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Early iPhone 4S reviews are in: Same design, great camera, Siri is amazing

With iPhone 4S pre-order shipments already beginning to arrive, and the device set to hit a variety of retailers on Friday, the first hands-on reviews of Apple’s newest smartphone have begun to roll in. Here, a quick summary of four of the most comprehensive and thought-out iPhone 4S reviews available.

Joshua Topolsky, This is my next

While the iPhone 4S looks and feels identical to the iPhone 4, “there’s much that’s fresh here,” says Topolsky. The A5 processor, which is under-clocked at 800Mhz, makes the iPhone 4S noticeably faster, and the new 8-megapixel camera takes amazing photos and video. Siri, the voice recognition software, “is incredibly cool and surprisingly useful.” In short, the iPhone 4S “is an astounding phone.” And if “you’re an owner of an older iPhone, or someone looking to switch to an iPhone from a different platform, there’s never been a better Apple device to buy.” But if you’re upgrading from the iPhone 4, the choice is less clear, as many of the benefits can be had by updating to iOS 5. The matter really comes down to whether a slightly faster functionality, Siri and a better camera are worth the cost of upgrading.

Walter Mossberg, All Things Digital/Wall Street Journal

The iPhone 4S “may not be the blockbuster people expect from the late Steve Jobs’ company,” says Mossberg. That said, the 8MP camera is “brilliant,” and “takes the best pictures and high-definition videos I have seen on a phone.” But it’s Siri that’s the real “standout feature” of the 4S. “It answers questions and provides information using natural language and an intelligent understanding, not just of words, but of context and colloquial phrasing. It isn’t perfect, and is labeled a beta, but it has great potential and worked pretty well for me, despite some glitches.” Still, the iPhone 4S “isn’t a dramatic game-changer like some previous iPhones.” But anyone who buys the phone “will likely be happy with it.”

John Gruber, Daring Fireball

“This is the easiest product review I’ve ever written,” says Gruber. “The iPhone 4S is exactly what Apple says it is: just like the iPhone 4, but noticeably faster, with a significantly improved camera, and an impressive new voice-driven feature called Siri.”

David Pogue, The New York Times

On paper, the iPhone 4S “does only four new things,” says Pogue. They are: a “faster chip,” which gives the 4S “more speed;” a “much better, faster camera – among the best on a phone;” dual-mode “world phone” capabilities; and Siri, which is “crazy-good, transformative, category-redefining speech recognition.” It works so well, “it’s mind-blowing how inexact your utterances can be” and still elicit the correct response from Siri. Really, it’s “unbelievable.” So while it may seem like the iPhone 4S is only a slight upgrade, Apple’s new device offers “a lot of amazing technology. And some of it feels like magic.”

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