Rumors had been circulating for months as to whether or not we’d see an iPhone 4S or and full-fledged, completely redesigned iPhone 5. However, just minutes before the press event was to start, the Japanese Apple site accidentally published news of an iPhone 4S and I had a sinking feeling that Apple’s event wouldn’t be all that I hoped it would be, little did I know just how much I underestimated my level of disappointment. And I guess I wasn’t the only one, seeing as Apple’s stock dropped as much as 5% after its iPhone 4S announcement…oops!
For an event titled “Let’s Talk iPhone”, newly appointed Apple CEO Tim Cook certainly took his time getting to the iPhone. Like removing a Band-Aid, I wish he would have just given us the news quickly instead of dragging it out. Although, since he took his time getting to the iPhone news, I will too, instead, first I want to touch on the lack of development in the iPod space.
Instead of presenting a newly updated iPod lineup as they’ve done in previous years, Apple took the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it approach” to the iPod Nano and iPod Touch, making little to no changes and slightly dropping the prices. The iPod Nano got a software update (available for existing gen6 models as well) which make some UI changes and adds 16 new watch faces, including an admittedly pretty cool looking Mickey Mouse one. However the big disappointment was the only change made to the iPod Touch lineup was that it will now be offered in white as well! At the top of the presentation, Cook touted that the iPod Touch is the “most popular mobile gaming device”. So why on Earth would you not take the time to at least outfit this flagship device with the iPad 2’s speedy A5 chip, allowing it to play all the latest and greatest games that will be coming down the pipeline over the next year. The event took place at the same location where Apple launched the original iPod 10 years ago, this would have been the perfect opportunity to launch an all new faster, more-powerful Touch (hopefully even a little thicker). Apple really missed the boat here.
Next up we had a VERY long recap of iOS 5 and iCloud, with very little new information from what we already heard at WWDC. However, we did finally get a release date of October 12 and the gold master was made available to developers yesterday for testing. YAY! iOS 5 brings loads of long overdue features to the iPhone 3Gs and above (and the iPod Touch 3rd Gen and above). For me I am most interested in its ability to launch the camera from the lock screen, PC-free cloud/wireless syncing, dramatically improved notifications and free iOS device to ioS device messaging. One other notable feature will be the iPad 2’s and iPhone 4S’ ability to mirror content via AirPlay at full 1080p resolution. The question I have regarding this is that we never saw a new Apple TV announced. Seeing as the old Apple TV only supports 720p, I’m not entirely sure how most people will be even be taking advantage of this feature. Admittedly I am actually much more excited about the iOS 5 launch next week than the iPhone 4S.
Speaking of which…we reached the moment everyone had been waiting for…the iPhone 5…NOPE! The iPhone 4S. Exactly the same as the existing iPhone 4 on the outside, all-new guts, the iPhone 4S sports the same A5 chip found in the iPad 2, meaning the graphics will be up to 7x faster than the current iPhone 4. It also has an improved 8 Megapixel camera, which is supposedly faster, dramatically better in low-light situations and capable of recording 1080p video. The iPhone 4S is a world phone capable of both GSM and CDMA and supposedly holds connections better and has improved data rates. It is also now available in a 64GB model for $399 with 2-year contract.
There is also a cool looking voice-controlled interactive assistant feature called Siri which will be exclusive to the iPhone 4S. Obviously an incentive to sell more iPhone 4Ses, Siri will only be available on the new platform. I don’t really see why the current iPhone 4 wouldn’t be more than capable of supporting such a feature, but obviously they need a carrot to get you to upgrade. Apple spent a loooonng time demoing this and while neat and an impressive piece of tech, I personally really don’t see myself using this. I always feel like a bit of a tool and pretty self conscious when using voice activated menus and such. The iPhone 4S is available for pre-order this Friday October 7th and will be available one week later on October 14th.
My heart sank, and I was glad I’m not due for a phone refresh until next year. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what exactly I was hoping for, but I know that this was not it. Apple delivered an iterative product LATE, instead of using those extra 3 months to really innovate and revolutionize the iPhone. At a minimum, this new iPhone that we waited 15 months for should have at least had a bigger display. Sure, there is no denying that this is an impressive list of updates. And if I owned a 3GS, the upgrade would be a no-brainer, but in my opinion, Apple just did not bring enough to warrant breaking my contract for a $250 fee, nor enough to sustain Apple for another year in the midst of increasingly fierce competition from the Android-based smartphone manufacturers. Apple gets but one shot a year to present the best possible platform to compete against an increasing number of large competitors constantly iterating and innovating their own devices, building upon one-another. The folks at This Is My Next, had this great chart (which you see to the right) comparing the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy S II and you can see that the iPhone 4S fails to really stand out. That doesn’t even include the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Nexus which will most certainly push those tech specs even further when it is revealed later this month.
Personally I think Apple made a number of poor business decisions and Tim Cook didn’t come out with all cylinders firing. It doesn’t seem like they are heading in the direction they needed to move in. With new competitors entering the fray to challenge their market share on all fronts (like Amazon’s iPad threatening new Kindle Fire) Apple cannot afford to rest on their laurels with these bi-annual iterative updates (or non-updates) to their product line. Each and every year they must continue to innovate. Hopefully yesterday’s reaction by Wall Street will serve as a wake-up call and Apple won’t be making the same mistakes come February when they announce their next gen iPad, where I predict that we will likely be seeing a 7″ iPad Mini to directly compete with what will undoubtedly be the number one Christmas gift this year, Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The big question is, will it be too little, too late?