The Chinese are clamoring for the iPhone 4S as it released across the country on Friday, but crowds at its flagship Beijing store became so unruly that law enforcement was called in to disperse the crowd and Apple was forced to halt sales of the the device in its retail shops.
According to press reports, "hundreds" of people began lining up for the device overnight in freezing temperatures for a chance to purchase the device. When the store failed to open at 7 am, some in the crowd became violent and began to pelt the store with eggs and yelled at employees through windows.
In one Samsung iPhone-mocking "Next Big Thing" commercial, an Apple fan laments: "If it looks the same, how will people know I upgraded?" Maybe that's the point of iPhone 4S -- people aren't suppose to know whether you have the new or older model. If that's the intention, and not some dumb-luck circumstance, then Apple CEO Tim Cook deserves high praise for brilliant, strategic execution. Rather than fraking up by not releasing iPhone 5 last year, Apple may have in iPhone 4S achieved a marketing milestone worthy of industry recognition -- or at least some PhD candidate's dissertation.
It's like this: Analyst data from several sources released this week shows surprising iPhone uptake, whether actual sales or simple consumer intentions to buy. The most compelling comes from NPD, which October/November US retail sales figures are nothing short of shocking. Year over year, Android smartphone OS sales share rose to 60 percent from 45 percent in third quarter 2011. During the same time frame, iOS went from 23 percent to 29 percent sales share. Both operating systems had dipped and rose during that year. But in just two months, October to November, Android fell share from 60 percent to 47 percent, while iOS rose from 29 percent to 43 percent. I see Apple's iPhone 4S strategy, not the new smartphone's actual sales, as the reason.
Someone stole my daughter's iPhone 4S on Wednesday. We recovered it today, Saturday. The phone was a lost cause if not for Apple's cloud recovery service, which worked in an unexpected way overnight.
The saga started in the school office, where my daughter works for one period every other day. She often has out her phone and feels comfortable leaving it at the table where she busies; the teens working there are all fairly honest. On this particular day, she stepped out for five minutes and returned to find the phone gone. Sitting where she had been: Another teen applying to attend the school, with her mom close by. My daughter used a friend's phone to call hers, but the sound was off. The iPhone 4S was gone.
So much for Apple's voice command/response technology Siri.
Among this year's holiday presents, our family received a gift card for Italian eatery Buca di Beppo, which my daughter gladly used to go out to dinner with a friend. So last night, they're ready to drive but no one knows to where. She pulls out her iPhone 4S and speaks "directions to Buca di Beppo", which Siri can't understand and repeatedly gives meaningless results when she tries again.
Yeah, I know, this is a bit fluffy stuff, but I'm flu-stricken today and barely able to sit up to type. Besides, these are both really great ads that stand out for creativity and how well they demonstrate product benefits. Good marketing is often about great storytelling and, with smartphones like these, communicating a single benefit watchers will remember. You'll remember both these commercials, surely.
The shoe is on the other foot. I hope Apple wears it well, because I expect it's a tight fit.
Samsung is doing to Apple what the "Get a Mac" marketing campaign did to Windows a half-decade ago: Change perceptions, for the negative. Apple's ad campaign is one of the best conceived for tech products, using two actors to represent a Mac and Windows PC and convey simply complex concepts about why one is better than the other. That campaign crushed the Windows brand at a time when Microsoft delayed Windows XP's successor, which thumped on the market in late 2006 like someone flying fast and far from a trampoline. Samsung's "The Next Big Thing is Here" campaign -- squarely slamming iPhone and its idolaters -- similarly succeeds.
I chuckle whenever someone in comments calls me anti-Apple. Much of what I write here derives from experience. Sometimes that works for Apple, or whatever other vendor, sometimes against it. Today, I've got a wet, smoochy kiss for iOS 5 and iPhone 4S and kick aside the head for Android and Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket.
Yesterday, my daughter met up with a friend for the Toyland Parade in the North Park community of San Diego. She's a live-in-the-moment, never-think-ahead teen. (Who isn't?) So, of course, when we got in the car and I expected my girl knew the way to the meetup, she didn't. After I chided her, out came the white iPhone 4S, and she spoke: "Direction to Claire de Lune". I knew where this was going, thinking: "There's no way Siri is going to get this right".
It's dress-down Friday here at BetaNews, and I can't resist letting Samsung dress down Apple. Yesterday, the South Korean electronics manufacturer uploaded to YouTube yet another TV commercial in "The Next Big Thing is Already Here" marketing campaign. This one answers the question I posed in late September: "What if iPhone 5 isn't LTE?" -- days before Apple revealed 4S; there was no 5 and only HSPA+.
