Some Thoughts About iPhone 4S And iPhone 5 (Not) Disappointment

There seem to be three (at least) schools of thought regarding yesterday’s iPhone 4S announcement. There are those who embrace it as a solid and substantial advance performance-wise over the iPhone 4 — the dual-core A5 processor displacing the single-core A4 — lots of power to run the new Siri Assistant voice command function; a new 8 Megapixel camera with better physical optics and a lot more software bells and whistles plus improved video, better antennae (yes, plural – the 4S supports both GSM and CDMA), as well as smaller engineering enhancements like Bluetooth 4. Some folks also preferred the existing 3.5″ Retina Display as being practical for a compact handset, so were not displeased that Apple retained it, and the iPhone 4′s general form factor still has an elegant, classically tasteful look, so if it ain’t broke…..

Photo Courtesy Apple
Then there’s the folks who had been hoping for a radically redesigned iPhone 5 — curved glass, bigger display, and so forth, but on sober second thought have decided that even with the carry-over enclosure, the iPhone 5 really does represent a substantial advance and will quite happily buy one to replace their 3Gs, 3GSs, perhaps even well-used but battered early 4s.

Thirdly, there are those who were disposed to settling for nothing less than a complete redesign and version name transition, some who evidently wouldn’t have been satisfied with less than an quad-core A6 CPU and full LTE/4G support, and who say they’ll jump ship to Android.

Now, none of these perspectives is “wrong.” These are matters of taste and personal priorities, and we’re talking about mobile telephones here. Personally, I’m more of the first-mentioned persuasion, but that’s just me. I understand the desire for a larger screen, but it’s always a compromise in this sort of device, and there’s no way to (substantially) increase the screen size without the phone having a bigger footprint, which has objective drawbacks notwithstanding the advantages of more display real estate. Hoping for an A6 at this point was always unrealistic, though. It’s coming, but simply won’t be ready until next year, and will likely appear in the iPad 3 first, just as the A5 CPU first appeared in the iPad 2.

Having been in this game for a long time, I can’t help but discern a strong analogy with the reaction that greeted the unveiling of the Apple PowerBook 2000 FireWire at Tokyo Macworld Expo in March, 2000. For many months leading up there had been widespread speculation in the Apple-oriented blogosphere about the forthcoming “Pismo” PowerBook — a G4 CPU was expected by many, as was a radically new form factor. There was also dismay when the new Pismo wasn’t unveiled in Steve Jobs’s Macworld San Francisco keynote in early January — shades of the reaction of many at an iPhone 5-less WWDC last June.

Then when the new PowerBook finally was rolled out 2 1/2 months later, it still had a G3 processor, only mildly speedbumped from 333MHz to 400MHZ and 400MHz to 500MHz respectively for the entry-level and high-end models. And it looked virtually identical to the preceding Apple PowerBook G3 Series USB Bronze Keyboard (AKA “Lombard”) with the same 4:3 aspect ration 1024 x 768 14″ display that dated back to the PowerBook G3 Series WallStreet of 2008 when many had been hoping for a widescreen PowerBook. Never mind that the “Pismo’s” internals had been completely re-engineered, with a new motherboard design, “New World” dynamic ROM architecture replacing the erstwhile hard-wired ROMs of earlier PowerBooks, and the eponymous FireWire hot-pluggable high-speed data I/O interface taking over from the notoriously cranky SCSI. Nothing short of a widescreen G4 PowerBook would do.

But know what? The Pismo turned out to be one of the best and most beloved Apple notebook computers ever — the last of the classic black PowerBooks. I’m personally of a mind that it was at least the best PowerBook ever. I still have two of them in active service and in fine fettle well into their 12th year of use. They’ve both been hotrodded with G4 processors, DVD-burner SuperDrives, RAM upgrades, and the one I’m typing this blog on right now has a hard drive five times the capacity of the one it originally shipped with, but the basic machine has stood the test of time well.

Its prodigious goodness notwithstanding, the Pismo had one of the shortest Mac notebook production lives, being available for just eight months in 2000 during which Apple sold tons of them. That’s something it will likely share in common with the iPhone 4S, which will now most probably be replaced with an iPhone 5 (or 6) come WWDC in June, 2012, analogous to the Pismo PowerBook’s replacement with the revolutionary PowerBook G4 “Titanium” with its astonishingly thin, widescreen, metal-skinned form factor in January, 2001.

The TiBook was spectacular to look at, and the somewhat larger display had its advantages, but it proved fragile and far less robust than the Pismo had been, and if someone offered me a choice of a brand-new example of either model, I’d go with the Pismo in a heartbeat.

Perhaos someday there’ll be folks who think of the iPhone 4S like that.


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One Response to Some Thoughts About iPhone 4S And iPhone 5 (Not) Disappointment

  1. David says:

    I agree with your comments on the Pismo. I purchased mine in the spring of 2000 and got 9 year of use from it before replacing it with a 17″ Macbook Pro a couple of years ago. I would not have replaced it even then except that both the screen and motherboard needed to be replaced. Don’t get me wrong, I love my current laptop, but there are times when I wish I’d gone ahead and replaced the parts it needed. I could have even upgraded the CPU at the same time. I’d previously upgraded its RAM and replaced it’s hard drive with a 40GB drive as the original 6GB storage (the largest HD available for it in 2000) proved too small to install MacOs X. Those upgrades took less than an hour and I’m sure a new screen and motherboard would not have been much harder. It was a great computer and, I too, would buy it again in a heartbeat.

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