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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?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 87 comments. Add yours.

Abe Froman says:

No. The reason Apple dominates is because their products work really well and are loved by their consumers. More releases means less time perfecting the product, which dilutes Apple's quality edge over competitors.

James says:

If the rumors are true about the Verizon iPhone coming later in the year, then they can at least have a twice yearly update.

JustinHorn says:

No. The writing is on the wall. Apple is dominating in a market they just joined a few years ago compared to Motorola and Nokia. So releasing 200 phones a year doesn't seem to be working.

Jellotime91 says:

Honestly Android is STILL playing catchup to iPhone OS. I've owned Android devices before. It's still just not as good. Apple can definitely afford to keep it at one model per year, however it would be good if they released multiple models at that same time each year, and on different US carriers...

JustinHorn says:

@James I don't think they would have a release for the entire world including the USA with AT&T and then have a separate release just for Verizon. If they did I could only see it happening one time with the first release on Verizon, but I doubt even that would happen.

UntidyGuy says:

Well, with the iPad coming once per year as well as the iPhone, and ETFs going up, I can't afford to buy a new iPhone more than once a year.

Ben says:

It isn't a matter of releasing a new device a year that keeps them behind, its the software release schedule that needs to be changed. The weakness of only having 1 device a year is balanced by the benefit of having a controlled user experience across devices: the main reason the app store is so successful. The problem is, they see software releases much like they see hardware releases. The problem is, they don't need new hardware to update the software. If android is chrome, then iphone os is internet explorer. The updates come out only once a year, it is your choice if you want to update, and everyone else has the things you've advertised by the time you release it. They can balance the hardware release weakness completely by upping how often they improve their software(especially mobile safari...it is incredibly outdated by now)

Chris M says:

NO. Apple can't release more than once. Just.... NO. All of the above comments explain why I say no.

Ron Connal says:

Abe Froman is correct. Apple sticks to perfect execution. Nothing is rushed. Features and functions are meticulously weighed and inserted only when necessary ... and they work very well. Although I follow the smart mobile market closely, I have no idea on how many different "Android" based phones are out there. They are all slightly different, nothing is consistent ... it's basically a real hotch-potch of devices and carriers. It's obvious that if you throw a lot of mud at the wall, some of it is bound to stick ... but that's not how I want to buy a product.

Gordito73 says:

I absolutely believe that Apple should stick to one time a year. Not that my opinion matters in any way, but if something as amazing as iPhone gets fine tuned or perfected even more once a year it is plenty enough. Apple is amazing in doing their own thing and doing it darn right. My wife and I switched in Dec 2007 to Macs, would never go back to anything else and have "converted" 27 of our friends and family members in the mean time.
Apple, if you read this - do your thing and do it your way!

Peteris says:

Apple isn't working on quantity, but quality. Android is opposite, they even have flash that kind of is there but works quite crappy. I better choose products that works than those which cost less but makes me to have a lot of headache

excaliburca says:

Depends on market share / phones sold. Right now once a year seems to work well for Apple so they shouldn't go below that. This is also how Apple has worked with their computers as well: on their own pace. Their sales haven't been hurt because of it.
However, it's a good chance that within 4 to 6 months the latest Android phone will outperform the upcoming iPhone HD/4G. If this harms Apple's bottom line then they may have to consider a more robust release schedule.

cardfan says:

I think Apple can afford it only if they loosen up and provide more software updates. This past year, we saw one update. 3.1. The others were very minor 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 and don't even count.
So what Apple can't afford is to sit on updates so they can sit and say "100 new features" every June. Apple now has two other times a year to hold iphone OS events (ipad in spring, ipod in fall)
If Android's positive is having new hardware every few months, then Apple's positive is being able to issue updates quickly..something HTC customers won't see quickly (and unfortunately something iphone owners didn't see quickly either). Already Evo owners are wondering when 2.2 will be out for them...which is likely to be Nov or Dec.

Art VanBuren says:

I rather go for QUALITY thna QUANTITY.
And Its not about if APPLE can afford to keep releasing 1 iPhone /year, but can CONSUMERS afford to buy more than one iPhone a year.
While the gadgetfreaks would buy an iPhone monthly if there was a new one available to them that often, MOST consumers barely can afford the annual iPhone replacement, plus the whole AT&T(or any other providers) contracts and elgibility for a new device.
I would rather have an iPhone every other year, with MAJOR updates.

