I made a prediction, like many others a while back that the iPhone 5 would be announced in early October. Others also speculated that Apple would release a cut-down version of the iPhone 4 to grab a bigger market share, called the iPhone 4S. Personally I didn’t agree with that thought as I don’t see Apple as a mid to low tier mobile device provider – not to mention having “bargain” products can have a negative impact on the brand as a whole and Apple has done a ton of work on their brand image.
So October rolls around and Apple announce the iPhone 4S; an updated version of the iPhone 4, but not iPhone 5. The reaction from many corners was disappointment that Apple had failed to deliver after all the speculation of the next big thing. So what happened to the iPhone 5 launch?
“The forces are conspiring against us”
The main factors for no dual launch appear to be numerous and unfortunately and coincidentally timed:
Legal / Supplier Issues
Samsung used to supply many components for Apple; unfortunately Apple were feeling the pressure of very competitive products that Samsung launched (Galaxy S line) and took legal action to prevent Samsung from selling the product (see LA Times article). Naturally this caused a rift between the two companies and as such, Samsung no longer provides parts to Apple. Unfortunately for Apple, there are few other component suppliers who can offer both quality and quantity, so this will have caused disruption in their supply/demand chain.
The terrible earthquakes seen in Japan earlier this year also hit production of components – and some of those components were to be used in the new iPhone 5. Component manufacturers needed time to recover from the disaster and this has impacted Apple’s plans for the iPhone 5 production – source: Taiwan News.
Producing an LTE phone (which I believe is the intention for the iPhone 5) requires some additional silicon. With current silicon boards, this would mean making the phone bigger/thicker. Thinner silicon technology (32nm) is harder to produce and can yield high quality issues in production). Moving chip production to B-grade component companies has had impact there. It’s also suggested that the iPhone5 would receive a new processor (A6), also to find its’ way into the iPad 3. Again With the lack of a quality producer able to make the silicon in quantities and the expertise that Samsung brought, they’re having to rely on what they can deliver, over what they wanted to deliver – hence the 4S. See the conversation on this topic at AnandTech.
Why did Apple Introduce the 4S then?
The saving grace and probably the most compelling (certainly for me) is that Apple decided to upgrade the camera. To date, many phone cameras lack the quality that even point-and-shoot cameras posses and so any manufacturer to produce a phone that can take great pictures is sure to create a differentiator in the marketplace.
What makes a great camera – it’s not just megapixels
Megapixels do count (no pun intended); The more pixels on screen, the higher the resolution (potentially more detail) – however there are many parts inbetween which can make or break a great picture:
- Sensor – the sensor detects the image and turns it into a digital representation; If the sensor is not great at its’ job you might see purple fringing, poor representation of colour, etc.
- Lens – The lens projects onto the sensor – a poor lens gives a poor image, so no matter how good the sensor, the image won’t be great
- Processing – Time to take the picture and time to process the picture are important. Having a great lens and sensor but each photo takes 5 seconds to take makes taking photographs frustrating