I tend to agree with this, in general. Honestly, we’ve seen little genuine innovation in smartphone designs in years. Virtually all models are slabs with a large display and few of small buttons. Yes, there’s some tweaking of that basic design, but that really just means ever-larger screens. All you have to do is look at the the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III to see this. These are latest cutting-edge, flagship models from these companies, and they have the same general form factor.
Even the classic sideways slider is declining in use. The once almost ubiquitous portrait QWERTY is also all-but dead – even BlackBerry is giving it up. There is a market for devices that offer a physical keyboard, but it’s not a big one.
And don’t look for new ideas to come out of left field. For the most part, consumers aren’t interested in innovative designs. Kyocera Echo was probably the most innovative phone released in the last two years, and it flopped and was widely (and unfairly) mocked. The market has spoken: people want safety and familiarity, not innovation.
Maturity Means Less Experimentation
While it might be easy to see this as a bad trend, really it’s just a sign that smartphones are maturing. Companies have figured out what most consumers want, and are giving it to them.
For an example of how this process works, think about laptop designs — this is something that has been mature for over a decade, which means virtually all devices look the same. They are bigger or smaller, fatter or thinner, but they all have the same basic shape. That’s the direction handsets are headed.
Look at it this way: It’s time for smartphones to put their crazy teenage years behind them, settle down, and get to work.
If you’re a Verizon or Sprint subscriber, the answer is easy: this device does not support either of these carriers’ 4G standards, LTE or WiMAX. The situation for AT&T’s version isn’t so cut-and-dried, however.
Apple itself does not say that the iPhone 4S is 4G, or that it supports AT&T’s HSPA+ service. If you look at Apple’s specs page for the iPhone 4S, the 3G standards HSDPA and HSUPA are clearly listed, but there’s no mention of 4G HSPA+.
AT&T’s website, on the other hand, does claim that this smartphone supports HSPA+, and reportedly is trying to get Apple to add a 4G icon to the status bar in the next iOS update, which will be displayed at the top of the screen when the phone has an HSPA+ connection.
My guess is the difference in opinion comes down to Apple wanting to save the term “4G” for its next model, which is widely expected to offer LTE – a wireless data standard that is much faster than HSPA+. AT&T does consider HSPA+ to be 4G, and would be thrilled to be able to claim to have the only 4G-enabled iPhone.
Phil Schiller, head of marketing for Apple, summed up his company’s thoughts on this issue best: “We’re not going to get into the debate about what’s 4G and what isn’t. We’ll leave that for others to talk about.”
In AT&T’s defense, studies have generally shown that AT&T’s iPhone 4S has better download performance than either Verizon’s or Sprint’s versions, which use 3G EV-DO Rev. A.
HSPA+ vs. LTE
If you want to put things in perspective, real-world figures for the HSPA+ service on the latest iPhone put it in the 2-3 Mbps range. Still, that’s faster than the older iPhone 4.
Because there’s no LTE-enabled iPhone yet there’s no way to definitively say how fast this device will be, but other LTE-enabled smartphones are getting 5-12 Mbps. Much faster, anyway you slice it.
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Shammo ’s number is 11 million. At first glance that seems like a lot, until you consider that in Q3 of last year (the last quarter in which numbers are available) AT&T activated 5.2 million iPhones.
So, despite all the hype surrounding Verizon’s long-awaited launch of Apple’s smartphone, this carrier expects to sell in all of 2011 about twice units as many as its rival did in one quarter of last year?
Glass Half Full
There are a couple of possible explanations for this. The most optimistic is simple: the wireless carriers in the U.S., like Verizon, have a tradition of under promising and over delivering. This way their customers (and investors) are pleasantly surprised when products are out earlier than had been estimated.
So this company could simply be action cautiously. If it says it expects to sell 11 million iPhones this year and then sells 20 million, it gets to talk about the huge success of this model. If it estimates that it’s going to sell 24 million and then sells 20 million, it has to explain why sales were so poor.
Glass Half Empty
My pessimistic guess is based on this: Verizon knows things the rest of us don’t. And one of the things it might know is that it’s not going to get the iPhone 5 until next February.
Verizon is introducing its version of the iPhone 4 next month. AT&T is widely expected to introduce the iPhone 5 in June, but there’s a big question about when Verizon is going to get the next-generation model from Apple.
The best possibility is that both carriers are going to launch it at the same time, even if this means Verizon will launch a replacement for its first iPhone just four months after it hits store shelves.
The worst possibility for Verizon and its subscribers is that this carrier won’t get a new model from Apple until its current one has been on the market for a year, which would mean that AT&T would once again get to offer an Apple smartphone for more than half a year before its rival can.
Honestly, I can’t see Verizon agreeing to any such arrangement, but it would explain why this company’s CFO is being so cautious about iPhone sales projections.
Shoppers for previous Apple smartphones had a choice of white or black outer casings, but Apple never released the white version of its latest model. It announced this version last summer, but has talked about unspecified production problems of this product ever since.
In the last few days, a new round of rumors has cropped up indicating that the white iPhone 4 might finally debut in February or thereabouts. But I’m skeptical about these. At this point, the boat may have sailed on this version.
Just Too Late
The iPhone 4 in a black outer casing has now been available for almost seven months. I’m really curious how many people have been waiting all this time for a white version when they could get the black one today. Especially when you consider that you can easily buy a white case from plenty of companies and have the iPhone 4 in the color you want.
The iPhone 5 is expected to be released in June, or July at the latest. This is a safe bet, as Apple has released a new or updated smartphone in early summer of every year since 2007. There’s no reason to think 2011 is going to be any different.
So if the next-generation model is coming in June, demand for the current-generation model is going to start waning soon, especially when the next model is expected to be faster and offer other enhancements.
With both of these in mind, February or March just isn’t the time to come out with a new white version of the iPhone 4. This device just wouldn’t sell all that well, and would cost Apple a lot of money to produce and ship.
I don’t completely believe Apple’s stories about its mysterious production problems for the white casing. I suspect that Apple did the math, realized that offering its smartphone in one outer casing color was more profitable, and decided to drop the white version.
If I’m correct, then Apple is never going to say anything about offering the iPhone 5 in a white casing. Going forward, black could be the only option.
That’s good news for the case makers, who will be happy to sell Apple’s customers white cases. Or green cases, or blue cases, etc.
Every smartphone I know of supports push email, a system in which messages are “pushed” out to your phone as soon as they arrive on the remote mail server. It’s the opposite of pull email, in which you set your phone to check for messages on a regular schedule, or manually ask that they be delivered.
I generally have my devices configured to push both my work and my personal email to me, but I always try to keep aware how much this drains the battery.
With my current smartphone, I have recharge it every day, unless I turn push email off. When I do, it will go for much of a week on a single charge. This is with the device just sitting quietly waiting for me to use it. Naturally, if I’m on the phone a lot or using it to surf the Web, the battery life is much shorter.
A Vacation Tip
The next time you’re on vacation, be sure to turn push email off. For one thing you’re supposed to be relaxing and you can’t do that if you get notified every time you get an email from the office. But switching to manual email delivery will not just help your social life, it can also really save your battery life too.
I tend to forget to plug my phone in when I’m on the beach or some resort because I’m outside of my normal routine. If I have push email turned on, whenever I think about my phone it’s usually dead or close to it if I’ve left push email on. If I’ve switched to manual, it always has a full charge.
Just something to think about next time you’re on the road.