Mulder vs. Scully


After I wrote my editorial on setting expectations I got a ton of tweets and comments and emails from people who really, truly want to believe Apple will be releasing a full on, big screen, metal back, different looking iPhone 5 this Tuesday at the Let's Talk iPhone event. They're talking about how competitive the market is now as opposed to 2009 when Apple did just that with iPhone 3GS. They're saying it's Tim Cook's first big event and he can't afford to disappoint. They're pointing to case leaks in Asia and supposed case SKUs in the US. They looking at the 15 month gap between devices and wondering how on earth Apple couldn't release a brand new iPhone 5 this year. How one earth they could "just" release an iPhone 4S.

It's like Mulder vs. Skully from the old X-Files show. (Wikipedia it, whipper snappers.)

Mulder is driven by emotion. He wants to believe. Scully is ruled by science. She's a skeptic. And that's where we are right now.

Like I said, I want to believe. It's such a compelling story. It would make for such a spectacular announcement. It would fill my fanboy heart with a soaring glee that would make me near impossible to deal with for a month or so. It would be like Christmas and my birthday rolled into lottery winning day in gadget form.

I want to believe... but in the last few days, looking at the leaks, listening to trusted sources, talking with other bloggers who are listening to their trusted sources... I just have to be the skeptic.

If Apple has truly pulled a fast one on the bloggers and the sources, if they've kept a full blown iPhone 5 secret from spy shots and manufacturing leaks beyond that case mold, then kudos to them. Well played.

If not, then we're getting iPhone 4S and we can gather back here in October 2012 for that (or some other) iPhone 5 and dance this little jig again.

Now the differences at this point are mostly cosmetic. Both devices would have a dual-core Apple A5 Cortex A9 processor. Both would have an 8 megapixel camera. If there's a RAM bump or storage bump, both would have it. The only differenced between the rumored iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 are screen size (3.5 vs. 3.75 or 4-inches), perhaps thickness, and the material of the back plate (glass vs. not glass/maybe metal). That's it. Either phone would be as specced out and as competitive as the other.

But I'm not going into Tuesday expecting anything beyond that iPhone 4S, iOS 5 and Assistant, some new iPod touches, and the usual stuff that goes with that type of announcement. I'm not Mulder this year, much as I truly wish I could be. This year, I'm Scully.

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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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Reader comments

Mulder vs. Scully


I'm beginning to think that the "iPhone 5" teardrop is just the LTE iPhone that won't hit until next summer. The good news is it'll be a great phone we just have to wait another 8 months or so.

Why lag? SGS2 is way smoother than iPhone4. The only thing thay sucks is Android apps, that look amd feel horrible in comparison to iOS apps.
I have both phones, but I still fancy the iPhone more, simply because of the feeling of using a premium product. I never get this when using Android.

I personally prefer the glass iPhone (4).
So a new iPhone branded 4s with a new chipset and camera would be my iPhone 5 no matter what they decide to call it

The last Chinese guy who ran his mouth about an apple product is in prison doing years!! Years!!! For leaking apple information. Who else could tell you what it looks like for sure? Only people who have signed agreements that would land them in jail or financially ruin them! Nobody would tell you what it looks like this time. We'll have to wait and see.

More like it'll finally be catching up to all the other top-end phones out there. Sans 4G data, of course. I wouldn't dare to go so far as to say, "If not the best specced phone[s] on the planet."

We will see both of the rumored designs this year. However, the fancy one we are gushing over... Is the new iPod Touch.
As it stands, there is no reason for an owner of both an iPhone and an iPad to buy a Touch. But if you jack up the screen size... Suddenly you have a screen suited perfectly for a pocketable, yet readable, e-reader. Price it at two hundred bucks, and the Kindle Fire will be dead in the water. Apple is also all about giving it's products clearly defined use cases. The Touch is nothing more than a crippled iPhone in it's current state. A big screen would make it clear that this is meant to be a highly portable media device that bridges the gap between the stay-at-home iPad, and the on-the-road iPhone.
All I'm hoping for is that they give it a brushed metal back. I loathe that horrid chrome that scratches if you look at it too hard.
Oh, and the proof? The 8MP camera that Sony has provided to Apple is too thick for that thin of a casing.

Sorry, but the screen is NOT just a cosmetic design. Its a huge functionality upgrade.
I like the current design of the iPhone, if they don't change it and give me the bigger screen, i'll gladly call it the i5. It is still a huge upgrade with just the RAM and processor alone.
I don't want a redesign, i want a bigger screen already on an iPhone.
The only upbeat is that if they don't change the design at all, at least i can keep using the GLIF and the olloclip.

