Why is a Dual-core A5 under the hood not enough for the iPhone 4S?

While Apple did not release the first dual-core applications processor for a handset, the upgrade to the dual-core 800MHz A5 in the iPhone 4S makes it a market leader in applications performance.
By Tom Hackenberg, Semiconductors Research Manager, IMS Research October 14, 2011

IMS research: excellence in market intelligneceI have seen many editorials and blogs criticizing the recent release of the iPhone 4S and I have to ask why? Has Steve Jobs trained the media so thoroughly that they react like Pavlov’s dog whenever Apple rings the bell? Do their salivations turn to whimpering when the latest product release doesn’t change life as we know it on planet Earth? Are they angry because they had to scrap their pre-release inside rumors about the iPhone 5?

I am in the business of studying the processors market so the announcement of the Apple A5 in a phone is a big deal. While Apple did not release the first dual-core applications processor for a handset, the upgrade to the dual-core 800MHz A5 in the iPhone 4S makes it a market leader in applications performance. This is impressive from a company that did not even produce processors 3 years ago. So why the Apple bashing? Perhaps Apple’s culture of secrecy invites this type of response, but does every new product announcement from Apple have to shake the foundations of the industry to be considered a reasonable business practice?

The iPhone 4S is not competing with what we want from an iPhone 5, it is competing with other smartphones on the market. The new camera may not be 3D, but let’s face it, most consumers would rather have the 8MP premium quality 2D camera with 1080p HD camcorder anyway. It still offers one of the sharpest displays available, and the app store still dominates when it comes to available software. With the iPhone 4S’ Bluetooth low energy, the new usage models for apps is likely to generate a whole new boom to the app store and a new wave of connected devices like the iPod dock changed connectivity when the iPhone was first released. Finally, I personally will be highly interested in seeing whether Siri can significantly reduce the number of automobile incidents related to people texting or otherwise fumbling with their phone while driving. This alone could be a life-saving if not life changing feature if the interface is as easy to use as claimed.

To be fair, 4G support, a larger screen, longer battery life, lighter weight would all have been even better. Apple has released a reasonable and quality update to the popular iPhone 4 series. There were no promises made that they failed to deliver on. The upgraded performance and features were at least as much of a standard improvement as any typical mobile handset competitor would release. Even breaking the iPhone 4’s previous pre-order record has been downplayed and dismissed.

While the record-breaking volume of  iPhone 4S pre-orders are indeed coming from initial purchases from new carriers such as Verizon and Sprint, does it not make practical business sense to release a product like the iPhone 4S to capture this new market? A year from now when there is a whole new wave of iPhone addicts, and a larger 4G coverage area, an iPhone 5 will be just what is called for to boost sales again. I have to extend credit where credit is due and go on record as a market analyst in the business of comparing ‘apples to apples’, not “Apple’s to what I wanted from Apple’s”. A tablet processor in a handset? nice job Apple.