Fanboys dreaming of an iPhone 5 were disappointed Tuesday when Apple's much-hyped announcement yielded nothing more than a mere iPhone 4S, a gadget that looks identical to the iPhone 4, but boasts new speed and extra features. However, Apple also slashed prices for its older iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 and, after the dust settled, it's clear that Apple's news is distinctly good for some interested parties. Here, a rundown of winners and losers:
Yes, the 4S announcement underwhelmed, but "let's get real here," says Larry Dignan at ZDNet. For Apple, it "will keep an upgrade cycle humming," get iPhones in the hands of millions of Sprint customers (the new iPhone is the first to work on Sprint's network), and allow Verizon and Sprint users to take their iPhones around the world. Plus, with the new lower pricing for the iPhone 4 ($99) and 3GS (free with a two-year plan), pent-up demand for the iPhone among those who didn't want to shell out for it before could help "Apple will do very well for itself."
Millions of people should be pleased with a new feature called Siri, says Alan Reiter at Internet Evolution. A virtual personal assistant you direct via voice commands, Siri is the "most exciting" of the iPhone's new features. While "voice-based search has been available for other phones for years… Siri is much more advanced." Not only does it understand natural language, it keeps track of recent requests and your location so that it can offer highly intelligent assistance. And "anywhere the on-screen keyboard is used, Siri's voice system can be used instead."
"The iPhone 4S is good news for shutterbugs," says Chris Foresman at ARS Technica. The camera hardware is a "definite improvement" over the iPhone 4's equipment, and the camera app itself has been upgraded, with new features like face detection and basic in-app editing capabilities like cropping and rotating. Perhaps even better, the iPhone 4S helps users capture images "at the 'decisive moment'" by letting them launch the camera app more quickly and take successive shots with less lag time.
Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint
The first two carriers can now sell a variety of iPhones at different price points, ideal for offering iPhone family plans, says Dignan. "Carriers love family plans and Apple would love to have a range of devices to put mom, dad, and the kids in its ecosystem." As for Sprint, the nation's No. 3 carrier finally gets its iPhone, and, hopefully, gets to keep its customers.
Top-of-the-line Android phones
"The iPhone 4S catches up — or comes close to catching up — in a bunch of areas where Android phones have long excelled," says J.R. Raphael at Computerworld. But it doesn't surpass, say, Samsung's Galaxy S II. The new iPhone's tech specs aren't mind-blowing, and it lacks Android features like external storage. Plus, Apple is still sticking with 3G, notes Dignan. That fact will give "Android superphones" with their faster, if limited, 4G coverage "more runway at Verizon."
Lower-end Android phones
The new iPhone's global rollout, paired with the multiple price points for older models, means that the "Android's market share gains could slow if not recede," says Dignan. And the iPhone isn't the only thing Android has to worry about. "Apple's onslaught also coincides with Nokia's Windows Phone rollout and a new product cycle from RIM."
The iPhone 4S could be the "beginning of the end of point-and-shoot cameras, says Harry McCracken at CNET. The iPhone 4 was already capable of "surprisingly good photos" — especially in sunny conditions — and the iPhone 4S is a big step up. Sure, it's not quite as good as most point-and-shoots, but it portends a future in which you'll go to a wedding and "almost everyone will be snapping photos with either a phone or a really serious digital camera such as a dSLR."
The fact that the new iPhone isn't making the jump to 4G is a bummer, says Reiter. While I understand Apple's decision because of battery-power issues, 4G is vastly superior for web browsing — as are the larger, higher-res screens on the top Android phones. "The iPhone 4S might not be the best handset for internet-savvy users."
Tech journalists who'd predicted an iPhone 5
The disappointing iPhone 4S is "a blow to tech journalism credibility," says Jan Vermeulen at MyBroadband. A big reason why Apple's announcement proved disappointing was all the tech coverage "based on leaks from 'industry sources', 'a reliable source', 'people familiar with the situation', and 'two people familiar with the product.'" Now that this "loose reporting" has been proven false, the chance that future articles citing anonymous sources will be taken seriously "has been all but destroyed."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Alien conspiracy theorists think the government is on the verge of spilling big secrets
- Why the Sony hack changes everything
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
When Americans banned Christmas
- It ain't easy being green in the world's most polluted city
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
Subscribe to the Week