Measuring Apple’s iPhone 4S Rollout

There’s always a gap between our starry-eyed hopes and what’s practical for Apple to deliver. However, Apple knows that, so it’s important for us to be as practical about our reaction as Apple was in its preparation.

Amidst expectations for a mythical iPhone 5, Apple did a lot of things right today, but in a low-key, subtle way. Sometimes that confuses investors, and it takes awhile to digest the impact of Apple’s decisions. For example, I get the feeling many people were hoping for a blockbuster iPhone 5 that would have 4G, a bigger display, and an ice cream dispenser.

Here’s what Apple did right.

1. Tim Cook. Mr. Cook distributed the presentation, utilizing the strengths of various speakers. He didn’t try to grandstand, pretending to be the next great orator. By bringing in Scott Forstall, Eddie Cue and Phil Schiller, Mr. Cook demonstrated wisdom, respect for his team, leadership and teamwork. And Apple’s Town Hall was the right size facility for the scope of the event.

2. 4G isn’t nearly ready. 4G is a mess of terminology. Does 4G mean Wi-Max (Sprint), LTE or something else? Like a bridge technology of HSPA+, the so-called 3.5G. The fact is, AT&T just rolled out 4G/LTE in only five cities in September: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. We’re a long way from ubiquitous 4G in the U.S. that merits an iPhone dedicated to that service.

I surmise the iPhone 5, next summer or autumn will be a 4G phone. In addition, the current 4S is going to make it a lot easier and more cost effective for Apple and its carriers to sell the iPhone. That’s more financial leverage for Apple.

3. Siri is important, and we haven’t yet begun to understand it’s potential impact. Because of that, investors seemed confused about Apple’s prospects today. However, as we start using it, we’ll start to have a better feeling for how Apple’s push to this technology will change our lives. It’s a true Star Trekian future of conversing with our devices instead of staring at them with eyes glazed over. I’m beting it’s a game changer, but it’ll also be an intangible for awhile longer.

4. Apple knew better than to disappoint or alarm customers with any announcements of iPod cancellations. The sand charts that I’ve shown in my Particle Debris blog show that Apple still makes good money from all kinds of iPods. When it’s time for some of them to die, the sales numbers will tell the story, not false expectations. Not every teenager can afford a two year iPhone contract, and I expect the new, white, iPod touches will sell like hotcakes.

It would be easy to be disgruntled. It’s a lot harder to digest how Apple sizes up the marketplace and just keeps on delivering products that customers want. As we move into the holiday season, it’ll become clear, for the umpteenth time, that that customers continue to have an appetite for Apple’s product line and that sensationalism and slam-dunk victories are more appropriate for video games and movies than they are for Apple in a rough and tumble smartphone competition.