Apple Enthusiasts Cry Foul Over iPhone 4S

The longer-than-usual wait for the iPhone 4S ended in major disappointment for avid iPhone users who were expecting a larger screen and teardrop-shaped form factor.

From the first day it became apparent that Apple would not be unveiling a new iPhone at the 2011 WWDC, the range of emotions for iPhone users desperately awaiting the iPhone 5 was complex, ranging from angst to anticipation.

The emotions in the wake of today’s iPhone 4S announcement, however, have been singular: disappointment.

While newly ordained Apple CEO Tim Cook and company did their best to highlight some of the most revolutionary iPhone features to date, such as the lightning-fast A5 processor, an incredibly advanced camera, Siri voice assistant, all of the bells and whistles of iOS 5 and iCloud, and 64GB to boot, the iPhone 4S didn’t deliver on the features that avid iPhone users seemed to want the most: a larger screen to compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S 2 and other top-tier Androids, and the rumored teardrop-shaped form factor.

Most of all, iPhone users just wanted the thing to be called “iPhone 5.”

In an earlier article today, Charles did a wonderful job of outlining the bold new features of the iPhone 4S. At this point, it remains to be seen if these new features will come to court the iPhone 4S skeptics, however. While many have complained about the lack of new looks or a larger screen, the overall sense of disappointment still remains rather unexpressed; the longer the wait, the higher the expectations.

Apple Fails To Manage Expectations for the iPhone 4S

One of the most well-articulated responses among readers and commenters here on the blog thus far has to do with the relationship between the extra wait for the iPhone 4S and its failure to offer an overhauled design. It would seem that most people anticipating the iPhone 5 equated the extra 4-ish months to mean that something bigger, better, and bolder than the iPhone 4 — and that this improvement would be manifested chiefly in form factor and screen size. Likening the fabled iPhone 5 as some kind of magic seed germinating in the dirt, the sense was that a longer wait would mean a more brilliant bloom.

In fact, the longer-than-usual wait — and I have argued this before on the blog — was more about a business decision on Apple’s part than anything. We’ll never know why it took them longer to release the iPhone 4S, but my sense is that it was either because they wanted to give Verizon an equal share of sales time for the iPhone 4, or else they just wanted to wring out as many iPhone 4 sales as possible. After all, Mr. Cook reminded us today that the iPhone 4 accounts for half of all historical iPhone sales now.

The bottom line is this: the iPhone 4S is impressive — it’s way more impressive than it appears to be right now. The problem isn’t the phone — it’s Apple’s mishandling of expectations.

You don’t have to be reminded how the iPhone 5 rumor mill has churned out some of the most fantastic rumors over the past year or so. Now, we can see that the belief that the iPhone 5 would have a 4″+ screen and teardrop design were never a reality; they were just opportunists trying to make a buck off of your desperation. If you’re angry at Apple, a lot of that anger is misdirected: you should mostly be angry at the fake iPhone 5 cases, the fake sightings of iPhone 5 components with larger screens and capacitive home buttons, the bogus videos, the from-the-hip comments from the Verizon CEO, and the seemingly reliable claims that we would have two iPhones — a preposterous idea from the start.

But save some anger for Apple; they mis-handled all of these expectations.

Granted, if Cupertino knew that the next iPhone would either meet or exceed the expectations of the iPhone 5 rumor mill, then making us wait and suffer with no word from them would have been a winning strategy. But they knew that it was going to be an iPhone 4S. They knew it would have the same body as the iPhone 4. They knew the screen would be the same size. And yet, they let the rumor mill churn, setting expectations that the iPhone 4S could never live up to.

I actually wrote an article about this back in June. Weird.

Simply put: Apple should have given us a heads up about the iPhone 4S at WWDC. They didn’t need to spill all of the beans on what to expect from the iPhone 4S. But if they had told everyone that it would utilize the iPhone 4′s form factor, at least they could have lowered expectations.

The legacy of the iPhone 4S cannot be hashed out today. It will be decided over the weeks and months that lay ahead. As readers and followers of the iPhone, however, we’ve learned to take most of the iPhone rumors with a salt shaker’s worth of salt.

And hopefully Apple has learned some lessons about how to manage their own magic as well.


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