Why Apple Might Delay the iPhone 5

| Analysis

Life is geting complicated for Apple. Android is making advances leaps and bounds. The iPhone market share is stagnant. Apple doesn’t want to annoy its new Verizon customers. iOS multi-tasking is awkward. HP’s TouchPad looms. Maybe it’s time for a breather.

The lure of Apple’s iPhone is strong. The ecosystem surrounding the iPhone, AirPlay, Home Sharing, iTunes, the App Store, and Apple’s sales an support, are robust. Apple could probably introduce an iPhone 5 with one or two major added features, and everyone would be happy. For example, a sturdier aluminum back, a better antenna system and an NFC system for instant purchases. Maybe better voice input.

The reality, however, is that Apple has to plan far in advance for the next release, and during that lead time, events come along at a rapid fire pace. As Apple gets closer to committing to production, it becomes worrisome whether the company has done enough to fight off the Android hordes. One of those timing issues relates to iOS, specifically iOS 5, and whether developers will be ready.

Right now it looks like iOS will be presented to developers at WWDC in June. Apple might be hard pressed to ship an iPhone 5 a few weeks later and have as many iOS 5 showcase apps shipping as it would like. The fact that no SDK for iOS 5 has shipped to developers is something to take into consideration.

There are some other tidbits I’ve seen. The Wall Street Journal has suggested that the disaster in Japan might contribute to parts shortages, and so that plays into all this as well.

Another wrinkle is all those new Verizon customers. Does Apple have a contract with Verizon to delay a new iPhone 5 until, say, October? So they don’t get upset about their new iPhone 4 becoming obsolete? Are there timing issues with the roll out of LTE and the availability of an LTE chipset? More importantly, can Apple obtain them in the guaranteed quantity required? What about Apple’s eternally imminent cloud service? Bringing a huge data center on line and integrating it with a new set of products, iPhone 5 and iPad 2 is always tough. These issues percolate through the aether.

One of the things we editors agree on at TMO is that Apple’s current multi-tasking system is awkward, especially after seeing the HP TouchPad demos. Having to press the home button twice, scroll through a large number of apps in the Dock, and select the right one — and the technique to delete it is a kludge. It really needs to be rethought, and no doubt Scott Forestal and his team have. That might have entailed some design changes in the iPhone 5 hardware this spring.

Apple could probably coast and cobble together what they needed for an iPhone 5 roll out in June. But it’s beginning to look like putting all the pieces together in a way that’s competitive and will delight its customers means that Apple may need a little more time. Of course, when I use the word “delay” in the title, that simply refers to the pattern established by Apple over the last four years. As Harry McCracken said, Apple has established a pattern — until it isn’t.

April is almost upon us, and getting a competitive iPhone 5 into boxes and ready for mid-June delivery is looking a tad iffy. I know that a lot of people who just bought their Verizon iPhone 4 won’t mind. And Apple engineers could stop sleeping in cots under their desks and get a few hours of shut-eye at home in their own beds.

Of course, this is all just speculation. But some interesting tea leaves are swirling around.

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25 Comments Leave Your Own

Phil

Have the software engineers been working on Lion? This would cause a delay in iOS 5 for sure.

kevinolive

Wasn’t there a delay with an OS X release because the engineers were working on iOS?  I agree with Phil and expect that the upcoming Lion release may delay an iOS update.

pats

John
Speculation is always fun, but given that they have successfully released a new model in the summer every year and they have proven that they have new silicon integrating the A5 into the iPad we already have software which support the multiprocessor A9 with dual core GPU. If you remember back to the developer builds of 4.3 several new gestures were revealed but not incorporated into the final build for task switching.  I think a new phone model could run on 4.3x.  Apple could be adjusting their schedule or not, but I think until we get into the summer the word delay is a bit much speculation.

evan1138

Meanwhile, I’ve got just two days to go before my f&f (Freeze and File) surgery to get the pointy thumbs needed for my iPhone keyboard. Compared to this, other iPh deficiencies are Ni<o Bug<<ig Deak. (sigh)

hangtown

It’s impossible to delay something that’s never been announced.

