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If You’re In Line Now for the New iPhone – STEP AWAY!

I’m not a hater.  There are too many things in life to enjoy and appreciate.  I rarely ‘dis technology products on my shows and in my reviews because I have so many “good” devices and gadgets to choose from.

While it’s no secret that I am not an Apple fanboy I am indeed a marketing guy.  I can appreciate how Apple markets (or actually non-markets) its new products especially the iPhone.  Apple shuts up and lets the blogosphere do the posturing and rumormongering.  The one Apple device I own is an iPhone and it is now two generations old.  I did not see a need to stand in line and pay more money (or as Apple calls it, “upgrading”) to an iPhone 4 last year and I continue to be semi-happy with my iPhone 3Gs, among other smartphones I use.

But I was keeping an eye on the new Steve Jobs-less Apple and today’s much anticipated announcement of its new iPhone.  Apple never said it would be called the iPhone 5 but that’s what many of us who cover the industry called it.  As recently as this morning during an appearance on Channel 11 Morning News (KHOU-TV, Houston) I was hedging my own predictions stating that Apple may announce two new phones – one being a redesigned iPhone 5 and a possible “iPhone 4S” which would be a lower-priced version with fewer features to allow price cuts on the current iPhone 4.

I was pretty close.  But Apple was way off.

The “big” news coming out of Cupertino, California, today was indeed about a new iPhone along with the typical OS upgrade, some new iPods (really? Apple still makes these?) and a few featured apps.  But the headline after the press conference seemed to be “THAT’S IT?  THAT’S ALL YOU GOT?

Apple did announce its new smartphone will be called the iPhone 4S.  I call it the “iPhone 4.01”.  The “We Rushed Out A New Device To Drive Holiday Sales” gadget.  The “You Honestly Think Millions of People Will Stand In Line For This” device.

Here are the specs:

  • Upgraded camera sensor from 5 megapixels to 8 megapixels
  • Faster A5 chip

Feel free to start queuing up in front of Apple stores now.  #not

Yes, that is it.  I am not impressed whatsoever with the iPhone 4S and my quick anecdotal analysis of a few friends’ thoughts seem to concur.  The wait continues for the actual iPhone 5 which should coincide with the next presidential election about one year from now.

I didn’t know what exactly I was expecting new Apple CEO Tim Cook to reveal with its newest smartphone.  Internet rumors ranged from a different shaped design; a larger screen; a 3D camera.  We knew a while back that this new device was not going to be equipped with the capability to work on 4G/LTE networks and THAT TO ME was the death knoll from the get go.  AT&T just launched its high-speed LTE network in many cities across the country and Verizon Wireless has had its LTE network running for many months.  The networks were ready and waiting but Apple wasn’t ready to go.  If I am going to part with $199 (or $299 for the higher storage capacity model) I want to be able to utilize the fast wireless speed to download data, video chat and talk.  But not with this version.

During my commentary to various media outlets over the past few months I have been describing the release of this new iPhone as the “Windows ME” for Apple’s signature product. Windows ME – if you remember – was Microsoft’s interim operating system that was launched in 2000 primarily because Microsoft (the “Google of the 90’s” for you kids) needed a new revenue stream that year as they were waiting to perfect Windows XP to replace Windows 98.  ME was horrible – full of bugs and not necessary.  The only new real feature of ME was the “system restore” application which Microsoft continues in its operating system today.  In my mind that product was a money play and a place holder until the new, improved and better Windows XP was launched only 11 months later.  Sound familiar?

It seems my analogy of the new iPhone to Windows ME was prophetic.  There is no need to rush out or even crawl out to get the 4S.  Other than being a bit faster and having a better camera this latest version of Apple’s eye (er, profit center) does pretty much the same thing as my 3Gs (and the six other Android OS smartphones I am reviewing now).

This could be Apple’s version of “The Other Guy Blinked.”  That book recounted how Pepsi allegedly won the cola war back in the 80’s when Coca-Cola launched “New Coke.”  We all know how that infamous product turned out.  Coca-Cola is now the top dog in the beverage world but it took a major PR hit with that product 25 years ago.

I think Apple is going to take a hit with this product but I can’t solely blame Apple.  Consumers want to be wowed with new features that are far-and-above anything else on the market.  Apple did that and changed the wireless industry war back in 2006 with the first iPhone.  But nothing seems to jump out at me with the new 4S that changes the game or make millions of people buy this version.  Expect manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, ZTE and Motorola to take advantage of Apple’s hiccup these next few months and release new smartphones with the same or better features.

But the other guys should be warned.  Apple may have blinked this time and they may lose some potential customers to other devices with the impressive Android OS.  But Apple will be laser-focused to quickly launch the true iPhone 5.  Only then will I recommend standing in line after Tim Cook speaks.

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