What’s Happening Tomorrow, and Why

It’s a given that Apple is going to announce a new iPhone tomorrow (October 4). Nobody doubts that. But for the last couple of months, I’ve been following this insane barrage of conflicting rumors that we’ll have an iPhone 5 with a four-inch screen, LTE, and even the kitchen sink; or that we’ll have an iPhone 4S with an A5 and a better camera. Or, we’ll have both. Or, we’ll have both, as well as a continuation of the iPhone 4. Or, as MacRumors has posted today, we’ll have all of this, in addition to the continuation of the iPhone 3GS. Most ridiculous of all, there are now rumors that the iPhone 5 will be exclusive to Sprint. It seems that these rumors have reached a fever pitch today, with all the sane rumors fading out in favor of the most absurd. So I thought I’d try to bring back the sanity by clarifying what will most likely happen tomorrow, going through some of the major rumors one by one, and providing my reasoning behind why a given outcome is to be expected.

Steve Jobs will not do tomorrow’s keynote.

We all want to see Steve Jobs perform tomorrow’s keynote. Let’s face it – he’s the best presenter in the world, and there will never be another like him. Furthermore, Steve Jobs was Apple. Without Steve, there will be no Apple. At least, that’s what most people, myself included, tend to believe. And that’s exactly why Steve will not do tomorrow’s keynote. Apple has to show us that we’re wrong on this, and that Apple can continue to exist without Steve. Tim Cook will be the major figure at tomorrow’s keynote, to better position him in the public view as a capable leader.

Sprint will not gain iPhone 5 exclusivity.

I shouldn’t even have to explain this one. One of today’s rumors says that the iPhone 5 will initially be exclusive to Sprint, and that AT&T and Verizon will meanwhile be stuck with the 4S. Sprint, as compared to the likes of AT&T and Verizon, is a relatively minor carrier. Why would Apple commit suicide by placing the fate of the iPhone in Sprint’s hands and turning their back on their already enormous consumer base? They won’t. This is just Sprint coming out in the open about their wet dream, and nothing more. Apple would never ditch the two largest carriers in the US in favor of a smaller one.

The iPhone 4S will be the only iPhone announced tomorrow.

Perhaps the most pesky next-gen iPhone rumor is that the redesigned iPhone 5 will have a bigger screen. Two things:

A. The iPhone always has had, and always will have, a 3.5-inch screen. While up until 2010, there was nothing to ensure this, there is now the iPad. The primary difference between the iPad and the iPhone is screen size. Apple wants owners of iPhones to also purchase iPads. How do you make sure this happens? Keep the devices radically different. And since screen size is the only real difference, it will remain so. If Apple gave the “iPhone 5” a 4 or 4.5-inch screen, it would then become satisfactory for many of the iPad’s purposes (books, full-time web browsing, productivity, HD video). The iPhone 5 would then begin to cannibalize iPad sales. While I would still purchase a hypothetical upcoming iPad 3 after owning this hypothetical big-screen iPhone 5, I am not the average consumer. I’m an Apple geek. I blog about Apple, and code for Apple’s platforms. I need a large range of Apple devices to do these things well. If Apple makes it, I have to have it. The average consumer… not so much. They buy a device that meets their needs, and most likely won’t buy an overlapping device.

B. Screen size aside, there will not be a redesigned iPhone 5. It will be the iPhone 4S. Notice that there have been no leaks of parts for a redesigned iPhone 5. All the parts indicate an iPhone 4S. Furthermore, the name has even appeared in recent iTunes betas. As much as I’d like an iPad 2-like design for an iPhone 5, what motivation would Apple have to do this? Once again, Apple still wants to sell iPads, and wants the iPhone and the iPad to remain differentiated.

The iPhone 4S will basically be as the more sane rumors have described it.

It’s more or less a given now that the iPhone 4S will have a dual-core A5 processor, as seen in the iPad 2, and an eight-megapixel camera. It will keep the design of the iPhone 4. I’d also say that Assistant is more or less a sure thing. However, Assistant won’t be this huge revolution everyone’s making it out to be. Remember how much Apple hyped up FaceTime, saying it’s the future of calling? Now, how many people actually use FaceTime, apart from trying it out when they first get a device that supports it? Assistant will be the same thing. It’ll be cool. It might even work well. But nobody’s really going to use it much because the way we interact with our phones today works and works well, and speech recognition just really isn’t as great as people make it out to be.

Perhaps more debatable is network support for the iPhone 4S. I can see the world phone thing from two different sides. From one viewpoint, you have the fact that Apple would just have to manufacture one model. From the other, you have the fact that most iPhones sold are still carrier-locked (and the carriers will never have it any other way), so it still doesn’t carry any other real benefits. LTE’s not gonna happen though. I believe only five US cities have it on AT&T. The technology simply isn’t widespread enough to be of any real value. Furthermore, it’s still too much of a battery whore. Until new, more efficient, LTE chipsets are out (supposedly next year), Apple won’t put it in an iPhone. Plus, about that time, LTE may be widespread enough to be of some actual use.

Then we have HSPA+. I’m expecting it. Why? I guess it’s because why shouldn’t I? HSPA+ is far more widespread than LTE (in fact, the town I live in, which is by no means significant in any respect, has it). 3G is getting a bit slow to do a few things, and with iCloud about to be released, more speed certainly helps Apple provide a better experience with their devices and services. Plus, as far as I know, HSPA+ is far less of a battery whore than its LTE cousin.

The lineup will be as follows: 8GB iPhone 4, 16GB and 32GB iPhone 4S.

I’ve already explained why Apple will not be releasing an iPhone 5. The next thing to answer is why the 3GS will be no more. I myself am a 3GS owner, and trust me when I say it’s beginning to grow long in the tooth. It’s running iOS 4.3.3, and it’s starting to get pretty slow. No doubt iOS 5 will make this even worse. Not only will Apple not want to sell a device that feels slow (seriously, that’s Android’s thing), but it’s inevitable that the 3GS will not support iOS 6 next year. And Apple won’t want to be selling a device that won’t be able to run the OS announced the day after it’s finally discontinued for good. Anyone remember Windows XP, that really old OS that just won’t go away? If Apple kept the 3GS around any longer, it would be Apple’s XP. It would be something supported far past its useful life.

I hope this helps sort out the endless stream of iPhone rumors that have been going around. I know I didn’t touch on things like NFC (but really, read the bit on LTE and apply the same reasoning), and I know it’s possible that I could be wrong, but I’m reasonably sure of everything I’ve written here. Go ahead and bet on it. As for me, if Apple allows pre-orders tomorrow, I will be pre-ordering my iPhone 4S promptly. 

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