The best thing about the iPhone 4S is that it means the iOSsphere can keep rumoring about the iPhone 5. And it is.
Rumors continue to swirl about The Date of the iPhone 5 announcement, which now ranges from late 2011 to early 2013. So plenty of rumor headroom there. And now there's a whole new source of rumors: What went wrong?! Why didn't Apple announce the iPhone 5 instead of this terribly terribly terribly disappointing iPhone 4S (that AT&T and Verizon quickly sold out of preorders)?
FIRST LOOK: Apple iPhone 4S
Despite the contempt, rage, mockery, disgust and predictions of Doom that swept the Internet like tidal waves during and after the iPhone 4S announcement, at least one fan is undeterred. That would be Rob Shoesmith, who's camping out in downtown London in front of an Apple store to be first in line to buy what he expected would be the iPhone 5, which is why he called his blog the "iPhone5 Experiment." He now refers to the "next iPhone," apparently not able to bring himself to call it "iPhone 4S." And he's still there.
"Don't insult your friends in the media." -- Chris Baines, The Motley Fool
The Date, redux
"The issue up for debate for the rest of this year is which one will land first and how close the two dates will be to each other," he predicts. If that turns out to be true, it's going to a long, long, long, long 12 weeks.
"[T]here's no longer an iPhone release roadmap thanks to whatever was wrong with the iPhone 5 not only requiring a massive pushback from the traditional summertime iPhone revamp period, but also forcing Apple to launch the iPhone 4S in the mean time," Palmer claims, recycling a longstanding Beatweek conviction, unsupported by anything other than Apple's past product announcement dates. Since Apple releases iPhones in June of each year, and it failed to do so this year, therefore the product it intended to release, iPhone 5, wasn't ready and Apple substituted the 4S model.
So, "Spring 2012 seems like a logical time for the iPhone 5 release date, giving Apple nearly half a year buffer after the 4S launch," according to Palmer. But there's a problem. "Apple has launched each of the two iPad generations in the spring. That places the third iPad on tap for a March 2012 arrival unless something goes wrong with its manufacturing or development."
Apple, of course, would never announce two Big Next Things at the same time, so Palmer concludes that the iPhone 5 will be announced a month after the iPad 3; or a month before; or it could be announced in the summer of 2012.
Which is a rather convoluted way of saying, "I have no idea when they're announcing this thing," but you don't want to actually say that.
IHS iSuppli, an electronics component market researcher, is even more pessimistic. "The iPhone 5 most likely will arrive in late 2012, or in mid-2013," according to a press release. If a blogger says this, it's rumor; if a market researcher says it, it's analysis.
The reason for the date range? "IHS continues to expect that Apple will introduce an LTE-capable iPhone 5 when an affordable chipset solution allowing a thinner form factor is available." Not to mention one that won't drain the battery halfway through your 373rd tweet.
IHS analyst Francis Sideco underlines the importance Apple places on a "superior customer experience, rather than to provide technology for technology's sake." As a result, he says, "Apple declined to offer an LTE-enabled iPhone that would have been more expensive, larger and more power hungry [i.e. what lots of people thought the iPhone 5 should be] and instead opted to introduce a device that delivers nearly the same wireless data speed, but with a superior user experience."
"No iPhone 5: Why is Apple Holding Off?"
This is a ripe rumor, endlessly fertile. That was the headline from International Business Times -- a headline that suggests a kind of Apple plot: They've got the phone and for Some Reason just aren't releasing it.
This past week, IBT's Kukil Bora wrote, Apple "unveiled iPhone 4S, and the 'iPhone 5' mystery remained a mystery after all."
"But what could be the reason behind the move, which is considered by many as a setback?" he wonders, obviously referring to his fellow tech Websters and pundits.
What indeed? Bora gives an answer by Forward Concepts analyst Will Strauss, who, like Francis Sideco, thinks it's because of LTE. The iPhone 5 brand will be slapped on an LTE phone and Apple is waiting for the right LTE chip. "They're saving iPhone 5 for the LTE version and that won't be out until next spring," says Strauss.
There is some solid information in Bora's story: He cites Strauss as saying HTC's ThunderBolt smartphone uses two chips: LTE baseband, and 3G. The implication is that Apple is holding out for a more integrated solution. And Bora, finally, reminds us that Apple CEO Tim Cook made clear in April that Apple thought the first-generation LTE chipsets "forced a lot of design compromises" that Apple was unwilling to make.
