Ever since the iPhone 4 was launched in June last year there’s been a continual stream of rumors regarding what eventually became the iPhone 4S.
What is essentially a souped-up iPhone 4 wasn’t greeted with the amazement that followed after its predecessor. So, what went wrong? Why is it that we were left disappointed? It was a launch, like many of Apple’s, which left us with a lot more questions than answers.
1. What were the leaked cases for?
Clearly, the leaked cases that have been popping up sporadically over the past couple of months caused many – including myself – to believe that a redesign was inevitable. After all, it made sense on so many levels.
Firstly, all of the iPhone’s main competitors were sporting displays of ghastly sizes, incredibly powerful processors and an advanced operating system. Secondly, we’d waited much longer than usual for Apple to give up the secrecy, and tell us officially what to expect.
Sadly, what we were expecting and what was revealed appeared nothing alike on the surface – despite being very similar internally. During the first half of the presentation it felt as though the crew were just re-stating everything that was detailed in WWDC this year.
So why did the cases exist in the first place? It wasn’t like it was just one random manufacturer making cases. There were loads of them. Even Case-Mate, a relatively respectable manufacturer got in on the act.
Either the informant who supplied the schematics didn’t have a clue, and made it up based on rumors that he’d heard, or the device is actually in the works. If it is a future product, it’s some way off launching. Could it be the LTE-equiped super-phone we all want? iPhone 6 anyone?
Either way, I can’t believe that manufacturers of any kind of goods would spend so much time and/or money on creating something for a device which is never going to see the light of day. If I was an accessory maker, there’s not a chance that I would throw my money in to something based entirely on guesswork.
Surely there’s still something in here? Is Apple testing a new 4″ device? Possibly. One notion I won’t entertain is that it’s for an iPod Touch. Even the next generation iPod won’t have a microphone for calls, an earpiece and a noise-cancelling mic at the top.
.2. If the 4S has been around so long, why not launch it sooner?
Yes, we get that this year WWDC was focussed purely on software. Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud were all unveiled. However, there was no need for it to be that way. Apple, as in previous years, could have debuted a new iPhone.
Lion was previewed initially around this time last year. iOS 5 could have been unveiled in a “sneak-peak” event in April like iOS 4 was in 2010. And iCloud could easily have been Jobs’ one more thing; with the next generation iPhone being the main focus of the keynote.
iPhone 4S prototypes have been around for months. Developers and testers were leaking images and reports about the device as early as March/April. They looked exactly like an iPhone 4, but hosted a faster processor.
They were compatible with Sprint – allegedly compatible with T-mobile too – and had a better camera. Many dismissed it as a prototype just to test the internals, but we know now, that wasn’t the case.
It was said that the final product would look the same as the 4/4S, but incorporate a larger display. This would explain a slight delay in production. Designing new parts takes effort. Mockups were unearthed to show what a larger display would look like on an iPhone 4 body, and it looked impressive. But it wasn’t to be. Apple’s designers were not planning an iPhone 4 with a larger display. Everything that you see externally on the released 4S already existed on an iPhone 4.
So why not launch it in June? I doubt it was impossible. I don’t think the hardware was the problem. Let’s face it, the GSM/CDMA chipset was already being used in the Verizon iPhone, and the processor was firmly established in the iPad 2.
Personally, I think it was down to iOS 5 not being ready for use. You can talk all you want about Verizon customers being unhappy that a device was launched so soon after their first ViPhone saw daylight. But I can’t see how that was the stumbling block. The global market is worth more to Apple than 2-3 million Verizon customers. And since it was always just going to be a specced-up version of their device, would the early adopters really care?
When iOS 5 was launched as beta 1 it was really buggy. (This was back in June.) Since then we’ve seen 6 more betas and the final GM version. There were so many bugs and issues with the first 5 betas that there was no way Apple could launch it loaded on a new device in early summer.
In my mind it’s the biggest update iOS has ever received, so it’s taken time and effort, crashes and bugs to get it to a stage where it’s ready for the public. New iPhones are always launched with new software, and the 5/4S was to be no different. Do you agree with me, or was there more to it?
3. Why don’t we have a bigger display on the 4S?
If any tech company knows how to push boundaries, it’s Apple, so why is it that other handsets are sporting massive displays and the iPhone isn’t? I covered a change in form factor in the first section, and in the second made brief reference to the display, but it needs its own consideration.
If you were to ask all the people who aren’t purchasing an iPhone 4S why they’re going for something else, I guarantee that at least 50-60% of them will say it’s because they want a screen that was at least 4-inches.
Whatever you think about Apple, one thing is clear, it’s a company with a strong set of values. Values that include quality materials, optimum performance, great design and most importantly: usability. What’s the point having the biggest, shiniest, most powerful beast of a device if consumers find it difficult to use. I read an article today on a blog by Dustin Curtis, who came up with his own theory.
“Touching the upper right corner of the screen on the Galaxy S II using one hand, with its 4.27-inch screen, while you’re walking down the street looking at Google Maps, is extremely difficult and frustrating. I pulled out my iPhone 4 to do a quick test, and it turns out that when you hold the iPhone in your left hand and articulate your thumb, you can reach almost exactly to the other side of the screen. This means it’s easy to touch any area of the screen while holding the phone in one hand, with your thumb. It is almost impossible to do this on the Galaxy S II.”
Essentially, it boils down to this: the iPhone should be comfortable to use in one hand. It’s a phone. Since the dawn of the telephone, it’s predominantly been a one-handed affair.
It has to be said, raising a Galaxy S II to the ear to answer a call is an experience which immediately begins a hope that the call will be brief. (I dread to think how I’d do it with a Dell Streak or Galaxy Note.) I have pretty large hands, and even I find it uncomfortably big.
The easiest answer to all my questions is: rumors were wrong. The technology isn’t there yet to put a 4″ display on the body of an iPhone 4. Edge-to-edge screen? Really? Can you imagine what would happen if you dropped it and it struck the edge? There’d be no bezel to protect the display? Design would surely be too vulnerable.
There were a lot of questions unanswered, and I’m not going to pretend I know the exact reason behind them. I’m just putting my spin on it. Perhaps in my own way, I’m trying to bring a bit of reality back in to our lives.
This past few months has been filled with desires, and unrealistic fantasies of what we’d love to see on the iPhone. The truth brought us back down to earth with a crashing thud, and made us realise, that perhaps we’re just a little bit spoilt.
What are your opinions on this? Am I spouting nonsense? Comment below