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How I Predicted It will be iPhone 4S, not iPhone 5, back in January 2011: Apple's release pattern timeline

Updated on February 23, 2012

Introduction, or how I got a prediction right 10 months ago

Back on January 15th, 2011, I posted a blog entry on my little tech blog (that few people ever read) claiming Apple will release iPhone 4S, NOT iPhone 5, in 2011.

And I was right... it was indeed iPhone 4S, not iPhone 5, that got announced October 4, 2011.

So how did I do it? By carefully studying the factors and the patterns. There were 3 major factors I considered:

  1. Apple product cycle patterns
  2. LTE not ready for prime time
  3. Lack of true competition

Factor 1: Apple's release patterns

Apple in general have a TWO year product cycle... and a yearly refresh. Just look at the iPhone release dates:

Release Date
iPhone 3G
iPhone 3GS
iPhone 4
iPhone 4S
Apple iPhone release timeline

The first one, iPhone to iPhone 3G breaks the pattern, but after that the pattern is set. The original iPhone is a bit of a dog, as it has not that much memory or CPU, and the app market at the time was not fully developed. Think of it as a one-off.

Given that Apple released 3G, then next year the 3GS, it is clear that this year, after release of iPhone 4 last year, will be iPhone 4S, not iPhone 5.

Apple Factoid

Verizon's iPhone 4 is indeed different from AT&T's iPhone, because Verizon uses CDMA, Some call this variant "iPhone 4c" even though officially it is just iPhone 4.

However, Verizon's iPad is NOT a CDMA modem equipped iPad, but instead, a regular WiFi-only iPad, packaged with a Verizon WiFi hotspot device called MiFi that links to Verizon's 3G wireless network.

Factor 2: LTE isn't ready

Apple has always been a company that values substance, over flash. it does not randomly add features to its products, but instead, is very careful about what features to include in its devices to reach maximum amount of users, and how that experience would be completely transparent.

While some phones now already claim to have "4G", the 4G technology is fragmented (with no less than 3 different standards (HSPA+, LTE, and WiMAX), plus variants of each, and Apple don't need that sort of headache trying to support 3 different 4G standards. It wants ONE device that can reach the maximum amount of audience.

This latest iPhone 4S is such a "universal" device, being a "world phone", having both GSM and CDMA hardware in the same device. As a "token" nod to AT&T, the original launch partner, iPhone 4S will support HSPDA, which is basically HSPA+14.4, the lowest version of HSPA+ (it also comes as HSPA+21, and HSPA+42), albeit only for downlink.

With LTE on the way to being the preferred technology for 4G (AT&T, Verizon, and pretty soon, Sprint, are all going or already have LTE), it is clear that Apple would want the genuinely revolutionary iPhone to have LTE 4G to reach maximum amount of users. However, LTE deployment is limited. Verizon barely have 50 cities with LTE. AT&T expects to have an LTE phone on the market... soon (deployment of LTE support is very limited. And Sprint still haven't officially announced their LTE coverage plans.

Thus, LTE is not ready for iPhone, and iPhone is not ready for LTE.

This will change in 2012. By then, AT&T's LTE network should be officially up and running in dozens of major cities, with its own LTE phones (probably Android based) up and running. Verizon by then should have over 100 cities with LTE support, and Sprint's network may also be up and running, albeit in very limited cities. THEN would be the time to release a revolutionary iPhone 5, with true 4G LTE support.

Given that both Samsung and Motorola have had a bit of problem trying to shoehorn a dual-core CPU and LTE circuits into a single phone (Samsung Droid Charge is single core only, and Motorola's Droid Bionic is dual core, but months late), Apple clearly needed a bit more time to work out the hardware issues.


Apple iPhone 4S was released because:

1) It fits their product release patterns

2) It will take maximum advantage of its existing situation, which is HSPA+14 (HSPDA), not limited amount of LTE available.

3) Its competitors still can't get the full name recognition, leaving Apple iPhone 4S still king of the hill.

What will iPhone 5 be really time? I have no idea (yet).

Factor 3: Lack of Serious Competition

Right now, iPhone's ONLY serious competitor is Android phones, and even then, the models that actually match iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S are rather limited, and came from only 4 makers: Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and LG.

Four different phone makers, plus different carriers insisting on their own versions of the phone, means "Android Fragmentation" resulting in a dozen different models, each of different features, and lack of name recognition among the Android phones, except for Verizon's "Droid" brand, and Samsung's "Galaxy S Phone" moniker.

Even now, iPhone is still a status symbol. You can buy a Gooapple phone in China that is essentially an Android phone in an iPhone 4 case. If you don't turn it on or examine it for details you can't tell it's not Apple iPhone. Why would people make such products? Because people WANT iPhone look... without paying the iPhone price.

Furthermore, iPhone 4 specs just need to be brought up to par with its competitors, and perhaps leapfrog them slightly.

Display: iPhone 4 and 4S still has the best display of any phone in terms of both color AND pixel density, though some upcoming phones may match that.

Memory: iPhone 4S now offers a 64GB version, which makes it almost impossible to complain about running out of storage, and makes the microSD card slot in Android phones almost obsolete. 1GB of RAM (speculated) also matches the latest and greatest Android phones.

ARM CPU: Apple's dual-core A5 matches several dual-core Android phones already on the market, such as HTC Evo 3D.

Camera: iPhone 4S 8MP camera, now capable of 1080p video, matches or exceeds HTC Doubleshot (i.e. T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide), Motorola Droid Bionic, and other recently introduced Android phones.

I could go on, but I believe my point is made: with release of iPhone 4S, Apple has brought forth a SINGLE device that matches or exceeds its competitors. It doesn't need to reveal iPhone 5 yet. Android may have the numbers, but the undisputed star of the phones is still the iPhone. (And before you think I'm an Apple fanboy, my phone is actually a Motorola Droid [original])


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    • Alaxia profile image

      Cara Alex 5 years ago from Somewhere in the United Kingdom

      Do you want to know about the iPhone 5 now?

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 6 years ago from Minnesota

      Interesting hub! I think the new 4S is pretty cool - I wouldn't mind getting one :)

    • kschang profile image

      kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      It was sort of tongue-in-cheek type article. :) And you're welcome.

    • akune profile image

      akune 6 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

      Tech prophet huh? Smile.

      I like your hub. I try to catch up on ZDNet news at lunchtimes.

      Want to seize the opp to thank you for your help when I asked a question a couple months back.


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