Apple unveiled its latest iPhone today, but it didn't unveil the iPhone 5, like many rumours suggested. It unveiled the iPhone 4S — it looks exactly like an iPhone 4, except it has a faster processor, a better graphics engine and a better camera. Oh, and it's also got an assistant called "Siri" that interacts with you via voice commands.
Read our comprehensive iPhone 4S preview and check out how the iPhone 4S stacks up against the competition in our Smartphone comparison: iPhone 4S vs. Samsung Galaxy S II vs. HTC Sensation
Immediately following the announcement, Apple's share price dropped five per cent. Analysts panned the launch, using words like "disappointing" and "underwhelming". But is it all doom and gloom for Apple?
Hardly. You see, today is one of two days in the calendar year where only one tech product exists. Today it's the iPhone 4S. Back in February it was the iPad 2. In February or March of 2012, it will likely be the iPad 3 (or will that be the iPad 2S?). Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
In case you haven't been filled in with the process for Apple launches, here's how things go. Firstly, rumours pile up about the Apple devices months before they are announced. Media outlets speculate on specifications, on design, on screen sizes. We get reports of manufacturers like Samsung and LG ordering millions of display panels for use in the yet-to-exist iPhone 5, or iPad 3. Fake photos are published. Screenshots are doctored. Reports and analysts cite thousands of anonymous "sources" all whom attempt to predict Apple's next move.
Apple then goes ahead and launches the product only for the tech media to go into overdrive and deride said product, in this case the iPhone 4S, for a supposed lack of features.
This time, we were supposed to get an iPhone 5, not an iPhone 4S, they cried. It was supposed to have a bigger display. It was supposed to have an all-new, thinner design and a completely new look and feel. It was meant to have 4G connectivity for faster mobile Internet speeds.
The truth is the iPhone 4S wasn't supposed to have anything. Apple never promised an iPhone 5. Apple never comments on rumours, never sends out press releases until a product is launched and never speculates on the make-up of future products. They are announced at a press event, and quickly made available a few weeks later. In fact, this isn’t the first time Apple has launched an updated version of the iPhone as a new model: in 2009 the company released the iPhone 3GS, which was the iPhone 3G's frame with a faster processor, a better camera and a built-in compass. Sound familiar?
Yes, the iPhone 4S looks exactly like the iPhone 4. But it does have a faster processor, a better graphics chip, a much better camera and a slightly better battery. In fact, Apple says the graphics performance of the iPhone 4S is up to seven times faster than the iPhone 4. Though these claims haven't yet been put to the test, they are likely to be significant improvements. All-in-all, Apple hasn't exactly released the same phone it did 12 months ago.
I'm sure the response generated will be the typical, standard "Apple fanboy" one. Not quite. I own an iPhone 4, but I'm not going to upgrade to an iPhone 4S simply because there is nothing compelling for me. The faster processor and improved graphics performance are nice, but not essential. Siri, the iPhone 4S's voice recognition software that's been described as a "personal assistant" looks impressive on paper, but I'm not sure I'd use it every day to justify the upgrade. The upgraded camera is again an improvement, but not compelling enough to ditch my perfectly good iPhone 4.
The iPhone 4S is far from perfect. A larger screen certainly would have been nice, especially given that popular alternatives like the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation have 4.3in displays that are significantly larger than the iPhone 4S 3.5in screen. A new design would also have been refreshing, as I find the iPhone 4's sharp edges a little uncomfortable to hold without a case.
However, for current iPhone 3G and 3GS users the iPhone 4S represents a perfectly justifiable upgrade and certainly not worth the mass groans and whingeing we witnessed today. It gets a higher quality camera and video recorder, a faster processor, a better graphics chip, slightly improved battery life, more memory (64GB model) and a dual-core processor.
The outcry over the iPhone 4S tells us all one thing: don't buy into the hype and you won't be disappointed.