Oct. 5, 2011 at 2:19 PM ET
Okay, okay, you wanted some kind of super-awesome phone yesterday, and you got what looked like the phone that's been out 16 months. You wanted, nay, deserve an iPhone 5. And you'll get it. Next year. But some people really need a phone now, and shouldn't wait.
Time to buy an iPhone 4S?
I suspect that Apple will snap back to its mid-summer launch schedule next year, and have a fully redesigned, larger-screened, 4G-compatible iPhone 5 out then — and no sooner. That's a long wait, especially for people who have already been waiting. And while it's a big expense, it's your phone, your camera, your camcorder, your personal information manager, your media player and your GPS navigator all rolled into one. It replaces so many other gadgets, it's worth spending money on.
But there are people who should keep waiting, and others who should go for it now. I am going to buy one, because I want the 8-megapixel camera and the Siri voice-activated personal assistant, and I have been waiting to leave AT&T, because calls drop constantly in my home. A Verizon global iPhone is what makes sense for me, even if it still doesn't have simultaneous talk and Web access. I will bite. Will you? Here are my suggestions:
Why no iPhone 5 now?
Bear in mind, this was no last-minute bait-and-switch. It's pretty clear now that Apple was going with a 4S for 2011 all along. The thing that threw off everybody (including me) was the delay. If Apple had held an event in June, like they have the past four years, speculation would have been more centered around a 4S model. After all, we knew Apple wasn't excited about jumping into 4G this year, since it can have battery drain and other network-related issues. And aside from that and a larger screen, today's leading Android phones hold no particular competitive advantage over the 4S.
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Apple probably delayed the 4S launch to give Verizon time to sell the iPhone 4 — it would have been a dirty move to let Verizon in on iPhone 4, then drop new phones on them just four months later. Steve Jobs' departure (and Tim Cook's ascension) was just a coincidence, one that had no impact on the product release. Make no mistake, this was a Steve Jobs-approved move, made months before he resigned.
Fully redesigning a phone takes a huge amount of resources, and is likely something that Apple won't do every year. However real or imagined the Antennagate scandal was — where people criticized the iPhone 4 antenna design for dropping calls on AT&T — it's an illustration of the danger of the new look. Better to release a model then spend your resources improving it for the following year, like they have with the 4S.
And while carriers like to sell shiny new products, it's not in their interest to have a new look every year either. Apple's phones are so desired that current iPhone owners want to upgrade to the next model. But carriers need you to keep paying for the same phone for nearly two years in order to pay off the full cost of the phone. Offering every customer upgrade pricing yearly, for every new iPhone costs carriers money and resources (and so does fielding a flood of complaints for not offering it).
The 4S is no slouch, folks. In fact, for the greater audience, the only popularly demanded feature it's missing is a larger screen. Most people won't notice the 8-megapixel camera, dual-core processor, HDMI high-def video output and bumped-up GSM data performance (for AT&T customers), so why would they notice 4G or near-field communication or some of the other rumored technologies that were left out?
While the 4S fallout is understandable, it's an overreaction. Apple is as much a fashion designer as it is a tech company and entertainment retailer, and the company's leadership has to understand that this, more than anything, was the cause.
More on the newest member of the iPhone family, from msnbc.com: