Your iPhone 4S questions, answered

in how-tos| phones

Your iPhone 4S questions, answeredSo, when exactly does the new iPhone 4S go on sale—and can you pre-order it? Will there be an unlocked version that you can use with any carrier? And will you be able to talk and surf at the same time?

Get answers to these questions and more, right after the jump.

When does it go on sale?
Apple says it’ll start selling the iPhone 4S at 8 a.m. local time on October 14 in its retail stores—and yes, expect giant crowds and a long wait in line.

Ugh, what a pain. Can I just order one online?
Yes indeed, with Apple slated to begin taking pre-orders on October 7—this Friday—starting at 12 a.m. PT. If you want your new iPhone to arrive by October 14, though, I’d suggest placing your order as early as possible; last year, Apple’s servers buckled under a crush of eager iPhone 4 customers.

How much will the iPhone 4S cost if I’m still under contract?
Well, that depends on how much time is left on your service agreement. To find out if you’re eligible for the discounted $199, $299, and $399 prices for the iPhone 4S (and yes, those price tags include subsidies from the carriers), just visit Apple’s online store and click the “Check eligibility” link.

So, Apple says that the iPhone 4S is a “world phone” that works on both CDMA and GSM cellular networks. Does that mean I’ll be able to take my iPhone 4S from Verizon, put in a SIM card and use it on AT&T or T-Mobile?
No, not unless you’re prepared to “jailbreak” your new iPhone. That’s because your carrier—be it AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon—will “lock” your iPhone 4S to their particular network. The main benefit you’ll see from the iPhone 4S’s so-called “dual-mode” capability is that you’ll be able to roam on international cell phone networks when you travel, no matter whether you’re dealing with a GSM-based carrier (which are more prevalent in Europe and Africa) or a CDMA one (think Asia).

Will there be a unlocked iPhone 4S—and if so, can I use it on T-Mobile?
There’s no official word on whether Apple will unleash an unlocked version of the iPhone 4S, as it did for the iPhone 4. That said, The Unofficial Apple Weblog unearthed some evidence on Apple’s website hinting that an unlocked 4S could be on the way.

When and if an unlocked iPhone 4S does arrive, it will indeed work on T-Mobile, which has yet to get an official iPhone of its own; that said, the 4S (like the unlocked iPhone 4 before it) won’t be able to connect to T-Mobile’s 3G data network, meaning you’ll be stuck with the carrier’s slower EDGE network.

Will the Verizon version of the iPhone 4S let you talk and surf at the same time?
Nope—unfortunately, CDMA-based networks like Verizon Wireless and Sprint aren’t capable of handling simultaneous voice calls and 3G data connections, and that still holds true for the iPhone 4S. GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile, however, will let you talk and surf at once.

The iPhone 4S: What you need to know

The new Siri "intelligent assistant": just push and hold the Home key and ask your question.

What’s the deal with Siri, the so-called “intelligent assistant” that you can speak to?
Apple seems quite excited about Siri (pronounced “sear-ee”), a new software application you activate by pressing and holding the iPhone 4S’s Home key.

Once the microphone icon appears on the screen, you just ask a question, like “What’s the weather today?” or say a command, like “Wake me up tomorrow at six in the morning.” The software then parses what you said and (as Apple execs were careful to emphasize) susses out the meaning of your question or command, meaning you can ask a given question in many different ways, like “Will it rain today?” or “Do I need a raincoat?” That’s where the “intelligence” part of the voice-activated Siri assistant comes in.

Very interesting—and indeed, the software behind Siri is reportedly so powerful that it will only run on the iPhone 4S’s souped-up processor, and not only earlier iPhone models.

OK, but will Siri actually change the way we use our iPhones, or will it end up being one of those features you try once or twice and then completely forget about? Good question—and we probably won’t know the answer until the iPhone 4S actually ships.

Is the new camera on the iPhone 4S really just as good as a point-and-shoot?
Again, we won’t know the answer to that until the 4S arrives on our doorsteps, but the new camera certainly sounds promising.

Armed with an eight-megapixel sensor, versus five megapixels on the iPhone 4 (for a total of 60 percent more pixels), the camera on the 4S boasts a wider aperture and backside illumination to boost the amount of light captured for an image. Apple has also promised face detection, which zeros in on the human faces in a scene, as well as image stabilization to smooth out your handheld video footage.

So yes, the new camera sounds impressive, but whether it will actually match or surpass the photo quality of a dedicated point-and-shoot remains to be seen.

The iPhone 4S is the same shape as the iPhone 4—but does it weigh the same amount, too?
Weighing in at 4.9 ounces, according to Apple’s website, the iPhone 4S is actually a tad heavier than the 4.8-ounce iPhone 4.

Bonus: I want the $99, 8GB iPhone 4—or maybe the free iPhone 3GS. When are they going on sale?
You can actually buy them right now, although they won’t arrive at your door until October 14. Just so you know, the $99 iPhone 4 will only be available from AT&T or Verizon to start, although it’s “coming soon” to Sprint, Apple says. The free iPhone 3GS, meanwhile, remains exclusive to AT&T.

Have more questions about the iPhone 4S? Sure you do. Post ’em below, or shoot me an email.

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