Would two iPhones in one year help or hurt Apple?

| April 3, 2013
Apple By Apr. 3, 2013 1:01 pm

Yotaphone

While Apple may be showing signs of entering a post-Jobs era, apparently their next batch of smartphones and the ideals that drive them are powered by the late CEO. If nameless sources are to be believed, and Apple’s year will include two different phone launches, it’s hard to tell whether that will be a good thing or a bad thing for everyone involved.

If we’ve learned anything from the last five years of smartphone development, it’s that a year is an eternity. When you release a piece of hardware once a year, it has to be spectacular. It has to be so great that it blows away the competition for the next six months, and by the time the competition has caught up you’re ready to do it all over again. The next phone you release has to be enough to make users look at the phone they bought less than a year ago and force them to ask whether or not they need to upgrade, even though the phone they have now is still better than most of the other smartphones one sale.

There was a time when Apple offered that exact thing, and I say that as a proud owner of a day one HTC G1 and every member of the Nexus line. Apple’s phones have been great in the past because they were able to survive a year without looking like antiques compared to the following model. It wasn’t until the iPhone 4S that there were phones on the market immediately after that were able to compete with Apple. By the time the iPhone 5 had hit the shelves, the other manufacturers were delivering better handsets at the same time.

If history is any indicator the iPhone 5S will be an incremental update with the same case and display as the iPhone 5. So far the rumors seem to indicate exactly that. It’s not a leap to assume a higher quality camera, faster processor, and somewhat improved battery life. Software will be the champion of the iPhone 5S, as it has been with every S release. We’ll see the relaunch of Apple Maps as an actually usable service, and we’ll see Apple go deeper into proving iOS being a capable gaming platform that occasionally makes phone calls. We’ll see more intuitive integration with iCloud, and Apple will have brought on a handful of impressive accessory manufacturers to take advantage of that Lightning port.

Unfortunately, that’s not nearly enough. Every phone announced this year already has come out of the gate with a 1080p screen that obliterates the Retina iOS displays, with processors that are leaps and bounds ahead of what was available just a few months ago. While we can chant the “specs don’t matter” mantra until the sun goes down, those are hardware points that have earned phones like the HTC One incredibly favorable reviews already this year. Android has made huge leaps in the last year in terms of usability, and the Google Play Store is every bit as powerful as the App Store these days. Apple needs to do something different, and this is the year to do it.

iPhone 5S

If you look at how Samsung releases phones every year, their rollout has shifted to support two different groups of users. The Galaxy S4 is the new flagship phone for the year, but Samsung will still release other phones. The most popular phone Samsung sells that isn’t a part of their Galaxy S line is the Note. The Galaxy Note 2 has proven that Samsung has tapped a niche that is a big fan of larger phones. Note 2 users are an increasing group, and that user base is separate from the those who are interested in the flagship. Apple’s move to a second phone type could well be to create this same kind of user split, where there are users who enjoy different branches of hardware from the same manufacturer.

Next page: Two iPhones, one year…


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