Sprint iPhone 5 Forms Core of Apple Launch
Call Tuesday, Oct. 4 iPhone 5 day if you want, and pundits in the tech world will forgive you.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is scheduled to launch its long-awaited, much-ballyhooed and heavily debated new iPhone Oct. 4, providing a cozier-than-usual forum by launching the device on its Cupertino, Calif., campus headquarters. The event begins at 10 a.m. PST, but won't be livestreamed.
The biggest news for the launch would seem to be the iPhone 5's arrival on Sprint (NYSE:S), which is poised to become the first U.S. carrier since Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZW) in February of this year to sell the smartphone.
The Wall Street Journal said Sprint must buy 30.5 million iPhones from Apple over the next four years, a $20 billion investment on which the company would basically stake its future.
Sprint isn't expected to make any money on the phones until at least 2014. That puts the company, which has passionately fought against AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile to avoid being relegated last in the short list of big U.S. carriers, in a potentially precarious position.
Sprint would join U.S. carriers AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZW), as the third U.S. carrier to offer the iPhone since its arrival in 2007. Apple has sold more than 128 million iPhones since launching the smartphone in 2007.
The talk of Sprint joining AT&T and Verizon to further the iPhone's footprint brings up another interesting question: Will Apple launch one or more phones tomorrow?
Boy Genius Report claims the iPhone 5 will be a 4G WiMax handset that is exclusive to Sprint for now. AT&T and Verizon will get the incremental upgrade, the iPhone 4GS tomorrow, and the iPhone 5 as a 4G LTE handset at a later date.
There have been a lot of rumors as to what the iPhone 5 will look like, not to mention what is under the hood. Does it have a new teardrop shape, or will it look the same? Will the screen size be 4 inches or larger?
No one but Apple and those who signed NDAs with the company at the risk of being banished to the equivalent of high-tech's Siberia know for sure.
Judging from previous iPhone launches, the handset almost certainly has an upgraded processor--the new A5 chip. It's also rumored to boast an 8 megapixel camera, which would be a welcome improvement over the already high-resolution shutter of the iPhone 4.
The iPhone 5 will reportedly also include the Siri virtual personal assistant technology Apple acquired in April 2010. Siri is a wonderful piece of artificial intelligence software that lets users book restaurant tables, buy movie tickets and perform several other tasks, all by speaking into their device.
The device, originally launched for the iPhone 3GS less than two years ago, takes into account users' locations to direct them to local services, and the application picks up information and "remembers" it for context about that user.
Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky unleashed a load of hyperbole unto 9-to-5 Mac (hyperbole warning) about how Apple taking Siri's AI mainstream will be a "world-changing event."
Possibly, but the Siri software will have to be not only easy for them to use but highly desirable for them to use. Apple's ability to render software useful to average Joe Consumer is a big part of what makes its consumer electronics devices so popular and endearing.
Meanwhile, new CEO Tim Cook has, for the first time since spelling Apple CEO Steve Jobs thrice previously, taken the reins on a permanent basis.
The former Apple COO will have to step from his operations guy work boots into his showman's cape, hoping to catch even a sliver of the Jobsian showman flair for which the company's co-founder is universally appreciated.
Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart told eWEEK he had no idea whether to expect a massive redesign or a minor one.
"Even if all Apple does is launch an A5 processor, and a little larger screen, and up the resolution of the camera, those would be improvements to a phone that is the best-selling smartphone 16 months after launch," Greengart told eWEEK.
He said he is curious to see whether the iPhone 5 will be LTE-enabled, and whether Apple launches a low-cost iPhone. Low-cost Android smartphones sold overseas have helped Google's open source mobile OS become the world leader in smartphone sales. A new, sub $99 iPhone could be a smash hit not only overseas but in the United States.
"A low-cost iPhone would be the single most disruptive thing that Apple could do right now, perhaps not in the U.S. but globally," Greengart said.
Apple commands only 20 percent or so worldwide market share, well behind Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform at 40 percent. Apple's U.S. market share is 28 percent, compared to 43 percent, according to Nielsen's latest report.
Yet hype over the new iPhone(s) has built to such a fever pitch that one wonders whether Apple won't catch Android market share, at least in the United States, by this time next year, if not sooner.