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: