All right, so I wasn't the first person on this block (or any other block) to get an iPhone 4S. I felt no rush to upgrade, but finally decided that I might as well get one, inasmuch as my two-year contract with AT&T was up, I was enriched with a new ad deal, and they were bugging me with regular pitches to buy a new handset.
Since they are now supposedly available everywhere, more or less, I drove over to the nearby AT&T factory store, pleased to discover they had the one I wanted in stock, the 16GB version. It's more than sufficient for my needs, since most of my stuff is in the cloud, and I'm only using a small part of the storage capacity. Please note that the closest Apple Store is another mile or so away, and a Best Buy, a Wal-Mart and a Sam's Club are another few miles distant. It's not as if I wouldn't have choices if AT&T's stocks were dry.
I won't make much of a deal over the fact that the AT&T rep tried to mislead me about Apple's terms and conditions for buying AppleCare coverage in an iPhone. According to AT&T, you have to buy it when purchasing the handset, or you are stuck with AT&T's own insurance plan. Not true, as many of you know. You actually have 30 days, but you have to go to an Apple Store to have them confirm you haven't destroyed the phone first.
Regardless, setting up the iPhone was mostly all right; that is, until I decided to install a custom ringtone, from a new iTunes collection featuring The Beatles. The one I choose, "Hello Goodbye" from the "Magical Mystery Tour" album, seemed most appropriate. As part of the download, I tapped the option to make this 30 second snippet the default ringtone. It even worked -- for two days flat!
On the third day, the ringtone disappeared from my iPhone. It was nowhere to be found, and thus began a three day odyssey with Apple's support to solve the case of the missing ringtone. Now before I contacted Apple, I restored the phone, using my most recent backup for settings, a mistake I later lived to regret.
Finally, with Apple connected to my desktop iMac by remote access, we tried everything in order to induce the file to appear. It didn't, so I did another restore, this time setting up the iPhone as a new device. The process involved revisiting the brief setup questionnaire on the iPhone, and redoing all of my customizations. When all was said and done, the contacts were synced via iCloud per my settings. I manually added my email accounts, wondering why iTunes never puts them in the same order as they appear in Mail. You cannot reorder them either; the only option would be to remove them from the iPhone and manually add your accounts in the order in which you'd like to see them appear.
Now my iTunes issues weren't restricted to the iPhone. I ran into a problem downloading one of the 17 songs on the iTunes remastered version of "The Best of Pink Floyd: A Foot in the Door." Song number three, "The Happiest Days of Our Lives," kept coming up corrupted. Apple support is looking into the problem, since the download hiccup was repeated on both the iPhone and an iPad 2.
With those negatives out of the way, there's a lot of good to say about this iPhone. Voice quality on regular calls is far better than the iPhone 4, and, in fact, superior to any mobile handset I've ever used. The fools at Consumer Reports rate voice quality as "average," same as the iPhone 4. They are either deaf, or just plain wrong, because voices are clearly more solid, more robust, with less digital grain. It's not a case of imagining a difference, since it wasn't expected. Whether using the handset directly, or connecting it "hands free" to my Honda, voice quality remains clean and crisp. Connection quality is also like a rock, although I haven't used it long enough to wander into areas around Phoenix where dropped calls impact AT&T's network.
The move from an Apple A4 to A5 processor is more subtle. Application and notification wipes and transitions seem more fluid. Web pages display faster, and the wireless connection in my home is stronger, almost always at three bars. With the iPhone 4, it would usually descend to two bars in the main bedroom; that seldom happens with the 4S. For your reference, I'm using a Cisco E4200 version 2 router, which also delivers great performance with an iPad and an Apple TV.
After two restores, I'm still a little uncertain about battery life. In theory, it should be about the same as the iPhone 4. In practice, the percentage display seems to descend more rapidly, but it'll take a few days to determine whether I'm just doing more things on it for testing, or whether there's an issue. I'm using the 5.0.1 iOS update meant to fix those ills, though I gather some of you still have issues.
Of course, there's always Siri, and it's fun to have it show me a listing of the best rated restaurants in my neighborhood, the nearest gas station, or attempt to respond to the foolish questions I ask. I can see where it might become addictive, though I don't invoke the personal assistant in public. People think I'm crazy enough already, especially after hearing that ring tone go off.
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