Cutting Room: Apple’s rivals sniffing at its heels

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Jasper Jackson argues that sales of the iPhone 4S will not be affected by market negativity, but if Apple doesn’t release its next phone for another 14 months, the device could be trailing behind its rivals

The disappointment shown by the media and markets in the iPhone 4S is unlikely to affect sales. Remember, a bad press did little to stop the iPhone 4 breaking sales records. Yet the response to the device still suggests that Apple post-Jobs is falling short of the expectations built up over the long lead-times between launches.

The iPhone 4S is very good. But it has taken 14 months, when competitors are producing ever more comparable devices with increasing speed.

Since the iPhone 4 was released in July last year, Samsung and HTC have produced products that have surpassed the iPhone 4’s raw specs.

The iPhone 4S puts Apple ahead, but the gap between the competition is much smaller than when the 4 came out.

The lukewarm response to the 4S suggests Apple will have to accelerate to keep ahead of its rivals, which are already improving at a formidable rate.

4S disappointment stems from lack of significant design changes. It looks the same as its predecessor and is only slightly heavier. Hardware upgrades seem underwhelming, and may not be apparent to the average user.

The upgrade to the A5 processor of the iPad 2 is impressive, yet can be simply chalked up to the progression of chip speeds based on Moore’s law: “the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every year”.

An improved antenna reminds us of the iPhone 4’s reception issues. The jump to eight megapixels for the 4S camera merely brings it in line with other high-end devices.

On the other hand, the camera will let in 73 per cent more light, shoot at a wider angle and can kick into picture taking mode faster than the competition.

That the 4S can run on both GSM and CDMA networks will simplify Apple’s logistics.

iOS5 also promises much. The new notification system negates one of the advantages of the Google Android OS.

Apple’s iCloud service will drive hardware sales and revenues in Apple’s content businesses. The iMessage function will appeal to the BlackBerry Messenger fans.

If the voice-activated Siri personal assistant is as good as Apple says, it may do for voice activation what the iPhone did for touchscreens. An often-tried idea may be executed so well it becomes a must-have feature.

So, despite the lukewarm reaction, the iPhone 4S is a leap forward for Apple. The new features will provide probably the best user smartphone user experience.

But if it takes another 14 months to produce the iPhone 5, the look of the device may not matter. A year from now the iPhone 5 will be playing catchup rather than setting the pace.

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