The iPhone Report: Should We Lower Expectations for an iPhone 5?

September 13th, 2011

So there are two stories being written about the next iPhone, which is expected to arrive some time in October. One has it that it will be very much the same as the present-day iPhone 4, except for adding the A5 processor, now used on the iPad 2, and perhaps an eight megapixel camera sensor, the better to capture photos.

Beyond that, the antenna may be redesigned to make it more immune to so-called death grips if you hold them the wrong way. It may even be a “world phone,” meaning it will operate on both the GSM and CDMA networks, so Apple can build one product and reduce production costs. Any other internal changes would be minor.

All told, this iPhone 4s or 4GS will carry the same 16GB and 32GB solid state memory options as the current models, and will sell for essentially the same prices. But there may be a lesser version, perhaps an 8GB variant of today’s iPhone 4, designed to appeal to customers who want something with a relatively cheap up-front price of $49 or less with the usual two-year contract.

The second round of speculation talks of a distinctly different iPhone 5, sporting a new look, perhaps returning to curves and perhaps an aluminum backing to match the style of the iPad 2, the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. It would seem sensible to sport a family resemblance among all Apple products, since the iPhone 4 may strike some as an anomaly with its glass front and rear casings. The screen size may nor may not be somewhat larger, depending on which rumor site you visit, although this is one possibility that has gotten traction from several. The actual screen resolution would be the same, but a slightly larger display would still fit into the “Retina” category based on Apple’s current calculations. Otherwise, hardware attributes would be the same as  described for an iPhone 4s/GS, or whatever it might be called.

Maybe Apple could somehow increase maximum storage to 64GB, same as the iPod touch, but it’s questionable whether prices for flash memory have yet declined to the point where Apple can buy the largest capacities and not increase the selling price.

At the same time, it doesn’t seem that Apple is yet drawing down production and availability of the iPhone 4, and unofficial estimates say that they are still selling at a pretty good clip. This appears to mean that few customers are waiting on the sidelines for the update. But a lot of that represents what buyers need now, and what the competition offers.

Sure, Android OS gear is regularly updated. Hardly a week passes where you don’t hear about something new from HTC, LG, Samsung or another smartphone maker, with faster internal workings, spiffier screens, and other new features. It’s not that Android has necessarily gotten any better, nor has the growing number of Android apps demonstrated they can compete with Apple’s app repository except for raw numbers.

Just recently, I read a report that stated the iPhone 4 remained the most popular smartphone model in the U.S. in the last quarter, followed by the iPhone 3GS, circa 2009, which is only available for AT&T customers. All the remaining smartphones, some for less money, were also-rans. Now I don’t know how the numbers will stack up this quarter, although some stories indicate the iPhone continues to do extremely well.

In the scheme of things, of course, there are far more Android OS smartphones out there. There are loads and loads of models, barely distinguishable, from several manufacturers. Some can be bought for no money up front, and that might be tempting. On the surface, customers may believe them to be visibly equivalent to the iPhone, and that forms the basis of Apple’s ongoing lawsuits for patent infringement against Samsung, HTC, and others. Meanwhile, with Microsoft demonstrating Windows 8 this week for mobile and desktop platforms, they’ve become almost a non-entity in the smartphone market.

If iPhone sales remain high, the slowdown ahead of the launch of the next model may be short-lived. Again, it appears that Apple’s expected media event will happen in early to mid-October. But there’s one more question. As we approach the middle of September, nothing has been said, at least as of this writing, about the introduction of the next generation iPods. You’d expect them to arrive by now.

On the other hand, the iPod has assumed a lower priority in Apple’s product portfolio, as sales continue to decline. Maybe they will simply be introduced with a press release, as is generally done with new Macs, with Apple reserving special media attention to focus on the arrival of the next iPhone, whatever it’s called, iOS 5, and, of course, iCloud. But I suppose it’s possible the iPod will get a brief level of attention.

But the current sales rate of the iPhone 4 (and iPhone 3GS) clearly indicates that Apple already has a smartphone that’s good enough to trounce competing models in unit sales. Despite all the product updates in Android OS land, that truth hasn’t changed.

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3 Responses to “The iPhone Report: Should We Lower Expectations for an iPhone 5?”

  1. Jim says:

    The iPhone 4 is actually a nice design, and the many improvements you noted would be welcome indeed…but…I’d be disappointed if Apple didn’t raise the bar higher with the impending release (the question remains: is this an iPhone 4+ or will it be billed as the iPhone 5?). If the impending release is simply a refresh of the current product and the implicit promise of an all-new iPhone 5 on the not-to-distant horizon is hinted at, then maybe it’s all good for Apple. However, 18 months to release a simple refresh reflects poorly on Apple, in my opinion, given how fast the industry is moving. Regardless, Apple will survive the jaundiced glares from myself and the other dreamers, no doubt.

  2. robyn says:

    Why not just release the iPhone 4 without a contract and have that be the iPod Touch substitute?

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