It’s not a delay, regardless of what happens. It’s Apple releasing stuff when they are ready, not when the rumor mills are ready.

John Martellaro

hangtown:  You must have missed the paragraph where I addressed that point.

“Of course, when I use the word ?delay? in the title, that simply refers to the pattern established by Apple over the last four years. As Harry McCracken said, Apple has established a pattern ? until it isn?t”.

kigoi

does this whole article exist because bizpeople have started using the word ‘traditional’ about anything that happens more than twice in a row?

Peter

I think we’re going to see an iPhone 4S.  No LTE.  No NFC.  Underclocked A5.  More system memory.  Maybe some minor cosmetic changes.

There’s no reason that iOS 5 has to ship with an iPhone 5.

joshdean

It?s impossible to delay something that?s never been announced.

It?s not a delay, regardless of what happens. It?s Apple releasing stuff when they are ready, not when the rumor mills are ready.

Delay: 1 : a situation in which something happens later than it should.
From Apple’s perspective, which is based on concrete schedules and announcements, there’s no delay. From Wall Street’s perspective, which is based on PERCEPTION, there’s a delay, and thus the stock has been punished(only mildly so far, and sure to be very temporary).
Explaining to Wall St. there’s no delay doesn’t help my wallet. Apple outperforming anyway does wonders for it.

Natalie Polmarty

the new iphone was supposed to come out this june, i have a feeling it’s going to suck

Lee Dronick

Yeah suck more market share away from the competition.

graxspoo

John, you make a lot of good points, and I think your reading of the tea leaves may be quite accurate. Apple is a big company, but its top talent can only focus on a few things at a time. Lion is coming up, the new iPad just came out, and they had to release an mid-cycle Verizon iPhone.
I completely agree about the places where they need to make improvements. Would love to see a better app switching gesture. The double-press thing is not worthy of Apple.
A couple of other things where the competition has an advantage: widgets and notifications. They seem to be addressing both of these from some clues that have come to light (new kind of app being announced at wwdc, and they hired an engineer specializing in notifications).

I’m also hoping two things about their ‘move to the clouds.’

1) Free
2) Plays nice with others

If they just add stuff into mobilme, and keep its current price point I think it will be much less attractive than if they make basic functionality free and only charge for bells and whistles, or extra storage. Also, many users may want to sync with other services (Google) rather than using Apple’s. Apple needs to realize this and not try to keep everything in its own universe. Apple at its best subscribes to (or creates) open standards, and I would hope their refreshed cloud services would be designed with that goal in mind.

Rob

If they do nothing else, they need to come out with an iPhone 4GS; the 4G voice and data networks are already rolling out; I would hope that Apple would want to be at the front or middle of that bus not at the back. They will need a 4G network phone soon I should think.

hangtown

hangtown:  You must have missed the paragraph where I addressed that point.

I saw it, but the whole article is still about why Apple might delay it. Even if wall street or anyone else calls it a delay, it’s not a delay unless someone can prove that Apple fully intended to release it in June and now can’t.

hangtown

From Wall Street?s perspective, which is based on PERCEPTION, there?s a delay, and thus the stock has been punished(only mildly so far, and sure to be very temporary).
Explaining to Wall St. there?s no delay doesn?t help my wallet.

Wall Street can pull whatever expectations out their ass they want all day long, it doesn’t make them right to expect Apple to do something that Apple never said they’d do.

Wall Street constantly punishes people based on their own expectations, many of which are not necessarily based on guidance from the company in question. It’s why short term speculating on Wall Street makes no sense.

hangtown

the new iphone was supposed to come out this june, i have a feeling it?s going to suck

Supposed to come out in June? According to who? Did Apple announce this?

hangtown

What’s up with the quote system where it puts a long number in place of the name of the person I’m quoting… ??