I disagree. One of the pluses on my Android is definitely the screen size. It makes the phone more functional while web browsing, reading, typing, and using the device in general.

Funny, people said the ipad was/is a big ipod touch but apple fans argued that the increased screen size made a difference. Now it's not (probably because Android beat iOS to the punch years ago [thank you HTC]). Make up your minds already

For the record i think there will be at least two phones. An iphone 4s, a low budget phone with almost the same specs as the current iphone 4 and an iphone 5 with a larger screen, better camera, more ram, and capable of using assistant.
They need a whole thread after this so people can gloat and say how wrong people were. I never liked x-files either. Movie sucked too.

My guess - 4S and 5 both announced this week, with the 4S available immediately, hence the leaks of in-store system references and iTunes references. iPhone 5 available until later, which is why we haven't seen so many "firm" leaks.

You blew it... according to the carriers and the marketers, HSPA+ is "4G".... which the next iPhone will have.
Now if we're talking about 4G LTE (which is real 4G for those who don't know...) then there is no need for this. You are one of a handful of people who want this. Unfortunately, 4G LTE is not widespread yet for it to be implemented into the iPhone and drive up cost.
Also (MARK MY WORDS), when Apple comes out with a 4G LTE device, they will have solved the battery issues.

If the only phone is an "S" then it will have to be low cost, leaving Apple without a high-margin phone. Won't happen. Perhaps 2 models in the 4 shape, one like the current 4 and one with upgraded specs?

The only reason I care about a new iPhone is because of the back of the phone. Call it the 4S or the 5, I don't care. I only care because I hate having a phone that is so delicate that I worry more about my phone than my own well being. I really think that is why everyone cares. The back needs to go and an i5 would indicate a different back where as the i4S indicates that a phone is coming out that isn't worth upgrading to because the current phone is plenty fast enough for everyday/average use and people won't be getting a phone that is much more structurally sound. I would love to see a tipb poll that attempts to find out if the whole reason for the upset is because of the worry (and delicate behavior requirement) of the glass back vs some other upset. I love the i4, but I hate that with the i3G it never needed a case and I could drop it all the time and never worry, but I can drop my i4 in an otterbox defender and panic.

The thing I wonder about, is when the iPhone after will be released.
If Apple were to move back into the original yearly cycle of June/July after this release, then surely a iPhone 4S style update now is perfect.
iPhone 4 owners will update to the iPhone 5 next year, as they come out of contract, in fact, I'd contend that most can't / wont upgrade now due to early termination fees, the same form factor, and perceived lack of difference to the current model.
If Apple trying to fit the original cycle is the case, then this update needs to be perceived as minor. Those who were looking to upgrade immediately upon launch in June, be they 3GS or 4 owners, need to feel as if they definitely require an upgrade now, but they haven't been missing out on something major since then. Certainly a tough position to market, but, done correctly, a '4S' would fit the bill.
On the other hand, if Apple wants to remain in the new cycle, it needs to be a major update, otherwise it attracts the '15 months since a release' criticism, and I certainly can't see a 4S attracting the kind of attention that a shiny, redesigned iPhone 5 would.

As long as it's Dana and not John, then I'm going with Scully(I know it spelt different, but shhh, dammit!).

i1g > i2g (redesign) > i3g > i3gs > i4(redesign) > i?
If i'm not wrong, i4 have issues with its signal because of its design/build

Apple won't release an iPhone with a bigger screen.
All apps are designed for iPad og iPhones with a 3.5" screen. A bigger screen would mean that all developers should develop their Apps to fit a 4" screen, and since I'm a developer I can tell that Apple haven't said anything about that I should optimize my apps for a 4" screen... Apple wouldn't do the same mistake as Android, and develop apps that didn't fit 100% to all iOS phones..

I'm not quite sure about that, but even if it could a bigger screen would mean some cosmetic changes in the iOS. And we haven't heard anything about that..

I feel as if the iPhone 4S or I5 regardless of either the two.. THEY BOTH WILL RUN IOS 5! and we all would have the same features cross both phones.. So it don't matter if Apple puts a 5" screen on it and remove the home button it won't be a "major" upgrade.. unless it has a new design, a type new UI to it and some other features .. then to me it would be a new phone.. but if its just a bigger screen, some little design changes and run the same version of IOS 5 that we will have on our I4 then it will make no sense to get the i5.. unless you just want to keep up with the jones and have the brag rights to say you bought one
in the end even if apple put a duel core 1.2ghz in it.. we all know we would never really use that full 1.2ghz.. apple would probably clock it at 900 or maybe even below that.. and only use when needed.. sure that would mean 2x the stuff we can run now.. but honestly.. who is going to run 20 web pages at once? n have 50 apps running in "apple so call" multitasking dock??

