As is typically the case with me, rather than rushing into first impressions of any mobile device, it’s always best I think to wait a few days and let ‘stuff’ sink in. That way, the obvious stuff comes out – as it has already numerous times in numerous places, while I wait to see if the less obvious things get picked up.
OK, everyone has already made a big deal about Siri – I’m not convinced the world is going to suddenly start issuing voice commands but it’s a cool piece of software, and its cool that the iPhone 4S can handle it. That, of course, relies entirely on the new A5 chip sitting inside of the 4S (that would be the same speedy chip that now sits in the iPad 2) and new features of iOS.
Far faster, the new A5 chip that drives the 4S and new iOS enhancements allow the new iPhone to deliver a crisp experience with those voice commands – not something that would have been possible with its predecessors, and absolutely not something Steve Jobs would have been able to tolerate otherwise.
Yes, it is now a world phone – that has been too long in coming, but now it’s in place. Finally, an 8 MP camera – I can’t get too excited about this myself, but it is never the less a useful upgrade, especially for the enterprise, as we’ll see shortly.
Upgrade – that is what the iPhone 4S is, but it is a very critical upgrade for one specific reason. And it isn’t a reason a lot of people have made note of.
And what is that reason? Give up? It’s all about the new Sprint relationship.
As we head into the holiday buying season, there will be enormous pent up demand from long suffering Sprint customers – on both the consumer and enterprise fronts - to buy iPhones. These folks that have had to make do with little more than Android and BlackBerry devices will finally have the best of the best iPhones to play with. For anyone that hasn’t been able to buy one until now (and for Sprint customers that may have switched and had to give up their old iPhones) it’s a whole new ballgame.
Significant Enterprise Value
At face value the 'upgrade' looks to be primarily consumer oriented. But there are clear enterprise benefits to consider. First, the fact that Sprint is focused on delivering a true unlimited data plan should cause some IT people to do some serious bandwidth costs homework. Sprint may now be in a position to deliver cost effective levels of bandwidth needed by enterprises – especially those employing or planning to employ mobile video streaming capabilities and mobile video conferencing. Enterprises should speak to Sprint ASAP to build tomorrow’s business data plans today.
In addition to the 8 MP camera, the iPhone 4S now offers 1080p video capability with enhanced stabilization - again, the result of a much better processer. The A5 delivers at least a two-fold improvement in graphics speed (Apple suggests a seven fold increase, but let’s be conservative). For the enterprise this translates to far better business video capability.
The faster processor also comes with improved battery life (in truth this will need to be field tested, but let’s assume some increase in performance). Normally a faster processor would drain the battery faster. This is of significant benefit to the enterprise: first, extended battery life simply keeps people connected longer; second, and more important, the faster processor means that security software (typically the one enterprise piece of critical software that must always run in the background and steals processor cycles and battery life) becomes much more efficient – enterprises must take this into consideration.
Last, there are two more subtle enterprise upgrades. With GSM and CDMA built in, the iPhone 4S is now a world phone – for busy international road warriors this is a significant enterprise upgrade. It isn’t a consumer issue. Last, iMessage now offers direct IM capability between any iOS device. Enterprises can build around this for business purposes – BlackBerry Messenger now has a worthy new competitor.
The enterprise bottom line is that although on the surface the iPhone 4S looks to be a simple upgrade, in truth it has become a far more advanced enterprise device – not only for its built-in features but from the perspective of building secure enterprise applications.
Apple isn’t Done
For Sprint, with it’s fairly high profile ads that promise to deliver true unlimited high speed data plans and the latest iPhone to go with those plans, it will be a windfall. For Apple, they will get an entirely new and very large set of customers for the holiday buying season without having to give up too much to the competition on technology.
What will happen is that Samsung, HTC and Motorola will now need to deliver their best technologies for the holiday season. Apple, meantime, sits back with the iPhone 5 and will deliver it some time in early 2012. Apple will create huge marketing buzz around this – all without any effort. Perhaps a 'stay tuned for …' event planned to simply pre-empt what the competition delivers in the upcoming quarter and to likely freeze potential buyers.
If I know Apple, and I think I do, the iPhone 5 will be yet another game changer. As soon as the competition takes its best shot (and keep in mind that the competition will be competing not merely with Apple but with each other as well), Apple will follow with subtle hints about the next wave of mobility. The iPhone 5 and the retina display iPad 3 will raise the bar yet again.
It's a grand plan typical of Jobs – I'm sure he'll be watching with great joy from wherever visionaries go after they leave us. And I'm sure Apple will pull it off.