iPhone 4S: Is this it?

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5 October 2011 | 0

At 6pm GMT on 4 October 2011 at the Apple campus in Cupertino, California, Tim Cook faced his first real challenge as new CEO of Apple: the iPhone 4S presentation. Unlike previous events this was not a big show in a massive hall with musical guests and lavish promotional films, this was a stripped down conservative event, concentrating on facts, figures and products we already knew were coming. There was also a sense of a team at work, with Cook setting the scene before tagging in senior vice president of iOS Scott Forstall and vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller.

Forstall introduced latest iteration of the iOS mobile operating system and iCloud, a service for the remote storage of contacts, pictures, calendars and music. Irish ‘Macolytes’ will be unimpressed by the absence of the subscription ($24.99 per year) Match service that takes music not purchased through iTunes and makes it available on iCloud. With 200 new features to play with, iOS 5’s 12 October release date won’t come fast enough.

Double act

For his part, Schiller handled the iPhone 4S segment, and did. The device itself, it does everything the market asked for and a little more. The sleek design of the iPhone 4 was unchanged (letting case markers heave a sigh of relief) but under the hood are an improved camera (8MP over 5MP) with a built-in image editor and full 1080p video capture, faster A5 processor (same as the iPad 2), GSM and CDMA chips (allowing it to work in all time zones), and the impressive voice-activated ‘intelligent assistant’ Siri.

 

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As an incremental improvement on the iPhone 4, the 4S is a fine handset and Apple is smart enough to keep the 3GS and iPhone 4 around for a while, yet the market was less than impressed. Primed for a radical overhaul of the iPhone instead of a series of under-the-hood tweaks the share price dropped by as much as 3% by the time Cook, Forstall and Schiller left the stage. Similarly that great barometer of consumer sentiment, Twitter, was ablaze with comments talking down the 4S for not being radical enough, not being full of the unexpected; in short, being everything people expected. Unless gaming on the iPhone and Siri take off, this is not an upgrade to get excited about.

At time of writing shares were only marginally down (less than 1%), and you can be sure when the iPhone 4S goes on sale in the US in two weeks there will be a positive bump from now until early in the new year.

How did Cook’s first presentation go? It will take some time for audience and new boss to warm to each other, but there is an appealing symmetry in seeing an incremental change in the Apple boardroom complemented by an incremental change in its flagship product. Steady as she goes.

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