There was much hand-wringing last week when the iPhone 4S was revealed. Where was the radical redesign? Why wasn’t the body all aluminium? Why is the home button not bigger? Yet those who complained should really have known better.
It was clear from numerous well-placed sources speaking with respected publications that the iPhone 4S would be an iterative update.
It fits into the pattern of previous upgrades, most notably from the iPhone 3G to iPhone 3GS and is proof positive that Apple regards the spec sheet as a secondary concern compared to getting things working perfectly.
And while ‘disappointed’ might have been the watchword for hardcore tech fanatics, it seems such worries aren’t shared by the general public.
Yesterday, Apple revealed it had processed a million pre-orders for the iPhone 4S in its first 24 hours on sale. By comparison, the iPhone 4, the phone which ‘changed everything’, only managed 600,000 on its first day.
It’s virtually impossible to argue with such figures. Apple has clearly done its homework. It knows that people who bought an iPhone 3GS two years ago, with their contracts at an end, will be gagging to get their hands on an iPhone 4S.
Likewise, those who had an iPhone 3G last year were desperate to buy an iPhone 4. This isn’t simple brand loyalty, but something much deeper.
The manner in which Apple runs its ecosystem makes it hard for people to leave. Some might say this is a deliberate tactic that shows why a closed approach is borderline unethical.
But in reality it’s down to the fact that it works brilliantly for those who don’t care about the detailed specs, but do want bleeding edge features that work seamlessly. Of course, a phone with a bigger screen, NFC and a radical redesign would have caused certain tech types to swoon.
But Apple must surely know that making such a change would have risked alienating the masses. And it’s this demographic, after all, who the Cupertino-based company is targeting.
The iPhone 4S plays into this brilliantly, as it offers subtle changes and still boasts the same design cachet as older devices.
When people pull it out, there’s no doubting it’s an iPhone. As these sales figures show, that still has huge allure for regular joes.
Expect Apple to do an inordinate amount of iPhone business by the end of 2011. If the pre-order stats are a marker, it’ll easily break all previous records and overshadow the release of other handsets, Nokia’s Windows Phones and the Samsung Galaxy Prime included.
By 2012, of course, we’ll all be gagging for yet another update. And it’s hard to imagine that failing to match the iPhone 4S’s lofty achievements.