Apple's iPhone 4S launch has encouraged some consumers and discouraged observers looking for an iPhone 5. Nevertheless, Apple's iPhone 4S is going to have more than its share of ripple effects in the wireless world.
Whether the iPhone 4S is seen as a success or failure largely depends on whether it expands the market for Apple or is just seen as an incremental upgrade possibility.
Here's a look at the fallout and the winners and losers.
Winners:Apple: Some critics---Forrester Research CEO George Colony to name one of many---have said the iPhone 4S represents a move from great to good. These observers wanted a 4G iPhone and perhaps a redesign. Apple overhauled the guts, but kept the core iPhone design intact. But let's get real here: The iPhone 4S will keep an upgrade cycle humming and show up at two new U.S. carriers in Verizon and Sprint. Toss in pricing---free with a two-year plan for the iPhone 3GS, $99 for the iPhone 4 and $199 for a starter iPhone 4S---and Apple will do very well for itself. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster argues that there's pent up demand for the iPhone 4S at Verizon. Rest assured that demand is at Sprint too.
Verizon and AT&T: These carriers will get two to three flavors of iPhones at different price points. The upshot: The way Apple priced its iPhone line-up indicates that it is eyeing family plans. Carriers love family plans and Apple would love to have a range of devices to put mom, dad and the kids in its ecosystem.
Voice technology: Apple's Siri demonstration was impressive. If you take that voice capability and integrate it well, voice technology will move from slightly fringe to mainstream. Look for Nuance to benefit as a side effect from the move to voice.
Sprint: Sprint gets its iPhone and gets to keep its customers in the fold. However, the carrier is barely a winner due to the hefty premium it paid for the iPhone and the potential network challenges that will come with it. Apple's iPhone will make or break Sprint, which doesn't have the balance sheet to compete with Verizon or AT&T.
4G Android phones: Apple's decision to stick with 3G iPhones will give Android superphones more runway at Verizon, which actively promotes its Long-Term-Evolution devices. LTE has been a disappointment to me given coverage and a rough transition from 4G to 3G, but to many road warriors the fast access will matter even if the battery life is compromised.
Losers:Android phones: Apple's global rollout starts on Oct. 14 with the U.S., Canada, Australia, UK, France, Germany, and Japan. Twenty two more countries will follow with a total of 70 countries by the end of the year. Toss in iPhone's ability to hit multiple price points and Android's market share gains could slow if not recede. Apple's onslaught also coincides with Nokia's Windows Phone rollout and a new product cycle from RIM.
4G networks: The iPhone's lack of 4G support highlights the compromises with next-gen networks. The biggest hassle is battery life. For the masses to get on the 4G bandwagon, networks need a full complement of devices. Apple's holdout doesn't help.
High-priced rival smartphones:The iPhone 4S starts at $199. Let's compare some other devices. The Motorola Droid Bionic is $299 at Verizon. The BlackBerry Bold 9930 will run you $250. Even if you add a premium for 4G capability $199 is the price point that matters.
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