by Bill Palmer
Four days til Apple announces the iPhone 5, with a release date to follow later in the month. Unless it announces an iPhone 4S instead. The new iPhone will be on Verizon, good news for all those Verizon customers who cheered the arrival of the Verizon iPhone 4 and then immediately decided not to buy it because they reasoned the Verizon iPhone 5 was coming just a couple months behind it. Oops. There’s mounting evidence pointing to a Sprint iPhone forthcoming next week alongside Verizon and AT&T, and Sprint seems to be desperate to let the cat out of the bag in the mean time, but that’s no guarantee it’ll happen. T-Mobile says it’s not getting the iPhone 5 this year, but that could be a mere temporary smokescreen. There are those who say they’ll buy an iPhone 5 no matter what but won’t buy an iPhone 4S no matter what (with one wary individual going so far as to predict that “no one” will buy an iPhone 4S), despite not knowing a single feature or spec regarding either. Welcome to the wacky final days leading up to the 2011 iPhone press event, where everyone has their mind made up and knows everything, except that it’ll all go out the window by mid-day Tuesday. But as a recap, here’s a sampling of what we and others think we know about the iPhone 5 at this point, and where we think we stand with it…
There will be a new iPhone next week. It’ll run iOS 5, which Apple has already shown up huge chunks of. And based on the invite tease it’ll apparently include a voice activated feature, which lines up with external talk of “Assistant” voice control. Verizon and AT&T are locks for U.S. carriers. Sprint appears as a probability. Whether the new iPhone talks to newer networks like 4G LTE and HSPA+ is something we’ll have to wait to find out. Shockingly little is known regarding the overall feature set of the new iPhone. Also unconfirmed is whether it’ll go by the name “iPhone 5″ or by something less ambitious like “iPhone 4S” and even then, it’s not clear whether an “iPhone 5″ would be a radical step forward or whether it would be a modestly revised iPhone 4 with a fresh number merely attached to it. It’s this uncertainty which has many would-be buyers attempting to conditionally figure out what they’ll do in each of the above scenarios. Jonathan says he’s getting the new iPhone no matter what: “I’m getting the new iPhone now matter what, whether its the 5 or 4S,” he says. But he’s got special motivation. After deciding that his current Android phone would be his last and that he’d be moving to iPhone eventually, he’s now in more of a hurry. “As of yesterday the touchscreen on my android lg ally stopped working and I’m stuck navigating via the arrows on the keyboard which is horrible.”
Like many other Sprint customers, Francis is convinced Sprint is getting the iPhone 5, pointing to increasing amounts of circumstantial evidence: “They are increasing early termination fees and they are getting rid of their sprint premier customer program.” This comes even as Sprint has been caught installing repeaters around Apple Stores, which wouldn’t be the case if those stores weren’t about to begin selling a Sprint-compatible phone. There’s also the odd number of Apple Stores suddenly closing their doors for days at a time ahead of the launch. One location in San Francisco is closed with a sign out front saying it’ll reopen on October 5th, and an AT&T van was mysteriously spotted out front. On the other side of the country, Fierce Poet observes the same: “The local Birmingham store is set to be closed Monday through Thursday of next week as well. What’s going on? I’ve seen reports of other stores being closed next week too.” There is, of course, more…
Not the first to express such a sentiment, Werd believes Apple is playing us regarding the ever-dragging iPhone 5 release date. “I am just ready for them to tell us already. I guess this builds some demand for it. It is actually quite genius. You are gambling that you will keep people guessing for a few months instead of buying a android, but as we all know apple has the superior operating system so it is a gamble that they are willing to and can take. Honestly It has made me want the iPhone 5 so much more, just because I have had to wait for it. The release date is getting free press and building so much more anticipation than a commercial ever could.”
Finally, circling back to the persistent Sprint iPhone 5 rumors, Walter reports that he “called Sprint and they did not have a clue about the iPhone.” He may have missed the part where Sprint explicitly instructed its employees to stop talking to customers about the iPhone one way or the other, which others have interpreted as being even more evidence that Sprint is gearing up for the iPhone and battening down the hatches in the mean time. Good luck spending the next few days trying to put together the iPhone 5 pieces, only to have your constructions shattered come Tuesday. The event is nearly here, but the game is already afoot. Here’s more on the iPhone 5
Updated 10:20am PST with additional information on market potential and quotes on the iPhone 4S
by Bill Palmer
The most-written technology headline written in 2011 can be summed up in two words: Verizon iPhone. Here are six degrees of permeation the nation’s most popular carrier and most popular smartphone will pass through on their way to becoming for the year’s most popular tech story.