Phil says:

i could elaborate this more, but to simply answer your question: yes. yes, they can.

Tansen says:

With all the hype about the iPhones coming every June, people always watch closely. It's a huge marketing event, and a great tactic. Also, truth is, the iPhone still trumps most phones that have just recently been released. No android phone is as fluid or stable as iPhone 3GS. With upped screen res, cameras, flash and other addons, the next iPhone will be far superior to other phones. Tough to beat

I didn't say it. says:

Can't argue with quality over quantity, but keep in mind Apple always brags about the millions of iPhones/iPods sold during each keynote. IFFF they can have a biannual hardware release without lowering quality, then why shouldn't they do it? Maybe keep the same hardware, just release a "new color" after 3 months...

mullrat says:

I actually appreciate it. Because i honestly don't want to constantly spend money on the newest handset. I'd rather just ride steady on the Apple train. If I was an Android user I think I would just stop reading tech blogs because I would hate my phone. If i had a droid i would hate it now. There are at least 6-7 android devices that have been released in the last 3 months that are way more powerful.

Eagleyesmith says:

I don't think that Apple needs to change anything. One iPhone is enough. Thats the problem w/ Android. They have so many different versions of their software floating around in so many different hardware variations that its hard to find out what is what.
@Art VanBuren: I agree it is about quality, not quantity. More than half of the Android phones that come out don't even stack up against the current version of the iPhone. Only Android phones that I think give a iPhone a run for its money is. The Evo, and The Incredible...thats it. And the 3GS (year old hardware) still stacks up against those phones.
I would rather take 1 iPhone and 1 OS w/ major upgrades then w/ several variations on each side that pretty much copy each other. All the phones that come out on Android to me are the same...just a in a different form factor.
And clearly they can afford 1 iPhone a year w/ over 50 million iPhones Sold. Yea, they're doing fine.

iPhoneDevNewbie says:

I think their release policy is entirely consistent with Apple's overall philosophy. They focus on simplicity and ease-of-use, and will gladly take longer to release a feature if they decide they haven't gotten it right, in their estimation (see: MMS, copy-and-paste). And for that focus on quality, they charge a premium price. I would guess that as long as the bottom line keeps looking good, then they'll stick to this release schedule.

untarded says:

If Apple wants to maintain greater market share then they will have to have multiple devices on multiple carriers. We are seeing history repeat itself.
Apple produces a great operating system, marries it to their hardware is the first to release to the world. Along comes Microsoft with an inferior operating system, licenses it to OEM's and eventually takes 90% global market share (for desktops).
Fast forward 30 years...
Apple produces a great operating system, marries it to their hardware is the first to release to the world. Along comes Google with an inferior operating system, licenses it to OEM's...
So what is the author really asking? If you want a better quality OS+hardware product then one or two devices a year will trump OS->OEMs. However, if you want to be the global market share king in 5+ years then OS->OEMs will win (or Apple will need to pump out several devices a year to compete).

Brad says:

Yes they will need to. Android is already leading the innovation. Take the EVO as example. If we go by what gizmodo and others have been reporting as the next iPhone then already the iPhone will be playing catch up in terms is specs. Another example is multitasking.
Thing is, Apple had good start but nothing us going to stop Android from leading this industry. The amount of push from different manufacturers will claim to be way too much for Apple,Rim and all others.
I would however like to see HP open source webOS. Then we will have a real match.
This new era in computing is still at it's infancy stage

BrianTufo says:

Personally, I would almost feel ripped off if they released several different phones in a year. So you got me to buy this new one now and then in a few months put out a better one that I'd have to pay full price for if I want it. What if its much better? I think the fact that it's one a year is perfect. I have a 3G right now and plan on buying the HD this summer. I am fine with waiting 2 years or so for the next one as this one will be amazing I'm sure.
I do think they need to release OS updates more often though. The device is already great as is the OS, but if they add a feature don't wait a year to put it out just put it out so we can all enjoy it without spending hundreds of dollars more.

Jenny says:

I'm with the sausage king of Chicago. Also, Mac users are generally quite loyal and one a year allows us to keep up.

