Just as night follows day, each June brings a new iPhone, right? Not always. And certainly not this time around. But just why did Apple delay the iPhone 5? Top10.com tests the veracity of the rumours ahead of its re-scheduled appearance towards the year’s end or even early 2012.
1 It’s a Verizon thing
Following aeons of waiting, Apple phones finally became available on US carrier Verizon in January. After setting a first-day handset sales record for the network, it’s now expected to shift between nine to 13 million units in 2011.
It could be that Apple has opted to leave a longer gap between iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 to pacify irate Verizon customers who’ve just shelled out for an Apple smartie only to find that it’s outmoded a matter of months later.
For our part, we think that’s something that Verizon might’ve lobbied Apple to do. But after changing the previous industry paradigm where carriers held all the power, these days Apple pleases itself. What’s more, although 13 million sounds like a lot, it’s a drop in the ocean in Apple’s global customer base and so was unlikely to influence Jobs and co unduly.
2 Apple is holding fire for the Christmas market
With iPad sales expected to hit 8 million for the next quarter alone, Apple is hardly desperate to get its killer product to market to buoy revenue. So it’s easily in a position to save its blockbuster product at the busiest retail period of the year.
However, we’re not sold on this being a factor in the delay. After all, it’s not as though landing in June in other years has harmed sales anyway in the build-up to Christmas.
3 The company is still smarting from antennagate
Problems with dropped calls didn’t hurt sales of iPhone 4. But the fact that the handset didn’t fulfil its primary function of making and taking calls properly did put a real dent in Apple’s hitherto spotless reputation with tech movers and shakers.
Conjecture abroad at the time was that Apple had rushed iPhone 4 to market and that this was the reason the death-grip hadn’t been ironed out. So it’s entirely plausible that this time around the notoriously perfectionist Jobs wants to avoid a repeat.
4 Component shortages have stymied the launch
Problems in component factories caused by the Japanese tsunami disaster have been cited as a factor in many delayed tech products this year. The effect this had on Apple will have been mitigated by the fact that its company policy is to pay for parts in advance.
But that doesn’t mean it will have been immune, as the extended five week wait time for iPad 2s ordered just after its release testifies. So for that reason, we think is almost certain to be a contributory factor.
5 Apple has taken a late decision to add 4G support
The first 4G Android phone, the HTC Evo 4G, dropped back in March last year. And it’s since been followed by a host of Android kit with next-gen network support, such as the Evo Shift variant, the Samsung Epic 4G and the Motorola Atrix.
In the meantime, despite high hopes that the Verizon iPhone 4 would offer 4G support, in the end it was 3G only. That’s meant that for all Apple’s just-announced and admittedly very cool software additions, its new phone could end up looking a bit last-gen next to its biggest rival in the smartphone space.
So it’s not out of the question that Apple has postponed the iPhone 5 to get this feature on board. Adding credence to that theory is that this would give Apple the time it needs to get an LTE Qualcomm chip on board that uses less power and has been thoroughly tested.
Waiting until the chip is available will also mean that the Apple aesthetes won’t have to make the design compromises that first-gen LTE chipsets demanded, as alluded to when COO Tim Cook explained that 4G had been omitted from the Verizon edition of the iPhone 4.
6 They're clearing the way for twice-yearly updates
The way some journos have it, the delay has nothing to do with shortages or matters beyond Apple’s control but is evidence that the tech giant is very consciously changing its strategy.
By the experts’ rationale, from hereon in Apple will release two new handsets a year. The advantages of this being a) there’s less pressure to come up with a smartie that redefines handsets every 12 months b) It’d clear the way for Apple to offer handsets at a range of price points, thereby allowing it to compete with mid-range Android numbers more effectively.
There is some sense in the pricing theory, especially when you consider that right now Apple is effectively conceding the lower end of the market to Android. But we can’t help feeling that the fabled cheap iPhone Nano would represent a much better way of taking the fight to Google.
What’s more, stage management and PR is at the heart of what Apple does. A twice yearly unveiling of a new iPhone would make new iterations much less of an event and could actually damage their allure more than abandoning its ‘premium product at a premium price’ policy that’s so far made a cheaper iPhone a non-starter.
7 Steve Jobs’s health problems caused it
Within a matter of hours of Steve Jobs’ appearance at the WWDC, shares in Apple had dipped 1.5 per cent. Of course, a lot of that will be down to the fact that no iPhone 5 this quarter means reduced revenue in the short term. But the fact that Apple’s leading light looked a long way from recovery wouldn’t have helped either.
Some folk have posited that the delay is to allow Jobs time to get back in the saddle to oversee Apple’s largest product launch of the year. For what it’s worth, it’s not a theory we’re buying.
For one thing, acting CEO Steve Cook has done a grand job in this stead. And for another, Jobs’ appearance at WWDC suggests he’ll be well enough to helm the PR circus when iPhone 5 does land.
8 It wants to throw a spanner in rivals’ schedules
By releasing a new iPhone every June, rival phone makers know exactly when to bring out their phones to ensure they’ve got the longest window possible to hoover up sales before the next iPhone lands. The set-in-stone refresh date also means that manufacturers are easily able to avoid a launch date that puts their wares in a head to head run off with a new iPhone.
By playing silly buggers with its schedules, Apple eliminates that advantage at a stroke. And a welcome side-effect is that it then also scoops up more column inches as pundits queue up to speculate what Cupertino might have up its sleeve this time around.
9 Apple is waiting to see how NFC goes down
This one stems from a report in the Independent back in March, wherein it was claimed that Apple isn’t looking to match the NFC smarts of a slew of phones powered by Android 2.3 any time soon. The reasoning is apparently that its waiting to see if smartphone digital wallets actually work before deciding to make its move.
Given Apple’s M.O of turning up late to the party and doing something better than anyone else, we see why this rumour got some traction. But we still can’t see it being a compelling enough reason to delay the iPhone 5 given that it’s pretty apparent to anyone that NFC payments are still likely to be the preserve of early adopters and geeks for a while yet.
10 Erm..what delay?
At no time did Apple ever announce that iPhone 5 would land in June. So strictly speaking, there was no delay. That’s what the tech types would say anyway, and we can kinda see where they’re coming from.
But let’s not play games with semantics. Lots of people were expecting to be able to upgrade in a few months time and will be desperately disappointed that's now not an option. Try telling them there’s no delay and see where that gets you.