The iPhone 4S is the best phone I have ever owned. I use it without a cover of any sort, have been since the December of 2011 when I walked out of the AT&T store, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The iPhone 4S is by far the most luxurious phone I have every owned. It might be the single most luxurious piece of gadget that I have every used. I started using mobile phones with a Sony Erricson T28, then upgraded to a Motorola with a color screen, then several Nokia, Motorola and Samsung phones later, I migrated to the iPhone world. I loved my first iPhone, the 3G for three years till software updates got too hot for it to handle. Then came the 4S.
I fully understand that the 4S is a few years too late to be reviewing. With all these rumors about the next iPhone surfacing all over the web, I was stuck with a new fear. I realized that in a year or two, I will have to replace this 4S and buy something different. The battery will get too old, the software will eventually get too much for its then ancient hardware, apps will not be released to work with the 4S as some apps these days don’t work with the 3S. Change in the technology world is inevitable, and I don’t want any of it.
In a world of ubiquitous plastic, the 4S feels like a solid block of glass and few things feel more luxurious than handling a thick, solid piece of glass. It is a feeling akin to sipping single-malt whisky out of a heavy rocks glass where all my old phones feel like sipping flat beer out of solo cups. The edges feel right: square, straight and carefully machined. As an engineer, it feels right to touch a bare edge of machined metal that is straight, flush, and in close tolerance with its assembled parts. All buttons and switches feel taut and responsive even after heavy usage. They have not developed any kind of play and continue to operate under tight design tolerances. This alone is a marvelous feat of engineering and industrial design considering the usage my phone goes through. The glass and the metal feel unadorned and true. They are a brief reprieve in a world of the carpet squares, particle board desk, and cubicle walls that usually surround me eight hours of the day.
The purity of construction and elegance of design force me to keep it uncovered by any synthetic protector, because frankly, we are surrounded way too often by synthetic covers and veneers: faux wood trim on dash panels, faux formica mimicking granite, faux metal trim on pens, and so on. In a world where skeumorphism is spreading like a virus, the iPhone (and most Apple devices) stay true to the ingredients of their construction.
The light scratches on the back, and a few nicks on the metal band are evidence of a graceful ageing process. The scratches are like wrinkles on a well-travelled face — the result of age and experience. They form a unique pattern and a unique identity.
I am sure the successor to the 4S is better and faster in specs but the all-metal construction makes it feel like I am holding an Altoid tin. Yes, it is thinner by fractions of millimeters but if we were comparing specs, the new Galaxy whatever and the new Nokia Lumina whatever would be just as competitive. What the 4S gives is an unexplainably good feeling along with commendable technology, and I will miss it when the time comes to part with it.