Desmond says:

When you cut corners you get cut short. This is why the lifespan of these Android devices are so short. It's not about bringing along a mobile platform for them. They are putting so much into their OS and fixing it along the way. What works now might not work a year from now. Apple is bringing along a platform. It's a big difference. I believe that many of the ideas that were thrown out by Apple are being used in Android. In this business and in anyone you can't keep looking back and correcting. Only life works like that. You have to have the pulse of now. You also have to try your best to predict where it's gonna be at times 3 years ahead especially with technology. Hence the rush from Android. Apple keeps telling you to think different. Think different. Can you raise a baby to an adult in a year? I know to some I sound crazy but can you? Apple has another product out for mobile computing. It's an iPad. They can do this with one phone. You know that everything they have is going into it. These companies prey on weak minds constantly jumping to the next best thing. Jumping back and forth for the next best thing. This is why your never happy with your device. Call it fanboy or whatever you want but it's not about constantly picking up your device tweak it and all that crap. Everybody talking about multitasking and can't perfect it in their own lives. Multitasking like texting and driving? Multitasking always drops the percentage in doing one thing to the fullest potential because your focusing on too many things. That's why Apple is doing it the way they are and the other companies are doing it completely different. Think different.

mark says:

how can you expect to be taken seriously, when you continue to use the phrase "iphone 4G"? there is NO 4G network in place! this is irresponsible "journalism."

(Copy of) Dev says:

Forgive the harshness, but the quality vs quantity argument is is more of a bumper sticker than an actual argument. While Android definitely has more varieties (quantity), that does not necessarily imply a lack of quality.
While I share the opinion of most here that Android still lags behind the iPhone in terms of overall quality, there is little doubt that Android over the past 2 years has improved at a much quicker pace than the iPhone has. You could certainly argue that Android simply had more room for improvement, and, obviously, the expected iPhone hardware refresh may change the equation, but, if Android continues to improve at a faster rate and releasing more often, there will come a day where Android's flagship device quality is on par or greater than the iPhone.
I think Apple can still thrive even if and Android flagship device surpasses them for a few months of each year, as long an annual refresh dramatically leapfrogs Android. This does make Apple dangerously dependent on a single big splash event per year, where Apple admittedly excels, but it is still a riskier approach than an inexorable, continuous churn of improvements.
Engaget posed this question a while back: "Is Android fragmented or is this the new rate of innovation?"
http://bit.ly/9AARup

Albert says:

I don't think so. App store is customizing iphone every min(or every sec). With their products (iphone, ipod touch, ipad), they have enough products to cover year round. Also, I think Android is rolling out phones like crazy to make the market as their beta site, much like most of the google products. I am not saying they are not good, but it is not as good as Apple, not as polished. 2 cents.

Cuseguy says:

You said it best. The Android release rate is almost hilarious. They seem to have no identity and fade into early obsolesence as each new model is churned out.

antonsoze says:

Part of the annual release of hardware is related to production and managing inventory. Apple is ramping for 25 million+ iPhones this year and managing/timing such a large product distribution becomes exponentially more difficult with multiple hardware releases. Updating the software bi-annually is the more realistic approach.

scott says:

I think we need to remember who we are talking about. Jobs does what Jobs wants. Apple has a loyal, but small, following. The iPhone brought more people under the Apple umbrella. Dropping one phone a year is NOT going to keep these people happy. HTC is getting their act together, they produce some great phones, and all that needs to happen is for the right OS to drop from someone (HP maybe??), and game over. Apple has a very one track mind when it comes to their stuff. And as to the "quality" vs "quanity" argument, can you really say it took a year to go from the 3G to the 3GS?? They used the same "box", and changed the internals, which is no wherre near as hard as starting with a clean sheet of paper. Apple's main problem is their lack of hardware. When the 3G came along, it had to work with the first gen phone. Same thing with the GS...had to work with the 3G, even tho, hardware wise, it was much better. IF they would have more than one model, they could have different OS for each phone, and let each one operate to it's fullest. The 4G / HD / whatever will be the same. OS4 will be hamstrung in some way so it will work on the GS. Not to mention whatever ATT won't allow.

Desmond says:

And let's get the record straight Google only has one device out as well. They are trying to do the same thing as Apple except they are letting everyone use the OS.

DaJe says:

Well they need to fix the Time Capsule

Derek says:

The point of this article is: Will Google surpass Apple in total sells, and I say "yes."

