Apple iPhone 4S: What we didn’t get

Apple iPhone 4S: What's missing?

The Apple iPhone 4S is officially here and it will be landing Oct. 14 but this one hasn’t seemed to have generated as much excitement as previous versions. Maybe it’s the delay or maybe it’s the competition but many of you have expressed a sense of disappointment with the latest Apple smartphone.

Before I dive into what we didn’t get, I want to say that I’m confident the Apple iPhone 4S will be a great smartphone. How do I know? Well, I’m using the iPhone 4S and using that same form factor with a much-better camera, added horsepower and the final version of iOS 5 would be great. I’m not completely sold on Siri yet (when’s the last time Apple introduced something as a beta?) but this has the potential to change the way we interact with our phones.

So, the iPhone 4S is going to be a really good device but what is it missing?

Larger screen, redesign

The rumor mill was shouting that the next iPhone could have a “radical” redesign with a much larger screen but the iPhone 4S essentially has the exact same design as the iPhone 4, with some slight changes to the antenna. We had seen multiple cases leak out for what was supposed to be from the next iPhone and this sported a teardrop design and a bigger display.

What happened? Well, probably nothing, as it’s not difficult to believe that the iPhone 4S was the plan all along for 2011. The fact that it came out later than usual may be due to the release of the Verizon iPhone in February, as Apple may not have wanted to burn new Verizon users who just bought in. Additionally, only die-hard Apple or mobile fans really update every year to the latest iPhone, as mainstream users will likely wait out their contracts before upgrading. For users ending their iPhone 3GS contract, the iPhone 4GS would be a massive upgrade.

That teardrop, thinner design can sort of be seen with the existing iPod touch devices and I’m sure Apple is working on the iPhone 5 with a larger screen for next year. These products don’t just come together in six months, so there are bound to be prototypes around of the iPhone 5 and even the iPhone 6. The Retina Display is still one of the best on the market but I am starting to yearn for a larger screen. I used to think that a 4-inch display was the sweet spot but devices like the Epic 4G Touch have shown me how amazing a much larger display can be if the device is still thin and has a small bezel.

NFC = Not from Cupertino

In our iPhone 4S preview, Stefan said that the one deal-breaker to upgrading would be if the next iPhone didn’t have NFC, so I guess he’s not getting it. Many in the mobile payment space believed that Apple was the one major company which could really push NFC mobile payments to the masses but that’s not going to happen and it may never happen.

A small new feature of the iPhone 4S is that it will pack Bluetooth 4.0, which enables a higher data transmission speed. Apple may look at this as its way of doing mobile payments and this should be a big boon for app developers like Bump. I wouldn’t rule NFC out of future Apple products though, as we’ve seen some very interesting patents coming out of Cupertino.

The reality is that the lack of NFC in the iPhone 4S isn’t really that big of a deal yet, particularly in the United States. The mobile payment services are just getting off the ground, as Google Wallet is only available on one device with one carrier and ISIS is just kicking off field trials. Mobile payments with NFC is still a 5-year-out process in the United States, so Apple could afford to wait on this one.

Real 4G

I understand completely why the iPhone 4S doesn’t have U.S. “4G” but that doesn’t have to mean I like it. The HSDPA iPhone 4S will be capable of up to 14.4 Mbps down on GSM networks and Apple even took a few shots at its “4G” competitors on AT&T during the introduction.

Part of the reason this isn’t the iPhone 4G is that the “4G” situation in the United States is kind of a mess. Sprint’s 4G uses WiMax but it will probably switch to LTE next year, although we don’t know if it will be interoperable with competitors. Verizon’s 4G LTE is pretty awesome but the first-generation modem technology has caused a massive hit in the battery. AT&T is using HSPA+ and 4G LTE concurrently and T-Mobile is maximizing HSPA+ for its 4G.

With that variety of technologies, it’s no wonder that the iPhone 4S doesn’t have 4G, as Apple making the device a dual-more world phone makes it cheaper to produce and creates higher profit margins for Apple. Still, devices with 4G do have a demonstrable advantage over the Apple iPhone 4S and we’re already seeing competitors tout that. I expect Apple to wait until the technologies are more mature – remember, the first iPhone didn’t even have 3G – and an LTE-capable iPhone should hopefully land by next year.

