Display

Though many expected Apple to redesign everything around a 4“ display, the display on the 4S superficially identical. The 4S includes the same size and resolution display as the 4, namely a 3.54” IPS panel with 960x640 resolution. We’ve been over this a few times already in the context of the iPhone 4 and the CDMA iPhone 4, but it bears going over again.

In retrospect, moving up to 4“ would’ve gone against Apple’s logical approach to maintaining a DPI-agnostic iOS, and it makes sense to spread the cost of changing display resolution across two generations, which is what we see now. While Android is gradually catching up in the DPI department, OEMs on that side of the fence are engaged in a seemingly endless battle over display size. You have to get into Apple’s head and understand that from their point of view, 3.5” has always been the perfect size - there’s a reason it hasn’t changed at all.

I’ve been through a few 4s myself, and alongside the CDMA iPhone 4, have seen the white point of the retina display gradually shift over time. While I don’t have that original device anymore, even now the 4S seems to have shifted slightly compared to a very recently manufactured 4 I had on hand, and appears to have a different color temperature. We’ve been measuring brightness and white point on smartphone displays at a variety of different brightness settings, and the 4S isn’t spared the treatment. I also tossed in my 4 for comparison purposes. The data really speaks for itself.

The first chart shows white point at a number of brightness values set in settings. You can see the iPhone 4 and 4S differ and straddle opposite sides of 6500K. I would bet that Apple has some +/- tolerance value for these displays from 6500K, and the result is what you see here. Thankfully the lines are pretty straight (so it doesn’t change as you vary brightness), but this variance is why you see people noting that one display looks warmer or cooler than the other. I noted this behavior with the CDMA iPhone 4, and suspect that many people still carrying around launch GSM/UMTS iPhone 4 devices will perceive the difference more than those who have had their devices swapped.

The next two charts show display brightness at various settings for solid black and white on the display.

The 4S and 4 displays follow roughly the same curve, however there is a definite shift in contrast resulting from higher black levels on the 4S display. I’ve seen a few anecdotal accounts of the 4S display being less contrasty, and again this is the kind of shift that unfortunately happens over time with displays. I’ve updated our iPhone 4 result on the graph with the latest of a few I’ve been through.

Display Brightness

Display Brightness

Display Contrast

Unfortunately the 4S falls short of the quoted 800:1 contrast ratio, whereas the 4 previously well exceeded it (the earliest 4 we saw had a contrast value of 951). Rumor has it that Apple has approved more panel vendors to make the retina display, I have no doubt that we’re seeing these changes in performance as a result of multiple sourcing.

WiFi, GPS, Audio, Speakerphone Camera Improvements
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  • doobydoo - Friday, December 2, 2011 - link

    You don't have to be concerned with something to care about getting an improved version.

    For example, I may be quite happy to work for a salary of £1,000,000 a year, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't care if my salary was doubled.
    Reply
  • Grandpa - Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - link

    Anyone heard of staticgate yet? How come nobody gives a review about the static issue on the iphone? Reply
  • mymomentummedia - Thursday, November 10, 2011 - link

    Here is a funny iphone 4s review... iphone 4s plus a 50.cal Barret sniper rifle. what do you get?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsVEbRt6g94
    Reply
  • chillstatus - Monday, November 14, 2011 - link

    I made sure to switch my dataplan over to the "Unlimited Data Plan for iPhone 4S" and when I run the field test, it still says it's using wap.cingular. I live in Los Angeles, and am wondering how I can get it to use the faster network. Anyone else have this issue? Reply
  • rhch - Sunday, February 5, 2012 - link

    I just found out that my 4S wifi range is not as good as my old iPhone 4 or iPad 2.
    4S gets much earlier "no connection" with Safari, Appstore etc when i take distance to my hotspot.
    Can someone confirm this?
    Reply
  • AlexD - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    With this commend I ask for help to find a developer for an iPhone-App that enables to use the 4S for the catching of light below 380nm (UV) and above 780 nm (NIR). The purpose is to identify light emission of materials (inks, plastics) outside the visible range and to visualize it with the smartphone. Even a slight range (e.g. >320nm or <850nm would help me.
    I would also be very greatful if somebody could explain what range of wavelength the 4S camera sensor is catching, if there are filters which can be removed or exchanged or the like to enable the above function. Thanks in advance for your support.
    Reply
  • meace - Sunday, February 12, 2012 - link

    Is the POP memory attachment to the A4 permanent?
    As in... could that pop ddr sdram of 128 *2 be replaced with 256 *2 ?
    I'm guessing there's no way that it's coming apart without damage
    (maybe even in a clean room) but I'll ask.
    Reply
  • vitaprimo - Saturday, August 18, 2012 - link

    I don't think it's the phone's fault that much. I have two iPhone 4s (not 4Ss) on different carriers (Telcel and Iusacell) and the never lose signal, no matter how tightly I grip them and I don't use cases. Now, one of the carrier is relatively new in my state and out of the major cities I've had a few dropped calls but they always connect back. I use to have iPhone 4Ss and I noticed no difference; I lost a bag with the phones in it so I'm using my old 4s until the sixth comes out--hopefully in less than two months.

    This whole antenna issue seems to just be affecting carriers in the US--that being AT&T.
    Reply
  • phero - Friday, January 18, 2013 - link

    Thank you very much for this extensive review, especially the part about power consumption. It has given me all the information I needed for a well informed decision on which phone to buy. Reply

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