Oct 042011

I think the dissection of everything Apple prior to their product announcements has finally bitten them a little. Leading up to today’s announcement, people (present company included) got wrapped up in case designs, mock-ups and, most egregiously, extrapolations of the iPhone 4’s current feature set – and we projected these fantasies onto a phantom device that became known as the iPhone 5.

In addition to all this iPhone cosplay, a second device emerged: the “iPhone 4S”. It was hypothesized that the 4S would attack the low-end market, would share some traits of current iPhone 4, but would also be “enhanced” – something I dismissed as ridiculous. The 4S was viewed as sort of like the 3GS – a phone that in retrospect got a bad rap – mostly because it looked the same. Even though it was markedly faster and had a better camera than the 3G, because it didn’t look different, it didn’t represent a significant improvement over the iPhone 3G.

Now that the announcement is over, we know that the 4S is it. There is no iPhone 5. But why am I getting such a whiff of disappointment? Let’s think about what the iPhone 4S turned out to be from a hardware perspective:

  • A5 processor
  • 8MP camera
  • Intelligent switching antennae
  • Siri intelligent personal assistant

Now what isn’t it?

  • A wider, (maybe) higher-ppi screen
  • A new case design

So what was the iPhone 5, really? It was an over-piling of the least plausible, least corroborated rumors about the 4S piled onto some mythical device. So why all the hate (AAPL is down 3.75% as of 3:00 EST)? Because we bought into 2 things: a device called the 4S that would be a “bargain device” – a fucking ridiculous premise to begin with – and the fact that Apple “had” to do something radical over and above it – whatever that something radical was. What we got was a cheaper iPhone 4 to chip at the low-end market (which I, and a lot of other people, called) and almost all of the predicted device improvements included in the new 4S (and at least one no one called – the smart antennae).

I expect the hate to flow into the comment sections of Gizmodo and Engadget articles on the 4S like the Dark Side through Anakin. I may have spent some time in the fantasyland of the iPhone 5 as well, but I have no one but my irrational self to blame for it.

  6 Responses to “The iPhone 4S: What’s in a Name, Really?”

  1. Full Disclosure…I’m an Android user (HTC Droid Incredible–for 2yrs…still a great phone) who has always admired Apple for their great design. In fact, I was secretly anticipating a generational “leap” in phone design, today, that would lure me over to the Apple side of the fence (and finally be able to FaceTime w my wife and kids on worktrips…she has an iphone 4). If I represent any kind of sample demographic that Apple was hoping to lure from Google, they failed in a monumental way. In fact, I don’t think people that have a perfectly good iPhone 4 will even bite…I could here the collective shoulder shrug and “meh” from all my Apple Fanboy friends. They are more than content to wait 9 months for the iphone 5.

    As for Android, the Nexus Prime reveal will be happening on Oct. 11 and it looks like the design jump I’m craving…check it out here: http://www.slashgear.com/google-nexus-prime-renderings-appear-accurate-30184469/
    I love the edge to edge screen, thin profile and 1.5 ghz processor…It’s moves like this that will keep me sucked into Android…Really, I would have jumped ship if the design changed.

  2. Man… I agree, wholeheartedly. I wrote the same thing in my assessment today. What we didn’t get; a new case and a model officially called the “iPhone 5”. If you swapped the “4S” for a “5”, but kept the 4’s form factor, I would venture to nearly guarantee you that more than half of the people upset by todays unveiling wouldn’t be upset. And, to add to the irrational, if you put the iPhone 4 innards into a brand new form-factor but still called it a “4S” people would have been praising it. At this point we should all understand the Apple-way of doing things- make it simple. Upgrading the specs but keeping the form factor and then making the iPhone 4 and 3GS the economic models is dang brilliant on Apple’s part. People are still going to upgrade to the 4S, because that’s what Apple fans do, and new customers are going to either take a free 3GS, or pay less for an iPhone 4 because it’s still a ridiculously dependable and awesome phone.

  3. Help me understand why Siri is listed as a new feature. The Siri app has been available for free on the 3GS for a while.

    I understand the 4S will have it “built-in” now, but how else does it differ from what’s freely available?

  4. I’d recommend you check out the video on Apple’s iPhone 4S site. In a nutshell, it’s integrated into the OS as opposed to being a standalone app. The integration allows you to send a text, make a calendar appointment, send an email…basically anything you can do with Apple’s iOS apps. I also expect there will be API hooks for 3rd party developers to use Siri at some point.

  5. thanks, you made my day. Some notice, nobody speak of batery degradation in talk time, and other significant hardware improvements, just looks, size and model number (well, it`s not a bikini).

  6. Y’rall missing the point. The 4S isn’t aimed at existing iPhone4 users or existing smartfone users.

    It’s targetted at existing 3G & 3GS users and NON-smartfone users.

    To the dumbfoner the 4S IS a generational leap.

    To the 3G user (“Mrs” Eyez00) and 3GS user coming to the end of their contract (me) it’s not the iPhone 5 we were expecting or hanging out for, but it’s close and it holds out the promise of being able to skip a generation to the iPhone 5S in the future.

    But it’s the migration from dumb to smart that Apple are interested in. That market, even in markets like the States or W.Europe is still huge. Globally it’s vast.

    From past customer satisfaction surveys we already know that once a customer has tasted Apple, they tend to stay locked-in, Apple products have high stickability (see Asymco).

    Andrioders, well they’re already “enjoying” a smartfone, their contracts are still active. Capturing them as consumers has a high churn cost. They can wait. Apple are still interested in exploiting the low-hangers and preventing existing customers from churning into Andriod by raising the opportunity cost of leaving the family even higher.

    What’s the email address of this site?

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