  • Anonymous

    more than anything else people were expecting Apple to do a miracle like they did it with IP4 and be a standout product but they are not anymore and infact they are catching upto Android interms of specs. IMO this is just the beginning of Apple’s worries as Andriod and other platforms will step up with a variety  of form factors and dishing out crazy specs and there will be some heavy hitters in the process who will stand upto Iphone standards and will hijack their glory and marketshare. Agree or disagree but this time around we can see iPhone users are not happy with with one form factor (3.5″) and they want to see more from apple, had they made a 3.7″ or 4″ screen in same IP4 body it would have made most people  happy.

  • Hammams

    All of you are forgetting that Samsung provided them with a big % of parts for their phones. Now that their relations aren’t well, Apple is looking at other companies such as Sharp/Toshiba/others to build their Iphone 5 without using samsung. I think this is the main reason for the delay that no one has yet mentioned.

  • Mark

    First of all, rest in peace, Mr. Jobs, you’ve certainly earned it many times over. Second of all, I’m sick of hearing about how Android will take over. I know 4 people with Android phones. I had one for the last year. One of those four people I know even has a Droid X. We’ve ALL switched to the iPhone. You know why? THE APPS. I got tired of trying to find interesting games, filmmaking or photography apps, or something unique that I hadn’t thought you could your phone for within the android store. Granted, there were still things that it did MILES better than iPhone – Google Navigation, for one… not having to download an application to ‘show only contacts with phone numbers’ in my contacts. Being able to easily add homescreen links to do pretty much anything at the touch of a button. Apple has these features but usually they’re attached to some app, not built into the OS. However, the fact remains that there are workarounds on the iPhone but no workaround for the total lack of interesting applications in the Android Market. In the month I’ve had an iPhone, I must have spent $75 on apps and then for my birthday, asked for app store gift cards to feed the habit. Games on the iPhone are AMAZING compared to android, which hardly has any to begin with. 

    The other thing is, I’ve since noticed that some of the more interesting apps I’ve purchased were available on Android, they were just hard to find in the midst of all the absolute trash on the android market. Believe me, if iPhone doesn’t continue to offer compelling advantages (I still have yet to see an Android phone take photos as nice even with better or similar specs), I’ll jump back to Android in a heartbeat… I have no loyalty to either one, but I could just no longer get past the fact that my Android phone wasn’t really useful as much more than a phone. I like the ipod/itunes integration in the iPhone, I like how easy it is to keep things organized, and I love the camera, especially with fun apps like Camera+ and 8mm. 

    And iPhone users weren’t happy? I’d say they were so happy they were rushing to get whatever the newest iPhone was. And you know what? Android could get lucky in that vacuum, but more likely than not, if they don’t fix things in their market and soon, (the redesign of the AM is terrible, I think), I can’t see a compelling reason to stick with Android other than if you can’t live without a keyboard. I thought I couldn’t, but I’ve been doing ok with the iPhone’s touch keyboard. 

  • Reggie Pettway

    I personally think the Iphone 4s is a stunning device. Everyting just works. I’ve been an android user for the last 4 years and have palyed with the best of the phones and IOS jsut works better. Yea sure android has higher specs and maybe breakthrough technology yet specs arent everything. The Iphones just work well with everything all together. The speed, efficiency and consistency is great. Rarely any lag, battery issue isn’t a problem and the design factor is quit impressive. IOS and Apple make phones of good quality. They make sure things work well or greatbefore using it on their phones. Example LTE isnt necessary right now, I mean its great in speed but the technology to make use of the service isn’t evolved enough. This is all imo. I believe the only treat to apple and the cell phone world are the new WP7 devices. Simply because everything just works and is consistent. Remeber android bandwagoners if thats even a word, Quality is always better than quantity.

    • quintus murray

      not even close!!!!! The new WP7 devices are garbage in comparison to iphone 4s However WP8 devices will give even the iphone 5 massive competition. comparing on company’s mid range to another’s high end isn’t fair so WP7 devices can’t fairly compete with anything RIM is a non factor

    • quintus murray

      not even close!!!!! The new WP7 devices are garbage in comparison to iphone 4s However WP8 devices will give even the iphone 5 massive competition. comparing on company’s mid range to another’s high end isn’t fair so WP7 devices can’t fairly compete with anything RIM is a non factor

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