iPhone 4S soars with Siri

The beefier hardware is welcome, but the star of the show is the voice-controlled Siri personal assistant

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User interface
It's often a throwaway comment that Apple's UIs are better than everyone else's, and it's not always true (as the soon-to-be-discontinued MobileMe service attests). But in mobile, iOS is in fact a better-designed UI, one that makes accessing capabilities and information easier and faster. iOS 5 doesn't mess with what you already know from previous versions, but it does enhance the UI further with the Notification Center, improved gesture support, much simpler synchronization capabilities, and a few enhanced settings. Then there's the iPhone 4S's Siri, which opens up a whole new, hugely convenient way to interact with many apps and services.

Operational UI. Apple is smarter than competitors about bringing common capabilities to the top level of iOS apps' UIs, so they are accessible through a quick tap -- yet they don't clutter up the screen, even in the screen-constrained iPhone. iOS also has strong UI support for the visually and hearing-impaired, such as options for zooming text, presenting screens in high contrast, and enabling text-to-speech for text selections. In iOS 5, these are augmented with gesture assistance for those with motor coordination issues.

A nice change in iOS 5 is the ability to set custom sounds to various alerts. Now, in a room full of iPhones and iPads, you have a better chance of knowing whether it's your device that just beeped. Plus, you can set custom vibrations for individuals.

Text selection and copying. In iOS, you tap and hold where you want to insert the text cursor (sort of like using a mouse), and a magnifier appears to help you move precisely to where you want to go -- no competitor offers such assistance. You then add and delete text at that location. Additionally, controls appear above the text for selection and other services (such as copying and pasting, and formatting in Mail or dictionary suggestions in Pages). It's easy, intuitive, and universal.

Security and management
Apple's not known for supporting enterprise-level security and client management demands, yet iOS is second only to BlackBerry in terms of enterprise security and management support. It has remote wipe, certificate-based authentication, and an assortment of password controls (such as requiring a strong password or disabling access after a specified number of failed log-in attempts) that are manageable through Microsoft Exchange and, soon, through iOS-enabled management tools from companies such as Good Technology and MobileIron. iOS also supports several types of VPNs, provides SSL message encryption, and has on-device encryption for all data that can't be turned off. iOS 5 adds S/MIME support for encrypted email.

It's easier to use VPNs with iOS than with BlackBerry or Android because iOS figures out most of the settings, so an IT admin doesn't have to do the configuration manually. (Windows Phone doesn't support VPNs at all, and Android does not support Cisco IPSec VPNs.) Likewise, iOS easily connects to PEAP-secured Wi-Fi networks that use certificates -- again not needing hands-on involvement from IT as in the case of BlackBerry. (Android doesn't support certificate-based PEAP.)

iOS can back up settings, contact, calendar, and email data wirelessly to Apple's iCloud service. In addition, iOS can back up all of your device's data and apps to iTunes, both over a USB connection and, new to iOS 5, over Wi-Fi. Of course, most large businesses would prefer not to have iTunes on corporate PCs, even with iOS's support of backing up specified types of data on one computer and other types on other computers, to keep data backup separated based on type. Still, whether you back up to iCloud or iTunes, you get the option to encrypt those backups -- a security feature IT should appreciate.

The iPhone 4S is simply the best smartphone available
There's no question which is the better mobile OS: The iOS 5 definitively beats Android 4, Windows Phone 7.5, and BlackBerry OS 7. The rest of Apple's ecosystem -- iCloud, iTunes, and the App Store -- also can't be beat. The iPhone 4S is more capable in most respects than the competition, though it does fall short in social networking integration, screen size, and Bluetooth keyboard support. Siri makes the iPhone's many strengths even stronger.

Unless you have animus against Apple or want a smartphone only for social networking, there is no other real option than the iPhone 4S. It's simply the best.

This article, "iPhone 4S soars even further with Siri," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile computing, read Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog at InfoWorld.com, follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter, and follow InfoWorld on Twitter.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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