If we believe the latest rumors, it appears as if Apple will not be announcing the new iPhone 5 at the WWDC (World Wide Developer’s Conference) in June like that have every preceding year. Instead, they will be focusing on software instead of hardware. At first, I was heartbroken at this news. I had held off on getting the iPhone 4 (opting to hold on to my iPhone 3GS) due to contractual and monetary reasons. Plus, the only new features that were really appealing with the iPhone 4 were a faster processor and a better battery, neither of which justified the purchase. So I’ve been patiently waiting for the iPhone 5, figuring it would be unveiled at the annual WWDC in June.
But Apple focusing on software rather than hardware actually makes perfect sense. I don’t think I could have worded it better than Marco Arment (of Instapaper):
iOS hardware advancement is reaching diminishing returns…when iOS itself gets better, everyone benefits. A major OS update can make a much bigger difference in everyday usage than an incremental hardware update.
Hardware advancement only goes in one direction: faster more succinct. In contrast, software updates can completely revolutionize devices. Software is what changes user interfaces and impact daily usage. While hardware updates mainly effect developers (allowing them to create better and more robust applications) it’s software that largely impacts the average consumer.
In all fairness, it should be software leaks that get the internet rumor-mills churning. Sure, the iPhone 4 leak was interesting to follow, but the important part was the iOS that it was running. Cameras can get better, phones can get faster, and batteries can last longer, but it was multitasking, FaceTime, and application folders that really had the largest impact on consumers. This was also the main reason I held onto my iPhone 3GS. All I had to do was install iOS 4 on my 3GS and I got a whole new phone. It may not have felt different in my hands and I couldn’t use FaceTime*, but I got all the other features. And it was completely free.
So when Tinhte released a video featuring the highly anticipated white iPhone, it was the unknown version of iOS on the white iPhone that is truly important. From the videos, it appears to be running a working version of what we can only call iOS 5. This white iPhone sports features such as Exposé-like app switching (neat), new Spotlight location (finally), and Facebook integration (ugh).
Why isn’t Apple freaking out in the same manner as the iPhone 4 leak? I would have to say it’s marketing strategy. Apple needs to hype their hardware in order to sell more products since software updates remain free to all devices running iOS (for now). When Apple gets all hot and bothered over hardware, what they’re really trying to convey is “This is a super secret special device and you must own it. This journalist was raided by the police for having one, do you think you can even HANDLE IT?”
Either way, iPhone 5 rumors aren’t what interest me, it’s iOS 5 that I’m curious about. What will it do differently? How will it impact the way I use my iPhone and iPad? How will it make my life easier?
*At that point, FaceTime was simply a gimmick anyway. After the novelty wore off, how many people actually used it? It wasn’t until FaceTime became available on the iPad (with the launch of the iPad 2) and the OSX that it really became an effective mode of communication.