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Upgrades, Upgrades, Upgrades

October 17, 2011
By Dave Hecei ( , The Post-Journal

Apple is about to launch several new hardware and software products. The next generation iPhone, which is now officially known as the iPhone 4S, will hit the store shelves on October 14th. Just before this launch date, Apple should also be releasing a new version of iTunes, the next generation of their mobile operating system iOS5, plus the start of their new cloud service - iCloud. I guess this month is upgrade month for Apple.

Unfortunately, I also feel I have to mention the passing of Steve Jobs, one of Apple's original co-founders and recent CEO. Over the last several years had battled pancreatic cancer and other complications finally succumbing to cancer at the age of 56. The technology industry has truly lost one of the most iconic business leaders of our time. Love him, or hate him, Steve Jobs was respected. He will be missed.

The new iPhone 4S looks exactly like the iPhone 4. The outside has not changed. There is still glass on the front and back and a band of stainless steel wrapped around the edge. Inside there are some nice new technologies, but maybe not enough to cause iPhone 4 owners to upgrade. If you own something older than an iPhone 4, choosing to upgrade is a no-brainer.

Not too surprising, the new 4S has the dual-core A5 Apple processor, which is also in the latest iPad 2. Since this chip contains two processors the 4S should run almost twice as fast. The big speed improvement in the 4S is in the graphics processing. The A5 chip, at least the one in the iPad 2, increases graphics speeds up to 7X.

The iPhone 4 is well known for its two built-in cameras. The front facing camera has just a web cam resolution, which is good enough for Skype or Apple's own FaceTime, but the rear-facing camera excels. It's pretty amazing to think that the 4S has an even better camera compared to the iPhone 4. It has been upgraded from 5 megapixel to 8 megapixel. Apple states that this new sensor is a state-of-the-art CMOS type with backside illumination. What this all means is that the sensitivity of this chip has been increased by over 70 percent. The 4S is also stated to shoot 1080P 30fps HD video.

Another internal improvement in the 4S is an upgraded wireless system. The 4S is not a 4G phone, that's a mouthful, but it does have faster download and upload speeds running on some 3G networks. The specs list the download at up to 14.4Mbps and the upload speed as 5.8Mbps (Megabits per second). This is a definite improvement over the iPhone 4 and 3GS.

The new 4S is also a universal model. Inside there is a combination chip that can handle both GSM (AT&T cellular network and most networks outside of North America) and CDMA (used by Sprint and Verizon networks). No longer are there separate GSM and CDMA models. Now there is one phone for all networks, though it's not interchangeable. If you buy an AT&T iPhone you can't use it later on Verizon.

The biggest change in the 4S is Siri (is the S for Siri?). This is the voice control software company Apple recently purchased. This feature won't be available in other mobile devices, but starting with the 4S you will be able to speak naturally to your phone and have it do things. The demo of Siri was pretty impressive, but let's hope that Siri in the 'real world' is just as impressive.

Two days before the launch of the 4S, Apple will release the next mobile operating system named iOS5. The 4S will ship with this OS already installed. Owners of other Apple mobile devices will be able to download and install iOS5 as a free upgrade. This includes the iPhone 4 and 3GS, the iPad and iPad 2, and the 3rd and 4th generation iPod Touch. Now even though this is going to be a major OS upgrade, it might be wise to wait a little while before jumping into the fire. I'm not saying that iOS5 will fail, I just like to lean to the side of caution and wait until a major update has been vetted a bit. If you do upgrade and find problems it can sometimes be difficult, or even impossible, to go back to a previous iOS version. It's usually better to wait and let others find all the problems first.

Once you are ready to upgrade your compatible iOS device to iOS5, it is a very simple process. Once iOS5 is available from Apple you just connect your device to your computer and iTunes will ask you if you would like to upgrade your device. As with any OS upgrade, make sure you do a full current backup of your device before attempting any upgrade.

Along with all these other upgrades comes iCloud, which is sort of an upgrade to Apple's MobileMe service. While MobileMe worked, it never worked great. Some loved it and others hated it, there really was nothing in between. Apple's new iCloud service will do much of what MobileMe does (or used to since it will end next year) but will add other features. With it, all your iOS devices and desktops will automatically exchange files in the background. You take a photo with your iPhone and that image will be available on all your other computers and mobile devices. Buy some music on iTunes and all your devices and computers linked to that iTunes account would automatically get it too.

For more information on all these new products and features, check out Apple online at or check out your local Apple Retail Store, or other Apple retail outlets, like Best Buy.



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