TumnusMr says:

I don't really see an issue here. I prefer Apple's quality vs quantity, but regardless the iPhone had record sales this past quarter and that was with several big Android phone releases and their own iPhone 4 announcement that may have kept some waiting for the next hardware release.
Lets face it, us gadget geeks are a minority when it comes to phone sales so a few here and there on tech blogs saying they're going to switch platform doesn't really make much of a difference. With record sales, there's no direct evidence that Android is taking many sales away from Apple (even if they could sell more I'm not sure if they could manufacture them any quicker). The way I see it, with Android being used by the likes of Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and LG they are replacing many of their WM6 and other proprietary OS phone lineups and customers loyal/used to those brands are buying the Android phones when they upgrade.

GraysonIP says:

ABSOLUTELY, there should be more than one hardware release per year. Apple's flagship product is the iPhone, as evidenced by the fact that the Touch and iPad are built around it. Therefore, it's in Apple's best interest to keep innovating with BOTH new hardware and new software. A company with Apple's resources should certainly have the ability to produce new hardware more often than once per year. Otherwise, all the shiney new Android toys that are COUPLED with shiny new, improved hardware specs will continually grow in market share against Apple.
I used to be a Palm loyalist, until the Treo got stale and the Pre was underwhelming. I'm currently an iPhone fan, but only until something more compelling comes along. Apple isn't family - my loyalty only goes as far as their product reigns supreme and I get to gloat about all the cool things my phone can do. Presenting new hardware more than once a year would go a long way in keeping my interest focused toward Cupertino, and away from Mountain View.

Luke says:

Yeah I agree all these other companies are releasing phones all year long because they can't get it right. Apple has the edge in the fact that they don't have to keep changing production lines, and approving apps for several different platforms. I would rather have one amazing party every year, than a bunch of frat house drink fests all year.

durangojim#AC says:

It's funny that everyone keeps going the quality over quantity route as if they are mutually exclusive, which they aren't. Android is a force to be reckoned with becuase they are improving the OS quarterly and listening to their users. Some Android devices are crap, but the higher end ones (Droid, N1, Incredible, EVO)can go toe to toe with any iPhone. The iPhone G4 may be better than they are, but I can guarantee you that in 3-6 months, there will be a new Android device that is as good, if not better than the iPhone G4. Apple has sold boatloads of iPhones, but in this country, everyone who really wants one has one, and they've become somewhat stale. Initially hipsters and "cool" geeks who love Apple bought the iphone, now because it's simple interface, everyone has one and people are looking for more capable devices with features the iphone doesn't. Which is where Android steps in. I predict Android sales will be greater than iphone sales in 2010.

G Money says:

I believe that the "quantity" of Android phones will eventually lead to its demise. Too much...there's really no "brand identity"...that's where Apple's got 'em.

Ethan says:

Suffice it to say that I may work somewhere where the iPhone is sold among a couple other carriers, and MANY android devices. I've been keeping track, and overall the iPhone STILL outsells the Android phones in my area.
You wouldn't believe it, but the iPhone 3GS is still selling two-three devices daily. It's still the hottest phone. No android phone holds that much velocity.
Plus, as soon as the iPhone hits Verizon? Forget about it!

SockRolid says:

iPhone has always been, and will always be on a once-per-year release schedule. Why? Because it's not the iPhone that's most important to Apple. It's iPhone OS. Hardware will come and go, but iPhone OS represents Apple's future. Not just for handheld electronics, but most likely for Macs and MacBooks too.
And how many devices now run iPhone OS? Three. iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. iPad appears to be on a yearly Spring release schedule. iPhone is on a yearly Summer release schedule. And iPod Touch gets updated every Fall along with the rest of the iPod line. So there are currently three iPhone OS device updates ever year.
If Apple TV is upgraded to run iPhone OS with App Store (which seems inevitable), it will be a fourth product to announce every year. That's one iPhone OS product announcement every quarter, on average.
Getting back on topic: yearly iPhone releases make it easier for people to justify buying iPhones. Over the years, consumers will learn that there's no need to wait a few months to see what Apple does, just in case a new iPhone is about to be released. Unless, of course, it's April or May and they can keep their old phone running until June.
Another benefit to consumers: iPhones will only be obsoleted once a year. Compare that with all the different Android handsets with different screen resolutions and different versions of Android 1.x and 2.x. In the Android world, the newest phone is the best, no matter who makes it. There is near-zero brand loyalty. For example, the HTC Nexus One is a already old-school, despite its flagship status as Google's "official" Android phone.
And, of course, from Apple's perspective, developing one new iPhone every year has two major benefits. 1. It costs less to do one rev a year, and 2. Apple can perfect each year's iPhone before it ships. No, there won't be as much publicity for iPhone year-round. (And really, iPad is where Apple is focusing the world's attention now anyway.) But with all the other iPhone OS devices being updated every few months the "iPhone OS" brand is still being promoted non-stop.
And finally, since iPhone has such huge mindshare, all competing smartphones (and now tablets) will be compared against iPhone itself and other iPhone OS devices. That's free publicity for Apple products in every review. Even in reviews of competing products. You simply can't buy mindshare like that. You have to earn it. And it's free for Apple. No need to waste time and energy on semi-yearly iPhone hardware revs.

