While some people are making a big deal about this, it's important to remember that historically it has been iPhone sales, not announcements, which have pushed stock prices higher. The biggest factor for those sales, at least initially, will be how many current iPhone owners will be upgrading to the latest model.
Coverage of the iPhone 4S seems to be concentrating on what it doesn't have, such as a bigger display or redesigned exterior. But that's not necessarily a new thing either.
The iPhone 3G, for example, was mostly identical to the original iPhone, but with the addition of 3G data support, improved GPS, and some minor tweaks to the case design. Pricing was also improved significantly thanks to strategic changes by Apple.
With many early iPhone buyers opting for the 4GB model, there was a built in demand for the 8GB and 16GB 3G models, which were significantly cheaper (in the US) than the previous year's model.
The iPhone 3GS came out with a faster processor, more RAM, faster data capabilities, an improved camera with video recording capability, and a digital compass. The addition of a 32GB version probably convinced more than a few iPhone owners to upgrade.
The iPhone 4 was arguably the first real redesign. The processor was once again improved, the RAM was again doubled, and display resolution increased for the first time. Once again the camera was improved, both in terms of quality and video recording, with another front facing camera also being added, as well as a 3 axis gyroscope.
For the first time, the case was drastically altered, putting the antennae on the outside. Everything about it screamed new design.
Since Apple hasn't released the full technical specs of the iPhone 4S, we don't have complete details of the improvements yet, but based on what we do know there are a couple of notable changes.
The processor has been upgraded to a dual core model. Apple hasn't said how fast it is, which means it's likely not more than 1GHz. Even if it still runs at 800MHz, like the iPhone 4, that still means twice the speed.
The camera is also improved and a 64GB model is being added. The iPhone 4S also supports 1080p video recording, but it's hard to be sure what difference that will make to potential buyers.
The faster processor and new option for 64GB of storage would seem to be the most important changes for potential upgraders. The lack of a bigger screen and perhaps a reluctance to buy a new phone every year could certainly play a part in the decision.
On balance, it doesn't seem like there's any obvious way to predict how many people will want to replace their current iPhones, or how many of those upgrading from a pre-iPhone 4 model will opt for the 4S.
And, of course, there's the Android X-factor. Historically iPhone owners haven't switched to Android in large numbers. On the other hand, Android phones have typically been considered technically inferior to the iPhone.
With handset vendors, especially Samsung, gradually changing that perception, this could be the most interesting iPhone launch to date. But don't count them out until the sales figures are in.
Written by: Rich Fiscus @ 5 Oct 2011 9:41