What the iPhone 5 Needs to Stay in Front of the Smartphone Pack
The latest predictions are that Apple's Sept. 12 launch of the iPhone 5 will be the biggest in history, at least according to Peter Misek from Jefferies research. The firm is predicting that Apple will have about 15 million iPhone 5 devices in inventory by mid-September, enough to satisfy at least the initial demand.
The company also noted that more than 600 million smartphone users will be coming out of their contracts by the end of 2013 and that a generous share of those will want iPhones.
There is almost certainly pent-up demand for the new iPhone. In fact, the advent of the iPhone is being blamed for a fall in smartphone sales in the second quarter of 2012. According to a Gartner study, smartphone sales globally were off 2.3 percent during that quarter. While the weak European and Asian economy likely played a part in that slump, Gartner said that users were also postponing upgrades so they could buy the new iPhone 5 when it comes out.
In fact, Apple badly needs the iPhone 5 to sell like hotcakes. Right now the Samsung Galaxy S III is eating Apple's lunch and that's become a significant problem for Apple as iPhone sales slow. Samsung is using the lull to push its Android phones.
But the only way for Apple to sell as many iPhone 5 devices as it hopes to is to make it really compelling, and that means really refreshing the iPhone, not just coming out with yet another minor update as has been the case in the past. Let s face it, all that Apple has done so far during the life of the iPhone is release small incremental upgrades. Last year s iPhone 4S wasn't all that different from the previous iPhone 4, for example.
The lack of a major step forward is going to be a problem for Apple unless the iPhone 5 has the technology and ease of use of its Android and Windows competitors. The screen size is a good example. The iPhone 4S has a screen that has a very high resolution display, but it's smaller than the Android phones with which it competes. It's smaller than the screen on the latest Nokia Windows Phone devices.
Fortunately, it appears that Apple has tried to remedy this problem by adopting a screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is the same shape as the screen on your HDTV or on your widescreen laptop. But will it be larger in any dimension other than width? That's not clear.
Larger screens are a fact of life. As phones are designed to consume more and more Web content, display videos, act as e-readers and otherwise perform more screen-intensive tasks, most people need (or at least want) a larger screen. So far, Apple hasn't delivered.
Likewise, Apple needs to support current communications technology. That means supporting HSPA+ at high speeds, having WiFi connectivity at least as good as phones from Samsung and most of all, supporting LTE. As carriers abandon 2G, the iPhone needs to be fully functional on 3G and 4G, with 4G rapidly becoming a must.