iPhone 4S – Should Lawyers Upgrade?

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Apple Store, 5th Ave., NYC, 7/12/08 - 13 of 19

Well, I’ve writing about the iPhone 4s for about a week now; from my disappointment that Apple did not release a 5, to the anticipation about Siri.

This isn’t going to be a review of the iPhone 4S. There are plenty of them around the web. Check out Gizmodo or Ars Technica if you are looking for an overview. Now, if you are a real geek, you got one already.

However, if you are on the ledge, deciding if there is enough there to justify toprice, here is what you need to know:

  1. The camera rocks! Colors are more natural and images are more lifelike. It is hard to quantify, but photographs taken on the iPhone 4S are noticeably better than on the iPhone 4. Low light photos are clearer with less grain. Just don’t expect to be able to take shots in near darkness.
  2. Video makes every other portable video camera obsolete. The killer feature is video stabilization. Videos have much less jitter. While the iPhone 4S won’t give you steadicam, the screen movement is smooth and less distracting.
  3. Speed. Apps feel snappier, load, and switch faster. In Facebook moving between posts and comments feels quite a bit faster. Starting up the camera app from the homescreen is several second faster. However, when I last left the camera in video mode, I was still able to count 10 seconds before the camera was functional.
  4. Siri.Two words: it works. I have no doubt that in short order people will be complaining about Siri’s limitations: no turn by turn directions, recognition errors, lack of an API, reduced functionality from the original Siri app. However, straight out of the box, Siri is a game changer. For lawyers, the main feature is dictation and messaging. No, you won’t be dictating briefs. However, you will be responding to texts and emails. And here is the important thing: you will be doing it on the go. You won’t have to remember to do things when you stop. You will just take care of them whenever your are. Combined with the improved notification screen, it is much easier to see and respond to your incoming communication. Send texts, emails and even change your calendar. There are recognition flaws. However, at this moment, Siri gets the praise of the counting horse (it’s not how well it counts, but that it does it at all). That is not to say that recognition is bad. I spent much of yesterday, entering todos, commenting on Facebook and entering lists using Siri. It was faster and more convenient than typing. If anything, there will be an initial overuse of Siri which will no doubt lead to new levels of cell phone abuse in public places. So, just take it easy with Siri in public. You are already wearing a suit and bluetooth headset, there is no need to completely make an asshole out of yourself by dictating every little thing.

Can you make do with iOS 5 on an earlier iPhone? Quite possibly. You don’t need an iPhone 4S to get the much improved notifications, or have the camera accessible from the lock screen. If you want use iCloud to move photos automagically to your computer, you don’t need a new phone.

One of the best features of iOS 5 is iMessages. Free SMS / MMS is big! Personally, I was getting by on the $5.00 for 200 messages plan and paying the occasional overage. The change to a $20.00 unlimited or $.20 for test and $.30 for photos and videos plan on AT&T is quite despicable. It’s clear that sooner or later we will all simply be paying for data (whether it be for voice, video, texting or whatever). However, phone companies are still maintaining artificial differences to justify different billing components at different rates. For now, it is nice to drop the “printer ink” charge off my mobile bill.

So, do you jump from a prior iPhone to an iPhone 4S? If you are still rocking the rounded back 3GS, then “yes” get on! You will get a substantially improved phone with retina display, kick ass camera, and a snappy processor.

If you already have an iPhone 4, the choice is more difficult. Ultimately, it boils down to whether you want a better camera and Siri? If either of these are must-haves for you, then your choice is made. If you either results in a resounding “meh,” stick with the iPhone 4. It’s not like you can tell them apart!

If you an an Android user, then you are probably pissed that I’m not crediting the Android phone for having these features for over a year. You’re right and they are great. Should you jump to the iPhone 4S? Personally, I would wait until Nexus Prime comes out. It might wipe the floor with the iPhone 4. However, as of this writing, it is still unreleased and so we just don’t know.

The bigger issue is the sunk cost of switching platforms and changing ecosystems. This is the reason many Apple-heads didn’t jump to Android. When you have hundreds of dollars in apps, moving to a new platform and re-purchasing apps, or worse still, trying to find analogs for apps which are not available, increases the agony (to use Hipmunk’s term). Then there is the issue of the ecosystem. Once you have found a way to have your calendars, contacts, and music available all the time, you don’t want to have to figure out new ways of making that work on a new platform. So you will probably stick with Android. And thank you (Apple needs a viable competitor to keep it innovating).
Are you planning on getting an iPhone 4S? What are you most looking forward to? Or, what’s keeping you on your current phone?
Top image Creative Commons License photo credit: goodrob13