Apple’s new iPhone was announced today. It’s not the aluminum-backed, wedge-shaped iPhone 5 many sources were predicting.

It’s the iPhone 4S. It’s a faster version of the current iPhone 4 with a lot of internal improvements, including a faster processor, more storage space, improved antennae, and the highly anticipated 8MP camera.


Thankfully, the iPhone 4S keeps the same form factor of the iPhone 4. Contrary to many of the rumors over the past few months, the camera and flash configuration are the same as the iPhone 4. It looks like it has the same antenna design and outside groove configuration as the Verizon iPhone 4, which means that most of your iPhone 4 cases and accessories should still work with an iPhone 4S.

The most touted and anticipated improvement to the camera in the iPhone 4S is a larger image. The 4S has an 8 megapixel camera. The 4S saves at 3264 x 2448 pixels. That’s a 60% increase over the 5 MP resolution of the iPhone 4. Apple claims that you’ll be able to print 8″ x 10″ images with the 4S. In real-world printing, you’ll be able to print at much larger sizes.

The new lens system is improved and it’s pretty cool, with five lens elements to help improve the sharpness of the image. It’s now a really wide f/2.4, which lets in more light than the current f/2.8 lens and helps improve image quality in low-light situations. The improved optics promise up to 30% sharper images over the iPhone 4.

Like the current iPhone 4, the 4S has a CMOS backside illuminated sensor, but Apple says the 4S has 73% better light capture than iPhone 4. Because of algorithm improvements in iOS 5, the 4S has also 26% better auto-white balance than the iPhone 4.

Camera start-up and shot-to-shot times have been improved over previous iPhones (and other smartphones) as well. The iPhone 4S claims a start-up time of 1.1 seconds and a shot-to-shot time of about half a second. That’s faster than the iPhone 4, the HTC Sensation, Galaxy S II, and Droid Bionic. It’s even faster than QuickPix, one of the fastest cameras for the iPhone (it’ll be interesting to check the performance of QuickPix using the faster A5 processor of the iPhone 4S).

You can read more about the iPhone 4S on Apple’s web site here.

At first, I was hesitant about this iPhone based on the more reliable rumors I’d read. My biggest concern — one that has panned out, actually — is the camera module itself. The physical size of the sensor is the same size as the current 5MP sensor unit in the iPhone 4 — a drop-in upgrade. This new sensor packs 60% more pixels into the same space as the current chip. Essentially, each individual sensor is smaller. Usually, this would mean more noise and lower light sensitivity. The new, improved optics should help image quality, especially in low-light situations. We’ll see how over a year of development time has improved this next-generation sensor. None of the full-resolution sample images on Apple’s website really show how the 4S performs in true low-light situations.

On paper, I really like the new camera of the iPhone 4S. I like the improved, five element lens. Along with increased image resolution, this will help improve the clarity of the camera. I like the larger aperture. Allowing more light through the lens not only helps reduce exposure time in normal light which in turns improves image clarity. It should also help the camera capture more details with less noise in a wider variety of lower light situations.

For several reasons, I’m glad the form factor hasn’t changed. I like the look of the iPhone 4. I think the squared glass form is the best looking iPhone Apple has produced so far. I thought the wedged-edge and aluminum body of some of the leaked “iPhone 5” prototypes were ugly, regardless of how well the phone functioned. One of the reasons we like our iPhones is that they’re just cool to look at and hold. The triangle prototypes looked like a prop out of a low-budget 1970’s sci-fi flick. I’m also glad that I’ll still be able to use the same cases, lenses and other goodies from my iPhone 4.

Overall, I’m now really excited about the iPhone 4S and the new camera. I’ll be battling the bandwidth and preordering mine on Friday.

The iPhone 4S will be available in black and white. Pricing: 16 GB $199. 32 GB $299. 64 GB $399. The iPhone 4S streets in the US and several other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan on October 14. Preorders start this Friday, October 7.