Oct 07

Apple announced the iPhone 4S and as usual many pundits are proclaiming their bitter disappointment. Let’s take a rational look at what Apple announced.


The iPhone 4S has the following new or improved hardware:

  • Significantly faster processor.
  • A much improved camera.
  • 1080p HD video recording.
  • A new image signal processor.
  • AirPlay audio and video streaming and screen mirroring.
  • GSM and CDMA combined in one phone.
  • A redesigned system for managing the antennas.
  • Data download rates approaching 4G speeds over 3G networks.
  • Despite more and faster hardware, maintains industry leading battery life.

Wow, those hardware engineer slackers at Apple. What have they been doing for the past 15 months?

Why did they not give us:

  • A larger screen. Never mind that it would either lower the pixel density of the retina screen, or change the number of pixels and thus breaking most apps.
  • A 3D screen. Those devices are cool, but their sales numbers are not exactly approaching iPhone 4 levels.
  • A 3D camera. Ditto.
  • NFC. Consumers and merchants are not lining up for a new way to pay with a phone. The biggest cheerleader for NFC is Google, who wants to "manage" your purchase history data.
  • Solar powered. When there’s a quantum leap in solar cell efficiency, I doubt that cell phones will be the first application.
  • A new case design.
  • An "iPhone 5" label.

Since Apple only recently managed to fully meet demand for the iPhone 4, does it not make sense to continue to use as much as possible of the existing case and assembly materials and processes for the new phone? Which would in turn make it possible to roll out the iPhone 4S more quickly to more countries?

In the future you might as well get used to the incremental hardware improvements for the iPhone. Which is just what Apple has done for the past four iPhone generations.


Software does not suffer from the same pesky physical laws and limitations that hardware has to abide by. As long as we continue to see incrementally faster processors and more memory, there’s really no limit to software innovations.

So what did we get along with the iPhone 4S:

  • iOS 5 – Many significant improvements over the current OS.
  • iCloud – A new way to manage your data across multiple devices and computers.
  • iMessage – A clever end-run around the phone carriers. I bet they didn’t see this coming as a software update to millions of their current customers.
  • Siri – A very sophisticated personal assistant with AI-like qualities.

Of course many of these software innovations require and depend on the incrementally better hardware. This is what Apple does so well: integrating hardware and software.

In the future the new smarts in Smartphones will continue to come from the software. The pundits can shed tears over the lack of fantasy hardware. In the meantime, we developers are more than happy to welcome the next 100 million iPhone 4S owners as our customers.

written by Nick \\ tags:

7 Responses to “The Smart in Smartphone is all about software”

  1. Christian Sciberras Says:

    3d screen, 3rd camera?!!? WTF?!?

    What next, an iPhone for cooking your launch?!

  2. Brad Says:

    About daggum time somebody figured it out.

  3. Dan Says:

    Agreed. I have a feeling that if it had said “iPhone 5” on it, half the people complaining would instead be thrilled. People are a problem.

  4. Najib Says:

    couldn’t agree more ! its a great strategy for apple , i don’t think they will ever change it , they are applying this strategy in their MacBookPro line up as, every mac user should now that by now..
    can’t wait to upgrade from my 3G to a 4GS 😀

  5. Jono Says:

    I don’t think there is really any dispute of the quality improvements of the iPhone 4S over the iPhone 4, it’s just that consumer Joe Bloggs wanted the iPhone 5, and that it what they thought was coming.

    Sure, geek blogs were amass with rumour that it was the iPhone 4S, but the everyday consumer doesn’t read those blogs.

    I think it’s great to see Apple’s marketing fail – they will learn from it and either not be quite as secretive leading up to the unveiling, or make a kick ass product that is what the consumer is actually expecting.

  6. crackruckles Says:

    But its the same old apple crap over and over again, we will just release the same product with a few minor upgrades and make consumers buy a whole new product instead of just release it as a upgrade i mean look at the latest mac service pack oh sorry i mean OSX lion, why should the users have to pay for an update i mean windows and every Linux distro has services packs too and they are all free so why does apple charge for theirs, i mean there would be hell to pay if any other technology company milked their customers as much as apple does and yet apple is loved like god’s i just don’t get it.

  7. lifar Says:

    Did anyone have to pay for iOS5 upgrade ? I think many other smartphone users wish they had same OS support for their phones, and would not have to count on their mobile operators as it is often a case right now with e.g. Android and Bada.

    Customers do not have to pay for anything – if you think Lion is not worth money Apple is charging for it, if you think it does not bring anything new – do not buy it – it is so simple.

    And MS charged for their Vista service pack, which they called Windows 7 😉

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