The lunacy of the “iPhone 4S is a disappointment” crowd

Tue, Oct 11, 2011

Analysis, Featured, News

A week ago, Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S, which despite housing a significant number of improvements, provoked yawns from a number of pundits and even technology enthusiasts who saw the update as nice, but nothing special.

It seems that many were hoping for a larger screen iPhone with a tapered design. Not so much because anyone thinks the current iPhone screen is too small, but rather because the web was inundated with case moldings suggesting Apple was planning to overhaul the iPhone 4 factor. And so the rumor mill began operating at full throttle, with reports that Apple would release two iPhone models this Fall – an iPhone 4S along with a iPhone 5 with a new form factor and larger screen.

But Apple’s iPhone event came and went and all we got was a measly iPhone 4S with an A5 chip, an amazing camera, voice recognition, iOS 5, and 1080p HD video recording.

And still, analysts and pundits alike weren’t impressed.

“This is a decent upgrade”, they’d write, ” but we’re really waiting for the iPhone 5. What we really wanted to see was a new form factor and LTE support”

I don’t know what they’re smoking, but whatever it is, perhaps I need to partake.

One has to wonder if the rumors surrounding a larger screen iPhone 5 got so out of control that the iPhone 4S inevitably became a psychological letdown – simply by virtue of its name. Some people, it would appear, are more focused on what Apple’s calls its next-gen iPhone than on what the device is actually capable of.

What’s more, some people get so enthralled with abstract features that they blindly assume makes a product better. To that end, John Gruber chimes in on Apple’s decision to maintain its 3.5-inch iPhone screen.

Now, maybe you would prefer a 4-inch screen. Or maybe a 4.5-inch screen. And maybe someone else would prefer a slightly smaller 3.25-inch screen. That’s not how Apple rolls, especially with iOS devices. There is no doubt that some people would prefer a bigger screen. But nor is there any doubt that many other people would not. I wouldn’t. I like to see things get smaller, not bigger. Bigger is not necessarily better. Apple decided on the optimal size for an iPhone display back in 2006. If they thought 4-inches was better, overall, as the one true size for the iPhone display, then the original iPhone would have had a 4-inch display. It’s not like 4-inch screens are harder to make, or use some sort of new technology. If anything they’re surely easier to make, as the pixels are less dense.

Apple releases significant iPhone upgrades every year, and yet for some people, these upgrades have to be uniquely revolutionary to warrant any applause. This year, it was quite apparent that Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone had to arbitrarily feature a new form factor for some people to view it as a serious upgrade. Changing features and including new ones just to be different, without any rhyme or reason and in some cases added benefit, may be how some companies operate, but Apple’s products are thoughtfully designed with the end-user in mind. It pays no attention to fads and could care less about blindly marking off boxes on a feature checklist. At the end of the day, Apple isn’t going to release an iPhone with a 4.7-inch screen just because that’s what HTC does.

Consumers don’t need a funky new form factor as an impetus to upgrade on a yearly basis. Only moronic analysts do.

To a large degree, we as consumers, even those of us who can’t wait to open up and play with the iPhone 4S, are a spoiled bunch.

Think back a few years. Not too far back, but before the iPhone roamed the earth.

How often did people back then upgrade their phones? Usually when the phone they had stopped working.

The whole notion of a yearly smartphone upgrade was ushered in with the iPhone. The mere fact that each successive iPhone release prompts consumers to abandon perfectly workable devices that are only a year old is a testament to the allure of Apple products and that Apple’s yearly iPhone upgrades are substantial, no matter what the critics might say.

And the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Apple on Monday announced that it received over 1 million iPhone pre-orders in just 24 hours. That’s nearly double the amount they processed for the iPhone 4 last Summer.

I suppose that in some parallel universe unbounded by the rules of logic and common sense, the iPhone 4S can be viewed as a lackluster upgrade.

Good money, however, says that Apple has another hit on its hands.


, , , ,

4 Comments For This Post

  1. Matt Says:

    Of course this will be a hit; I don’t think anyone is disputing that.

    It is still possible for something to be “a good update” while still being a disappointment, though; it can even sell like gangbusters while still being a disappointment.

    A lot of the rumors revolved around things that Android handsets already have: faster processors, larger screens, higher resolution cameras, LTE support and a refreshed form factor.

    Of these, Apple announced only the faster processor and better camera.

    The spec bumps the iPhone 4s received are nothing to be laughed at, and go a long way toward catching the iPhone up, hardware-wise, to current Android phones (minus the LTE support), but that’s the problem.

    Apple’s announcement seemed more like they were caught in a game of catch up with the current top-tier Android offerings, which would be fine if, like Android, a new phone was no more than a month away. The problem with the iPhone is that, up until this point, there has only been one new device every year.

    This hasn’t been an issue until now, as Apple always seem to lead the trend, to be ahead of their competitors. This time, though, there isn’t anything “revolutionary”, and that means sticking people with a device that is already being outpaced by other Android handsets, and telling them that this is all they have for the next year.

    Were the updates to the iPhone a step forward for Apple? Of course. Will the iPhone 4S have enough Apple charm and iOS doohickeys to keep it front and center (or even relevant) in six months? We’ll see, but I personally think not.

  2. ad_monkey Says:

    “And the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Apple on Monday announced that it received over 1 million iPhone pre-orders in just 24 hours. That’s nearly double the amount they processed for the iPhone 4 last Summer.”

    And that has nothing to do with people locked into 2 year contracts when the last one came out??

  3. Jeff.L Says:

    Something tech pundits have learned from political pundits: Construct an arbitrary and unrealistic set of expectations, then condemn the subject of those expectations for not fulfilling them.

    Regarding sales, binding the customer to a 2-year contract is counterproductive in the case of the iPhone, whose users would upgrade much more frequently if they could do so without penalty, thus allowing the carriers to sell many more iPhones.

  4. Shock Me Says:

    Ideally, the phone would have had LTE and WiMax for the benefit of the Verizon and Sprint customers. Both those carriers have deployed 4G in a great number of markets.

    As it stands the 4S is a great upgrade for the 3GS and earlier models that are now off contract.

eXTReMe Tracker