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October 2nd 2011 2:59 am

Can Apple afford to do an "iPhone 4S"?

Apple's iPhone event is coming up on Tuesday and still, no one is sure what the company will announce. The device we've been hearing rumors about, the iPhone 5, is supposed to feature a redesigned unibody aluminum, larger screen, upgraded internals, and other relatively major changes. However, there are also rumors of an "iPhone 4S" which is supposed to be look just like the iPhone 4 but have upgraded internals.

My question is this - can Apple afford to do this "iPhone 4S" just as they did with the iPhone 3G and 3GS? It's been over a year since the last iPhone (the iPhone 4 was announced on July 16th) and people will be expecting something new. Will iOS 5 and a faster processor be enough or will Apple have to execute a more major update to remain competitive (this iPhone has to last a year until the next announcement)?

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7 replies

They're going to have both models, I'm assuming, but I think they could get away with just a 4S if they wanted to. It would deflate some of the hype and fanboys / nerds would be mad, but in the end they would sell millions more of them no matter what. A 4S would still be an incredibly solid device to choose, even if a bit underwhelming. The proof is there if you look at their current sales numbers. They're pushing out millions upon millions of phones every quarter even throughout the summer leading up to this announcement. Much of the general public doesn't care or doesn't even know when they'll have a new phone or why it might be better. They're still buying the current model, however old it might be, in droves. And not only that one, but the 3GS still! It's one of the top selling phones to this day as well. If you think about it from the perspective of the current sales numbers, you can see why it probably wouldn't matter.
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The iPhone 4 is still selling extremely well even with the impending update coming. I don't foresee them having an issue of selling the same looking phone with better internals. People flock to Apple products like I do when there's free bacon being offered. They just can't get enough of it.
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I'm really not sure. I get the feeling that 95% of people that want the next iPhone want it because of 1) all of the hype and 2) because it's going to be an awesome superphone that's crazy thin and made out of aluminum and just amazing. If Apple doesn't deliver that, I'm sure they will still get people to buy the phone, just not in huge numbers like they would with a totally redesigned iPhone.

The only way they could pull it off is to do an iPhone 4S now and release the iPhone 5 in like February. This would get people to buy it now and then force probably a lot of people to buy it again. I get the feeling, as do a lot of tech blogs with insight into stuff like this, that there's no way Apple would delay a product release cycle (every summer for the iPhone) just to release a silly upgrade with the same frame. If that was the case, they could have released the iPhone 4S at the same time they released the iPad 2 because they already had the A5 chips ready.

I expect to see a high end iPhone 5 at the normal $199/$299 price point and a same design iPhone 4S at $99.
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I think the one of the reason that Apple is waiting until now to announce the next iPhone is because of Verizon acquiring the iPhone early this year. It wouldn't make sense for Apple to release the iPhone to Verizon and then release a another one just a few months later. Also, I think most people that would want an iPhone don't even know what's in store for it, they just know it's coming out soon and that they'll get it no matter what Apple does to it.
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Realistically, I think Apple can afford to do an iPhone 4s. No matter what, people will still buy it and love it. The only people that would be upset are the tech nerds like us and Apple Fanboys that are tech nerds and that only comprises of probably less than 5% of the Apple target audience. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple just released an iPhone 4s because of the iPhone product cycle where Apple executes major changes every other product cycle.
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I think that if they do a 4S it will be as a lower-cost alternative to iPhone 5. I doubt all we'll see Tuesday is the 4S.
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Apple's biggest advantage in my opinion is simplicity and versatility. If you buy an iPhone, you can ask people you know what some cool apps are, how to buy a decent cheap case, how to put music on it, etc. People buying iPhones are at an advantage compared to other smartphone buyers in that they have the largest variety of cases, software and peripherals. I think releasing a 4S and not a new redesigned case is a good idea because the Retina Display on the iPhone is still ahead of the competition. The "death grip" ordeal was purely anti-Steve Jobs propaganda and the ex-CEO failed in handling the PR aspect. The only downside I've experienced is that the glass does get very hot in direct sunlight, like being on a beach or poolside and the device shows an error message when it gets very hot.

People can use the same case they have with their 4, and I think it looks as good or better than any other smartphone out there. Only the Nexus looks as good as the iPhone to me. Being able to use the same case as you already bought is a nice bonus, though retailers may have mixed emotions.

A faster processor is a given, voice controls and better camera too, but 4G is another hot topic that I think could be undervalued, depending on if the networks are ready and the speed is real. NFC should be a feature as well, but it seems to be one of those technologies that will be slow to grow in the US, since it's pretty much the same thing as using the paypass chip that's in many credit cards. Ask 10 people if they know what paypass is or if they've ever seen someone use it and my money is that only 1 of them will know what you're talking about.
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