Apple iPhone 4S: iPhone 5's Knocking at the Door

Apple Leaves "Leap Ahead" for iPhone 5

by Anton Shilov
10/07/2011 | 03:13 PM

Perhaps, Apple iPhone 4S continues to have the arguably industry's best "retina" display along with well-tailored iOS operating system. Besides, it will be sold in quantities that will counted in tens of millions. However, the disappointment about the iPhone 4S among the Apple fans, developers, investors and simple market observers is a thing that is clearly hard to hide.


The main reason why Apple iPhone 4S fails to impress is extremely overhyped expectations by various Apple fan web-sites and market speculations. The rumoured iPhone 5 was expected to have a different form-factor with larger and wider, screen, slimmer yet wider case, 4G LTE, near-field communication, new processor and so on. Everything was expected to be fully functional and useful, despite of the fact that iOS 5, which has been available for preview for some time now, is still not fully baked even for current devices.

In fact, everyone expected a revolution. But the iPhone 4 was in many ways revolutionary and Apple both could not and did not really need to introduce a revolution this year.

Since the iPhone 4 in general brought a number of features to a brand new level, the magnitude of improvements in the 4S model clearly disappoints quite a lot of people. Instead, Apple concentrated on performance improvements: it installed dual-core A5 processor with a new PowerVR graphics engine which is times faster, improved data transfer speeds, lengthened battery life, installed a better camera and did some other minor things. In short, the iPhone 4S only brought quantitative, not qualitative improvements that could distinguish it from the predecessor. In many cases performance gains enable new quality of features, but it will hardly be the case for the iPhone 4S, at least, not quickly.

The most admired feature of the iPhone 4 is its 3.5" retina screen with 960*640 resolution. Many wanted to have higher diagonal and higher resolution while retaining or exceeding 326 pixel per inch density. In fact there are 4.5" screens with 1280*720 resolution designed for smartphones and which might not increase iPhone sizes too significantly should Apple use the latest technologies that allow to reduce frames of displays. Apparently, Apple decided that the current screen was good enough. The decision was most likely conditioned by the fact that the company wanted to launch its flagship model worldwide all around the world more or less immediately.

Since Apple left the "old" display on the iPhone 4S, despite of boosted graphics performance video games and other applications will look exactly the same way on the novelty. They will naturally perform a little bit better, but they will hardly take advantage of 4S's exclusive features like NEON SIMD acceleration since developers would like to maintain compatibility and great performance on the iPhone 4. Even though a dual-core system-on-chip with graphics capabilities that exceed those of video game consoles is a nice thing, it will not sell the smartphone by itself. At the same time, the model 4S does not support exclusive features that will attract third party software designers to develop 4S-specific programs.

The iPhone 4S may not a technological revolution, but it will inevitably be a successful product. Firstly, it will attract existing clients with expiring contracts for the iPhone 3G or 3GS. Secondly, it will revolutionize its sales model, throwing away the exclusive telecom provider partnership into the past and be available from all operators in its main markets: North America (AT&T, Sprint and Verizon) and Japan (KDDI, SoftBank and AU). Analysts from TrendForce believes that this strategy will strengthen and solidify iPhone product lines’ market share in 2012. The observers also believe that the price cuts on the older iPhone models will also help Apple. With the iPhone 4 8GB and the iPhone 3GS both offered at an entry-level price of $99 (with contract), Apple’s overall market share is likely to be boosted significantly.

It remains to be seen whether iPhone 5, which will be feature a 720p screen, new case and other improvements. It also remains to be seen whether it will truly be a revolutionary smartphone. What is likely, is that it will feature a better screen and a different operating system. Other features? Only god knows.