Just curious.

hangtown

They will need a 4G network phone soon I should think.

Honest question - are the 4g networks really worth using yet? My impression is that they are still half baked.

graxspoo

It’s hard to tell from the outside how much cost and development effort would be required to do 4G at this point. The coverage isn’t there yet, so it would only be of benefit to a portion of the potential buyers. A lot of people work in offices and have wifi at home, so 75% of their day is spent in wifi range. Apple is pretty smart about using their resources wisely and not committing to technology before it’s ready, so we’ll have to wait and see. Remember the first iPhone didn’t even support 3G.

mpetty79

@Hangtown - please explain what you mean by Wall St punishing people based on their own expectations.  I think I know what you mean, but want to make sure.  If you are talking, in this case, about Wall St. punishing Apple based on their own expectations, then please explain how they are punishing Apple.  Thanks.

kigoi

i wonder how many times we all need to say “apple delay” to get the bots to sell their apple holdings.

hangtown

@Hangtown - please explain what you mean by Wall St punishing people based on their own expectations.  I think I know what you mean, but want to make sure.  If you are talking, in this case, about Wall St. punishing Apple based on their own expectations, then please explain how they are punishing Apple.  Thanks.

Read the comment by joshdean and you’ll understand. I was responding to what he said. I’m not personally saying that Wall Street actually is punishing anyone. But if they did have expectations of a June release, and if that did affect the stock, that’s their fault for making up their own timetable. Apple never specified that timetable that I’m aware of.

mpetty79

Got it, thanks.  I’m not very Wall St. savvy, but I would assume that if Apple’s previous stock price reflected an assumption of a June release date, then this wouldn’t surprise me given historical data.  And if this is the case, then you can’t blame certain investors for taking that chance, again purely based on historical data.  But of course you are right, definitely Wall St’s fault for making up their own timetable.  And a major reason why I stay away from purchasing individual stocks.  Too risky/volatile for my blood.

jonricmd

John, I think you’ve been reading too many analysts pontifications.  Apple doesn’t care about market share.  There are Android hordes, (with respect to cell phones) but they are not organized and “storming the walls” of Apple’s castle.  Meanwhile, there is no real competition to the iPad (first version).  And finally, Apple ships when it thinks the user experience is as good as they can get it at that time.  Jobs won’t let them fall prey to “feature-itis”.  But if it can be improved in software, they will later fix it.  All the tech writers complain of multitasking on the iPhone, but 99.9% of iPhone users don’t even use it, I would venture.

wab95

Just got around to reading this over the weekend, and debated whether to chime in.

This, and similar arguments about iPhone 5 release dates, stand to reason, and I concur with the views above that, unless there is a product release announcement, there is no delay. This will not prevent pundits from pontificating nor bearish jitters from jading the Street. However, I would be far more concerned about releasing a studied and truly competitive product into this increasingly crowded market than I would about a transient dip in stock value and market cap, if I were an Apple exec, even if that product is not released until the winter holiday buying season. The trend is clear; these periodic perturbations in Apple’s stock have not halted its greater trajectory skyward, neither in market cap nor profits. Performance trumps speculation amongst high performers. And Apple is a high performer, par excellence.

In my own small world, I am left with a choice. When my contract is up in 05/05 (next month), do I buy or stay with my ageing but able 3GS. I had thought, months ago, to take my cue from the expiry date itself, an almost cosmic clue that I should hold and go for the iPhone 5. The 4 is tempting, but I can always steal glances at my wife’s iPhone 4 (and my wife too, while I’m at it), while I play - sorry work, nay slave away -  on my soon-to-arrive iPad2 and my soon-to-arrive MBP 17” quad-core i7 (w/0.5TB SSD). These are serious work tools. For serious work. By serious people. Seriously.

Yes, I think I can exercise sufficient discipline to hold out for the 5.

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