Difference Between iPhone 4 and 4S: Is the “S” Worth It?

Difference Between iPhone 4 and 4SApple’s iPhones are all the rage and the release of the newest versions are highly anticipated events, with eager fans waiting in lines overnight in order to get their hands on the newest wonder machine. Today we will be discussing the differences between the iPhone 4, which was released in June of 2010 and the iPhone 4S, released in the United States in October of 2011. Some differences are major, some minor and in other ways, the two phones are the same. Below we will focus on the improvements Apple made with the iPhone 4S as well as a few of the minor similarities between the two.

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Let’s first take a look at what sets these two phones apart.


With the release of the iPhone 4S, there was a major improvement in the quality of camera (learn about iPhone cameras here). The iPhone 4S introduced an 8MP sensor to the iPhone bringing a fifth lens element and a wider aperture which results in more light being captured by the sensor. Overall, videos and photos shot with the iPhone 4S’ camera are much cleaner and nicer than those shot with the iPhone 4, and you can check out this course for more iPhone photography tips. Both contain an LED flash and both struggle in low light conditions, as they use the standard tiny phone sensor, however both are incredibly easy to use. Finally, the 4S has better low-light performance as it has a wider aperture – f/2.4 rather than f/2.8.


The iPhone 4S is the first model to introduce Apple’s virtual personal assistant, Siri. Siri allows the user to give the iPhone commands, which it can execute and respond to. For example, iPhone commands such as “How bad is traffic on I-80 Eastbound?” will get a response from Siri such as “I-80 Eastbound is backed up right now. Try taking this detour instead”. The commands that can be given to Siri can vary greatly and are able to control almost any application of the phone.

The commands given to Siri do not have to be specific and can be used with natural language, meaning there is no need to be technical. Siri can be accessed by holding down the home button (the round button at the bottom of the phone) for an extra amount of time. One benefit of Siri is that it is much easier for people to use device functions while driving, exercising or when they have their hands full. It is also helpful for people who have trouble reading, seeing or typing and allows them easier access to the phone.


The iPhone 4 is sold in 8, 16 and 32GB forms while the 4S is sold in 16, 32 and 64GB forms. iCloud technology is helping those with older phones who like to play a lot of games and take a lot of photos or videos, but many folks do not want to depend on the cloud for their files. Apple reports that the iPhone 4S is twice as fast overall and has seven times the graphics performance and outside testing largely confirm this claim.


One of the subtle differences between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S is the difference in antennas. While the designs are the same, complete with glass backs and metal rim, Apple, after Antennagate with the iPhone 4, installed dual-antennas on the iPhone 4S, a feature that the iPhone 4 simply does not have. This is important because neither of these devices utilizes 4G LTE data speeds and with the dual-antennas on board, the iPhone 4S can access faster HSDPA data speeds. The iPhone 4S has a maximum HSDPA download speed of 14.4Mbps while the iPhone 4 can only reach up to 7.2Mbps, which is quite a significant difference. This also means that the iPhone 4S is dual GSM/CDMA which allows both the GSM and CDMA models to roam on GSM networks around the world. The iPhone 4 technically is not a world phone and as a result may not be preferable for those who travel often.

Battery Life

While the battery is slightly stronger in the 4S, the differences in talk times and WiFi usage times are negligible. The iPhone 4S allows for up to 8 hours of talk time on 3G while the 4 allows slightly less at 7 hours. WiFi Internet use on the 4S is 9 hours compared to 10 hours on the 4.


The mentioned differences are significant, but in many ways, the 4 and 4S are also exactly the same.

Design and Screen Size

As mentioned above, the designs of the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 are virtually identical with both phones having glass front and rear panels and steel sides. While it’s a strong, sturdy design, the glass parts are famously easy to break should you happen to drop the phone on any surface but a pillow, but this problem can be solved, or at least helped, by buying a case.

With the iPhone 4S, Apple doubled up the antenna so that signal would remain strong no matter how the phone was held it could access a signal. The size of the screens of both the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 are identical. They have 3.5-inch screens with 960 x 640 pixels a piece. The iPhone 4 introduced the term “Retina” display, which is an Apple-derived term that means the pixel density is high enough that you can’t see single pixels. There’s only a slight difference in image quality between the iPhone 4 and 4S. Putting them side-by-side, the iPhone 4S is slightly brighter, however, this may differ just a bit between batches.

Operating System (OS)

While both phones shipped with different OS’s, they both support the recently released iOS 7, as well as iOS 5 and 6, but certain features supported by each operating system are different on each device. The iPhone 4 fully supports iOS 5, but only partially supports iOS 6 and iOS 7. The iPhone 4S, on the other hand, fully supports iOS 5 and iOS 6, but only partially supports iOS 7.

So, which iPhone is best for you? Chances are, you don’t have much of a say in it because you are probably tied into a contract that dictates which phone you will have. However, for those of you that are able to choose whether or not you have the newest version of the iPhone, you probably would prefer the 4S or already have the 5. The few big differences between the 4 and 4S (Siri, memory, camera) do make the 4S better and more exciting than the 4… now if you’ll excuse me, I must attend to my rotary phone and dial-up Internet.

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