iPhone 5: Believe

iPhone 5: Believe

Summary: There's just too much anecdotal evidence that last week's iPhone event was... Incomplete.

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In preparing for my debate last week with Matthew Miller, I was expecting a completely different iPhone launch event than what actually transpired.

Like many other members of the technorati, I thought a completely new product was going to be announced.

Indeed, we all heard several weeks ago about the 4S being tested in the field by engineers and carriers, so it was a given that in addition to a completely new iPhone with a thin-profile design, there would also be a iPhone 4 refresh as well.

Two new iPhones.

I'm actually one of the few people that didn't think the thinner iPhone was going to be called "iPhone 5". If in fact iPhone 4S was going to be released at the same time, it didn't make sense to market a smaller, slimmer profile version as "5", implying that the phone was somehow newer or had better technology in it.

Apple doesn't normally do stuff like that. Sure, they've marketed stuff like the 3GS along with the 4, but not when they introduce two new products simultaneously.

No, I was expecting the smaller device to be called "iPhone Air." An entirely new species of iPhone, just like there are different species of MacBooks.

Why? Well, I thought this device was going be less expensive than the 4S. In effect, I thought that there would likely be 2 or 3 SKUs of the iPhone Air and 2 or 3 SKUs of iPhone 4S, thus eliminating the need for the existing iPhone 4 and also phasing out the aging 3GS.

4S for power users, Air for someone who wanted a lighter, thinner phone.

I thought there was a possibility the "Air" would have 4GB or 8GB of storage, with 3G, and would rely heavily on iCloud for user data. Perhaps sell at a $99 price point, where the existing entry-level iPhone 4 is selling at now.

Who knows, maybe the basic iPhone 4 would have ended up being the free, subsidized model instead of the 3GS.

What happened to this mysterious phone? And what evidence is there to suggest this beastie actually might have been launched?

Well, there's actually a heck of a lot of evidence. Like all of the cases made by accessory makers in China that appeared in AT&T stores and also in stores all over Asia. Cases that were produced in the hundreds of thousands, presumably based on an actual "slug" or specifications released by Foxconn or another manufacturing partner in Asia.

One particular European web site actually went through the trouble of using information gleaned from these cases and other information to actually build a prototype mock-up. If you can get past the extremely odd nature of this video with a Chinese guy speaking perfect German, you'll see what they actually came up with.

So... what the heck happened? Was the iPhone 4S really the only product that was originally supposed to launch last week? Did Apple really wait over a year to launch a simply iterative improvement over their existing product with bumped processor and improved rear camera?

Were the case designs leaked by Apple to throw competitors off? Was this Steve Jobs' final act to "punk" the industry?

DID ALIENS VISIT ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS AND BREED WITH OUR ANCESTORS?

Sorry. I watch too much History Channel.

Look, it doesn't make any sense to me that the anti-climactic 4S launch was "The Plan". There was supposed to be another phone. It just wasn't ready.

Why it wasn't ready is anyone's guess. I've consulted a few folks that work in embedded device engineering and they suspect that because of how thin this phone is, the battery may not have yielded enough life to pass Steve Jobs' final QA.

Maybe it needed a more exotic battery chemistry to get good performance, and the battery technology or the manufacturing process wasn't quite ready for launch yet. The decision to switch gears on the launch event could have happened as little as three or four months ago.

Maybe the phone had other technical issues, like the slightly wider screens might not have been ready in volume from the supplier.

It could be a combination of factors. Anything, really. But I really doubt this is an aborted design. This phone is coming. That I'm sure of. And I don't think this case design represents a non-Apple product.

If it turns out to be a Samsung Android Ice Cream Sandwich phone or a Windows Phone Mango 7.5 device I'll eat my hat.

When this device gets released is anyone's guess. But I would not be surprised to see another iPhone event in the spring or even in the early summer.

Does the next-generation iPhone "Air" exist? Is a launch due sometime mid-2012? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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Talkback

32 comments
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  • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

    Maybe they knew Steve might pass away very soon and didn't think it was a good idea to release the major new product a day or two before that. But they had to release something, because they had said they would.

    PS The German-speaking Chinese demo guy was *very* cool!
    mcwong1
    • No, hardly this had anything to do with Jobs' health

      @mcwong1:<br><br>But, anyway, <b>the device can not be really called "iPhone 5"</b> since the fifth generation is already out, it is called "iPhone 4S".<br><br>2007: iPhone, 2008: iPhone 3G, 2009: iPhone 3Gs, 2010: iPhone 4, 2011: iPhone 4S, 2012: <i>iPhone 6 or iPhone 4G</i>
      DDERSSS
      • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

        @DeRSSS Apple can call it 'sliced bread' if it wishes to do so. The 3G wasn't the third iteration of the iPhone. I rather like the name "Zippy the Wonder Phone". But then Apple has been amazingly reticent about calling me for my opinion.
        dheady@...
      • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

        @DeRSSS
        I think it would be called iPhone 5, because if yo usee after 3G, it was 3GS and then iPhone 4. Of course I agree 4 and 4th generation mixed well. AFAIK, Apple is very consistent with their numbering and versioning. Either they would call it as iPhone 4G or iPhone 5, but not iPhone 6. I could be wrong too, because Steve is not there anymore, so things could change a bit including the culture.
        Ram U
      • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

        @DeRSSS You are forgetting the iPhone and the iPhone 2, which came before the 3G and 3GS. The iPhone 4 is already the "5th" iPhone... ;-)
        wright_is
  • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

    I agree that the slimmer profile iPhone will be released eventually, but not at least until mid-summer next year (May-June). If they released it any earlier, they would get mass criticism for the 4S.

    Also, I disagree completely about the thinner iPhone being an iPhone "air". Lower storage capacity to cut costs, then requiring more cloud services to fully use the device, would require more expensive data plans, which would defeat the purpose of a low-cost device. Also, why would Apple release a 4", lower end, slimmer device, which would have costed even more R&D money, to compete with its own iPhone 4S, when the iPhone 4 and 3GS will already do a perfect job of competing with mid-range Android and WP7 offerings? Doesn't make sense.
    pika_chu
    • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

      @pika_chu
      +1
      Ram U
    • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

      @pika_chu I agree with your 'air' take. Apple, I think, is avoiding whats happening with the Android market. It is being fragmented and commoditized to the point of total confusion to the end user. You have to be an Android geek to determine which iteration of the 1. phone hardware and 2. OS you wish to buy.
      Thus far the only fragmentation Apple's been guilty of is that which provides a smooth transition into broader markets, i.e., the ongoing 3GS and 4 price reductions. In an anecdotal comment I've seen more 3GSs out there owned by people who otherwise wouldn't/couldn't have bought into the iPhone craze were there not a less expensive way. Again, that's totally anecdotal.
      dheady@...
  • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

    Ah, geez, let it go, would ya? Whether or not it actually exists, it didn't come, and no amount of blogs, are going to change that.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • You People are Obsessed!

    Apple could hold a press conference, show off a cardboard cutout of an iPhone, and call it the iPhone 5 (of course they would charge for the string to connect them, and call it 4G), and you Apple crazies would buy it. Take a deep breath and relax.
    jpr75_z
    • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

      @jpr75_z

      Don't forget the case ;-)
      tonymcs@...
    • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

      @jpr75_z <br>I was going to laugh until I realized Windows crazies actually believe what they say.<br><br>I'll give you a far more truthful example. MS could stop shipping all versions of windows, bring back windows 95 with OEM computers and it would still sell 100s of millions of copies because most consumers would have no other choice.
      anono
      • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

        @anono <i>because most consumers would have no other choice.</i><br><br>No other choice? Too bad OS X and Linux aren't other choices because I'd really like to see another choice. But you know.. with MS holding 100% Desktop and Server market share... you must be right.
        Badgered
  • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

    Maybe Steve Jobs was dying, and didn't have the strength to make it happen
    nanderto
    • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

      @nanderto

      A "romantic" notion but Steve did resign several months prior to the iPhone 4S intro and, if there WAS an iPhone 5 model as Al Gore suggested, than it's delay would very likely have reasons outlined in Jason's article rather than being caused by Steve's lack of involvement.
      kenosha77a
    • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

      @nanderto While Steve's imminent passing weighed heavily on Apple and those men who did the October 4th presentation, I suspect it wasn't Steve's lack of drive that caused any 'delay' in an iPhone 5. I do suspect that the 'lackluster' level of enthusiasm. If they knew, as I'm sure they did, of just how close Steve was to passing it would certainly affect their ability to be emotive and enthusiastic. After all, Steve wasn't just their boss, but a dear friend and associate deeply involved in the creative process for years together.
      As for the iPhone 5 being 'delayed', c'mon folks the 4S is a logical and firm step of progress. It is incremental development of the iPhone line. With the A5 CPU, vastly improved camera, and antenna. So what if it isn't a sleek new design. The iPhone 4 and 4S case is a remarkable bit of industrial engineering in its own right. This appears to be a case of what's in the case is more important. I'd rather see the upgrades they've given us than a shiny new case.
      dheady@...
  • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

    True, the iPhone 5 did not materialize. But, a whole lot of us are trying to figure out what we should do next. To wait for an iPhone 5 (or whatever else the next iteration may be called-- iPhone 6, anybody?). Or, to buy one of the new Droids (perhaps Samsung Galaxy Prime?).
    Angusmerlin
    • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

      The above Angusmerlin comment fwas in response to @ 'You People are Obsessed!'
      Angusmerlin
  • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

    Does it really matter, this "the rumor would have been right if Apple had exercised an option that made the rumor right?" The next version of the iPhone is in the works. I like the suggestion that ubiquitous LTE and low-power high-performant radio chipsets for those frequencies will be the cue for the number bump to 5.<br><br>The iPhone 4s is what's released. Judge it against the phones available now or wait till someone makes the phone you want.
    DannyO_0x98
    • RE: iPhone 5: Believe

      @DannyO_0x98
      Agreed, DannyO. We all should wait until someone makes the phone we want. But, my well seasoned cell phone has just now started to squeak and squawk. Not sure it will hold out until I see the phone I actually want.

      So, the dilemma of what to do. An iPhone that has the improved 8MP camera along with the significantly larger viewing screen would work nicely. But, the larger viewing screen part of the equation did not materialize.

      Now what?

      Apple, are you listening? Please give us a significantly larger viewing screen with the iPhone 5 (or, maybe you will call it... the iPhone 6)! My eyes are depending on you.
      Angusmerlin