Can Apple afford to keep releasing only 1 new iPhone a year?

Second iPhone HD/iPhone 4G prototype - bottom

The pace of mobile is increasing and with new Google Android hero handsets dropping at an almost comedic every couple of months, can Apple afford to keep releasing only one new iPhone a year?

The iPhone 2G was a revolution in 2007, entering a market of stale Treo, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry devices, and an almost non-present Nokia in the US. Then came Google's Android, brief flares of Palm webOS and Windows Phone 7, but mostly Android. Initial devices weren't perfect but they kept pushing and iterating, releasing new devices on new carriers with new manufactures. They commissioned their own hardware. They got specced out chassises that were previously Windows Mobile. They hit Verizon.

And they never stopped pushing. Diversity, multi-carrier, great hardware, and an ever-improving OS now means that while Apple only gets a huge spotlight rush and hero release once a year, Google is getting them every month or so. And they can use that to counter-program Apple.

The Palm Pre launched on Sprint amid the iPhone 3GS launch and was overwhelmed. The Droid, the Nexus One, the Incredible were all released when the iPhone 3GS had been on the market a while and was approaching the apex and now end of its product cycle. They hit when users, especially geek users, influential techies, were hungry for new, shiny toys.

Of course, they then face having the exhaustive pace of the next new Android, and the next new Android after that... almost instant obsoletion to the iPhone's more

Apple will have that luster again in June with iPhone HD/iPhone 4G and iPhone OS 4, and they'll enjoy owning the market and mindshare for the month or two that follow. But as the year wears on they'll be victim again to Google (and maybe Microsoft and Palm if they can pull it together and time it right) having the new, shiny toys.

Apple will have iPod touch G4 in September and maybe iPhone OS 4.1, and iPad G2 and maybe iPhone OS 5 beta in March, but if we stick to pure phone goodness, that's a lot of time for Google to counter program and up the feature and spec sheets. We saw at Google I/O, with the way Android chose to vocally, and crassly go after the iPhone that they fear WWDC and the next iPhone, but that currently only happens every June.

Does Apple need to consider releasing new iPhone hardware more than once a year?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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