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Friday, October 14, 2011, 03:40 pm PT (06:40 pm ET)

First look: Setting up the new iPhone 4S with iOS 5

Thanks to iOS 5, iPhone 4S marks the first generation of iOS devices capable of being fully setup and activated without ever plugging into iTunes. Here's what the process looks like.

iPhone 4S isn't the only model to take advantage of iOS 5's "PC free" setup. All new iOS devices now ship ready to use out of the box, and existing devices upgraded to iOS 5 no longer need to be connected to iTunes to first activate, nor is iTunes required to perform ongoing backups or software updates anymore.

Most competing mobile devices have always been "PC free" in the sense of begin able to set up and use right out of the box. Apple's iTunes-centric setup and maintenance for iOS devices initially helped make iPods, the iPhone and iPad easy to setup and use, but the process also involved some steps that could be frustrating, especially if your iTunes system wasn't available or if you didn't own a PC.

The new PC Free setup of iOS 5 means that all the advantages of having your music, videos, apps, books, documents, photos, backups and software updates managed through iTunes are still there: Apple still offers the best App Store experience, the easiest to use backup and recovery system and the fastest and least troublesome device sync and software update mechanism.

However, Apple has done away with the initial necessity of plugging into iTunes, and made the USB tether an alternative option to performing wireless setup, content purchasing and sync, backups, restorations and updates, thanks to new cloud integration. Users now have a choice.

Out of the box

iPhone 4S appears identical to the existing CDMA iPhone 4 sold by Verizon, apart from having a new SIM card slot that enables it also work on GSM/UMTS mobile networks. In fact, it looks so similar to Apple's previous model that you might mistake it for a Samsung product.






Same box, same accessories (adapter, USB cable, mic-integrated white earbuds), same dual-mobile antenna design (meaning it will work with Verizon iPhone 4 bumpers but not necessarily those designed for the original AT&T/UMTS iPhone 4, which has a slightly different lock switch positioning) and an identical external appearance of its camera (despite being significantly improved).

Apart from the SIM slot, the only other real difference between the iPhone 4S and the previous CDMA iPhone 4 is a new swath of European regulatory graphics on its back, something the Verizon-only model didn't need.

That makes for a rather tepid unboxing, but at least you now have photographic proof that the new model still comes with Apple stickers.

On page 2 of 3: Out with iTunes