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Comparing Apple's iPhone 4S And The Droid Bionic

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Comparing Apple's iPhone 4S And The Droid Bionic

Digital Life

Comparing Apple's iPhone 4S And The Droid Bionic

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Apple's new iPhone 4S will be in stores tomorrow. The company says that consumers preordered over a million phones in less than 24 hours when they went on sale online last Friday. Only this week, though, have technology writers had a chance to put the new iPhone through its paces. One of them is Rich Jaroslovsky of Bloomberg. He joined us from Stanford, California to tell us how the 4S stacks up against the competition. And he says it doesn't look all that new, at least on the outside.

RICH JAROSLOVSKY: Physically, it's identical to the previous iPhone 4. It's kind of like a car where the exterior styling hasn't been changed, but under the hood, they've popped in a new engine. They've added a whole lot of new features and things, and you can't really tell the difference until you take it out for a spin.

INSKEEP: And the most spectacular, perhaps, of these new features might be this voice instruction software. What is it, exactly?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, it's a feature called Siri, and it is a voice recognition and response system. They call it a personal assistant. You ask it things, it tells you or it finds stuff for you. You can ask it, you know, where's a good sushi restaurant around here? It knows where you are, and it returns a list of restaurants. You can ask it to schedule a calendar item for yourself or set a reminder. If you're driving, you can dictate a text message and have it sent without taking your hands off the wheel.

INSKEEP: Okay. What are some of the questions you've been asking it?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, let's see if it'll answer something for us right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

JAROSLOVSKY: Siri, what's the best smartphone?

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

MECHANIZED VOICE: I think you've already answered that question.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Oh, that's great. That's great. Have you stumped it?

JAROSLOVSKY: I have stumped it. I've - a couple times, it sort of misunderstood me. Sometimes it'll just come back and say I don't understand you, Rich. It does call me by name, which is a little unnerving. Sometimes it will take what I tell it and it doesn't have an answer itself, but it'll offer to do a Web search for me.

INSKEEP: What are a couple of the other features here that make this distinctive, if anything?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, a couple of things that I was very struck by, besides Siri, are number one, it is very fast, particularly on the AT&T network. Now, the phone is available also on Verizon, and for the first time Sprint. The other thing that's different about it is that they've done a lot of work on the camera. They've improved the optics. They've improved the software. And it's now at a point where the camera is roughly comparable to a low-end point-and-shoot camera.

INSKEEP: What does Siri think of the competing phone that's been released by Verizon, the Droid Bionic?

JAROSLOVSKY: Siri, what do you think about the Droid Bionic?

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

MECHANIZED VOICE: I'm sorry. Rich, I'm afraid I can't answer that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: How sad. Well, Rich, you can answer it. What do you think of the Droid Bionic?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, to a certain extent, the Droid Bionic, which is a new Verizon phone, is a little bit of apples and oranges. You should pardon the expression.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

JAROSLOVSKY: The Bionic runs on Verizon's LTE network, which is the fastest wireless network out there - much faster than any of these iPhones. But the tradeoff is battery life. When you're on an LTE network, it really sucks the juice.

INSKEEP: Am I correct that even though the iPhone takes virtually all the oxygen when it comes to smartphones, that there are actually more Androids out there than iPhones at this point?

JAROSLOVSKY: There absolutely are. And to a certain extent, what they used to call the reality distortion field around Apple sometimes distracts people from that fact. But Google has had tremendous success with the Android operating system, and they take a very different philosophy. They make Android available to all manufacturers and carriers that want to use it, and as a result, there's just a huge variety of Android devices out there.

INSKEEP: Rich Jaroslovsky, thanks very much.

JAROSLOVSKY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He's a technology columnist at Bloomberg.

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