Why Apple’s iPhone 5S Problem is Genius

Apple is unlikely to launch the iPhone 6 in 2013, even though for most companies 6 follows 5. Instead many industry insiders believe Apple will release the iPhone 5S.

The iPhone 5S would be Apple’s third “S” series iPhone, and after the first two “S” versions users are trained to expect a similar design with small features. Essentially Apple uses the same design for two years, leaving off the option to boost screen sizes as fast as Samsung or HTC, and sacrifices on design changes that might make room for NFC or wireless charging.

While some may call the iPhone 5S and the “S” series a problem, it’s actually genius. Extending the life of the iPhone model by an additional year offers many benefits to Apple and iPhone users.

The iPhone 5S Problem

Rene Ritchie details Apple’s iPhone 5S problem and the history of the iPhone “S” models in detail on iMore. The problem Apple faces is that Apple takes its time to institute new technology, though it may be trying to counter the issue by introducing an iWatch or other devices to pull attention away from that longer period of time.

Predictability is a big part of the issue. It’s how HTC and Samsung are able to push out the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4 ahead of the iPhone and why both manufacturers upped their game in what many expect is an iPhone “S” model year.

The iPhone 5S will compete with the Samsung Galaxy S4, which features a bigger display and a newer design.

The iPhone 5S will compete with the Samsung Galaxy S4, which features a bigger display and a newer design.

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Others argue that it’s not the amount of innovation Apple delivers with the “S” models, but the name itself. Former Apple Ad man, Ken Segall argues that Apple should skip the iPhone 5S and jump straight to the iPhone 6, even if it’s the same device.

On his blog, Segall argues,

More important, tacking an S onto the existing model number sends a rather weak message. It says that this is our “off-year” product, with only modest improvements. If holding off on the big number change achieved some great result, I might think otherwise.

Simply changing the naming system wouldn’t address Apple’s big, then little, product cycle. But it could resonate strongly with consumers who are already searching the internet for the iPhone 6 more than they are looking for details about the iPhone 5S.

Why the iPhone 5S Problem is Actually Genius

Does the iPhone 5S present a challenge for Apple? Yes. There are certainly trials to releasing a minor update to a device every other year, but there are many also many benefits to this approach.

According to Apple Senior Vice President, Phil Schiller, Apple “didn’t want to be predictable” when it announced the new iPad name in early 2012 (and avoided using the ‘S’ naming strategy for its tablet). Despite these claims, there are benefits to the predictable nature of Apple’s iPhone releases.

It Keeps Consumers Happy

Apple’s iPhone release cycle is predictable enough that most consumers know what is coming and when it is coming. Even the average consumer can read one iPhone 5S rumor roundup and get a sense of whether or not the iPhone 5S will deliver something worth waiting for over the iPhone 5.

As Ritchie explains, this pattern, teaches “when to buy, and by extension, when not to buy,” but in many conversations with potential smartphone shoppers, the general public is less concerned about buying an iPhone 5 versus an iPhone 5S.

Yes, part of this predictable cycle tells consumers the iPhone 5S will be a minor upgrade, but the other side of this coin is that consumers can more confidently purchase the iPhone 5S, knowing it will not be immediately overshadowed.

Unlike the iPad, which Apple was able to push out a second model of in 2012, most consumers are locked into two-year contracts. While iPhone users appear more willing to upgrade annually at a higher cost, Apple’s ‘new every two’ approach to major iPhone releases better fits the current U.S. cell phone market.

he iPhone 5S isn't a problem for Apple. By offering a minor release every two years, consumers get more enjoyment from their purchases, even if it is partially psychological.

he iPhone 5S isn’t a problem for Apple. By offering a minor release every two years, consumers get more enjoyment from their purchases, even if it is partially psychological.

As it stands, shoppers can pick up the iPhone 5 and then upgrade to the iPhone 6 when a new major release comes out. iPhone 5S users can predictably buy the iPhone 5S and then pick up the iPhone 6S two years later.

Combined with the promise of major iOS upgrades that come swiftly and arrive for years, the iPhone 5S remains attractive even as a minor release.

