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Apr 26, 2011

Verizon iPhone, White iPhone 4s & iPhone 5 Make 2011 Busiest iPhone Year Ever For Apple

For as much as 2010 was a banner year for Apple, with the debut of the iPad and iPhone sales topping 40 million units sold, a busier, more frenetic iPhone release schedule for 2011 is bound to supercharge sales unlike anything we’re ever seen before. With the appearance of the Verizon iPhone in early 2011, the impending release of the white iPhone 4 and purported iPhone 4s, and the eventual iPhone climax — the iPhone 5 — the public will get its fair share of the iPhone this year.

Many might wonder why Apple has upped the ante on iPhone releases for this year, considering how much anticipation and excitement surrounds the usual June release of the newest iPhone. While Android and Blackberry phones outnumber the iPhone, all of them combined do not add to the media frenzy and consumer fervor over the iPhone. On this blog alone, it isn’t unusual for there to be over 60,000 page views a day from people worldwide, all seeking out the latest news on the iPhone 5.

Why would Apple want to subdivide and possibly dilute the buzz that they have so deftly created for iPhone releases by offering multiple releases of the iPhone in a given year?

Some in the media suggest that the staggered releases of the Verizon iPhone, white iPhone 4, and eventual iPhone 5 all point to a sloppy, disorganized release schedule of Apple this year, indicating that perhaps the complexity of adding Verizon to the mix, Steve Jobs’ ongoing health concerns, and unforeseen calamities such as the Japanese earthquake all shaking up the technology giant’s best-laid plans.

More likely, however, is that Apple is evolving their marketing approach to meet the heightened competition brought on by Google’s Android-equipped smartphones. Unlike Blackberry, which designs and manufactures its own smartphone devices like Apple, Google’s partnership with multiple smartphone producers makes competing with them more cumbersome; while the iPhone has traditionally hosted just one big release each year, Droid phones seem to continuously pop up here and there throughout the year. One of the more recent Android offerings, Kyrocera’s Echo, is an impressive new dual-touchscreen design that is already making the iPhone 4 seem outdated, upping the ante on which new features the iPhone 5 will offer.

Even though Android smartphones don’t garner the same attention as the iPhone, the multitude of different models keep new Android technology fresh in the tech bloodstream.

Apple, in turn, has to answer these challenges in the marketplace.

So, the result may be this new release schedule, where we are treated to multiple iterations of the iPhone throughout the year. Instead of having to wait for the iPhone 5, for example, we’ll also have the white iPhone 4, and who knows — maybe an iPhone 4s available to the public? We’ve already discussed at length how the white iPhone 4 is a bit of a paper tiger and perhaps nothing more than a way of keeping the iPhone hype machine running. But even if that is its only purpose, for Apple it is what they perceive to be necessary in order to keep competing against Google in the smartphone race.

iPhone 5 To Be Released On The Cusp Of The New Fiscal Year?

Just a note about the purported September release of the iPhone 5 for September 2011: for most of us, the “year” runs from January to December, so anything that happens within that time frame is considered to be happening in 2011. But for Apple, their fiscal year ends on September 24th. If the iPhone 5 ends up being released on the other side of September 24th, for Apple, that will mean that the earnings for the iPhone 5 will start at the very beginning of fiscal year 2012.

News Of Dual-Network iPhone 5 Benefits Verizon More Than AT&T

Verizon’s recent gaffe confirms that the iPhone 5 will indeed be a dual-network device that will work with both CDMA and GSM. While the notion of a dual-network iPhone 5 isn’t much of a revelation, the news helps Verizon more than AT&T. Here’s why:

Another slip of the tongue has confirmed yet another detail about the upcoming iPhone 5.

Less than three weeks after Sony CEO Howard Stringer tacitly admitted that the next iPhone 5 camera would be of the 8 megapixel variety, Verizon’s Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo seems to have now confirmed that the iPhone 5 will indeed be a dual-network device, supporting both AT&T’s GSM and Verizon’s CDMA technologies. Venturebeat reports that “in an attempt to deflect an analyst probing for details on Apple’s next phone, Verizon inadvertently mentioned that [the iPhone 5] will be a ‘global device’.”

While the iPhone community is always happy to have virtually any detail about the iPhone 5 confirmed or corroborated (except, perhaps, for the recent report of a late September release), news of a dual-network iPhone 5 should not come as an earth-shattering revelation to those who have followed the it over the past six month of so. It is true that Apple had to fashion an alternate CDMA-equipped iPhone 4 to work on the Verizon network, creating two network variants with very slight design differences between the two.

