Ordinarily, I’m impressed by the insight and eloquence of John Gruber, one of the most famous technology journalists on the scene, a man who gets his predictions right more often than anybody.
His new blog piece, “Teardrop Skepticism,” discusses the likelihood that Apple’s next iPhone (one of them at least) will be completely redesigned. He doesn’t seem to think that’s going to happen because the device would feel a bit awkward when held in landscape mode. A good point, sure, except that he admits — as he should — that, based on the rumors, the teardrop shape is nearly undetectable, so slight that you wouldn’t notice it unless some one told you. This non-point is not, however, my primary grievance with his latest post. It’s this bit:
A new form factor would by definition bring more “new-ness” to the announcement, but why should an iPhone 4-lookalike “iPhone 4S” be considered disappointing if it contains significantly improved components?
How could anyone — especially someone with as much experience reporting on Apple and its products as John Gruber — even ask this question? The next iPhone has nothing to do with components. It has everything to do with how it looks, and the functionality of iOS 5. (But mostly how it looks.)
Yes, updated components are necessary to deliver superior functionality, but that’s not what sells iPhones. It’s sex that sells iPhones — and sex is superficial, at least when you’re trying to market it to hundreds of millions of people.
An evolution as small as iPhone 3G to 3G S just isn’t going to cut it — not 16 months after the iPhone 4 announcement. Not when Steve Jobs is no longer CEO. No, Apple needs something bigger and better than ever to keep consumer (and investor) confidence high.
I’ve placed at public bet on the iPhone 5 “teardrop” design, and I stand by that wager. If I’m wrong, well, so what? A nobody tech journalist is wrong — surprise, surprise. But I’m not the one who’s going to suffer if Apple just releases an iPhone 4 with some nifty new components.