This approach allows Apple to keep consumers happier, by removing the feeling that the phone they just purchased is out of date. This problem may sound trivial, but look at the iPad 4 release: it spawned a lawsuit in Brazil and many complaints from iPad 3 owners.

iPad 3 owners were annoyed by the swift release, even though the iPad 4 was essentially an S release. The iPad 4 featured the same design with only a few notable changes, but it came just 7 months after the iPad 3. Christina Warren of Mashable shared her complaint about Apple’s swift release.

Look, I understand that technology cycles are getting shorter and shorter. I know that the latest and greatest won’t last forever. But I still feel cheated. I know I’m not alone

Commenters on Warren’s post go further, venting about the iPad 4:

I agree. Apple ripped us off and its current ‘unprofessional’ and borderline unethical treatment of its loyal customers (I’ve been using Apple products for 25 years) will simply serve to alienate us. Customer service was once high on their list, clearly, this is no longer the case. – Charlene Sands

For an alternate view, which sums up why this anger is uncalled for, Sascha Segan offers, Why Angry iPad 3 Owners Are Stupid. Segan’s take on why the iPad 3 is still a great gadget sums up why Apple’s iPhone 5S problem isn’t a problem. IPad 3 owners aren’t the target audience, it is new tablet shoppers and Android owners that are.

One has to wonder if Apple called the iPad 4 the iPad 3S, if users would have expressed the same anger.

A Year for Major iOS Innovation

The iPhone 5S allows Apple to go hard on iOS 7, potentially bringing a flatter, fresher look with new services like a mobile payment system and iRadio, according to the latest rumors.

It’s not to say that Apple lacks the resources to deliver a new phone and a new version of iOS, but historically the “S” model years brought a bigger focus on software. This is undoubtedly a conscious decision by Apple to offer iPhone owners using an iPhone 4 or iPhone 5 a new set of features, even though there are some reserved just for the newest model.

In iOS 3, with the iPhone 3GS we saw the introduction of many features such as;

  • iOS 7 is reportedly facing delays due to a major overhaul.Spotlight search
  • Cut, Copy and paste
  • MMS
  • Voice Control
  • Push Notifications
  • Landscape keyboard support
  • USB and Bluetooth tethering
  • Video recording
  • Autofocus camera support
  • iTunes purchases
  • In App Purchases and more.

Alongside the iPhone 4S in 2011 Apple also pushed the software hard. While the feature list is smaller, we saw major new introductions like,

  • ioS 5Siri
  • Notification Center
  • WiFi Syncing
  • iMessage
  • iCloud

iOS 6 arrived with the iPhone 5, but many of the enhancements were smaller additions, which allowed the iPhone 5 to carry the release. In the off years, iOS carries the weight.

We think iOS 7 will deliver a new user experience and we may see a new way of interacting with the iPhone. Analysts are calling iOS 7 and rumored iOS 7 services the iPhone 5S’ killer feature.

Allows Product Evolution

By keeping the same design for two years, Apple is able to put more resources into each major iPhone launch. Much like car manufacturers re-use a model for several years before a major redesign, Apple is able to focus on one major iPhone release every two years.

One benefit of this is the ability to use the same iPhone 5 accessories with the iPhone 5S. By keeping the design similar, there is a greater abundance of accessories for users to choose from, and users who upgrade mid-cycle can use their old accessories.

Apple is reportedly working on an iPhone 6 prototype that features a larger, higher resolution display and a new design that may remove the home button from the front of the device. These iPhone 6 concepts show potential new iPhone 6 designs, several of which showcase radical design changes, including a design that comes from Apple’s labs.

Read: iPhone 6 Release Date, Rumors & Feature Roundup

While some investors and consumers worry about an iPhone 5S problem, the big and small release cycle of the iPhone is actually a smart way to deal with consumer expectations, and the two-year contract most users sign to buy the iPhone.

  

Comments

  1. Suellen Zimet says

    People who worry about stuff like this have nothing else going on. I am an apple devotee. I don’t care when they release what (and I have it all) the product is still superior and want the superior product.

    • Sam says

      I would be interested in your reasoning as to how an iphone is superior to the same/lower priced android models?

      • Notafandroid says

        It’s simple economics really. If you fandroid didn’t have your heads so far up your widgets asses, you’d know the answer.

        Everything on the iPhone just runs… BETTER than anything android. Even googles own apps are far superior on iOS than on android, and that says something.