But the production of the CDMA model was a work-around for Apple; obviously, a deal with Verizon had not been solidified by the time the iPhone 4 was launched in the summer of 2010, meaning that the initial AT&T model had no CDMA capabilities. And as we all know, there was no way that Apple could have clandestinely outfitted the original AT&T iPhone to run on CDMA — too many iPhone geeks out there pop open their new iPhones to look under the hood. Any stealth move to equip the iPhone 4 for both networks would have been discovered. This time around, however, it makes good business sense to make sure that the iPhone 5 works on both networks; it will keep production costs down and make shipping and inventory far easier.

An interesting question to consider, however, is whether or not a dual-network iPhone 5 benefits either carrier, or is it just a wash?

I would argue that, while the dual-channel iPhone 5 revelation isn’t going to be any kind of groundbreaking game-changer for either mobile carrier, it is Verizon that may have the most to gain from the notion that both companies will share the same iPhone design.

More than any other iPhone 5 topic on this blog, the subject of AT&T versus Verizon has inspired more angst, vitriol, and hurt feelings. We wrote an article about it a while back, and people weighed in on the issue with gusto, defending their mobile network providers with bravado. It’s a fact: iPhone users are passionate about their carriers. AT&T and Verizon are like political parties around here. (I guess Sprint customers are the Independents.)

Thus, I know that I am stepping into a minefield with Verizon customers when I reluctantly state that CDMA is generally considered to be the slower of the two mobile technologies, disallowing the kind of multi-tasking that AT&T iPhone users typically enjoy. Whether or not this is true, however, is not the issue: the fact remains that this is the prevailing belief about Verizon.

With this is mind, one can imagine that it can only benefit Verizon for prospective iPhone 5 customers to see that the device works on both networks. Unlike the iPhone 4, which has two variants for GSM and CDMA, the iPhone is the same phone, same specs, same technology. AT&T will no longer be able to infer that they have the “better iPhone” model.

Sameness is the name of the game for Verizon this time around, as they will finally have a chance to compete with AT&T right out of the gate with the iPhone 5. The game plan will be the same for both carriers: AT&T will tout speed and versatility, and Verizon will roll out their maps. It should be a real hoot.

Perhaps this admission by Verizon about the dual-channel iPhone 5 will turn out to be the first innoquous shot fired in the iPhone 5 network wars?

Greenpeace’s “Green Libel:” Calling Apple the “Least Green” Tech Company Doesn’t Add Up

For years now, Apple has led the way in the technology sector on environmentally-friendly design concepts and business practices. But Greenpeace’s recent report indicating that Apple’s investment in a data center — reportedly for a soon-to-be-unveiled cloud data storage feature on the iPhone 5 — doesn’t jive with Apple’s eco-ethics. What gives?

Anybody who is a big believer in Apple products knows that green technology and environmental concerns have long been a priority for their research and development. Regardless of where one charts on the ideological spectrum when it comes to environmental issues, one thing is for sure: Apple has been an honest broker in its environmental initiatives. While a cynic might suggest that the green angle on Apple products is little more than a marketing pitch for its devoted customers, the end result of Apple’s eco-friendly developments are unquestionable.

Browse the various gadgets at Apple.com and you’re bound to notice that its most popular products boast a wide array of green-inspired features. For the MacBook series of laptops, Apple devotes an entire section to the environment, highlighting how an efficient power supply, advanced power management, 5.2 energy star qualification, and fewer toxins used in the construction of the design materials all lead to some of the greenest electronics out there on the market today.

The same is true with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod: Apple’s glass displays are recyclable, as are the aluminum chassis used on the MacBooks. In addition, Apple goes out of its way to package its products with an emphasis on minimalism, saving tons of cardboard, plastic, and other packaging materials.

But what is most impressive is Apple’s advancement in battery technology. For as much as carbon emissions are the flavor of the month when it comes to the environmental debate, fewer things pollute a landfill more than alkaline batteries and the grandpappy of rechargeable battery technology: the NiCad. Apple’s LiON battery technology — which really came into its own in 2010 with the iPad and MacBook Pro — is simply out of this world, allowing users to get maximum longevity and performance out of the battery packs used to power their mobile devices.

Given all of the efforts that Apple has made to accommodate environmental concerns, does it strike anyone as strange that an eco-activist organization like Greenpeace would levy such a scathing claim against them, labeling Apple as the “least green” tech company in the world?

