Lost in all the hype--and some would say disappointment--over the announcement of Apple's new iPhone 4S is one question: at whom is the new device aimed?
To be sure, it offers a nice set of features that make it a significant step up from the iPhone 4: Siri voice controls, an 8-megapixel camera, a faster dual-core A5 CPU processor, an 8-megapixel camera, and HSPA+ support. It's also a dual-mode world phone, and the new 4S has a new antenna that may improve call quality.
To be sure, with the 4S, Apple is going after iPhone 3G and 3GS owners, as well as those who have never bought one of its smartphones. But one question worth asking is, are those features enough to convince iPhone 4 owners to upgrade?
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To some, there are enough features to make upgrading, even for those still under contract with an iPhone 4, a good bet.
"It's an evolutionary product but with a lot of revolutionary features," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner. "I think we're going to see a lot of people upgrading."
One thing that's clear, Gartenberg added, is that Apple is aiming to put an iPhone in just about anyone's pocket who wants one. While the iPhone 4S will be priced at $399 for a 64GB model, and $299 and $199, respectively, for 32GB and 16GB models, Apple will also be selling an 8GB iPhone 4 for $99 and giving away an iPhone 3GS. Obviously, each of these phones requires a new 2-year contract.
That's an idea with which David McQueen, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, agrees. "By keeping both the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 models in market at significantly reduced prices, free and $99, respectively, on contract," McQueen wrote in an e-mail blast Tuesday afternoon, "perhaps [Apple] has created opportunities in the mass market without actually having to resort to a lower-cost new product. In the U.S., Apple has also extended its reach by making the phones available on Sprint for the first time."
But Gartenberg said he thinks that the new iPhone has enough features to convince even iPhone 4 owners still under contract to upgrade. "Absolutely," he said, "the same way we saw people upgrade from [the iPhone] 3G to 3GS...They want the specs. Not everyone is going to do it on day 1, but quite a few people will."
And while it's impossible to tell yet how many iPhones Apple will sell in the wake of the 4S announcement, some think that buyers will flock to the new device.
"A Taiwan analyst group said Tuesday that the new Apple iPhone 4S may generate a significant boost in sales for Apple," PC Magazine's Mark Hachman wrote in an article titled "Apple iPhone sales could climb 20 percent after iPhone 4S launch. "TrendForce--a Taiwan-based component tracking firm...said that it expects 2012 shipments of the iPhone will top 100 million units, and possibly up to 110 million."
Still, on Twitter, there is a heavy flow of people posting their disappointment with Apple's announcement. The sentiment, for many, comes from a feeling that the new phone doesn't have enough new features to warrant the excitement and hype that preceded Tuesday's event.
Echoing that feeling in his e-mail, McQueen noted that "the iPhone 4S looks the same, with similar industrial design, screen size, and user interface [as the iPhone 4], but just with a little better innards. Having a faster dual-core processor helping improve battery life, 1080p HD video recording, an 8 [megapixel] camera, and the ability to roam between CDMA and GSM networks may float some people's boat, but that may not be enough to seduce all Apple lovers to upgrade."
A bigger problem for Apple, McQueen suggested, is that the iPhone 4S may not move the yardsticks forward enough to hold off competitors like those releasing new Android and Windows phones. "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," McQueen wrote. "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. As a result, iPhone 4S could be the first disappointing device since the launch of the brand."