        • slamo says

          I love these Apple vs. Android arguments. I’m going to grab some popcorn and watch this unfold. Truth is, both systems appeal to the target audiences that they are trying to reach. Apple pushes out something that “just works” and Google pushes out something that offers a degree of customization. That’s not all, but you all can hash it out.

        • Sam says

          “fandroid didn’t have your heads so far up your widgets asses”

          This is the thing I live about you apple fanboys :D. You complain about how terrible something is , then when you get the feature , its suddenly ‘amazing’.

          E.g : Apple Fanboy : Wow , you’re phone is so crap , look at that screen size , it doesn’t even fit in my hand!

          *iphone 5 gets the same screen size*

          Apple fanboy : OMG , LOOK HOW AMAZING MY PHONE IS! LOOK HOW BIG THE SCREEN IS!

          • Liam P Stubbsington (@lpstubbs) says

            Yes, of course. Because the iPhone 5′s 4″ screen is the “same size” as the 4.7″ screen on the SGS3 and HTC One X. I mean, there’s barely any difference between the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy Note II in size!

        • Sam says

          “Everything on the iPhone just runs… BETTER than anything android. Even googles own apps”

          I don’t see your reasoning here , I don’t see anything running better. Also , google maps?

  2. Mike says

    All the “S” are stupid I NEVER wasted my money on the “S”. The reason is 5S will be similar to the 6, however with the design of 5.

    • Notafandroid says

      You’re clueless. All the s models have brought SIGNIFICANT hardware updates while maintaining the same exterior finish. Each one a minimum doubled the performance specs and introduced new features that you’re clearly too blind to see. Stick to your Samcrap. Better suits you. Lol.

      • Sam says

        “Each one a minimum doubled the performance specs”

        Loving the attempt to look smart here when what you say is complete and utter ****.

  3. Tony says

    To me, the iPhone 5S is DOA. It says, this is going to be a half-baked, warmed over version with just a few upgrades and you will regret buying it when the iPhone 6 is released. I used to buy iPhones, until Apple failed to release an LTE phone until well over a year after android. Then, they came out with that lame 4″ but long iPhone 5. Apple needs to catch a clue that people are no longer willing to sit around a take whatever Apple dishes out. The Samsung commercials made a laughing stock out of Apple and the iPhone. Now, before you iSheep start your bleeting, I love my iPad and MacBook Pro retina, but until they make an iPhone with a bigger display and more customization, I will stick with android.

      • Tony says

        Pony up your address twit and I will mail it to you, I still have it sitting in my drawer. It’s of no use to me any longer, it’s an iPhone 3G, Apple no longer supports it.

        • Liam P Stubbsington (@lpstubbs) says

          Very true. And Samsung no longer supports the Galaxy S. HTC no longer support the Desire HD, or even the Sensation series that came out in 2011.
          Manufacturers drop software support for handsets when they no longer run the new software reliably enough (In Android manufacturers cases, there’s also no money to be made from updating an outdated phone since they only make money on the initial sale of the phone, whereas Apple want’s you to stay on their content ecosystem as long as possible).
          Have tried using an iPhone 3G with iOS 4.2? It’s slow as hell, and the 3GS is getting that way with iOS 6. Remember when it was announced the SGS wouldn’t go past Gingerbread?

  4. nusrat says

    no matter what apple is till d best who cares about smasungs large display cells like ur carrying a brick with u around :p

    • Sam says

      This is the thing I live about you apple fanboys :D. You complain about how terrible something is , then when you get the feature , its suddenly ‘amazing’.

      E.g : Apple Fanboy : Wow , you’re phone is so crap , look at that screen size , it doesn’t even fit in my hand!

      *iphone 5 gets the same screen size*

      Apple fanboy : OMG , LOOK HOW AMAZING MY PHONE IS! LOOK HOW BIG THE SCREEN IS!

  5. The Non-Band Wagon says

    apple fan boys went insane for a bigger screen. I suppose if android threw a new charger port in the mix everything would be ok.

  6. Stacy Scott says

    I buy on the “S” years. Why? Because I figure they worked out the design flaws from the “#” year. I.E. Antenna gate with the 4 not a problem in the 4S. I can’t really afford to upgrade every year, so I choose to go with the “S” years. I think the plan in smart. It also cuts R&D, and production cost as well.

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