It is, in effect, a green libel.

Greenpeace’s report, which is entitled How Dirty is Your Data?, is specifically targeting data centers throughout the world who rely on coal-fueled electricity to power their energy needs. The Guardian reported that, “The facility’s power will be supplied by Duke Energy, with a mix of 62% coal and 32% nuclear.” Apple’s top ranking on Greenpeace’s list stems directly from their recent purchase of petrabytes of data storage at this facility in North Carolina. In case you didn’t hear about it, this investment by Apple is most likely going to account for ushering in cloud data storage on the next iPhone 5 — something that the vast majority of avid iPhone users are incredibly excited about.

The Guardian goes on to state that Greenpeace’s findings are little more than an educated guess: ”Greenpeace drew on publicly available information on investments made in data centres, to estimate the maximum power these facilities will consume, and matched that information with data from the government or utilities.” In short, their findings are mere speculation, in spite of the fact that they are reported empirically.

Guess what, folks — you can’t power petrabytes and petrabytes of data storage for all of the music, photos, videos, and files that we love — not to mention the vast amounts of data storage that top corporations and governments rely on to keep commerce and services running — with a few windmills. The Guardian says, “Data centre energy demand already accounts for 1.5% to 2% of world electricity consumption and is set to quadruple over the next 10 years.”

Regardless of what we may think of coal-powered electricity, we have still yet to come up with a means of powering high performance technology assets like mass data servers with anything less than fossil fuels (or nuclear power, though these days it isn’t the most popular alternative power source). It is unrealistic for Greenpeace or any other iPhone user for that matter to desire more power, more storage, more productivity, and more Appley goodness without their being an increase in the carbon footprint.

We cannot have our cake and eat it, too.

The good news is that Apple has already been so pro-active in reducing its carbon footprint that one could argue that it has some leeway for expanding its data servers. After all, imagine how much less power is used throughout the world on Apple machines, thanks to all of the above-mentioned eco-features? Given all of these advancements, is Greenpeace claiming that Apple is a bigger eco-offender than the top Chinese technology companies, which do not have to abide by any carbon standards whatsoever?

Scan the Greenpeace website, and you quickly come to realize that destroying the coal industry is their primary focus. Whether or not you agree or disagree with coal power or Greenpeace, you have to ask yourself this question: is Apple really the best company to bully over coal-powered electricity and environmental responsibility?

Late iPhone 5 Release Affected By iPhone 4 Sales

The iPhone 4 has been Apple’s most successful iPhone by far, as the delayed release of the Verizon iPhone and rumors of a white iPhone 4 on the way keep sales brisk. But is the success of the iPhone 4 pushing back the iPhone 5?

You know the old saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

For as much as Apple analysts have pointed to the rise of the Droid platform in 2010 as the first shot fired in the smartphone wars, and that the iPhone 5 has to “keep pace” with Droid technology to remain competitive, iPhone 4 sales remain brisk. Apple sold nearly 40 million iPhones in 2010 alone — most of which were of the iPhone 4 variety — and the launch of the Verizon iPhone in 2011 and the soon-to-be white iPhone 4 (which we predicted as a spring 2011 release back in October) all point to continued robust sales throughout the spring and early summer.

Given this reality, why are we even surprised that the iPhone 5 remains sidelined?

There’s no doubt that the iPhone 5 has been completely designed and tested by Apple — there have even been rumors of iPhone 5 prototypes being spotted from North America to Asia. But we know for a fact that Apple has yet to begin iPhone 5 production, with some reports indicating that even no “production roadmap” has been presented to Apple’s component suppliers and assemblers.

Now, just because the news leak-prone Asian suppliers haven’t seen the production roadmap doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist: the iPhone 5 could most likely be put into production at a moment’s notice by Apple, since by this time, all of the plans and specs for the next iPhone are in place. But when you consider how successful the iPhone 4 has been over the past 10 months or so, why even bother rushing the iPhone 5?

To be sure, a severely-stalled iPhone 5 could irk enough stalwart iPhone users to defect to Droid, as we have reported on in another article. But there is another angle to this iPhone 5 delay: Apple may may have realized that stalling the iPhone 5 will funnel more prospective iPhone users to the iPhone 4.

After all, why spend all of the time, money, and resources to improve on the iPhone 4 if it’s still selling like hotcakes?

