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Apple's iPhone 4S: Camera Improvements Designed To Impress

Apple's newest handset, the iPhone 4S introduced earlier today, isn't the "iPhone 5" dramatic advancement that some were forecasting. There's no teardrop-shaped thinner form factor redesign, for example, or larger screen, or LTE 4G cellular data support (or WiMAX embrace, for that matter). The handset's improvements from the iPhone 4 predecessor are quite predictable, truth be told, following in the footsteps of the prior iPad-to-iPad 2 evolution and led by a migration from the single-core A4 CPU to the dual-core A5 (both ARM Cortex-A9-derived, albeit with a notable graphics upgrade in the more modern SoC). The iPhone 4S is also a "world phone", supporting both CDMA (with EV-DO Rev. A cellular data) and GSM (HSPA+ cellular data) protocols, and its antenna subsystem employs diversity to counteract past "Antennagate" mistakes.

This is the Embedded Vision Alliance, after all, so let's focus in (pun intended) on the imaging subsystem. Does the iPhone 4S rear camera enable it to keep pace with those in Android handsets such as the recently discussed HTC MyTouch Slide 4G? From what Apple revealed this morning, it seems that the iPhone 4S makes notable advancements over its predecessor, thanks to a combination of optics, sensor and CPU horsepower-enabled software improvements.

  • 8 Mpixel backside illuminated CMOS image sensor (3264x2448 pixel resolution), versus 5 Mpixel on the iPhone 4
  • 5-element lens (claimed 30% sharper) with hybrid IR filter and f2.4 maximum aperture, versus 4-element on the iPhone 4
  • 1080p 30 fps video capture, versus 720p 30 fps on the iPhone 4
  • Software-implemented image stabilization, temporal noise reduction and facial recognition features
  • 1.1 second delay to first shot, with 0.5 second subsequent shot-to-shot latencies, and
  • A shutter "button" built into the lock screen; no need to swipe-and-unlock the handset prior to taking a picture. This standard feature of upcoming iOS 5 will also be extended to the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4; truth be told, I already have it on my iPhone 4, but I needed to jailbreak my handset in order to obtain it.