iPhone 4S announcement: Initial reactions
Mmmmm, what to make of the iPhone 4S announcement. That is a tricky one. Perhaps best summed up by this video:
It would seem that Apple is starting to be the victim of its own success and almost paranoid levels of secrecy. After years of consistently exceeding our expectations with those ‘one last thing’ moments, we’ve come to expect a lot from Apple. In most instances I would say these high expectations are unfair. They’re just too high, but Apple’s intense secrecy only goes to compound the issue. Apple is no longer the geek’s secret pleasure. They’re a mainstream consumer brand. They’re the most valuable company on the US stock market (at least they have been for most of the month). With so many more fans out there than just a few years ago, Apple is finding it ever more difficult to meet, let alone exceed, these rumours. It happened just the same way with the iPad 2 announcement. The rumours were out of control. We were expecting the Retina display from the iPhone 4 which would exceed 1080p (which is absolutely mad on such a small device), 128 GB storage, an SD card slot, NFC technology. None of which materialised. So is it time Apple started to share a bit more ahead of these announcements? Are these rumours causing long-term damage? Personally I would say no. Ok so it didn’t have the larger screen and new slimmer appearance that was widely predicted (check out our own erroneous predictions), but the speculation is part of the fun, and only the hardcore geeks bother themselves with it. The mainstream consumers who buy Apple’s products buy them because they’re cool, well made and work really well. They don’t care if it’s not quite as speedy or as thin as the rumours said it would be a few months before.
Let’s face it, Tim Cook had a tough job on his hands. He still unveiled a fantastic new product. The iPhone 4S is a superb phone. I’ll certainly be getting one to replace my humble 3GS. But – and it’s a big but – it wasn’t the stand out announcement that he needed to define himself as their great new leader. With most pundits expecting him to unveil a newly re-designed iPhone 5, he knew when he stepped onto the stage that he would disappoint; his presentation would appear lacklustre. And from what I’ve seen of the keynote, it really was. His team too appeared even less enthused.
But the iPhone 4S announcement was more than just a victim of elevated expectations. The iPhone 4S, on first impressions at least, struggles to build the clear blue water between itself and its rivals that previous iPhones have always managed to achieve. While you could say the 3GS was a similar proposition, it just didn’t face the same level of competition the iPhone faces now. The ‘S tactic’ might have worked in 2009, but it’s a risky game to play in 2011. The iPhone 4 has been out longer than any other iPhone before it (breaking the tradition of annual July refreshes) so it’s already ‘older’ than the 3G was when it got the S treatment. But crucially a lot of fantastic smartphones have come out since. This is a concern.
But this rant makes absolutely no difference, because this author is not the typical iPhone user. I am a technophile and amateur Apple over-analyst. I’m just sore they didn’t release the ‘elite’ phone that I’ve longed for ever since the iPhone became so popular. I wanted a phone that marked me out above those mere mortal iPhone 4 owners (you know, that populist crowd who know nothing about why their phone is so great). For that all Apple needed to do was put a slightly bigger screen on it, make it a bit slimmer and whack another £100 onto the price tag. I’d happily pay it to remain part of the elite. But in the grand scheme of things none of this really matters. The iPhone 4S will ensure Apple remains king of the smart phones. Android will continue to take a bit more market share, as it always would have (these comparisons have always seemed unhelpful to me anyway. You just can’t compare an operating system with a single handset). Apple will continue to break records. It will sell more iPhone 4Ss than it did iPhone 4s and it will cement its position as a major player in China.
And me? Yes I will certainly be buying one, and I know I will love it – it’ll be quite the leap from my current 3GS; but I just won’t be able to stop myself from thinking, I wonder what it would have been like if they’d just put a 5 on the end of it…