today in apple history: iphone 4s opens for siri-ous preorders

The iPhone 4s was the last iPhone that Steve Jobs directly worked on. Photo: Apple

October 7, 2011: Two days after the death of Steve Jobs, Apple opens preorders for its next-gen iPhone 4s.

The last iPhone that Jobs worked on directly, the 4s boasts a speedier A5 chip, improved 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video recording, and — most significantly — Apple’s new AI virtual assistant, Siri.

iPhone 4s becomes an instant hit

The iPhone 4s was destined to sell well. For the first — and, I believe, only — time in Apple history, sales of the device’s predecessor were still building when the updated model was released. This means that every quarter, iPhone 4 sales grew, rather than the usual burst of sales at launch followed by a gradual decline for the rest of the year.

In fact, the iPhone 4s arrived at a time when the public was truly going iPhone crazy. Add to that the massive news coverage about Jobs’ passing, and it was clear this device was a big one for Apple.

Ultimately, the iPhone 4s sold 4 million units in its opening weekend. That’s a fraction of the number Apple sells on opening weekends today (the last publicly released figures, for the iPhone 6s, were 13 million in its first days). However, the iPhone 4s’ weekend sales represented two-thirds of the number of iPhones that Apple sold in the original smartphone’s entire first year.

iPhone 4s specs and Siri debut

In terms of specs, the iPhone 4s set the template for future incremental “s” releases. It offered no major form factor redesign. However, it brought plenty of internal improvements, including a big feature that hinted at Apple’s future ambitions.

In this case, that feature was Siri. The chatty virtual helper marked the culmination of a long-term dream for Apple. Impressively, the company predicted the arrival of a Siri-like AI assistant as far back as the 1980s. (Actually, the company nailed the date to within a month.)

As far as improvements went, the iPhone 4s dealt with the previous year’s “Antennagate” controversy by changing the dual-antenna design encapsulated in the stainless steel band. This tweak eliminated dropped calls that iPhone 4 users experienced if they “held it wrong.”

On balance, the iPhone 4s did not totally blow my mind (as the original iPhone and the iPhone 4 did). Still, I certainly look back fondly on the iPhone 4s.

Do you remember the iPhone 4s? Leave your comments, recollections and — if you can — your choice for favorite iPhone below.

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