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June 1, 2012

iPhone Rumors? Finally!

Michael Harper for RedOrbit.com


It´s a bit of a joke among the Apple set.

If ever a single word could be accurately employed to define both Apple´s philosophy and it´s customers feelings towards the company, one would have to look no further than this word. No doubt you´ve already seen it used in multiple tech blogs and websites..”Finally, multi-tasking for iPhone” or “Finally, Wi-Fi Syncing in iTunes” or even “Finally, a retina display for iPad.”

It´s this “finally” that makes Apple such a great company, misunderstood as they may be. Apple isn´t ashamed or scared of Finally. At times it even feels as if they revel in Finally, taking great pride not in being the first to market, but the best in the market.

Apple is willing to take their time to make sure they get it right. It´s quite cunning, really, and extremely simplistic. Apple has no problem letting other companies make mistakes in being the first to market. Apple will patiently sit and watch, learning from the other guys´ mistakes. While Apple customers are always the benefit for this patience, it can often be frustrating, especially as we wait for new features or new products. Our crying out for new features and functionality normally has no effect on Apple. They´ll make the changes when they feel good and ready, making adjustments and implementations only when they believe it will improve the product on the whole. It is in this way and only this way that Apple tries to make their customers happy. They believe they know how to make a great product, and the customers will not be happy until they get the product in their hands. It´s just as Steve Jobs said:  “A lot of times people don´t know what they want until you show it to them.”

So, in reading the recent iPhone rumors, I can´t help but see the word Finally all over this thing. Finally, a 4-inch screen. Finally, 4G connectivity. Finally, a chance to get the iPhone in China Mobile´s lineup. A new form factor. New Maps app. Better Siri integration.


As Gruber writes here, Apple improves their devices by taking care of the low-hanging fruit first. They´ll build the tree, announce the tree, ship the tree and then, in a year or so, take care of some minor pruning, tackling the easy, most pressing issues first. For instance, look no further than copy and paste, third-party apps and push notifications. As Gruber points out, it´s getting harder to see what the low-hanging fruit will be this go-around. Instead, it seems more likely that Apple will grow the tree and add more branches to give newer, fresher fruit a chance to grow.

Finally, a 4-inch screen

Have you ever noticed anything suspicious about the 4-inch and larger Android devices? It would seem these smartphones are all about compensation. Android handset makers wanted to be the first to market with 4G speeds, but they quickly found out battery life is miserable on these devices. The solution? Slap a larger screen on top of a bigger battery.

It´s not the most elegant fix but it seems to work.

And thus, the world seems to travel backwards, as the size of the screen is often seen as a symbol of quality. Everyone wants that big display–complete with kickstand if they can find it–to occupy as much space in their pocket as possible.

Should Apple grow to 4-inches (or 3.999 whatever) it won´t be in response to other devices. Has Apple always wanted to build a larger screen? Are they finally convinced that it can be done well? Personally, I´m betting Apple will only enlarge the screen as a way to tighten up their ecosystem, upgrading and improving other devices as they go along.

Therefore, a 4-inch iPhone–with the suspected 16:9 ratio–could serve to take pictures which will look better on a television screen. The same could work going backwards, as videos, movies and television shows could end up looking better on a 4-inch display. It´s important to note that so far, according to these rumors, the width of the phone is staying the same, meaning that we´ll still be able to control the phone with one-hand: a feature that Apple cares deeply about. If you have an iPhone near you, give this a try: See if you can hold the phone in one hand and touch the outermost corners of the device, past the screen. It gets a little tough when you reach diagonally across the device, but it´s still possible without any discomfort, barring some sort of handicap.

It´s reasonable to believe any new iPhone with a 4-inch screen will be operable one-handed with your thumb. Presto: A better screen with a better aspect ratio, and still completely usable with one hand and no stylus, a la Samsung Note.

Finally, 4G LTE

When Apple announced their first iPhone, they planted one huge tree. Sure, the branches were pretty bare, but it was still a completely functional thing of beauty, and while many people bemoaned the device for it´s lack of some critical functionality, many more saw the phone as the beginning of something big. It didn´t look like much at the time, but it had arrived, and there was plenty of room for lush greenery and delicious fruit.

One of these areas was the network on which the phone operated. The first phone only ran on Wi-Fi networks or AT&T´s terrible EDGE network. For a phone so powerful, its network crippled it more than any restriction Apple could have placed on it. It´s well known now: Apple chose not to go with 3G because the network hadn´t been around for that long and as such, wasn´t available in as many regions as EDGE.

What we have now is another EDGE / 3G situation. The iPhone 4S can operate on a faster version of 3G, and Apple even calls this 4G, but a truer, more accurate 4G is still being rolled out and improved upon.

It´s hard to know if this is low-hanging fruit or a completely new branch to the existing tree. In other words, would 4G connectivity be a simple and easy way to improve the existing structure, or would it be significant enough to affect its own sort of change in a few years down the road? 4G with better battery life? 4G with iTunes Match streaming as opposed to downloading? Either way, those of us with iPhones may have spent the last year or two happy with our devices, but we´d probably be lying if we said we weren´t just a little jealous of our Android friends and their 20 Mbps download speeds, even if their batteries can only make it till noon.

Finally, iPhone on China Mobile

It´s sometimes a little too easy to think of Apple as being an exclusively American company. Tim Cook himself attributed their latest and greatest numbers to their overwhelming performance in China and the East, and while most of the rumors in recent weeks have been focused on the size of the display and what kind of connector the new iPhone will utilize, I think they most important rumor thus far is the possibility of the iPhone finally coming to China Mobile.

China Mobile is the world´s largest carrier. The tops. The big leagues. The Show.

How big is China Mobile? 667 million subscribers big, much more than all American carriers combined.

Similar to how T-Mobile supports-yet-doesn´t-support the iPhone, more than 7 million iPhone users in China are on China Mobile´s networks, taking advantage of unlocked phones.

Now, both China Mobile and Apple are at a point in their lives where they need one another. Now that the iPhone has become quite popular in the East, China Mobile is beginning to experience what Sprint felt just before they bet big on the smartphone: Customers leaving the service for greener, iPhone-ier pastures. Apple, too, needs somewhere to expand. They´re already selling to the Big Three in the US as well as several smaller, more rural carriers. They´re reaching a terminal velocity in the States–all this after only 5 years, mind you– and as China has such a tremendous population with a burgeoning middle-class, this move just makes sense. Finally, the iPhone could penetrate China and provide Apple with some leverage to put the final blow to Samsung, delivering this great device to as many customers as possible.


Any other Finally to be had could be introduced in iOS 6, another annual release which not only gives us a glimpse into what the next iPhone will be capable of, but also continues to improve our existing phones. For proof, look no further than the iPhone 3GS. Running iOS 5, it´s better than any brand new low-end Android handset out there, and yet, this device has been around for nearly 3 years. Any new subscriber can pick up one of these phones for free at an AT&T store and leave happy knowing they have one hell of a device. As the hardware improves every year, taking care of some of the larger Finally´s, iOS takes care of some of the easier, smaller cases.

Now, as we stand just on the outskirts of WWDC 2012, Apple seems poised and ready to implement some changes that will not only dramatically improve our iPhones, but tie the entire ecosystem together. From phone to tablet to laptop to possible television, the entire lineup could prove to advance the tech in our houses by leaps and bounds, leaving other companies in the dust and searching for their drawing boards.

Just as Gruber said, there´s not much more low-hanging fruit to be had on the iPhone tree. Now, it seems the only direction to go is up, to allow the tree to continue to grow and add more branches. With every generation, the iPhone has steadily improved. From a faster network to must-have functionality, the iPhone is getting closer to a finished, complete product. Apple has us right where they want us. If this is the year of the Finally iPhone, then next year could be a doozy.