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Apple’s iPhone 4S is a ‘Tweener but What Else is New

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After watching the coverage of Apple’s iPhone 4S announcement yesterday I’m left with the feeling that while the Cupertino money machine has made some substantial change to the guts of its device and its new OS, Apple has basically announced a ‘tweener phone for the mobile market that is, well, in a state of being in between where we are headed and where we are now. I’m talking about 4G implementation here. While the 4s may be a ‘tweener device, it actually follows Apple’s script to a tee.

Sure, some (beyond the Apple haters) are saying that there isn’t an iPhone 5 means Apple failed. And it is tough to argue that many of the features in the OS5 won’t deliver much more than a catch up to what Apple’ biggest competitor, Google’s Android, doesn’t already offer. Some are even saying that this gives Microsoft a breath of fresh air and a new start. Of course some of what is in iOS shows promise beyond what the others offer, namely Siri. But I’m very wary that Apple didn’t allow bloggers and journalists hands on time after the announcement. That’s one of my cardinal rules. If a company won’t let you pick up a device at an announcement and try it out, there’s probably more than a few good reasons. Especially with a tent pole feature that is advertised as the “next big thing” like Siri, which is supposed to take voice commands to a new level. (I have to admit, I’ve been excited by this feature for some time now and am anxious to see it how it works, but I am wary.)

But, back to the script. We can safely assume the iPhone 5 is already in the works. It’ll debut once the telco industry actually delivers 4G to more markets than it can now, and the hardware engineers can figure out how to make devices that don’t burn battery life when it is connected at higher speeds. Apple did this with the first iPhone, releasing it as an EDGE only device when 3G was in its infancy, while others went ahead and leapt on to that bandwagon.

The Telcos love to play games with us when it comes to their new offerings. They’ve played those games with the pricing and the marketing of what many have called 4G for some time now. Handset makers have been very pleased to ride along with the fuzzy 4G wave up until now, and customers seem to not really care that in many cases they have been getting some of the future, while paying more for a piece of that, even in areas where they can’t use it. Now that LTE, or real 4G, which is the future, is slowly rolling out, Apple is content to bide its time, make some improvements to its OS and its current phone internals, and rake in the dough while waiting for enough of its customers to be in a market to really take advantage of 4G speeds.

I’m not sure which is more true to the old capitalist credo. Sell the customers on something that isn’t quite what is promised, or sell them a ‘tweener, until the real deal is available. Apple has proven that it prefers the latter model and been able to thrive. Either way everyone is making money, and it seems all the way around customers are willing to part with theirs.

There is an interesting data point here. While Apple has now brought Sprint into the fold, chalking up three US carriers, word is that AT&T’s version of the iPhone will have speeds faster than Sprint or Verizon. That demonstrates what kind of flux the connectivity selling point is in. (And how easy that is to be manipulated by the  marketing mavens.) Add that to the range of pricing schemes for the various iPhones that will soon be on the market and you can see the strategy a little clearer. The iPhone 4S is a ‘tweener attempt to advance the iOS platform, while capturing some new users with lower handset price points that can’t use all of those new features, who will then hopefully have their pent up dreams of owning an iPhone temporarily fulfilled, and left in a yearning state for features they can’t use but loving those that do, so that when the iPhone 5 does enter the market next year, everyone will be prepared to jump.

 

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

7 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    10/05/2011 at 6:56 am

    Lame! No matter how u spin it…glad I got the Galaxy s2 and not wait for the iPhone.

  2. Naren Jamatia

    10/05/2011 at 7:38 am

    All Apple Haters are having a field day…I am having so much fun reading all the bashful comments posted everywhere…………..lol……………

    I guess Apple probably deserved it. FANs seem disappointed. 

    But personally. This SIRI stuff is nothing like voice command out there. Its going to get BIG!There is so much potential in this thing. People might not realize now but this tech has potential and its going to get big if in the right place.

    • Anonymous

      10/05/2011 at 8:11 am

      Naren,

      I hope you’re correct. I’m leery that Apple wouldn’t let folks test it yet though, this close to launch.

  3. Jonathan Wilkinson

    10/06/2011 at 12:52 am

    What amazes  me (or probably not) is how little bashing Apple is gettting. If RIM had released the equivalent of the 4s the sound of “nails in coffins” would have been deafening.

    • And Bam

      10/12/2011 at 6:50 am

      Yes but RIM are years behind and have been playing catch up for the last 3 years apple disappoint once and so no nails just yet if they disappoint a few more times people will be calling the demise of apple iPhone (remember the mob are fickle)  

    • Anonymous

      10/12/2011 at 5:59 pm

      There’s no need for surprise. The reasons for the lack of Apple ‘bashing’ (as you term it) isn’t hard to find: the ultra-fast iPhone 4S/OSX 10.7.2 providing iCloud/iTunes 10.5 implementing the full power and glory of iOS5 with 200 new features, some really well thought out and cool, free apps from Apple, and of course the game-changing Siri… no other company in the world is even remotely capable of delivering anything like this seamlessly integrated offering. The market agrees and has bought more units in the first day than has ever been achieved for any smartphone ever.

      Since you mentioned RIM, let’s take a look at the company run by Joint CEOs. What have we had from RIM recently? The Playbook (sank without trace), new smartphones launched on software RIM is committed to abandon in favour of QNX in months (understandably muted response even from RIM diehards.) RIM is losing customers in the US at a rate that, if continued, will have them out of the market in less than 2 years. It’s only a guess here, but contrary to your fanciful claim, had RIM been able to make a product announcement with the breadth and depth of Apple’s, and demonstrated it now had a strategy for the future that would more than just compete, then people may well have concluded the Phoenix had arisen, against the odds, and RIM was back as a serious player. But of course, the possibility that it could pull of such engineering feats across the wide range of technologies required has to be placed in the ‘Miracle’ class. People don’t buy into miracles till they see the results before their eyes, and it’s by no means certain RIM has the time to achieve this before everything falls apart. Technology is relentless and ruthless: those that don’t move fast enough, and early enough, and execute perfectly usually find themselves irrelevant, no matter how powerful their past or how rich their heritage. Think Kodak.

  4. Anonymous

    10/12/2011 at 5:32 pm

    Some tweener! Fastest phone on the market by a country mile. Great call quality. First time intelligent antenna switching system achieved to minimise dropped calls in poor call quality zones. More battery life.  Best camera system ever seen on a phone, Full integration with iCloud, the first cloud offering covering iOS mobile devices, Macs and PCs that ‘just works’. There’s no device or file management, it just works. 

    And then there’s Siri, which is MUCH more than voice control. It’s powerful Artificial Intelligence technology developed by Apple to provide really helpful assistance in getting your job done when you’re mobile. Even though it’s classed as Beta right now, you can see where this is going to go, and hopefully fast. I’ve been working with AI implementations for years in the field of robotics and I can assure you, Siri is already truly amazing.

    No surprise then that iPhone 4S has roared out of the blocks in the fastest uptake ever for a smartphone. This engineering work of art needs to be given the recognition it deserves. It’s not a tweener at all… it’s the real thing. Just because it didn’t fulfil the bloggers’ guesses/predictions for what the iPhone would look like, doesn’t mean this is anything less than a stunner.

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