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iPhone Q&A - Published October 16, 2011

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How much faster is the iPhone 4S than the iPhone 4? How does its speed compare to the iPad 2?

In the company's official press release, Apple declares that the iPhone 4S provides "up to twice the processing power and up to seven times faster graphics" than the iPhone 4 models -- the iPhone 4 (GSM) and iPhone 4 (CDMA).

As the iPhone 4S has a faster dual core Apple A5 processor compared to a single core Apple A4 processor in the iPhone 4, one would expect the performance gap between the models to be significant.

Apple does not compare the performance of the iPhone 4S to the iPad 2 models. However, both are equipped with dual-core Apple A5 processors. As iPhone models are "downclocked" more aggressively than the iPad line to meet even tighter cooling and battery constraints, the safe assumption is that the iPhone 4S is slower than the iPad 2.

However, precisely how much faster the iPhone 4S is than the iPhone 4 and how much slower the iPhone 4S is than the iPad 2 only can be determined by benchmarks and real-world use.

Benchmark Performance Overview

For a solid general overview of the performance differences between the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPad 2 and all other iPhone and iPad models as well as the iPod touch line, Everyi.com's own Ultimate iComparison makes it quick to compare side-by-side Geekbench benchmark averages for hundreds of possible performance comparisons.

The Geekbench benchmark shows that the iPhone 4S is roughly 63% faster than the iPhone 4 and 14% slower than the iPad 2. Geekbench also shows that the iPhone 4S is a whopping 120% faster than the older iPhone 3GS.

Other Benchmark Test Results

Geekbench provides a convenient overview of overall performance, but other benchmarks also exist and can be useful for a well-rounded viewpoint.

In a well written piece, PCMag compared the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 4 as well as the iPhone 3GS running both iOS 4 and iOS 5 and discovered:

GLBenchmark 2.1 Egypt High, a graphics benchmark, shows an even greater difference [than Geekbench], with the iPhone 4S besting the iPhone 4 by more than 500 percent.
While the iPhone 3GS shows a higher number for graphics performance than the iPhone 4, that's because the screen resolution on the 3GS is significantly lower than the screen resolution on the iPhone 4. Taking that into account, graphics performance on the iPhone 4 is still twice as fast as the 3GS, though both are easily eclipsed by the 4S.
The 4S wins out on Web performance as well, but there's something interesting happening here if you look closely. An iPhone 3GS running iOS 5 scored significantly better on the Web benchmarks than an iPhone 4 running iOS 4. Even though the iPhone 4 is the more powerful of the two devices, this difference shows us that iOS 5 delivers a significant boost to Javascript performance.

In even more in-depth testing, AnandTech also put the iPhone 4S through its paces in Geekbench, SunSpider Javascript, Rightware BrowserMark, and GLBenchmark. For graphics, specifically, running on the same theoretical display size, the site noted:

The iPad 2 holds a ~21% performance advantage, which once again I assume to be all related to clock speed. Also note the huge advantage over the existing iPhone 4. The GPU power in the 4S should be more than enough to run any well written, current generation title at well north of 30 fps on its display.

Real-World Usage

Benchmarks can be helpful to quantify performance difference, but for general "feel" in the real world, nothing is better than a side-by-side video.

This YouTube video -- produced by Eurosausage and first reported by MacRumors courtesy of Twitter user Welsh Contemporary does an excellent job of demonstrating the performance difference between the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4 in real-world use:


Performance Summary

Ultimately, Apple's claim that the iPhone 4S is "up to twice" as fast as the iPhone 4 is reasonable. Graphics performance for the iPhone 4S likewise hit Apple's "seven times faster" claim in some tests demonstrated above. Although the iPhone 4S is slower than the iPad 2, the speed boost that the iPhone 4S provides over the iPhone 4 is noticeable in typical day-to-day use.


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