Why the iPhone 4S critics are wrong, wrong, wrong

By Jonny Evans

Apple [AAPL] introduced the world's smartest smartphone yesterday, delivering a faster processor, faster graphics, better camera and world-changing voice assistant technologies -- but it seems many in the analyst and media communities are disappointed. Why? Because Apple didn't change the shape...

Does this strike anyone else out there as weird?


Well futile

After all, these are the same critics who panned ex-Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, when he declared that in the post-PC age, consumers aren't so interested in a device's technical statistics, but in what it does. In clinging to feelings of disappointment about the lack of appearance of this new shape the rumor sites had been speculating about, are these analysts and media and other assorted Nathan Barley types simply agreeing with Jobs?

I've included some sample criticisms within the rest of this post.

"Some people were looking for a brand new phone and they haven't got that today, so some will be disappointed."

Luke Peters, editor of gadget magazine T3 speaking to BBC News. (Luke -- it is a brand new phone!)

All this grinding of teeth and gentle moaning, all these complaints that the new iPhone isn't 'revolutionary', all the much-voiced disappointment at lack of NFC or LTE, none of it makes sense.

[ABOVE: Apple's iPhone 4S ad spot. Look, it's new, as in, it wasn't here before..]

Revolution, bore me

In the case of the two standards mentioned, neither are ready for prime time: NFC payments lacks an agreed international payment standard, while LTE isn't yet deployed widely worldwide.

When it comes to revolutionary: don't upset me. Not only is this a word that's bandied around to the extent it is rapidly losing its meaning, but here are three, yes, three, huge and significant advancements within the iPhone 4S which put the device way ahead of the pack.

"Apple has missed a trick by just releasing the exact same phone again with marginally upgraded specs."

Gareth Beavis, phones editor at TechRadar, told BBC. (Gareth -- a processor that's twice as fast, a world radio, seven times faster graphics, an improved antenna and much better camera and that's "marginally upgraded specs? Get over yourself.)

1: The dual-core A5 processor. Look at this thing: it's really fast with superb graphics. It will take almost a year for competitors to catch up. That's because it isn't just the processor they need to match, but the implementation. No one else makes the processor and the hardware, which is why Apple has such an advantage here.

2: The 8-MP HD video camera: This thing is fast -- I've no doubt someone somewhere is totting up speeds on all the smartphones out there right now, but the absence of any debunking reports this morning suggest Apple's new camera is as fast as the company claims: support for HD video is also incredible -- think back just five years and where we were then when it came to portable video capture.

[ABOVE: iCloud: do not underestimate this.]

3: iCloud: All your documents, contacts, data, music, movies, media -- all of it -- permanently and easily available across all your devices. You can be productive (or entertained) when you're on the train. iCloud is such a big deal and I can't wait to see if it really does turn out to be as capable as Apple promises.

Apple's options

There's a future in so-called iterative improvement. There' the iPhone 5, which I suspect will be released in the latter half of next year and feature LTE support, as more carriers worldwide deploy LTE networks: There's no point having a phone with a feature you can't use in your country, after all.

The iPhone nano. It's so clear it will turn up eventually. It will be powered by Siri. It may be a year or two yet, as the processor and hardware will require further miniaturization, and the component costs will need to decline, but at some point you can predict a voice-controlled, low-cost small iPhone.

Perhaps analysts and media are upset about the price? Perhaps Apple should have kicked into the low cost market with its range?

Perhaps Apple should have worked hard to meet those low cost, low-specced Android devices over there in Cheap City?

The low-cost iPhone is here, and it's the 3GS

It did.

Look at the cost of the iPhone 3GS -- free (with a two year contract). Look at the iPhone 4, now just $99 (also with a two year contract). Apple offers a phone for every price bracket now. It will be interesting to look at just how these prices translate into real world prices at Apple carriers as the product rolls out.

[ABOVE: Siri. This is a big transformation in the way you use your phone. It's a UI evolution no one else has got, which opens the doors to whole new product families.]

Apple's Siri revolution

I'm just misusing the word "revolution" out of habit -- you could look to the Occupy Wall Street campaign for a sense of what that word could really mean, but Siri Voice assistant? This a seriously impressive slice of combined technology. Combined? Yes, simple voice recognition, powerful use of Internet information sources and an interesting use of maps.... I'd argue that access to Siri is a big enough reason to upgrade to the iPhone 4S all on its own.

"Whilst Apple announced improvements in the hardware performance and on the service layer, it has been let down somewhat by having almost no change in the user experience and in the industrial design. Unfortunately for Apple, this is happening at a time when competitors are aggressively bringing new products to market with superior user experience in the form of wider and better screen, intuitive UIs, and more integrated apps."

David McQueen, Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media

(David, what is there about Siri which isn't an intuitive UI? In what way does anyone else offer a superior experience?)


Sure, I'm chastened we still have no sight of the iPhone nano I so believe is on the map; yes, I'm still waiting for NFC payment systems -- but note the new and improved Bluetooth could feasibly support some of the secure Bluetooth-based payment systems you see around. I think a haptic Home button would be a good way to create more screen real estate.

But none of these are deal breakers, not really, the critics have it wrong. The HSPA iPhone 4S is the world's smartest smartphone. And Apple is about to sell millions of them....if the economy doesn't implode.

What are your thoughts? Speak up, I'm interested.

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.

Also from yesterday's Apple's 'Let's Talk iPhone' event coverage, read:

Why the iPhone 4S critics are wrong, wrong, wrong

Apple: Faster iPhone 4S ships October 14

Apple breaks iCloud October 12

Apple: Free iOS 5 upgrade ships October 12

Apple confirms Mac sales are up, up, up 

Why Apple may talk Apple Maps when it talks iPhone

Apple, Wippit, iTunes Match and the death of Big Music.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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