Monday, 7 June 2010

Reasons why Apple (probably) won't unveil a new iPhone

At 6pm U.K. time today, demigod and Apple CEO Steve Jobs is widely-expected to unveil a new version of the iPhone at his company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

In keeping with tradition, speculative 'new iPhone' stories have been swirling for months, gradually building the hype to fever pitch. This year has been a little different though, thanks to a hapless Apple engineer who left a protoype device in a bar, only for it to eventually fall into the hands of gadget blog Gizmodo.

Among other things the new iPhone will reportedly have improved battery life, a higher resolution screen, a better camera with a flash, a front-facing camera for video chat purposes, and will be powered by Apple's latest smartphone software iPhone OS 4.0.

What's more Bloomberg reported late last week that Apple's online store is no longer stocking the iPhone 3G ahead of what is expected to be today's unveiling of a new one.

However, at the beginning of 2010 we predicted that Apple wouldn't unveil a new iPhone on grounds that a new version wouldn't be a big enough leap in hardware or software for it to be worthwhile.

Now, we could be wrong (judging by the volume of 'new iPhone' coverage how could we be right?), but just to make sure that we potentially end up with the maximum amount of egg on our face, here are some reasons why Mr Jobs probably won't be announcing a new iPhone today:

We've only just had the last one
A year might be a long time by Apple's standards, but not so for mobile phones. The iPhone 3GS launched in late June 2009, so while some early adopters will be coming to the end of their contracts, the majority will not, with many millions still six months away at least. Outside the U.S., iPhones have been on sale from some operators - and in some markets - for less than six months.

iPhone sales are still rising
Apple reported in April that iPhone shipments doubled on year thanks to strong sales in Europe and Asia. The momentum of its current product set isn't about to plateau, and there is still plenty of demand to drive iPhone 3GS sales even further.

Apple chooses user experience over technology
Apple is renowned for delivering the latest and greatest user experience in a compelling form factor; not necessarily for delivering the latest and greatest technology. The first iPhone was 2G, and slightly on the chunky side. Meanwhile its computers aren't known first and formost for their processor speed, nor its iPods for record breaking amounts of storage. Even the first batch of iPads to go on sale lacked 3G, if only for a short time.

The vast majority of what we've heard so far about the supposedly new iPhone has been focused on hardware, and with iPhone OS 4.0 already announced, is Jobs going to spend the whole time on stage talking about a high resolution screen, the benefits of a front-facing camera and the fact it looks a bit different? I don't know, maybe he will.

Competition is out there, but yet to mount a serious threat
Rival devices and platforms are gaining momentum - with Android immediately springing to mind - but try as they might, they have yet to steal the limelight away from the iPhone experience. Apple can't afford to be complacent - no company can (see Motorola post RAZR) - and to remain relevant and innovative the iPhone will need to receive an update at some point. Is it in need of that update right now? Perhaps as a design study that showcases Apple's vision of the not too distant future, but not necessarily as something it needs to put on the shelves right now.

What about the 'magical' iPad?
Will Jobs really be that keen to divert attention away from a product as ambitious as the iPad so soon after it launched? Apple no doubt has marketing cash to burn, and the world's press just love an Apple story, but shouldn't it concentrate on trying to convince consumers outside its core fan base that buying a tablet computer is a good idea?

So, even if we are subject to endless stories
this week about Apple's new iPhone, what it does, when it's launching and on which operator, remember there was one publication that took on the risk of ending up with egg on its face to bravely question the hype!

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