Countdown: From the minute the clock strikes 2011, the Verizon iPhone launch is a potential go. As is customary, expect more details to leak as the launch grows nearer.
Pre-announcement: Every Apple press event gets announced at least a week ahead of time. Except the invitations to include some giveaway phrase which makes it clear that the event will see the announcement of the Verizon iPhone, but will do so in just vague enough of a manner so as to make that last week extra juicy.
The event: How will Steve Jobs and company spend a full hour or more introducing the Verizon iPhone at a press event? “Here’s the Verizon iPhone. It’s an iPhone which works on Verizon.” Ten seconds down, fifty-nine plus minutes to go. In other words, there will be much more to the Verizon iPhone launch event than just the Verizon iPhone. So even the biggest non-surprise of the year will come with bonus surprises.
The count-up: Between the announcement and on-sale date of the Verizon iPhone, expect the bulk of Verizon customers to make it clear that they intend to buy one, triggering public online meltdowns on the part of geek Droid fanatics, along the lines of the meltdowns the geeks had right around the time the iPad was launching. In fact, expect some of those meltdowns to come from the exact same geeks as last time. Except instead of being shocked and repulsed that the iPad was a mainstream hit, this time they’ll be shocked and terrified that the Verizon iPhone is set to wipe out mainstream Droid marketshare in about five minutes. Everyone will have seen it coming but them.
The denouement: Verizon customers will get their iPhone home and brag about it until they realize it’s the same iPhone experience AT&T customers have had since 2007. Then they’ll feel a big collective letdown over their own stubborn refusal to join the party sooner.
The sideways glance forward: Verizon customers are joining the iPhone platform half a year into a generational cycle, which means that both the ones who jump on board with the first Verizon iPhone offering and those who decide to wait for the next new iPhone generation before taking the plunge will have one eye firmly focused on the future before they even download their first app.
Here’s more on the Verizon iPhone.
Beyond Apple’s declaration that tomorrow’s announcement/event/webcast/whatever it is will have an iTunes focus, the company hasn’t given any clue what the product or service might be, nor is there any clear-cut leading candidate. But rather than tossing around left-field ideas that are missing from Apple’s iTunes strategy for the good reason that they’re not sound ideas to begin with (music subscriptions and so on), a more fruitful approach is to look at the pieces of the the puzzle that are missing from Apple’s existing iTunes strategy. And with the iPad such an obvious device for content consumption, the fact that Apple still offers no official method for publishers to get their magazines or newspapers onto the iPad or even iPhone is perhaps the most glaring hole in the entire equation.
Apple’s magazine and newspaper strategy for the iPad up until now has consisted of nothing more than allowing publishers to build an app if they want, with no real guidance as to how they should be going about it. ePub good, Adobe bad, has been about Apple has been willing to say on the subject. iTunes already has a massive subscription section, but it’s only for podcasts. And while you can run a PDF of your magazine issue through iTunes via podcast subscription (that’s how Beatweek Magazine has been doing it since 2007, for the record), it’s far too do-it-yourself and hands-off to fit into Apple’s plans long term. But if Apple ever finally gets around to launching an officially sanctioned magazine and newspaper stand within the iTunes Store, either tied into the app method of delivery or as its own beast, now that would be something to write home about. It would change the face of newspapers and magazines forever, effectively bringing and end to the “print” portion of print publications even more quickly, and at least in the longview, would in fact be a day in publishing history which would never be forgotten by those who consume magazines and newspapers, this living up to Apple’s tagline for tomorrow.
Apple’s promise that it’ll make an iTunes announcement tomorrow that “you’ll never forget” is an out of character move for the company, and not just because it rarely pre-hypes its own events (it may seem otherwise but Apple typically makes a simple date and time announcement and then leaves the hyping to outsiders). What’s even more remarkable, however, is that Apple is taking its message directly to the people. While it’s not yet clear whether Steve Jobs and company will offer a live streaming event or simply post the news on its website, what is clear is that the media is no more invited than anyone else. Well, that and the fact that Apple is announcing something iTunes based a mere couple of days after releasing iTunes 10.1, but we’ll get to that in a minutes.
