Why the iPhone 4S wasn’t really that hard to predict

October 4th, 2011 at 4:41 PM  4 Comments

Listening to people talk, a lot of them seem let down by the iPhone 4S. They have no logical reason to be. Looking at it, the iPhone 4S wasn’t that hard to predict. Let’s think about it for a second. When thinking about Apple product launches, ignore what “analysts” are constantly spinning, trying to manipulate stock prices for short term gain, and realize that Apple is generally pretty predicable.

In my head, you really have two major versions of the iPhone.

  • iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS
  • iPhone 4, iPhone 4S
I group the first three together, because the 3G was basically the same thing internally as the original, except for an upgraded radio allowing 3G. The 3GS had all new guts, but the same shell as the 3G. Therefore, I tend to lump them together into “generation one” devices, even though they were all released a year apart.
Then you look at the iPhone 4. Brand new (fantastic) design, powerful internals and the super clear retina display. Even against brand new Android and Windows Phone devices, the iPhone 4 holds it own. The way I look at it, Apple pretty much locked themselves into one upgrade path.
  1. Cost wise, there are a going to be a lot of physical parts that will be retained between the iPhone 4 (CDMA) and the iPhone 4S. Antenna, radio, front panel, back panel. This means they’re going to make more profit through economy of scale especially by continuing to sell the iPhone 4.
  2. They were obviously going to put the A5 dual core processor into it. It’s in the iPad 2 already, it’s the same path they have chosen with the iPad 1 to iPhone 4. This signals a predictable upgrade path. If the iPad 3 comes out in A6 processor that is a tri or quad-core, then you can almost be assured that it’ll make its way into the iPhone 5 in 2012.
  3. Looking at past performance, they always upgrade the camera. That pretty much goes without saying at this point.
The time was not right for a brand new design. There is no need for it. All these blow hards railing against Apple, Tim Cook, etc, saying that this product will be a failure are not looking at it logically. They’re looking at it emotionally, they want some fancy looking new device to show off. Again, Apple will bring that to you in the future, but the fact that they didn’t do it this time was the right move for them.
Those people who are still on a 3GS, should get a 4S. If you’re still on an original or a 3G, you should have upgraded to the 4, but I forgive you. Don’t bother waiting for the hypothetical 5, and get yourself in the pre-order queue for the 4S. If you have a 4, the choice is yours.
Oh yeah, those of you complaining that the 4S still has a 3.5″ screen, I don’t care. I’ve used devices larger, and they honestly are uncomfortable to me. Even 3.7″ is pushing it. If I want to look at something on a screen any larger than that and I’ll use my iPad.
One thing to note, and another reason I didn’t consider before as to why they’re not making this upgrade a major release, is that Apple will continue to sell the iPhone 3GS fully subsidized. $0. This is really pretty huge. If you’re someone looking at a feature phone, vs an iPhone at 0$ (even if you have to pay for a $15 data plan) it starts to become very attractive. Apple would not have continued to sell the 3GS along with the 4 and a hypothetical all new device. It starts to become to complex and doesn’t allow them to scale based on the current supply chain.