Disappointed? Underwhelmed? Not Surprised? Reaction to iPhone 4S

Apparently investors are not taking kindly to the news that Apple didn’t announce an iPhone 5. While rampant and uninformed speculation typically help Apple’s cause, in this case, the so-called “pundits” saying a newer, thinner, lighter, better, shinier, happier, stronger iPhone 5 was in the works didn’t get it right. The ones who said “iPhone 4S” are the winners. The sad part is: some people are blaming Apple for not exceeding expectations, even though Apple really didn’t set any. Worse, the bashing will begin about Apple has screwed up (maybe) and this will be somehow “fatal” (possible, but not likely).

It’s not like the iPhone 4S is a bad phone. It’s faster, with better graphics processing, includes more storage, longer battery life, faster data throughput, has a better camera, and the Siri technology (apparently unique to the 4S) looks interesting. I can foresee a whole new level of distracted driving, as people get into arguments or philosophical disagreements with their phone and Siri. Apple had better hope (or pray!) this isn’t the Newton’s handwriting recognition all over again. But the new iPhone simplifies some things (now GSM and CMDA in one package) and has added Sprint as third carrier in the US. These are good things, although not exactly “change the world” type changes.

But… You know there has to be a “but”. No 4G/LTE support. That was one I was sort-of half-expecting, although I’m not entirely surprised that Apple still hasn’t adopted it yet. For a leading edge company, Apple is actually pretty conservative in some ways. The underlying technologies in Macs, absent the Air, is pretty much middle-of-the road. Apple has held back in the past on processors, and they still aren’t putting Blu-ray into anything with an optical drive. The first iPhone wasn’t a 3G device, despite 3G being fairly ubiquitous. I suspect the thinking in Cupertino goes something like this: 4G still isn’t in widespread use in the US, and even globally there are a lot more 3G carriers than 4G, so why push things now? I would venture a guess that 4G shows up in the next iPhone later next year.

As for no iPhone 5: sure I was hoping, but I honestly wasn’t expecting it. The iPhone 4 is still selling really, really well, and the industrial design is still quite compelling. It appears that this round was more about software than hardware, from the looks of it, at least in terms of some radical new form-factor. It will be interesting to see the early tear-downs the hardware to see how much is actually inside the machine, and if it appears it might be designed to fit in something smaller in the future.

The only other “well, that’s too bad” moment was that the iPod Touch didn’t see much more than the addition of white as an option. It doesn’t get the new CPU or graphics processor, or the new camera, and it still doesn’t include GPS or a compass. It didn’t get a storage bump, which it may need if it is going to also take over the space currently occupied by the iPod Classic. No mention of the Classic either, either any updates or being discontinued, but I suspect that Apple wasn’t going to the use the event to announce the end of the iPod line that got it all started. What’s funny is that the iPod Touch is an important part of Apple’s mobile computing story (seeing as it comprises the biggest part of the iOS pie), but it didn’t get very much attention from Apple this time around. The iPod touch is the most ubiquitous tablet computer right now, is the most used platform for mobile gaming, and represents one of the most common ways people are introduced to Apple. That gets people looking at other Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Mac). While the iPhone and iPad are the most visible and the most talked about, the iPod Touch is the one that more people are buying.

My only other comment on the presentation (which I could only follow through live-blogging) is that Apple might want to lay off bashing competitors and naming them by name. It’s one thing to appear confident. It’s another thing to appear cocky and arrogant. Naming names is like poking a bear with a stick: it can really come back to bite you.

So, will I be getting an iPhone 4S? Probably not. I don’t need the extra storage, and I still use point-and-shoot cameras more than my iPhone (I still like having optical zoom, not just digital zoom). Siri looks cool, but I’ve managed to get by without her so far. I don’t play a lot of games on my iPhone (I used my iPad, which has the newer processors already). Mainly, it has become my calling, e-mail and “other stuff when I don’t have my iPad or a notebook nearby” device. There isn’t much in the iPhone 4S that makes it worthwhile to abandon the iPhone 4, at least for me.



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