 4 squeezes a stonking 640x960 pixels on to its smaller panel, making everything on-screen look razor sharp. Even if you squint, you'll be hard pressed to see the individual pixels here. Glorious.
But it's the same screen you'll find on the iPhone 4, and we were hoping for something a little bigger from Apple this time around. For that reason, we're throwing this one Samsung's way.
Screen winner: Samsung Galaxy S2
Alright, time to call a winner -- when we compared the iPhone 4 to the Samsung Galaxy S2, we found them to be equally desirable, with no clear winner. But with an ungraded processor, better camera and some new software, the iPhone 4S just edges it.
Winner: Apple iPhone 4S. But...
We reckon that for most people, the iPhone 4S is the better mobile. But Apple and Android fans alike should know that we're expecting Samsung to launch a brand-new mobile called the Nexus Prime in the very near future, which is rumoured to pack a 4.6-inch screen and an iPhone-trouncing display resolution of 720x1,184 pixels.
Moreover, the Nexus Prime will be the next Android flagship mobile, and is expected to come running Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android. So while Apple is on top for now, the fact that the iPhone 4S is a relatively minor upgrade means it could be overthrown before long. Stay tuned, gadgeteers.