qst4 says:

Well with most Apple consumers as "Crass" as Rene in their defense of this dated OS, Apple will not find any shortage of supporters regardless of what they do. So bottom-line, if it ain't broke, don't fix it! If they do anything, they need to get on other US networks, because the one thing we have learned from the iphone and its consumers is the network reception at your location trumps everything, even your choice of smartphone.

GinoDotCom says:

Why should Apple change their business approach ( the same one which has obviously made them enormously successful over the past few years) just because of what Google is doing?
News flash: Apple just finish having it's best quarter ever for iPhones.
No need to change your game plan now.

SockRolid says:

@scott: "Apple’s main problem is their lack of hardware."
And it's just a minor problem. Yearly releases mean that the wannabes will gradually catch up to iPhone with numbers: faster CPU, more flash RAM, higher screen resolution, whatever. Then Apple crushes them every Summer with the new iPhone plus the new iPhone OS.
You want multiple version of the iPhone hardware? Well, Apple ships two iPhone models, in case you hadn't noticed. Next month they'll drop 3GS pricing to $99 and roll out the new 2010 iPhone at the high end. And both will still run iPhone OS 4.0.
Keeping it simple for consumers is one of Apple's greatest strengths. This so-called "lack of hardware" makes it easy for consumers to decide which iPhone to buy. Last year's model or this year's model. Simple enough for you there, buddy?

Mav says:

@Desmond: always right on the money, buddy!
Since Android devices are made by variety of manufacturers they HAVE TO release them frequently to compete with each other. Apple, on the other hand, has no direct competition except... Apple. And, while keeping an eye on what others are doing, Apple continues to deliver outstanding products year after year.
iPhone vs Android is like a wife vs the whorehouse. Yeah, maybe you can find ladies with better "specs" out there ;) but who do you trust and love after all? :)

iPheuria says:

I certainly hope Apple chooses not to offer new hardware more than once a year. I think it gives them time to get good, new, powerful hardware, develop the OS and keep the iPhone users hungry by building excitement. If they start to release more often they will have to start handing them out for free like the current Android market does it's just not their style and you don't change something that's working. How many people will be getting the 4th gen iPhone raise your hands?? MEEEEEEE

SI7VERWOLF says:

With all the carriers in the UK tying users into 2 year contracts (and 18 months at a premium) do Apple really need to introduce hardware more than once a year? I don't know if this the same in the States, but quicker releases for hardware will only lead to compromise. I'll certainly upgrade to OS4, but maybe the upgrades should be more often than the hardware...

Peter says:

In Germany it is still normal to have a 24 month contract. So with this in mind, it´s totally ok to release one new iPhone a year.

Nick says:

With all this talk about Quality over Quantity, then shouldn't mac be the most popular OS instead of the PC's? Seems that Google is Microsoft with all these hardware out there and maybe next year, Android just might be the top dog.

Eagleyesmith says:

@Scott:
Honestly I don't understand this hardware argument that everyone keeps throwing. Only thing you can really do from the hardware side is: Faster CPU, More RAM, Better Camera, Better Screen. More Storage. Everything else comes from the software side anyway.
So if I'm Apple, why would I want to release multiple hardware SKU's of the iPhone w/ variations of what I listed above? I'm not saying that Android isn't a good OS, no not at all. But all the fragmentation and constant new hardware that basically copies the last phone just isn't a big deal to me.
Take the EVO & the Incredible. They're the same device, just one is capable of 4G. (which is only available in select markets) So if I'm Apple, I see this, my next iPhone will have that, and more. Plus a New OS.
Plus Apple does its own hardware w/ its software so they can optimize the software to run w/ their own hardware. Android can't do that because of all the multiple devices that it comes on. Thats Android's biggest knock. Its a resource hog.
The 3GS has a 600MHz Processor, 256MB of RAM. (only thing that matters) And it's just as fast as the EVO, and Incredible. Now think how much faster and better the iPhone will be w/ a 1GHz A4 Processor, Double the RAM, Better Camera, Better Screen, Front Facing Camera, and iPhone OS 4.0. Its already better then those two flagship Android phones.

zero credability says:

Yeah i think new hardware every year is ok , but just step up the software releases to biyearly .. at least until andriod takes a breath.