There are two chip solutions in the LTE-capable HTC ThunderBolt: an LTE baseband (modem) chip and a second one from Qualcomm for 3G voice connections, Strauss says.
In addition, there were reports that Apple was unhappy with the first-generation LTE chipsets from Qualcomm that would make phones bulkier. In April, Apple's then stand-in CEO Tim Cook said the first-generation LTE chipsets forced a lot of design compromises with the handset and that the company was not willing to make those compromises.
"Apple's Mistake: Not Naming It iPhone 5"
Chris Baines' headline at The Motley Fool thinks Apple should just have called the new phone "iPhone 5" anyway. That way it wouldn't have broken the first two rules of business.
You're wondering what they are. According to Baines, they are 1) give your customers what they want, and 2) "don't insult your friends in the media."
Big mistake to call the phone "4S." Because both the friends in the media and customers (presumably all 140 million or so, or at least the 90% of them that repeatedly say they are satisfied or very satisfied with any iPhone model they have) "felt cheated."
"How am I, a loyal Apple customer, supposed to brag to my iPhone 4 friends about a spanking new 'IPhone 4S'? That seems so lame." Quite. But perhaps Baines was trying to be satiric.
Palmer at Beatweek makes a similar point, but one that isn't redeemed by satire, because he's dead serious. Apple CEO Cook "didn't have the guts to make the ridiculously arrogant move which Jobs probably would have: Steve would have called this new iPhone the 'iPhone 5' even though it physically looks exactly like the iPhone 4."
Why call a spade a spade when you can call it the queen of hearts?
Apple was afraid to launch iPhone 5
This is a ... well, we're not sure what one should call it ... but we'll stick with a "conceit" put forward at Forbes by Louis Bedigan, a staff writer for Benzinga, which describes itself as an online news and analysis site.
His post is titled, "Four reasons Apple is making us wait for iPhone 5," with the reasons ranked in ascending order.
Reason No. 4 is "color changes aren't enough," and it's an argument that we honestly couldn't understand. He cites the white iPhone 4, which wasn't an upgrade or a "fresh phone in any regard," but Apple was "hyping it as the next best thing in smartphone development."
Hyping the color white. That would be quite an achievement. His conclusion: "But compared to a red or blue iPhone (or even an all-silver design), the iPhone 4S seems downright awesome." That's something of a head scratcher.
Reason No. 3 for the wait is "Sprint (Likely) Wanted a Better Deal than Verizon." Apparently Bedigan believes that Sprint wanted a "better (read: more exciting) unveiling" than Verizon got in early 2011 with the CDMA version of iPhone 4. "Now its customers can proudly buy a 'new' phone instead of another iteration of last year's model." We're not getting this one either. One would have thought real excitement would have been to push up the iPhone 5 announcement for Sprint rather than delay.
Reason No. 2 is "Innovation is a Slow Process." Bedigan declares that "there is the strong possibility that the company [this would be Apple] is incapable of the level of innovation we expect."
That must be the "royal we" -- me and everyone smart enough to agree with me. He goes on: "That being the case, some [he means 'we'] might argue that the company should tone down its marketing and pre-announcement hype. But Apple doesn't sell products with open and honest advertising -- it sells them by raising our expectations."
Apart from the quaint notion that someone writing for a "news and analysis site" thinks there is such a thing as "open and honest advertising," Bedigan completely ignores the fact that Apple's "marketing and pre-announcement hype" amounted to exactly ... nothing. Apple was completely silent. We've long thought that Apple PR and marketing must be the easiest job in the world, in the sense that they don't *have* to write or create commercials and leak information; they don't have to DO anything. There are a zillion blogs, not to mention news and analyst sites, that do it for them.
Finally, reason No. 1: fear. In general, Bedigan intones, "people fear change. Companies do as well." And Apple especially. "Apple could be afraid to make any drastic changes, knowing that it may ultimately make or break a product people already love," he writes. What's a fear-ridden company to do? "Consequently, Apple might believe that it is better to risk alienating [the class of] consumers with high expectations than it is to risk alienating the mainstream market, which still believes that the iPhone is the best and most groundbreaking product in its class."
When you put it that way, it seems so obvious. Apple's idea of "product development" is actually product non-development. Engineers, designers, coders, project managers, executives and senior management troop into the Cupertino headquarters five days a week and quaver in their running shoes and blue jeans.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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