As much as I would like to say you're wrong, even I am counting on the fact that this is an "inbetween" cycle, just like the 3GS was. Many people will be disappointed, just as they were when the 3GS came out. However, there will be just as many of us wishing we had this "inbetweener" just like those of us in the middle of our 3G contracts were wishing we had a 3GS.
While I agree that many will see this as a referendum on Tim Cook, it would be unfair, since the vast majority of the development was done while Steve Jobs was still at the wheel of the ship.

I honestly dont think Apple need to release the iPhone 5 now
The competition hasn't caught up and the iPhone 4 was a MASSIVE departure from the 3Gs so there's no need for a totally revamp just yet.
Like Rene I'm down for 4s with a better camera, iOS 5, more RAM and GB

Maybe I'm too Mulder but I think it will be a redesign.
They made one for the iPad 2, one year after the 1st one when they didn't have to (because 1st was not that bad and got no competition).
So I can't believe 15 month later they'll come with the same design in mobile world where the competition is crazy.
I'll buy the new one no matter what, but I guess they'll be less successfull and a lot of disappointment if design does not change.
4 years after the iPhone 1, I think it's time to change a bit the front face design.

Maybe I'm too Mulder but I think it will be a redesign.
They made one for the iPad 2, one year after the 1st one when they didn't have to (because 1st was not that bad and got no competition).
So I can't believe 15 month later they'll come with the same design in mobile world where the competition is crazy.
I'll buy the new one no matter what, but I guess they'll be less successfull and a lot of disappointment if design does not change.
4 years after the iPhone 1, I think it's time to change a bit the front face design.

I honestly don't understand a lot of the comments here.
Is the shape of the phone really so crucial? Isn't the software, plus the speed and capacity of the chips inside, what counts?
And just because this is Tim Cook's first big event, that doesn't mean he can conjure some completely new device from thin air to present. An overambitious phone that doesn't work properly, or can't be profitable, would be much more damaging to Cook than simply presenting the next iteration of their hugely profitable iPhone.
I'm sure it will have a ton of new tricks up its sleeve. Why should I care that it's the same non-tapered rectangle?

Hey Rene... You sounded really down in the gloom last night on your podcast and Georgia looked/sounded down right distraught!! What the heck did you guys do to her OR did Apple just send her a personal note that the news wasn't going to meet the wacky expectations for the new hardware??

I'm not dropping it all the time, but it is ALWAYS in my mind. Plus I work in a warehouse like setting so that increases my nervousness about it. The glass is a beautiful design, but it's not practical to have a ridiculously fragile phone. It doesn't need to be cheap and plastic, but needs to be somewhat practical so that a simple drop from almost no height doesn't risk shattering it.

At this point we know there is an Iphone4S coming. Done. I also know that Apple being a huge company that it is can weather just a 4S release. All that being said if that's all we get the next weeks are going to be awful for Tim and company. And they will have nobody to blame but themselves. If this had come out when we all expected this to, people would have meh but gobbled it up in droves.
Now we are well past a quarter from it and people are expecting more. It comes down to this. Apple with all its vaunted R&D talent couldn't get a better phone out in all this time. You have both HTC and Samsung lapping them with their current and future phones.
I'm a realist but this would be the worst stumble they did since attack of the clones.:) Good luck tomorrow Apple, you may just need it.

What I can see them doing is going to a twice year upgrade. Maybe in March we'll see the major upgrade and October the minor update along with iOS releases

this is true unless the 4S is the prepaid phone that can be had for cheaper without contract. This would be a good option for people like me who are still on contract but want the performance of the iPhone 5 without forking out the dollars it would cost for a newly-designed iPhone 5.
Just a hunch.
That way you can have a low-end iPhone 4 with 8GB of RAM, a mid-range iPhone 4S, and high-end iPhone 4.

I think the tech community in general is now the minority when we talk about smart phone users as apposed to a few years ago when they were the majority. If we are to assume Apple is approaching the smart phone market with a different strategy and target audience (as in the common user) and the next version of iOS is a milestone then an incremental hardware upgrade may meet their needs. If we are to say most iPhone owners prefer the device over others due to simplicity, ease of use and reliability then the user based enhancements of iOS5 may not need to be groundbreaking form a hard ware prospective, the hardware will only need to support the OS to an optimized and predicted use standpoint. If the next iPhone continues to sell at past rates I would then consider it a hit, if it fails to do so then I would think we could consider an incremental hardware update a miss, this is one of those history will tell situations. For use tech savvy people, yes, we would love to see advanced and innovative hardware upgrades, but it may not meet Apples ultimate goals or fit the strategy and that is what it is all about, that is if we look at the common user as the target audience and majority user.