Tim Cook and company had their work cut out for them yesterday. The Apple CEO's lead events like this before—most notably during Steve Jobs leave of absence a couple of years ago—but the iPhone 4s launch was his first as full-time boss.
Cook is known to be a capable manager, but he and the other Apple executives present could not hope to rely on the so-called “reality distortion field” generated by Jobs' charisma whenever he took the stage to alleviate any initial disappointment on the part of investors, analysts and fanboys. Perhaps that is why Apple's stock price tanked a bit during the announcement?
Folks, Apple fanboys especially, realized soon that expectations weren't quite met. The reason for this air of disappointment: No iPhone 5.
Sure, Apple never said it would launch an iPhone 5, at least not yet—as a rule, Cupertino doesn’t say much of anything before a product launch. For months, however, it was the Internet rumor mill, not Apple, that conjured up visions of a thinner, tear-drop shaped iPhone with a larger, edge-to-edge screen.
iPhone 4s: Looks Can Be Deceiving
What Apple delivered, the iPhone 4s, may look just like the iPhone 4, but it is a significant jump forward in terms of performance and features; even more so than the iPhone 3Gs was over iPhone 3G back in June of 2009. Internally, the iPhone 4s is a completely different beast from the iPhone 4.
Inside, the iPhone 4s sports the iPad 2's powerful dual-core A5 processor for 7x faster graphics, extended battery life, a new antenna system, a much-improved 8GB camera and optics, exclusive Siri voice recognition, iOS 5 (a major platform upgrade) and iCloud support.
iCloud services provide users with 5GB of free remote storage, backup and syncing. It automatically syncs your contacts, calendar, email and more across your mobile devices and computers, including PCs. Look ma, no more cords!
The iPhone 4s is also a world phone with both GSM and CDMA antennas. That should greatly expand roaming coverage for AT&T, Verizon Wireless and (starting with the iPhone 4s) Sprint iPhone users when roaming both locally and abroad. It is also available with as much as 64GB, a first for an iPhone.
If it weren't for the iPhone 4s looking, essentially, just like the iPhone, Apple would have been able to label the new smartphone the iPhone 5 and no one would have blinked an eye. Meanwhile, for many users of the 16-month old iPhone 4, there's much good to be said about its solid and comfortable form factor.
The iPhone 4s is a logical upgrade for folks whose iPhone 3GS owners looking to move up to a new iPhone when their two-year contracts expire. It is, however, missing some technologies found in any current Android smartphone models that would encourage massive numbers of iPhone 4 users to upgrade early.
Android smartphones are now the place to turn to for the most advanced smartphone technologies. So, although Apple said 3G wireless performance doubles with the iPhone 4S, there's no LTE or HSPA+ 4G, for example.
Expect 4G and other advanced smartphone technologies to make it into the iPhone 5 next year. As Apple's shown over the years, it prefers evolutionary hardware upgrades that don't compromise the integrated experience and consistent performance it provides end users.
Traditionally, Apple lets other vendors serve as guinea pigs. Those manufacturers, in Apple’s mind, can throw Near Field Communications (a mobile payment technology), battery-killing 4G and the like into their products before they are fully mature. Once they are, in Apple’ estimation, ready, expect Cook and company to pounce with a vengeance.
Remember, even the first iPhone wasn't the most advanced smartphone of its time. There were no apps for over a year and, as a voice phone, the iPhone simply sucked.
The iPhone 4s is set to ship on October 14 for will $199 (16GB), $299 (32GB) and $399 (64GB) with a two-year contract. The iPhone price drops to $99 and the iPhone 3Gs is now free with a service agreement. Pricing for all of these devices is much higher without a contract, of course.
iOS 5 and iCloud will be available to all iPhones (3Gs or higher), the iPod touch (3rd and 4th generations) and iPad (both editions) on October 12.
Apple's Enterprise Inroads
Meanwhile, according to Apple 93% of Fortune 500 companies are currently testing or have already deployed the iPhone. That numbers drops slightly to 92% for the iPad. Both percentages demonstrate just how fast the consumerization of the enterprise has accelerated in recent years.
What enterprises need are more IT-related apps and management tools to manage the influx of personally-owned iPhones, iPads and Android-run tablets and smartphones. Tom’s IT Pro will detail these tools, which are often cross-platform, in our coming series of articles covering mobile device management.
Apple announced that Steve Jobs, the company's co-founder and longtime leader, passed away shortly after we posted this article.
James Alan Miller is Managing Editor of Tom's IT Pro. He is a veteran technology journalist with over seventeen years of experience creating and developing magazine and online content. Founding editor of numerous business and enterprise computing sites at the internet.com network, James headed up the After Hours section at PC Magazine, as well as hardware and software sections of various Windows publications.