What’s this? The second coming of the iPhone 4? Sure enough, Tim Cook just pulled the covers off of the hotly-anticipated iPhone 4S here in Cupertino, making 2011 the first year in the company’s current stint in the smartphone business that it chose to launch three new handsets (Verizon’s CDMA iPhone 4 included, of course). On the outside the 4S looks exactly like its predecessor, but on the inside it’s “all new.” Apple has jammed a dual-core A5 CPU inside alongside a new dual-core GPU that supposedly boosts graphics performance by up to 7x. Up front is the same 3.5-inch Retina display we’ve all come to know and love, and around back is a glass plate. That antenna around the sides (which caused many users so much trouble) has been revamped and can intelligently switch between two different sets of antennae on the fly to avoid dropping calls based on how you hold it. Those antennas are connected to a dual-mode GSM and CDMA radio that will let Apple’s handset roam the globe while enjoying either 14.4Mbps HSPA+ or EVDO.
On the back is also a new camera that sports an 8-megapixel camera with a backside illuminated CMOS sensor for better low-light performance. The lens now comes packed in a new 5-element assembly with a hybrid IR filter and sports apertures down to f/2.4. The improved visuals extend to video performance as well. The 4S can record 1080p video and has a new image signal processor for image stabilization and facial recognition, making the handset’s camera comparable to many point-and-shoots. The camera is also quite a bit faster than many other smartphone shooters, needing only 1.1 seconds before being ready to take the first shot and only half a second between successive images.
The 4S is also the first Apple handset to come packing Siri virtual assistant tech baked in. Just tap the mic on the keyboard (just like on Android!) and start talking to enter text, check the weather, get directions or perform web searches.
As far as battery life, you’re looking at eight hours of talk over 3G, and 14 hours of 2G, while web browsing over 3G cuts off at six hours. Using WiFi you’ll get a respectable nine hours of web, video playback tops out at 10 hours and music at 40 hours. The 4S will come in both black and white, starting at $199 for 16GB and $299 for the 32GB, but the big news is a new 64GB model coming in at a whopping $399. You’ll be able to pre-order this friday, October 7th, and it’ll start shipping on October 14th.