5 reasons not to be bummed by the iPhone 4S
Sure, you wanted the "iPhone 5," whatever that is, but here are five reasons this was a great week for Apple.
One of the benefits of my position is that I get first dibs on a lot of cool industry events. So, with less than a week's notice, when I received an invite to attend Apple's presumed iPhone 5 launch, I jumped at the chance to go. Making the travel plans work on PCMag's budget meant layovers in Phoenix and Boston, two separate airlines, a redeye flight, a Zipcar reservation, and a luxurious one-night stay at the Quality Inn Civic Center San Jose. But it was all worth it because I got to be in the room when Apple's new CEO unveiled, after months of rumors and wild speculation, an iPhone 4 with faster parts.
That's right. We were expecting the iPhone 5, and we got the iPhone 4S. If the name alone was not indication enough that this is an incremental upgrade, there is the telling detail that the phone looks exactly the same. No five-inch screen, no aluminum casing, no tear-drop contouring. Hell, the iPhone 4S doesn't even have 4G! Indeed, the bloggers and tech press have been blasting their disappointment all over the Web. Not me. Sure, I am disappointed. I didn't get to see a shiny new gadget, but Apple showed off something even more important this week: an innovation-based business plan for digital domination.
Now, if you are one of those folks that just wants a phone with a bigger screen, stop reading now. You aren't going to like what I have to say. But if you are willing to bear with me for a while longer, let me tell you five reasons this was a great week for Apple.
1: The iPhone 4S is a Better Phone
We will have to get the phone in for testing before we really understand how it performs, but on the specs alone, the iPhone 4S seems better than its predecessor. A faster, dual core A5 processor, 8MP camera, 1080p video recording, and eight hours of battery life are all needed improvements. You can read my "Hands On With the Apple iPhone 4S
" for more details, but the important thing is that the company is still iterating and enhancing its product lines. That is a good sign, for any tech company. And besides, I don't think a bigger screen would make the iPhone any better. What do you want, a Streak 5?
2. iOS 5 Launches October 12th
The way I see it, Apple is like a NASCAR team with two cars, the iPhone and iPad, drafting off one another and pushing each other along. The engine in both of these cars is iOS. At the end of the month, Apple will roll out iOS 5 to all of its devices, including existing iPhone 4 and iPod touch users. If past roll outs are any judge, this will be a swift and relatively painless process. This kind of thing is unfamiliar to Android users like me that are still waiting for last year's version (v2.3) of Android to reach my handset. It will utterly befuddle the millions of BlackBerry users out there who probably don't even know that are multiple versions of the Blackberry OS. Apple is gaining market share, and it isn't doing it with OSX; it is doing it with iOS.
3. iCloud is Coming Down to Earth
Maybe I am cheating a bit by separating out iCloud from iOS, but I think it is worth examining on its own. Critics will say that Google has Google Music, and Amazon has Cloud-based storage, but iCloud is going to take cloud services a step further. It isn't just going to be a place to back-up your digital life, it is going to synchronize all of those items and make them available to you from your entire Apple device. Take photos on you iPhone and the will be automatically synched to your iPhoto photostream on both your Mac and your iPad. Not only will iCloud quickly change the way users interact with digital services, it is going to create tremendous incentives for anyone in the Apple ecosystem to buy even more Apple hardware.
4. The iPhone is Going Mainstream
Those who test the latest hardware for a living tend to forget that average consumers pay for their technology and that $200 for a phone—plus a two year contract—is actually a lot of money. Apple has long been content to service the high end of the smartphone market, but now it is aiming lower, and broader. Turns out the old iPhone 4 will stay on the market and so will the iPhone 3Gs. In fact, Apple is slashing the cost of the iPhone 4 to $99 and the 8GB Apple iPhone 3GS will be available for free with a contract. This isn't just getting rid of inventory; Apple has decided to make the iPhone available at a range of price points that finally goes to $0. That is huge. Throw in the fact that Sprint customers will be able to sign up for the iPhone as well, and you could see significant iPhone adoption growth both in the U.S. and overseas.
5. Siri Works
Much was made of the fact that there was no "one more thing" at this week's event. I would suggest that Siri may be that one more thing. This voice recognition service will be built into all iPhone 4S devices. At the most basic level, it is a voice recognition system, albeit a pretty good one. Beyond that, it is an interface for dealing with online search engines and even your productivity apps. Ask "will it rain today," and Siri will use the date, local weather forecast, and your GPS to find the answer and then tell you in natural language. It is an amazing technology that could fundamentally change how we use our mobile devices. And the best part is, it works. Not perfectly, not consistently, but way better than you'd expect. Apple owns it and you can too for the price of an iPhone 4S.
Now, I'm not saying Apple has a clear path to global, mobile, and social domination. Android is still selling more units worldwide, Google has incredibly deep pockets, and Microsoft still has a few cards to play. Even so, all the hand-wringing about the missing iPhone 5 is just ridiculous. As Tim Cook reminded the audience as he left the stage: "Only Apple could make such amazing hardware, software and services and bring them together in such a powerful and integrated way."
He is the CEO, so he has to say "only." There are other companies that might be able to do the same. All I'm saying is, Apple is having a good week.
Copyright © 2010 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc.