Best Argument: iPhone Yes
iPhone 5 purchase is a no-brainer
Matthew Miller: Back in June, Apple unveiled iOS 5, and the features convinced me that I had to have the next iPhone. Apple took the best from Android, Symbian, Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry, and Zune to create iOS 5; with improvements in the excellent iPhone 4, you got a smartphone that nearly achieved mobile nirvana.
But I did not buy an iPhone 4 because I did not like the iOS notification system and rather dated look and feel of the operating system. iOS 5 and the new iPhone will address those concerns and provide so much more.
It's not just the hundreds of thousands of applications that set the iPhone apart. The fact that you can go a full day without having to charge or replace the battery, get the highest resolution smartphone display, enjoy messaging and social networking with ease, obtain and access content from the largest and most integrated mobile ecosystem, and have one of the largest accessory markets available -- all make an iPhone 5 purchase a no-brainer.
Design doesn't fit my requirements
Jason Perlow: While I am an owner of several Apple products, the next-generation iPhone is not the "smartphone of my dreams" or even the ultimate product in its category.
Why would I say this, device sight unseen? Because Apple's design ethos doesn't fit my use case requirements, which is typical of frequent business travelers.
No matter what whiz-bang software improvements, faster chip or higher-res display Apple introduces, it will almost certainly lack key functionality that I need -- the ability to run on and tether to a 4G high-speed LTE network, and to use a replaceable, extended charge battery.
And given that I am an avid user of GMail, Google Voice and Google Calendar, the tighter Google integration is essential -- something only an Android phone can give me.
So instead of waiting for the Verizon iPhone 5, I went for the Droid Bionic. If I want to use iOS 5 on the road, I can tether it with an iPad.
Great Debate Moderator
Thanks for joining us
Matt Miller and Jason Perlow will post their closing arguments tomorrow and I will deliver my verdict on Thursday. Until then, don't forget to vote and jump into the discussion below to leave your feedback.
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Can it take Android market share?
What does Apple still need to do with the iPhone to take share from market leader Android?
I just don't know, they did all they could
I honestly don't know what else Apple can do to take away market share from Android. They are now on more carriers and have a global iPhone, have advanced software, a huge ecosystem, and hundreds of thousands of applications. The new iPhone 4S is the highest priced subsidized smartphone available and that high price certainly doesn't help win over consumers from Android. Android offers choice, customization, and low pricing for high end devices and I don't think there is much else Apple can do to take market share from Android.
Not unless Google severely screws up.
I believe that business-oriented users as well as feature phone and superphone-oriented consumers will continue to gravitate towards Android (and to some extent Windows Phone, which may pick up a couple of points at the expense of RIM) whereas the high-end, phone as fashion/style accessory crowd will gravitate towards iPhone. While there is some demographic convergence between the two platforms, both Android and iPhone are fairly mature platforms that seem to have done well carving out their respective territory. I see these two companies as being tied in perpetual mortal combat, which is good for the industry. I just don't see Apple as being able to successfully challenge the mature cloud and value added services that Google and Android represents. Apple doesn't "Do Cheap" and I don't see that basic tenet of the company's core philosophy changing post-Jobs. There's just too much inflexibility in the Apple ecosystem to displace the Android versatility. But RIM? Microsoft? It's time for Plan B.
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Is Apple's vertically-integrated approach on hardware, software, and services doing more to help or hurt the iPhone?
Helps for standard consumer, may hurt for enthusiast market
I think the vertical integration is what currently sets Apple apart from Android and now we see that Microsoft has the same approach for Windows Phone 7. It helps them be successful, in large part due to the fact that they have a huge ecosystem supporting this approach. I think this controlled approach is not helpful in terms of carrier support and hardware variation. I would like to see the iPhone on all major US wireless carriers and see a bit more variation in the products that extend from the low to the high end of the market. The once yearly hardware upgrades may have an impact on sales too when consumers see new Android models coming out every couple months with the latest and greatest technologies.
It's business as usual and in Apple's DNA to be vertically-integrated.
I think that the vertical integration is always going to be what makes an iPhone an iPhone, or an Apple product, period. When you control 100 percent of the hardware and software ecosystem it allows you to fine tune your components and software, but at the expense of being able to give your customers more choice. There is no question that vertical integration is what makes Apple as a company successful, but it also places them into a doctrine that is prone to inflexibility and can alienate large groups of consumers and business users.
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Let's stay on iOS 5
We hear a lot about how the iPhone has a simpler, more polished software experience that makes it easier for non-techies to pick up the phone and start using it. But, it has also been limited, not very customizable, and lacking a number of more powerful feature that you find in Android. Is iOS 5 a big enough leap forward for Apple to keep its reputation for ease of use while also catching up to Android on important power features?
Improved simplicity with advanced power is iOS 5
iOS 5 is one of the biggest software updates we have ever seen from Apple and in my opinion is much more important than the upgraded iPhone 4S hardware. They listened to customers and now have a solid notification system, iMessage service, better web browser, Newstand service, Twitter integration, better camera software and much more that both improve the simple user interface and offer extremely powerful features. There are now very few differences between the top three most exciting smartphone platforms and it comes down to personal preferences of the hardware and carrier support.
iOS 5 is playing catch up.
Look, many of the advancements in iOS 5 have already been introduced in competing mobile operating systems. Notifications had to be fixed. Cloud integration has been in Android since... day 1. Voice recognition has been in Android since at least late Froyo updates and Gingerbread. Without this update, iOS would have been perceived as being resting on its laurels. Cutting the USB cord was important. Cloud was important. But now they have to keep pace with Ice Cream Sandwich -- and that's landing next month. I don't see the lack of customization in iOS as a weakness. Apple perceives its devices as appliances where as Google sees them as little computers. It's a fundamental difference in software design ideology, and I am glad consumers have choice.
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How about iCloud?
Is the impending arrival of iCloud in iOS 5 (announced earlier this year) more important than any of the hardware announcements made today? Will small business professionals put their trust in Apple and use it for professional work? Is it a huge differentiator versus other smartphone competitors?
Consumers are still cloudy about the cloud
I don't think iCloud is as important as the hardware and integrated software announcements today and it really only seems to appeal at this time to the tech enthusiasts and serious Apple fan. When I talk to family and friends they still have a vague idea of what the "cloud" is and their understanding and adoption of it doesn't seem to be that great yet as I don't think people have really felt the need or seen the advantages yet. Maybe Apple's iCloud will be the service to open up their mind, much like the iPhone did for smartphones. There are plenty of cloud solutions available today and both Google and Microsoft have strong competing products so I don't think iCloud stands out from the crowd.
iCloud is an unknown variable.
I think a certain number of business people will gravitate towards Apple and iCloud if they already have a personal investment in the App store and use existing iOS devices. A lot of professionals however already use Google's cloud for messaging, calendaring and documents. I see iCloud as bringing iOS up to par with Google in cloud technology, not so much as out-pacing it. Without Cloud, iOS would have been behind. But I expect some real surprises from Google in 2012. They won't stand still, particularly as it relates to enterprise users. Now as to RIM and OS 7 and QNX lacking any kind of Cloud capability at all? Not looking so good for the folks in Waterloo.
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The new voice recognition
You guys have both mentioned the new Siri voice recognition in the new iPhone 4S, how well do you think this is going to work in the real world for average users and will Apple be able to seamlessly handle all of that processing in the cloud?
Users will wonder how they got along without it
I've never been a huge fan of voice recognition software, but the revelation I had with Windows Phone 7 and a Bluetooth headset a few weeks ago made me rethink my position. From what I saw in the announcement today I think consumers are going to really appreciate all the work Apple did in getting Siri onto the iPhone 4S. Consumers quickly transitioned from touchscreen devices with a stylus to finger navigation on the iPhone and I think they will come to love the Siri voice navigation and begin to ask how they ever used their phone before without it. Apple hasn't had much of a problem processing user data, but I think the support by carriers and their networks will be even more important now.
The proof will be in Apple's iCloud infrastructure
Let's remember that the back end that powers Siri is iCloud, the core of which is a single massive datacenter in North Carolina. Today, we saw a demo that looked great in Apple's HQ. But what happens when you throw tens of millions of Siri queries at iCloud? That's yet to be seen. On the other hand I know who's been doing internet-based queries for years and has been doing it successfully -- Google. My response times on my Bionic are instantaneous, no matter what network I am running on, 3G or 4G. And that's because Google knows public cloud infrastructure better than anyone. ANYONE.
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The most important new stuff
Alright, let's focus on the positive for a minute. What do you consider the three most important improvements in the iPhone 4S?
Voice may be the new user paradigm
I think the notifications are vastly improved and when we saw these for iOS 5 a few months ago I thought that would be the biggest feature to have me thinking of one. However, the Siri voice integration looks like it beat Windows Phone 7, which I thought no one was going to be able to do so quickly. Siri looks to open up a whole new way of interacting with your iPhone 4S via voice. The other most important improvement for me is iMessage and the ability to chat with a large community of people across all iOS devices. I tried a BlackBerry Bold 9900, but only found 5 BBM friends and imagine with iOS 5 I will have hundreds or more.
It's the software, stupid.
Without a doubt, iOS5 and iCloud and Siri voice recognition are the most important features of the new phone. And I'll throw in the 4th, the whiz-bang new multi-element, super fast 8 megapixel camera. But then again, most of this this is purely software, and software that anyone with an existing supported iOS device can take advantage of, for the most part.
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The 4G LTE issue
How big of a deal is the lack of Verizon 4G LTE in the new iPhone 4S? This means that the iPhone will likely be a year and a half behind Android in getting LTE.
LTE is no big deal, but slow HSPA+ does concern me
I jumped on LTE with Verizon earlier this year and while the data speeds were breathtaking, the instability of the network and lack of coverage quickly dampened my excitement. Then when data caps were rolled out I saw that you could eat through your allotment even faster with LTE and the speed advantages started to become a problem. Data caps really limit the advantages of the network speeds and on phones I believe that stable high speed 3G networks are better. You also get better battery life and a broader network with 3G so I think it will be a couple of years before we see any real advantages with 4G. I am very disappointed that Apple's iPhone 4S is limited to just 14.4 Mbps though as we see T-Mobile with 42 Mbps devices so LTE may not be a concern, but fast HSPA+ definitely is.
It's absolutely a big deal, especially for US business travelers.
I believe a large portion of Business users that have been in exit mode from BlackBerry will not find any of the current iPhones as attractive as they could have been had they been launched with 4G. There's something to be said for 8+ megabits per second wireless tethering from your hotel on the road from your business laptop or tablet that you can get on a Droid Bionic that you cannot get on an iPhone 4S, a 4 or a 3GS. Last night I watched two episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise from my Chicago hotel room on Netflix tethered to my Droid Bionic from my iPad 2. Try that with an iPhone. I'll live with my 4 second to first photo shoot time if I can get that kind of data rates, especially as a grandfathered Verizon customer with unlimited 4G.
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On the other hand...
What are the three most important missing features that the iPhone still lacks, even after today's announcements?
Where is my larger display?
Larger display, customizable home screen with widget support, a multi-tasking interface like webOS or QNX (as seen on the PlayBook). 3.5" is just too small for me today, even with the super high resolution. I think 4" is the sweet spot and wish that Apple could have made it larger. I would have even settled for 3.8".
Um, the NETWORK?
4G, 4G, and 4G. However, I think it's important to re-emphasize that every single iPhone release since 2007, their products have lacked any sort of battery replace-ability and lack of extended battery accessories. That doesn't sound very high tech in terms of feature demands, but for a heavy business traveler like me, it's essential.
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The market share battle with Android
What does Apple need to do to take share from market leader Android? Will the price drop on the iPhone 3GS (free) and an 8GB iPhone 4 for $99 make a difference.
Don't think it can take much from Android, but RIM is in trouble
Apple quickly took something like 15% of the smartphone market share, but over the last year Android has exploded due to support on all carriers with a number of compelling products that push to the edge of current technology with things like LTE support, dual-core processors, and advanced 3D displays. As the iPhone rolls out to more carriers I think they will gain incremental market share, but they are likely to take more market share from RIM than from Android. Android will likely continue to lead because it offers people choice. I don't think there is much Apple can take from Android since there are people who will never buy an Apple product and do like devices from Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and others.
No, it won't make a difference
There will be so many highly subsidized Android phones from OEMs released over the next year that will end up being free to customers who commit to two year contracts. Remember, Apple doesn't "Do Cheap." for plenty of folks even $99 is too much money, especially in emerging markets. The free 3GS? It will be competing with free dual-core Android 3G phones soon enough.
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How well will the iPhone 4S compete?
How does the iPhone 4S stack up against the top Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7 devices? How well will it hold any advantages over the next 8-12 months as new devices are released?
It will stay strong and the world phone capability is solid
The Apple iPhone 4 has done extremely well over the last year and now with essentially the same high end device, that still has the industry's best display, I think it will stay ahead of Windows Phone 7. The Siri voice integration looks to beat even Windows Phone 7 and I didn't think that would happen so soon. While Android has a wide variety of device form factors, I don't see people screaming from the rooftops that huge displays are a necessity. The iPhone 4S with 3.5 inch display is still very usable and yet pocketable. I think adding Sprint is a good move and the world phone capability makes it very easy for the enterprise customer to pick one up and travel.
Still strong, but Android is still king.
I think the question is not how much Apple can steal from Android, but how much of the lion's spoils from RIM's deteriorating market share will end up in Apple's pockets versus the Android OEMs. I will concede however that RIM will continue to deteriorate sharply in the next year and both Apple and the Android OEMs will battle for what remains of the carcass, and Apple's hyena is likely to gain a few points on the way, with Android taking the Lion's pride pieces, particularly in the enterprise market. With a lack of diverse SKUs against Android OEMs, it will never be able to match them in terms of product choices on the market. With Windows Mango, it's too early to tell. If we start seeing some really nice 4G Windows 7.5 phones, we could very well see an uptick in Windows Phone market share. But again, all at the expense of RIM.
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Is the iPhone 4S a winner?
Well, Apple didn't announce an iPhone 5 today. Instead we only got an iPhone 4S with the same hardware design but new internals and voice recognition software. Is this enough to keep the iPhone at the top of the heap as the world's best-selling smartphone?
It will still sell millions and be very popular
The iPhone 4S represents the best from other platforms, combined with the tried and true iOS simple user interface. In comparison to Android devices, the iPhone 4S offers a consistent user experience across carriers, battery life that last more than a few hours, and borrows from the excellent Android notification interface that was always one area I could not stand on iOS devices. Apple can't match the variation found in Android, but most people just want a reliable phone that works and that is where Apple rules. Windows Phone 7 is the first mobile operating system to offer a touch user experience that rivals iOS, but is still a young operating system that is maturing. They have over 30,000 apps, but Apple has more than 10 times that for the iPhone. The camera software on Windows Phone is great, but the hardware won't catch up to the iPhone until Nokia releases their Windows Phone devices. Both Apple and Microsoft have very strong ecosystems, which stand above all the other mobile operating systems. RIM may have a fairly reliable operating system and some great new hardware, but OS 7 is aging and can't really compare to the modern fluid user experiences. Apple has taken strides in iOS 5 to address the enterprise and I think we will see more and more companies adopting the iPhone in future smartphone implementations.
Possibly, but they left a huge opening for Google and Microsoft.
Today Apple launched a single iOS handset, the iPhone 4S and retained the existing iPhone 4 and 3GS product line. All of these are targeted at the low, high and middle end of the smartphone market. The 4S is only just a modest improvement over its predecessor in that it brings the A5 processor to a proven design along with an improved camera. However, it should be noted that the real value add to these phones is iCloud and iOS 5 -- both of which will available for download on the original iPhone 4 and 3GS within a week or so. This means that most of the features on the 4S which are being introduced can be had for free by existing customers. So it makes customers who are mid-contract or are otherwise happy with their devices less likely to pursue an upgrade. While Android remains largely unaffected by this new product launch, as Google's software and OEM handsets are more than a match for iOS 5 -- the real losers here in my opinion are RIM and Microsoft. With iOS 5, Apple has continued to raise the bar on smartphone technology and RIM's OS 7 devicess look ever so clunky by comparison. Microsoft has a decent entry in the market with Windows 7.5 Mango, but in terms of cloud integration and app ecosystem it's no match for either iOS 5 or Android 2.3 or even the soon-to-be-released Android "Ice Cream Sandwich" that will premiere in the Nexus Prime next month.
Happiness is an improved iPhone 4
The ZDNet audience voted overwhelmingly against the new iPhone 4S. While I was a bit disappointed by the same size display, what were people really expecting with this announcement? The iPhone 4S comes in at the same price as the existing iPhone 4 with a new dual-core processor, greatly improved camera, and longer battery life. iOS 5 is inside with amazing features like Siri voice technology, improved notification system, iMessage service, integrated iCloud support and much more.
Millions have purchased the iPhone 4 and now customers on Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T can buy the new world phone and use it in the U.S. and when they travel abroad. Cases and accessories from the iPhone 4 should work fine with the iPhone 4S too.
Apple announced a significantly improved iPhone 4 in the 4S -- so be happy!
Oh Great iPhone 5, where are you?
If Linus Van Pelt were an Apple fanboy, that’s likely what he’d be saying right now.
Indeed, this week’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” launch event was the tech industry equivalent of the eternal wait for the Great Pumpkin. And the tech press and blogosphere were dragged into it like an army of Sally Browns.
As we’ve all learned since that Halloween cartoon special first aired in 1967, the Great Pumpkin is a sham. He’s purely a figment of Linus’ imagination. He never, ever comes. No matter how many times we watch it, no matter how much we want to believe.
And while I am an Android phone user, I too wanted the Great Pumpkin — the iPhone 5 — to be real. I wanted Apple to really push the envelope on smartphone hardware, rather than release a purely iterative and modest upgrade to an existing design like they did with the iPhone 4S.
Verdict: iPhone 4S, yes! Price is the killer feature
Apple's iPhone 4S announcement turned out to be a bit of a letdown for the press and the tech crowd, but we're still likely to see the new iPhone fleet win over a lot of upgraders and new customers. For that reason, I'm going to rule against the crowd on this one and declare Matt Miller the winner of the debate.
The iPhone 4S has its weaknesses, as Jason Perlow pointed out. The lack of a 4G LTE version will rule out an iPhone purchase for many high-end tech buyers, especially those who want to do LTE tethering. There's also the issue of the undersized 3.5-inch display and the question of whether one of the best new features -- iCloud -- will be able to handle the crushing load of traffic and maintain acceptable uptime.
But, there are more things tipping in the iPhone's favor. It still has by far the best and simplest integration of hardware, software, and services, and Android's inconsistency in this area is driving some of its first-gen customers to consider the iPhone instead. In the U.S., this will be the second iPhone to land on Verizon and the first one to land on Sprint, and Apple is also extending the number of carriers internationally. Finally, with iPhone 3GS turning into a free phone (with contract) and the original iPhone 4 (8GB) dropping to $99, there are going to be a lot more people who are willing and able to buy the iPhone. While all of the tech specs do matter, price will likely be the killer feature for the iPhone over the next year.
Doc's final thoughts: iPhone 4S? Save your moneyIN PARTNERSHIP WITH Ricoh
Even if you assume that all the speculation is correct and the iPhone 4S comes with dual-mode capabilities, voice control, an A5 processor, better antenna (about time), HSPA (4G sort-of) and the new iOS5, it’s still just another incremental device and nothing to get too excited about. Apple is good at making great products, and I’m sure the iPhone 4S will be just as terrific as previous versions.
But aren’t we all getting a bit carried away with our insatiable appetite for the latest and greatest gadget? The cell-phone industrial complex has us sucked into their endless year-after-year contracts, mostly because we can’t stop upgrading. Apple is making tons of money from people buying things they don’t really need. And all of this in the midst of a recession. Surely, we can find better things to do with our time and money than upgrading from an iPhone 3 or 4 to an iPhone 4S. I mean it’s great to spend and keep people employed, but Apple has enough of our money and probably isn’t facing layoffs anytime soon, even if some people hold on to their iPhones for an extra year or two.
If you don’t have an iPhone, then this may be a good time to jump in; but if you have an iPhone 3 or 4, go ahead and give this upgrade a miss. Your life won’t materially change.