Po' kuntry boi says:

Apple has a nice business model. I see no need to destroy it. Every year new customers and the people at the end of two year contracts are able to purchase the newest model at subsidized prices. Those caught in between get a major software update that is analogous to a new phone.
The mobile spec race has a dead end. Look at HTC. They make their own phones obsolete before they are even released. And then it gets worse when you factor in the different software. Choice is good but not to the point it gets confusing.

Chris says:

Apple doesn't need to update the iPhone more than once a year. If they work out a deal with VZW they will double their iPhone sales.

(Copy of) Dev says:

@zero credability
Android is never going to stop for a breath, it is just the nature of the cooperative+competitive beast.
Every pause HTC takes to catch their breath is an opportunity for Motorola or LG or Toshiba or Sharp to pass them. The people involved in Android cannot stop, because Android makers are not only competing with Apple, Symbian, MS, and RIM, they are competing with each other. That extra pressure has driven Android to improve so quickly, and that pressure will never stop.
Google's main challenge, in addition to providing software development and guidance, is to harness those competing forces in such a way that they all drive the platform as a whole, in addition to the individual handset manufacturer's needs. So far, they have done a pretty good job -- not perfect, but pretty good, and it seems reasonable to plan on the competition doing at least that level of job going forward.
I think that is kind of the point of Rene's question -- in the face of this unrelenting, advancing platform, does Apple need to change its strategy, or is it better off avoiding that treadmill, even if it means ceding some technical superiority from time to time? There are some good arguments on both sides of that fence.

jzajzz says:

Copy of Dev brings up a good point that I wasn't thinking about when reading the article... Manufacturers do have to compete against each other.. Although I think HTC is killing all the competition ..
but anyway... about the Iphone.. The Iphone certainly can afford to keep that pace because the Iphone's philosophy of a closed system is catered to a niche market..
I believe that Android will eventually surpass the Iphone because face it .. The Iphone is the cool gadget of the time.. and one thing about Cool gadgets they dont stay "cool" forever... so eventually it has to fall into a niche... and What APple should do is to position it as a high end device... kinda like the iMacs...
Apple's donig pretty well with the iMacs ... and with the cash they have at their disposal .. they can afford to just focus on maximizing their profits..

andrew flores says:

somebody tell me when an android handset outsells the iPhone. until then google can brag as much as they want about marketshare and all that nonsense but who still has the best selling phone? Apple of course!

Jho says:

@ I didnt say it:
bingo. You are money dude.

Cakes says:

If Apple starts putting an iPhone out more than once a year, we will hear even more griping from consumers about 2-year contracts. It's a potenti nightmare for the phone companies (T). People want the latest and greatest. I know that for me, I am excited about the next iPhone because my contract is up in July and I'll be eligible for a subsidized upgrade. But if a new iPhone came out every quarter, or semiannually, I might feel like I'm stuck. But maybe that's your point. The real question is who will buy iPhones if they shorten the product cycle? New users or old ones looking to upgrade? New iPhones every quarter won't have the impact that offering the iPhone on multiple networks will. And that is the single best thing Apple can do to increase buzz and market share.

frog says:

More frequent software updates. The blogs/media nearly wet themselves when Apple announce anything, but - on the phone front - they've been silent almost a year (3.1 was a minor update). One device is enough though, a reason I like the iPhone is for the stability of the platform - Android is the total opposite.

Hellpop says:

As a consumer, I like the once a year hardware with a once a year software combo. Incremental updates to RAM, resolution, camera, etc. are frustrating when it comes to simply keeping up. As a corporate strategy it may make sense to release these "new" phones all the time, but they will lose out on consumer confidence on the long term. Not to mention (as others have above) the fragmentation factor of OS's, platforms, etc. They are essentially making disposable devices by updating every few months.

