Apple fans and the press expected to see Apple introduce a device called iPhone 5 at the company's media event on Tuesday, October 4, 2011. What they got instead was a device called iPhone 4S.
It was hoped that iPhone 5 would have a less boxy form factor, a larger screen, support for LTE networks, NFC (near field communication) hardware for contactless payments, and support industry-standard peripheral connections such as micro-USB.
But these features are wish-list items.More substantive improvements actually made it into the iPhone 4S and they're what matter to most potential iPhone buyers.
The form factor is a matter of taste. A larger screen has both advantages and disadvantages--more weight, less pocket-friendly. NFC payments won't be common for years. And anyone wishing for micro-USB doesn't understand Apple. Apple wants to promote wireless connectivity via iCloud rather than sullying its design with another hole in the chassis. Apple gets rid of industry standards when it can.
Only the lack of LTE support qualifies as a valuable missing feature, and even that has to be discounted because carriers like AT&T have only just begun their LTE rollouts. LTE support will mean more when it's available in more markets.
The iPhone 4S has what matters: a faster processor, faster network specs, a much improved camera, and better software--iOS 5 and the Siri personal assistant.
Apple watchers want a revolution with every product, but that's just not realistic.
Apple is in part to blame for this expectation, not being shy about shining a spotlight on its breakthroughs. In its public relations boilerplate, the company declares, "Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced iPad 2 which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices."
Hype indeed, but not far from the truth either. Think about how far mobile phones have come since they first appeared in the 1970s. Think about what the mobile user experience was like before the iPhone was introduced in 2007. Then consider that the next revolutionary device, whether it comes from Apple or elsewhere, may not arrive at a time that fits hardware makers' product cycles.
In the meantime, we have the iPhone 4S. While it may not be world-changing, it's a nice phone nonetheless.