In the face of its first major news event in the post-Jobs era, the announcement of the iPhone 4S, Apple fell flat. Why? Mostly because the tech blogging culture that has grown up with the resurgence of Apple expected an iPhone 5. Traditional media fell flat too. Truth be told, many expected the iPhone 5 four months ago at WWDC.
Maybe Apple simply plans to have a 24 month release schedule for the iPhone? It does fit nicely with the 2-year agreement required by most carriers. Consider the timeline. The original iPhone was released in June 2007. Then the 3G was released about a year later, July 2008. Early iPhone adopters couldn?t upgrade to the 3G as they were still under a 24 month contract. Not a good experience for Apple customers, or more importantly mobile network operators, which have to heavily?subsidize?it for hundreds of dollars. Which for all of Apple?s successes, and and control of the supply chain, it is not mobile network operator. The next release, a year later in June 2009, the 3GS was a refresh and much more contract friendly. The all new iPhone 4 was released two years after the iPhone 3G, in June 2010. Leaving earlier adopters of the iPhone 3G at the end of their contract, and again in a much better position to upgrade. An iPhone 5 release in June 2012 would fit nicely with iPhone 4 users upgrading when their contracts expire.
Other than the case, the iPhone 4S isn?t just an incremental update. As a supply chain decision, the iPhone and iPad share now share a common, much more powerful CPU. The camera received a major upgrade, but I?ve always found the lack of zoom to be very limiting with smart phones. Siri, the star of the show today will even be reserved for 4S devices only. Not to mention speedier web access (for ATT users), and longer battery life. The 4S could have been packed in a new thinner case, with a larger screen. Making it immediately identifiable, and the new ?must have? phone. Instead they just recycled the old case.
Maybe Apple doesn?t control all the cards? Or maybe there?s another reason? Apple has seen Windows 8, and is rethinking their entire mobile strategy. Maybe they’ve refocused their resources on something larger, like a unified mobile and desktop OS? The biggest problem with Apples ?Let?s Talk iPhone? press conference is we all expected ?one more thing?, ? la Steve Jobs. We?re still waiting…