Like many people last week, I bought a new iPhone. Unlike most of them, I didn’t buy a shiny new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. I bought an iPhone 4s. To make my purchase even more unusual, my new iPhone 4s is loaded with IOS 6, not IOS 8.1.1.
Why did I do such a retro thing? Let me try to explain. I suspect that the title of this post gives away most of what follows.
The PowerMac G5 was the proud last standard bearer for Apple’s highly successful and much loved PowerPC family of Macs. To this day, there is a certain magic about these machines, despite the breathless prose that Apple routinely heaps on their ever faster, ever more capable current line of i7 equipped Macs. Walking the talk, I am composing this post on my PowerMac G5 Quad, the last of the PowerMac G5 family, running Mac OS X 10.4.11 Tiger, one of the truly great releases of Mac OS X in my opinion.
What does any of this have to do with a “new” iPhone? Lots, really. Just because technology is no longer new does not make it automatically worthy of consignment to the trash heap of history. Apple has released a steady stream of products over its 40+ years of existence. Some were good, and some were bad, but every now and then, one of them was simply brilliant. When Apple released such a product, it was important to buy it then (or the same product, later, on eBay). If you did so, you found yourself in possession of a nearly timeless device, positioned, as Steve Jobs was fond of saying, at the intersection of art and technology.
The G4 Cube and the PowerMac G5 Quad were examples of this. Clearly, the original iPhone was another. Despite the “pre-Intel” focus of this blog, my 2011 27″ i7 iMac is also firmly in this camp – a perfect balance of form and function not achieved by any iMac model since. Who knows, I may even start saying this about Mac OS X Mavericks, with which I have been very impressed.
The iPhone 4s was also such a product. It was the last of the iPhone family to hew to the original vision of the iPhone in terms of form, factor and function. The iPhone 4s feels solid in your hand, and has a certain satisfying heft about it. Unlike all the iPhones that have followed it in dizzying succession, it does not feel like a toy. Instead, it feels (and looks!) like a finely crafted instrument.
And the iPhone 4s is not just a marvelous example of outstanding industrial design. It is a fully functional and very useful device to this day. True, it doesn’t support LTE, but it DOES support “4G” (HSPA+ for those of you in the know)…
…which can deliver excellent download speeds. I clocked mine at about 8.3 Mbps yesterday, more than sufficient for any task I could throw at it. Readers of this blog who reside anywhere in Europe will recognize that 4G is often the fastest cellular variant that is available anyway. LTE is rolling out in Europe, but rather more slowly than expected.
I didn’t buy an iPhone 4s when they were current. It did not seem like enough of an increment over my then current iPhone 4 to warrant the extra out of pocket expense. However, given its unique place in history as the last of the original iPhone class, I am delighted to now own one. I have activated mine on my carrier’s network and will put it to good use in the months and years ahead.
Like the PowerMac G5 Quad, the iPhone 4s is the ultimate evolution of its line. It was a great product in 2011, and it is still a great product today.