The shift to a public free for all of an announcement rather than the usual gathering of invited media in a room somewhere, at least for this one product rollout, is yet another step on Apple’s part which sees the company moving further away from relying on the press for such things. The last couple of press events were streamed live, ensuring the public could immediately get the news straight from Jobs’ mouth without having to hear it then filtered through the mouth of some journalist. It’s growing evidence that Apple has less faith in the media now than ever.
And that should come as no surprise. Apple’s products over the past decade-plus have been an explicit attempt to move consumer technology beyond the inherent geekiness that’s always held technology back in terms of mainstream usefulness, and the technology press, who are nearly all geeks, simply don’t get that. It’s why the geek tech journalists will spend the next twenty-four hours insisting Apple is about to announce an iTunes music rental service (which no one in the real world wants) or an iTunes cloud service (which no one in the real world would use even if they understood it).
Whatever iTunes related thing Apple is announcing tomorrow, expect it to be an inherently non-geeky product or service, and something that Apple wants to be able to tell the non-geek mainstream public about directly, without running the risk of that announcement being filtered through geek journalists and mis-translated entirely.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs started off today’s press event by pointing out the fact that his retired Apple co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak was in the audience. Jobs then went on to focus on a first topic that few were expecting – Apple retail stores in Europe| and China – before moving on to iOS 4, Apple’s mobile operating system. Jobs says Apple has shipped 120 million iOS devices, which include iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. He also announced that Apple is activating 230,000 new devices every day, which is not only higher than the number Google is quoting about Android devices, but Jobs also said that he believes Google is cheating by including “activations” of upgrades.
Beatweek Magazine issue #82: Goo Goo Dolls interview, Apple Event, Auburn, Hey Monday, Zoe Scott and more
New in the 82nd issue of Beatweek Magazine:
• Goo Goo Dolls cover story interview: Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac discuss their new album Something For The Rest Of Us and reflect on twenty-five years of Goo
• a look at Apple’s September 1st media event
• interviews with Auburn, Hey Monday, and Zoe Scott
• reviews of new iPad cases, iPhone docks and more
Read this issue now
Next week’s Apple event likely means updates to some of all of the current iPod lineup. Here’s a common-sense look at what’s likely to change, and what’s likely to stay the same…
iPod touch: there will be a new iPod touch, the question is just how new it’s going to be. It’s well past time they get a camera into the thing, if for no reason other than the fact that there are so many photography apps that Apple is losing potential revenue on, because touch users can’t buy those apps. I’ve thought since 2007 that the iPod touch would only really make sense as a mobile communications device if it came with an optional cellular data plan, because what is the point of owning a pocket device that can do email and internet and Twitter and Facebook and Weather and Maps and all this other cool stuff, but only when you’re at home and you have your computer there anyway, or only at starbucks, a place you’re at just long enough to get the wifi code, type it in, fix the typo you just made, finally get onto the wifi, and by then you’re done with your coffee. And now the iPad has exactly that, an optional 3G chip with a nice little $15 a month data plan, I can’t help but wonder when Apple is going to get around to doing the same with the iPod touch.
iPod nano: is there anything the nano can’t do? But then again, Apple could sell the iPod touch at a loss and still make a big profit through app store sales. But the nano is a different beast. People buy music for it, but the lack of App Store sales for the nano makes me wonder at what point Apple gets tired of the nano not much money after the fact a blows the nano in favor of some kind of iPod touch mini. But then again, of all the apps your iPod touch, how many of them would you want to use at half size on a tiny nano touchscreen?
iPod shuffle: it’s just gonna keep getting smaller. The funny thing about the shuffle is it now has, what, eight times the capacity of the original shuffle, this time maybe it goes to sixteen times the capacity, and yet it still has that same interface motif of hearing one random song after another. But then again, if they put a screen and a click-wheel on it, then it becomes an iPod nano.
iPod classic: the iPod classic used to be 160 GB, and now it tops out at 120 GB, gee, I wonder why? The minute the iPod touch goes to 128 GB, the classic is gone, and for two reasons. One is that it’s still sporting an interface from 2004, which is to a company like Apple is embarrassing. And other other reason is that sales of the classic contribute nothing to App Store sales.