Wednesday, October 05, 2011

iPhone 4S - the "S" is for Steady as She Goes

So once again, Apple's done an incremental update instead of a radical one. Millions of dollars have been lost - mainly by case makers who got faked out on the design. Why did Apple just release an incremental upgrade to last year's iPhone? Well, that depends on your perspective:

  • First of all, it's not really incremental. The outer shell is basically identical. That's it. Oh yeah, the screen as well. Battery life is a little better, performance matches that of the iPad 2 (2+ tines the speed of the iPhone 4), it's got a new radio and improved antenna system (the death of "you're holding it wrong") the imaging system is all new and way better, and I'll give good odds that when it's torn down you'll find more than 512MB of RAM in it. This is a far bigger update than the update from the iPhone 3G to the iPhone 3GS was.
  • That said, the iPhone 4 has been an enormous success, and is still pretty much a state-of-the-art form factor. And it's still the best-selling smartphone on Earth. Why mess with it too much?
  • The biggest thing in the iPhone 4S is Siri. Plain and simple. Between Siri and the Nuance dictation system that has been built into iOS 5, the iPhone 4S has the muscle to handle voice processing and the integration only Apple can really do (as the only company besides RIM that builds the phone and the OS both). Siri is going to be huge. It's Jetsons stuff.
There will, of course, be an iPhone 5 at some point. And it'll likely have a redesign to go with it. But that will come when LTE chipsets work well enough (and carrier deployments are far enough along) to justify putting them into a mainstream phone. There isn't a company right now betting everything on an LTE phone. It's not mature enough.

In the end, Apple doesn't sell you speeds and feeds. They don't say a lot about RAM or processors or gigahertz. They say as little as possible about the guts of their devices. What Apple focuses on is the experience, the underlying glue that ties a computer to the user. And it's not a language that analysts speak well - which is why the iPhone 4S is so underwhelming to them.

The lines at every Apple Store next Friday will say otherwise. Consumers get it.