ArcAngel says:

I'm just confused at the status of Android phones and what phone can do what and what can't... at least with the iPhone I know what I'm getting and essentially when I'm getting it. Will be upgrading my 3G to the new hotness in June (I hope!). Then I can start saving for iPad G2 :)

The Reptile says:

Short term, X.5 releases make sense with big platform/feature/function releases annually. Longer term, handsets will not change hardware/network wise much substantially like the laptop and desktop market now. When that happens then it's time to go with 1 release per year.

dan_es_4 says:

I don't think apple should start releasing iPhone more than once a year like every other phone out there. I think that their product cycle plays a part in gaining market share. The fact that only one iPhone comes out every year is what convinced me to terminate my contract from T-Mobile. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. We can be certain that the iPhone we just got is gonna be the best. And if apple starts to release a new phone eve two months like android does, it would not be as persuasive to buy the iPhone "right now". What makes the iPhone cycle, even though it only comes out once a year, is that you can be sure it's the best and you can be certain it will be there...
BTW sorry if I repeated someone else haven't hadtimeto read through the comments. And BTWi used my iPad to type this it's not very long but for all those who hasn't gotten one because they don't know if they'll be able to actually use it... Let me tell you its awesome!!!

Steve W says:

Something no one else has brought up: Not only is Apple regularly improving the iPad, iPhone, and iPod; the Mac, two Operating Systems, two software developer kits; applications, Stores, and customer service; Apple is always working on the Next Big Thing.
Apple's ability to sell the Next Big Thing to early adopters rides on Apple's past performance in delivering on the first day. Apple needs to get it right the first time, in order to have people lining up outside the store on the first day. Apple critics say, "Never buy version one." Thing is, if version one doesn't sell, there won't be a version two.
Apple critics say the iPad is just a big iPod Touch. How come three years after the introduction of the iPhone, the iPad surprised the competition? Why is the iPhone so popular in HTC's home country? Why is Apple first in customer satisfaction? How does Apple have the industry's highest profit margins? How does Apple record record sales and record profits during a global recession?
Answer: Apple pays attention to the details. That takes time and effort.

John says:

I'd almost buy the argument, except (1) I can only afford to buy a new phone once a year, (2) it's not like we can switch carriers left and right every time a new phone comes out, and (3) when there's a constant cycle of new choices (like with RIM back in the heyday), it makes it hard to buy a new phone because you always want to wait and see what the next one will have, too much buyer's remorse.
I like the one year cycle, it's manageable, predictable. When it comes out, I can decide if I want to wait a year or upgrade right away, then live with that decision for another year.

myonlinelifenow says:

I think the question isn't worth asking in opinion. Why does the iPhone have to beat Android or anyone else for that matter? 1 phone a year just works. For the people that want to buy into the iEco-System (iPod/iPhone/iPad) they are happy having one choice. Everyone else can chase the shiny ball every 6 weeks when a new Android phone trumps the last one. I get a quality build with each iProduct. First Gen iPod Touch and iPhone 3G still working just fine. I'll upgrade to an iPad and iPhone 4G/HD this summer.
Honestly you have to understand that people just like the products that Apple comes out with, and for those that don't or complain that it isn't open or doesn't do flash..move on. I like the way Apple roles. Once a year does me and million other people just fine.
One last note..even if the iPhone per device gets beaten by the Android in volume, Apple will still quarter after quarter beat everyone on the profit margin. They'll take that to the bank and just up their stock

j7469 says:

I'd like to see is something more like their Macbook refresh rate in the 9-10 month cycle. It still give the Engineering team plenty of time to come up with a great device and is often enough to not lag behind the reset of the industry. IMHO

whsingleton says:

My impression of the fast pace of Google Android phones coming out is that as a consumer I don't feel as though it is guaranteed that they are going to bug fix what they consider now to be an "old" phone (even if it is only a couple of months old.) Android is a platform, but what about the software that runs underneath that provides the "drivers" and whatnot for a specific device? What if there are issues? That's why I choose iPhone. I've read the Android blogs... those guys are spending most of their time trying to solve problems with their phones.

Bill says:

As a developer, I"m leaving, as many of my friends are. The terms and closed environment is like nothing I've seen since IBM.
Right now it seems all good to the users. But it is all about lock in to Apple's way, and locking out other ideas. It is brutal.
It is clear from the posts that nobody here has done anything more than look at an Android. I have both an iphone and an Nexus One, and the difference is functionality and user interface is not that much, but the overall cost is MUCH cheaper. Plus, I have alot more flexibility on what I can put on it. And there is alot more highly functioning apps already on Android. And it is actually easier to find them.
It is no coincidence that the Android passed the iphone last month. The trend is building. In about 8 months android will probably pass iPhone for good.
As bad as developing for Microsoft was.... it was better than this.

whsingleton says:

@Bill - Read this article: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/11/17/android.wired/index.html. The grass is not always greener. You'll trade one set of problems for another, but there WILL be problems. In the end, it is your choice.

