If those numbers fall a little short of the 100% improvement that Apple promised, they make up for it in GPU performance. The iPhone 4S GPU scores 553% better than the iPhone 4 on the OpenGL-based GLBenchmark “Egypt” and 702% better on the GLBenchmark “Pro” test.
These benchmark results place the iPhone 4S at the front of the pack of current generation smartphones, and recover much of the ground gained by Android’s Honeycomb devices, released in February of this year. This is welcomed news for new iPhone purchasers, as the Android platform and hardware has improved significantly in the sixteen month window between iPhone launches.
Of note, although the iPhone 4S carries the same A5 processor found in the iPad 2, it appears that the processor is down-clocked to 800 MHz in the phone, compared to the iPad 2’s 1 GHz clock speed. This gives the iPad 2 a 20 to 25% performance advantage over its cellular counterpart. While likely a necessary step to maintain (and improve) the battery life of the 4S, it means that the iPad 3, expected for launch this spring, will further increase the gap in performance between the two products.
Considering the large performance disparity between the models of iPhones that Apple now sells (3GS, 4, and 4S), one concern going forward is application compatibility. As we continue to see ever larger performance improvements with each generation of iOS device, developers will either have to “dumb down” the performance of their applications to ensure maximum reach, or limit their software to certain models.
From Apple’s perspective, this will drive hardware sales. From the consumer’s perspective, this will present a tough choice every year with the decision to break a contract (or pay full price for the phone) is weighed against the desire to run the latest software.