Regular dispatches from AccountingWEB gadget devotees including executive peripherals editor Nigel Harris, community correspondent Rachael Power, community manager Henry Osadzinski, and Accountants Power Tools' Kevin Salter.
The almost iPhone 5
You might be forgiven for overlooking last week's new iPhone launch, which was overshadowed a day or so later by the sad news of Apple founder Steve Job's demise.
Apple fans were too subdued and respectful to share any immediate thoughts on the latest Apple launch, but it has to be said it was a little underwhelming. To start with, the much anticipated iPhone 5 failed to materialise, replaced at the last minute by a "new" iPhone 4S. It looks pretty much like an iPhone 4, the same rather boxy styling as opposed to the more rounded shape of the iPhone 3. There's a new dual core A5 chip that's supposed to be faster. The Retina display is apparently the best ever. The camera has been upgraded to 8MP and has a new improved lens and HD video capability, which simply enables it to hold its head up next to the latest HTC and other Android phones. But in the end, the hardware has just had a necessary upgrade, nothing innovative.
The clever stuff is on the software side. It may not be an iPhone 5 but it runs the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 5, with "over 200 new features", say Apple. The most exciting one is Siri, a new voice-activated interface for the iPhone 4S that enables you to dictate text messages, make diary appointments, set reminders and search the Internet. We wait to see whether it works as smoothly as the promotional video suggests - will it require the endless training and stilted vocal gymnastics that is required to make other voice recognition software work? If it's, say, 90% or 95% - even 98% - accurate, will that actually be good enough? It's either going to be brilliant or a waste of time - let's hope it's the former.
iOS 5 also brings with it Apple's much vaunted iCloud, which automatically synchronises (and backs up) apps, music, picture and other files online with all your Apple devices. For example, a photo taken on your iPhone is immediately available on your Mac computer without the need to manually upload or copy it. It looks like Dropbox on steroids! File sharing will be available from any browser, so will work from any Apple, PC or other device with Internet access.
Of course, Apple die-hards will be queuing up for the new phone, which may mean there will be some bargains to be had if you're content with the previous model. However, with the iPhone 5 expected next year, phone companies may struggle to sell the 4S on anything more than a 12 month contract. My inclination is to wait for the 5.