Al Gore says iPhone 5+4S release date in October in oddly timed speech
September 22, 2011 by Bill Palmer
by Bill Palmer
Parsing a politician’s words has never been so tricky. The release date for the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4S is next month according to current Apple board member and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who spoke at a conference this week and revealed that the “new iPhones” (plural) will debut in October, quipping that it was an intentional plug. The good news: those who have been waiting since this summer and wondering where the iPhone 5 went are now on a countdown which won’t require much further waiting. The odd part: it’s not a hundred percent clear what gore was referring to when he said “the new iPhones.” The plural nature of the phrase can be parsed as either meaning “multiple new iPhone models are coming to market in October” or simply as “iPhone 5 units are coming to market in October.” The uncertainty leaves room for examination as to the role an iPhone 4S would play alongside the iPhone 5 if indeed Gore is referring to two new iPhone iterations…
The iPhone 5 will be the flagship model and the focus of Apple’s marketing attention the moment its release date arrives, regardless of whether it has a new sidekick. Apple’s initial TV, billboard, and print ads will make nary a mention of an iPhone 4S even if there is one. But the model would solve several potential issues which Apple faces if it follows its traditional path of keeping the current iPhone 4 around as the lower end model heading into 2012. Apple has done this in the past with models like the 3GS (still available for $49), but this changeover is more complex…
The iPhone 4 was Apple’s first phone to be available on multiple, incompatible U.S. carriers. Keeping both the Verizon and AT&T iPhone 4 iterations around would make for inventory hassles with the iPhone 5 arriving in (traditionally) three flavors on top of it. There’s also the issue of Sprint expansion, unofficially a lock for the iPhone 5 era; Sprint would then need its own iPhone 4 to talk to its network. But wipe out the entire iPhone 4 lineup in favor of an “iPhone 4S” (or less commonly claimed, an “iPhone 4-plus”) which can talk to all of the above networks, and suddenly the lineup is simplified. Apple then also gets around the notion of trying to sell “last year’s iPhone” on the bargain end, as the iPhone 4 is fifteen months old and could be twenty-seven months old by the end of the iPhone 5 era if it were kept around that long. There’s also the never-ending iPhone 4 antenna controversy, publicly proven long ago by Steve Jobs himself to be merely the way all smartphones operate and nothing specific to the iPhone 4, yet it just won’t go away. By shifting to an iPhone 4S on the low end, Apple buries the iPhone 4 and its imagined antenna problems, creating a clean slate in the minds of those consumers who were irrevocably confused by the faux-controversy. It also means that if Apple opts to include next-gen technologies like the 4G LTE network and its own faster A5 processor in the iPhone 5, it can also quietly slip those into the iPhone 4S for compatibility reasons even as it promotes them as the headlining iPhone 5 features.
The only reason not to do an iPhone 4S would be that the “newness” of the model could motivate would-be iPhone 5 buyers to opt for the cheaper 4S in larger numbers than Apple would like. The iPhone 5 will be the higher margin, higher-spec flagship model which Apple wants consumers to buy; the lower priced model, whether it’s a new 4S or the existing 4, is only there to draw people in who either can’t afford the iPhone 5 or who can’t be upsold. Now we get to find out just how tricky Al Gore’s words were when he referred to the “new iPhones.”
It’s worth noting that despite his high level of recognizability in the U.S. and worldwide in general, Gore very rarely speaks on Apple’s behalf despite having been on the company’s board for roughly a decade; even his environmental initiative within the company have been announced through other means than Gore’s mouth. The timing of his words this week is unusual to the point of suspicion. One might be tempted to conclude that his decision to work the “new iPhones” into an unrelated speech at this time may have come on instruction from the rest of Apple’s board for the sake of unofficially reminding the public that the iPhone 5 isn’t far off, even while maintaining its official policy of silence. Here’s more on the iPhone 5.
Updated with additional information on Al Gore’s role at Apple