The iPhone 4S.
The iPhone 4S. Contributed

iPhone 4S: comparing Apples with..

BEFORE I start I should make some things clear - I'm a staunch Android and PC user. Apple products generally confuse me and I hate iTunes so much that I make my husband update my iPod for me once a year when I drag it out of cupboard to take it on a long-haul flight.

But I certainly wasn't going to pass up the chance when Optus offered to let me play with the new iPhone 4S for a few weeks.

I did actually flirt with the idea of an iPhone briefly when the original came out but put it to bed as soon as I discovered that you were stuck with the QWERTY keypad.

As a journalist you'd think that I'd love the idea of QWERTY keypad, right? Wrong. QWERTY keypads were made for 10 fingers, not one or two and I like to text with my thumb, which is far too fat for a tiny little touch-screen QWERTY keypad.

Android phones allow you to change your keypad back to numeric so you can continue to type with your thumb and live in denial about your ability to text without looking at what you're typing. (In all honesty, it's just plain impossible on a touch-screen, but I still like to try.)

So it was with serious trepidation that I typed my first message on the 4S. I was convinced that it was going to be a nightmare and Damn You Autocorrect-worthy.

I was so wrong. Yes, I had to ditch my thumb typing habit, but using my index finger I was pleasantly surprised at how intuitive it was. I managed to write the whole message without having to backspace once. Impressive. I am willing to concede that auto-correct on the iPhone 4S puts my (rather old) Android to shame.

Another thing I loved was the ability to add international keyboards. Yes, the Android can do that too, but mine doesn't have Japanese and the iPhone does. Not something everyone would use, but for those who would, it's a big thing.

Probably the thing that impressed me most about the iPhone 4S is the screen. Clear, crisp and bright; flicking through photos you've taken yourself or on Facebook is an absolute joy.

The onboard camera also impressed me, even in low-ish light it took a more-than-acceptable and clear picture. The only downsides - the inability to transfer images by Bluetooth or direct upload to Facebook from the gallery - you actually have to go to Facebook and do the upload from there.

Speaking of photos on Facebook, I know it's probably nothing to do with Apple, but the iPhone Facebook app is terrible.

Yes it gives you notifications on your home screen (in the middle of the night too) and actually shows you when you have a message, unlike the Android version, but it also has a lot of bugs.

My biggest gripe was its tendency to post a comment in completely the wrong place. I lost count of how many times I commented on a friend's photo, only to discover later that the comment had attached itself to a completely different photo, generally a really old one. I do now understand why my iPhone-using brother keeps 'liking' really old photos of mine though.

One of the most hyped features of the iPhone 4S would have to be Siri the personal assistant. I was very excited to 'meet' Siri, but the excitement soon wore off. I honestly can't say I rated her at all.

The first question I asked Siri was "Where am I?" Her response was "I can only look for businesses, maps and traffic in the United States and when you're using US English. Sorry about that."

My second question to Siri was "What time is it?" Her response was "I'm sorry, I don't know what time it is at (exact street address of my office). Sorry about that."

So a minute ago you couldn't tell me where I was because I'm not in the US, but now you can tell me my exact address in response to another question, which you couldn't actually answer. Underwhelming.

If you ask Siri who a public figure is, for example Kevin Rudd, she will return a fact sheet on that person for you. Provided, that is, she can get the right spelling off your terrible Australian accent - you'll probably find yourself repeating your question over and over with increasingly over-the-top enunciation.

According to Siri, Kevin Rudd is the Prime Minister of Australia. And so is Julia Gillard. Good to know. I'd advise against using her as a source for assignments.

One of the best things about the iPhone 4S was its battery life. Being rather long in the tooth, my poor old Android now needs top-up charges several times a day. The iPhone could go all day and barely put a dint in its battery life. I certainly wasn't using it heavily, but there was plenty of Facebook, Words With Friends, messaging and general mucking around that you do when playing with a fancy new phone.

I could go on forever about the differences between Android and iPhone apps, but I won't. The key differences for me are the lack of widgets on the iPhone and the app stores.

On an Android phone you have a list of all apps in the menu and you can also choose what is on your home screens and either have shortcuts to the apps or a widget - for example weather, news, clock, photo gallery etc.

On an iPhone you can choose where you put your shortcut for the app in the main screen, but there's no other customisation. Besides a notification to tell you something has happened, there's no way of simply glancing at your main app to see what's going on.

Not all Android apps have widgets, but I have come to really like the ones I have and like having the flexibility to choose what I want, not just have it dictated to me.

Android phones come with the Android Market and iPhones come with iTunes. If you download a free app from the Android Market, there's no mucking about, it just downloads. If you download a free app from the iTunes store, you still have to enter your password. I got annoyed at having to enter my password every time I wanted to download something, but I guess others may appreciate the sense of security.

Of course the iPhone also essentially doubles as an iPod so if you're really into your music and have an extensive iTunes collection already this would definitely have its advantages. As we've already established, I hate iTunes and don't use my iPod, so nothing there for me.

I guess it all comes down to personal preference. The iPhone is so very pretty and a real pleasure to use. So long as I don't mind being told by Apple how it should all look and work, it's great. 

However I still can't go past the ability to customise on an Android. You can really make the phone your own.

Perhaps longer-term users of the iPhone will disagree and be able to prove me wrong, but I just don't get that same sense of it being how I want it on an iPhone.

So in summary, nothing has changed for me. I'll be sticking with Android. However, if someone gave me an iPhone, I'd more-than-happily use it.

Want one?

Head to the Optus website for more info on grabbing your own iPhone 4S.

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