I often use Nintendo’s various gaming consoles as an analogy to Apple’s own marketing and production logic, and the Wii proves this rationale beautifully: the Wii hasn’t been updated in years, and yet the console — and its litany of games — continue to sell robustly. All Nintendo has to do every year is refresh the product with something cosmetic — such as the black and red Wiis — or the addition of new accessories, like the Wii Motion Plus.

In many ways, the white iPhone 4 is akin to these above-mentioned examples, and a simple, cost-effective way of extending the lifecycle of the iPhone 4.

Will Apple Wait Until 2012 to Release the iPhone 5?

Up until this point, the iPhone 5 News Blog hasn’t entertained rumors that the iPhone 5 could get pushed back as far as 2012 — for the most part, we’ve stuck to our belief that it will make its debut at the end of the summer. (And we were the first blog to predict a late-summer release of the iPhone 5, by the way.) However, the only factor that supports the notion that the iPhone 5 could be released as late as 2012 is the continued sales success of the iPhone 4.

In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Apple has sold 16.24 million iPhones. And with the release of the white iPhone 4 sometime in April or May, as well as continued rumors of the late iPhone 5, it isn’t unrealistic to imagine that Apple may come close to doubling up on sales at the end of the second quarter.

With all of this in mind, perhaps the most effective way of ensuring a timely release of the iPhone 5 is for people to stop buying the iPhone 4?

Metal Back Would Be a “Mea Culpa” For Apple

The “Antennagate” scandal of 2010 spooked iPhone users and marred the early image of the iPhone 4. While Apple fought hard in the press to brush off the reception issues, if the iPhone 5 features either an Internal Antenna and/or metal back, will it be a tacit admission that the iPhone 4 was flawed?

We’ve talked in the press about a panoply of possible new features for the iPhone 5. However, the discussion of either a return to the internal antenna or a metal back (or both) is seldom mentioned in iPhone rumor roundups. The primary reason for this is that the appearance of either or both of these features on the iPhone 5 would not in fact constitute “new features,” but rather would be “fixes” to the contentious Antennagate issue that gripped the tech world in the summer and fall of 2010.

Regardless of where you might be on the antenna issue for the iPhone 4, few current or prospective iPhone users seem to be against the iPhone 5 design returning to earlier, more reliable reception technology. In their March 17th posting, 9 To 5 Mac aptly stated the high probability of the reemergence of the metal back feature. Referencing a reliable source from Foxconn, writer Mark Gurman reported that “Apple has decided to move away from the back-glass enclosure found on the fourth-generation device and move to something similar to the back of the first-generation iPhone from 2007.”

Gurman went on to explain that “if Apple keeps the same antenna design (which was not mentioned by sources) as the iPhone 4 and adds the flat aluminum back, this back should not cause any reception issues.” International Business Times seconds this rumor, and also adds that the iPhone 5 will indeed revert back to the internal antenna seen on the iPhone 4. In this way, Apple is essentially doubling up on fixing the antenna issue.

However, should these two fixes show up on the iPhone 5, how is Apple going to handle it from a PR perspective?

After all, Steve Jobs and the rest of Apple’s marketing and PR mechanism worked overtime last summer to squelch the escalating criticism about the purported faulty antenna and “death grip.” Their approach to dealing with the problem turned out to be complex at best: while on one hand they brushed off the criticism as “overblown,” affirming that the iPhone 4 had the same level of reception quality as its competitors, Apple also responded by distributing free bumpers for the iPhone 4, which was seen by many to be a work-around for an obvious design flaw in the antenna.

This time around, with the iPhone 5, Apple will have to address the decision to return to previous designs when it comes to reception. By utilizing either the internal antenna or metal black, it will be a de facto admission that the iPhone 4 was indeed flawed to some extent. With the metal back, Apple will have some plausible deniability — they can always claim that the decision was entirely aesthetically motivated, especially if they go with a Liquid Metal over Aluminum.

But a return to the internal antenna on the iPhone 5 will be harder to spin.

Apple has always prided itself as a product leader when it comes to quality, performance, and innovation of personal computers and mobile computing devices. And for the most part, the company has managed to live up to the reputation that it espouses. And while the iPhone 4 was indeed an advancement of the iPhone technology as a whole, it is more likely to go down in history as the first hiccup in the iPhone lineage. Let us hope that the hiccup ends with the iPhone 5.

What do you think? Was “antennagate” just a witch hunt by the press, or was it a big enough problem to be newsworthy? And will a return to the internal antenna and/or metal back on the iPhone 5 convince you that the iPhone 4 antenna design was indeed faulty?