What's the answer: Disappointment, as the commercial reveals. Apple's smartphone and standard Galaxy S II both have HSPA+, but S2 is better, offering maximum 21Mbps vs iPhone 4S' 14Mbps. The Galaxy S II Skyrocket has 4G LTE -- granted only in 9 markets. I have that phone. Absolutely hilarious: The commercial's huge gaffe that will give Apple fanboys chance to do a little dressing down of their own. The TV spot is set in Denver, which is not one of the cities where AT&T officially offers 4G LTE. Whoops! No one would have noticed or cared if the location label was Washington, DC, where there is service.
Last night, my colleague Ed Oswald made the most ridiculous statement in defense of iPhone 4S: "Battery life is not a showstopping defect", and he put it in italics! I disagree and told him so in group chat: "It's a real apologist post. Battery life is a showstopping defect". Ed's commentary responds to so called "Batterygate", where for many iPhone 4Ses the charge drains too fast. On Thursday, Apple released an update that fixes the problem for some, but not for many others. Meanwhile, the company issued a statement that: "We continue to investigate a few remaining issues".
Absolutely, smartphone battery life matters, and, yes, it's a "showstopping defect". In a survey of 23,000 phone and tablet users, conducted by SwiftKey developer and retailer/accessory maker Smartphone Experts, battery life ranked third as "essential" feature when answering "What's important when buying a new smartphone". When adding "quite important", battery life tops the list, which includes screen size, ease of typing and app availability.
There is no denying that the iPhone 4S has battery issues. Despite Apple claims to the contrary, there is a significant number of users with problems, based on what I have seen in both my own experience and across the web. It is an issue that deserves Cupertino's full attention.
Is it really as bad as it seems? Has 'Batterygate' taken on a life of its own, far surpassing the true weight of the situation? There is tendency in this era of the 24-hour news cycle to overhype, and Apple's battery woes are no exception.
It's the question everyone who preordered or purchased on launch day and is having battery-life problems should ask. That's because the 30-day return window closes in two days and may already have passed for others.
A friend of mine, Sebastian, called this morning to tell me that he had arranged return of his iPhone 4S. He's displeased with battery life -- "five hours, not even a full day. If a phone doesn't work as a telephone it's worthless, it's a brick". Since he was contract-free before ordering iPhone 4S, he hasn't seen meaningful battery-life improvements from iOS 5.0.1 and there are enticing LTE alternatives, Sebastian wants to get out from the new two-year commitment while he can. But doing so proved arduous, although it looks like he succeeded. You might not be so lucky.
Apple added contract-free unlocked versions of its iPhone lineup, including the iPhone 4S, to its online store on Friday. The 8GB iPhone 3GS is available for $375.00, 8GB iPhone 4 for $549.00, and 16, 32, and 64GB iPhone 4S for $649, $749, and $849 respectively.
Unlocked iPhones will only work on GSM networks, including the iPhone 4S, which is a dual mode phone. Furthermore, the GSM network will need to support the same frequencies as AT&T in order for 3G data to work. Potential iPhone users on T-Mobile's network and other carriers that use AWS would be limited to slower EDGE data rates.
Apple on Thursday released iOS 5.0.1, aiming to fix one of the biggest issues with iPhone 4S. The company claims the update addresses poor battery life in the device, as well as remedying a host of other issues.
Many 4S users complain they need to charge the device far more than they should, leading some to find creative ways to conserve battery life. Apple maintains that the battery issue is the result of "bugs" within the initial release of iOS 5. The company insists battery issues only affect a small number of users, although a cursory look around the web indicates a widespread problem.
iPhone 4S users are suffering from stereo audio quality issues when playing music through the device's integrated speakers, BetaNews has learned. The issue has been replicated on several devices, indicating that the problem may be widespread.
When playing stereo audio, the various instruments and sounds are sent to either the left or right channel based on how it is recorded, at an equal volume. This gives the illusion of fuller sound and depth to the listener.
For a company praised for such great design, Apple sure seems troubled getting out an iPhone that works right. Death Grip -- and its signal stifling capability -- marred iPhone 4 from Day One. Consumer Reports still won't recommend the handset, even after giving it a high rating. Successor 4S comes along and, uh-oh, suffers from heap, big battery-life problems. The story is everywhere -- even Apple apologist blogs report it. Perhaps the company should invest more resources in functional design than appearance.
Maybe Apple simply is out of its depth. The company has received generous praise for launching a smartphone from scratch and dramatically changing -- arguably pushing ahead -- the entire mobile market with it. Apple deserves kudos for its accomplishment. But the company also is a newcomer to a market where depth-of-engineering is necessary to get products right. The smartphone category is also one where form shouldn't supplant function.