Why the 4S Announcement Makes Perfect Sense
While many people wanted a design overhaul, myself being one of them, this simply was not what Apple needed to do. As bad as people may have wanted it, the iPhone 4 is still a bar-setting model and a total redesign of the iPhone 4 was not really needed at this point. Would it have been nice? Of course--it's what everybody was hoping for.
But, Apple made the clear and bold decision: stick with a design that is still sleek, clean and desirable and focus all other efforts into improving software and functionality.
I am okay with their decision. They took a golden phone and made it even better.
An already revered camera--now even better. Speed and capability of the phone now up to twice as fast with an A5 processor. 2 antennas for incoming and outgoing calls. CDMA and GSM capable for use around the world. Siri Assistant which is more than just a "cool app" they piggybacked onto iPhone launch. If it functions as Apple has depicted, this is an advanced voice recognition system with intelligent understanding of not just language, but "meaning of language." I was impressed with the range of functionality that Apple demonstrated with Assistant and I think its potential to be a revolutionary application that is a huge addition to the phone is being overlooked.
Small improvement in battery life from 7 to 8 hours, but still an improvement from an already-stellar battery life. The phone weighs in slightly lighter as well.
Would I have loved for Apple to have rolled out its new and improved super-sexy design for iPhone 5 today? Of course I would have; I was disappointed when they didn't. After all, its been 16 months since the release of their last iPhone--so we deserve a new iPhone 5, right? Wrong. Apple sold over 20 million iPhones just last quarter and realized record quarterly revenue of $28.57 billion. The iPhone 4 was still in high-demand, even 16 months after its release. Apple would not realize full value of an iPhone 5 product launch if they were to announce it while iPhone 4 demand is still high. They would not be milking the iPhone 4 for all it was worth. But by improving the iPhone 4 and announcing the 4S, milking it is just what they'll do.
And when the 4S has run its course and the 5 is due up (anticipated as late 2012-early 2013), Apple will deliver a product that once again blows people away and reestablishes them ahead of the pack, much like the iPhone 4 did.
For starters, the 5 is sure to run on 4G networks--a much faster and more capable iPhone experience. Could Apple have developed the 4S to run 4G? Most likely. But Apple would rather wait--a calculated decision. 4G in America today is decent at best compared to where it will be in another year. Verizon currently offers the best 4G network with LTE technology, but they still lack coverage all across America as they are new to 4G. But, within one year, Verizon intends to more than double its 4G coverage. AT&T just started upgrading to LTE and needs another year or so to make significant progress. As of today, T-Mobile is yet to even utilize 4G technology. Surprisingly, Sprint has the most advanced 4G network as they have been using WiMAX for 2 years already. Bottom line is that although other makers are releasing their 4G phones today, they are doing so quicker than the carriers are able to support them with an efficient and wide-ranging 4G network. But in another 10-14 months, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, Apple's three American carriers, will all have 4G networks that are much more strong and capable. Apple has conceded being the first to offer the 4G experience. They'd rather offer the best.
And this is when you will get your more radical external design change. You will almost certainly see a bigger screen. The phone will likely weigh in lighter. Some have suggested a curved screen, others a metallic case. The release is far away so it is near impossible to guess what a new design could look like. But you better believe that Apple has this all planned out and is taking an extraordinary amount of time to develop something big. Big enough to necessitate what will likely be around 28 months between the release of the iPhone 4 and 5. But, not all that different from when Apple took 23 months to turn the iPhone 3G into the prized iPhone 4. Apple takes its time and thinks big, not only creating new products, but creating entire new markets. This is how they have become the trend-setting pioneers that they are today--not by pumping out a new product every half-year. Apple made it clear today that they will stay the course that has led them to become the world's wealthiest corporation.
With today's keynote, Apple delivered two loud messages. First, that they are standing by the iPhone 4 and still have tremendous confidence in its ability to sell. And second, when Apple goes from one iPhone number to the next incremental number, they mean business. They have established credibility for what it will mean to go from an iPhone 4 to 5. Sure, they could have just called the 4S the 5 as so many suggest, but this would have devalued the worth of what it means for Apple to go from one iPhone number to the next. Now, consumers (and Wall Street) know that when iPhone announces the 5, it will be the real-deal.
While I still have full faith in the path that Apple is on and its meticulous plan for the future, I am a bit perplexed by some of its actions; particularly its decision to not hush any of the iPhone 5 chatter leading up to what was thought to be the "iPhone 5 Release." Yes, Apple is as tight-lipped a company as you will find, but this is generally in regards to new products they are releasing, not ones that they aren't. I don't see how it paid for Apple to let all the speculation, hype, and rumor run absolutely wild for months upon months leading up to the release today. It is confusing that Apple would let that much excitement build up for a product that they knew was not actually coming and would disappoint millions (and likely devalue their stock price). Why not gently diffuse the iPhone 5 myth? Let consumers become excited for the new features and updates being added to the 4S instead of disappointed by a phone that never shows.
I think this was a major slip up on Apple's part. There is a huge market of iPhone 4 users who were planning on purchasing what Apple let them believe was to be the iPhone 5. The 4S failing to meet expectations of the anticipated 5, many iPhone 4 users will now pass on the 4S as it is not a big enough step-up from their current phone. Had Apple put to rest the iPhone 5 myth, these very same iPhone 4 users could have been excited in anticipation of the new iPhone 4S rather than disappointed by no iPhone 5. Moreover, there was a large market of consumers using Blackberries and Droid-powered phones that were waiting for the iPhone 5 to make the switch to Apple. Now those using non-Apple phones will have to reconsider whether the 4S is worth making the switch for.
Outside of Apple enabling an untrue rumor, I am perfectly fine with the decision they made today. The 4S will be the stepping-stone from the iPhone 4 to the 5, just as the 3GS was from the iPhone 3G to the 4. In another year or so, Apple will be ripe and they will release a spectacular iPhone 5 that will have been worth the wait. You will forget about the disappointment of the 4S release and realize that Apple had it all under control the whole time. Just don't expect the iPhone 6 anytime soon after that.
So as Wall Street expresses disappointment, investors worry about the company's future and bloggers bash Apple for not releasing a product that they never indicated existed, I will sit back and be patient. I will enjoy the 4S as a faster and more powerful version of an already wonderful phone and patiently await the iPhone 5.