Hog says:

Once a year is enough...
This way Apple can assure the quality of the product and create the excitment every year (per product).
They should come up with new OS more often.
Let's be realistic: do you know a lot of people who can change their iPhone & iPad every year???

smchrist2 says:

once a year = excitement
and i really hope apple would break the single device into pro, regular, and air. that way they dont sacrifice OLED screens for price and you'd have a higher-class option

Rajiv says:

@Whsingleton
That link is from November 2009.

stuffradio says:

Once a year is fine, but I could use more frequent software updates...

YourMobileGuru says:

Lol I just love all the iphone lovers out there who have never even touched a droid let alone owned one say what is wrong with android. .... scared? Rene is....

Kenji O. says:

I was wondering the same thing. It seems like for the past six months or so, each month there has been the release of a new Android phone, each of which that was more hyped than the previous (Droid, Nexus One, Incredible, EVO, Galaxy S, etc - not in that exact order). Curious to see how Apple will continue on the current course or modify its strategy given how strong Google has come on.

iName says:

it's called future proofing. if each iPhone update came with enough substantial features, apple wouldn't have to release a new phone more than once a year. the 3GS was a joke. if they had increased the resolution, improved the camera and had a faster processor, it would not have been obsolete after 5 months. minor spec bumps aren't going to compete with the fast paced growth of android.

Hellpop says:

Another note:
Once a year pretty much locks in a stock price jump. No matter what happens throughout the rest of the year, the hype and release basically makes the stock holders happy every June. You can't really have this when you update inconsistently and without much fanfare outside of the tech geek world.

whsingleton says:

@rajiv - November 2009 was only 6 months ago! Have the issues in the article been addressed?
@Tim - I am scared. As a potential customer of Android (that's why I researched it) there remain issues that scared me off. Droid Incredible looked good, but reboots? Trackball issues? Freeze-ups? Would Android survive if iPhone was available on Verizon? I think that would scare me if I was an Android platform loyalist.

Steve Jobs says:

Would you guys stop obsessing over my phones...I'm not god

Guy says:

Yes AND no. Yes, because that's all AT&T has got in the smartphone game! And no,they definitely need to AT LEAST release two a year or more!!!! The argument is that every year they release a phone,it is revolutionary, well in actuality they play catch up from the years past phones! Not saying their phones are bad, but, nothing changes!!!!! You may get a 5 mp camera this year WOOHOOOOO!!!! The standard is now set at 5-8!!!! I mean, software don't get me started and I own one ;) !!!

brick says:

But you have already got your answer in the PC vs Mac world. Frankly, all Samsung and HTC Android phones are starting to look generic. Pretty soon there will be so many Android phones flooding the market, you will no longer be able to differentiate one from the other. And the poster about is right: the specs race is a dead-end one.
Apple, by releasing one one do-it-all phone, retains its unique identity and value, even if for just that one year. The firmware updates already keeps the iPhones relevant without having to spend on hardware. (I'm still using my 3G coming to 2 years, and I never owned any phone before this pass the 1 year mark.)
The only way I will see them improve is to release 2 versions of that one phone each year: a more mass market affordable model, and a techie high-specced monster. I think they need a machine with a screen that rivals HTC HD2.

Steve says:

Apple is in serious trouble and they cant hold a candle to android and its multiple devices on every single carrier out there world wide , Even AT&T caved in and is now starting to sell Android devices , and speaking of AT&T that is the iPhone crutch, an absolute CRAP network , I will never go back to any iPhone, not with the versatility of Android and the flat out awesome devices coming out all the time , one better than the next . Do yourselves a favor , sell your iPhones while they are still worth something and buy an Evo 4G or Droid incredible or any other amazing device of your choice , you will never look back to Apple again

AJ says:

IMO Palm/HP is the only other company besides apple that is trying to make a competing and feature-rich platform. Android will become the new windows, while people who want something different will look over the fence at the latest webos device or iphone...

ron says:

Having owned an iPhone and the HTC incredible, I can tell you this : the incredible deserves its name. Awesome phone .