Mac Musings

Why I Expect the Next iPhone by Mid September

Dan Knight - 2011.06.08 - Tip Jar

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If history is any indicator, the next generation iPhone won't arrive until "fall" - Apple's official pronouncement for the release of iOS 5.

Here's Apple's track record:

  • June 29, 2007: original iPhone and OS
  • July 11, 2008: iPhone 3G and iOS 2
  • June 19, 2009: iPhone 3G and iOS 3
  • June 21, 2010: iOS 4
  • June 24, 2010: iPhone 4
  • Fall 2011: iOS 5

Every time a new iPhone is ready, Apple releases a new version of the operating system. Every time. The only exception was the February 2011 release of a CDMA version of the iPhone for Verizon and other carriers, an it runs its own version of iOS 4.

I'll go out on a limb and predict that the next generation iPhone (probably iPhone 5, although I would love to see iPhone 4G with 4G support, even if 4G coverage is still spotty - think forward) will not come out before the fifth generation (5G) iPod touch. And the iPod touch track record has included four early September releases.

In fact, early September has become Apple's time to refresh the entire iPod line, and I believe it will do its best to continue that tradition. I'm predicting a late August or early September release for the next iPhone, because it should ship with iOS 5 and not release after the 5G iPod touch.

Why Does This Matter?

My wife and I are coming to the end of our Verizon service contract, and we've been very unhappy with the level of customer support. Before Verizon merged Alltel into its system, we had no complaints, but now we have text messages and voicemails sometimes showing up the next day, and the only solution offered to Waverly, whose LG phone sometimes doesn't ring, is to buy a new phone, which would lock us in for another two year.

Sorry, Verizon, we're not going there.

In a couple of recent trips, we've seen how convenient having the Web available while driving would be a real plus. We could look up store locations, hours, and phone numbers, which is far more than our Garmin can do. And we can probably have access to much more up-to-date maps than Garmin includes - even after a late April update is has once brought us to a nonexistent winery and another time sent us two blocks away from the Swan Creek candle store Waverly was looking for. GPS is wonderful when it works, but it's also limited.

We're pretty much sold on AT&T, and several family members are already iPhone users - and love them. Problem is the premium you pay for Internet access. We're hoping AT&T will come up with a more affordable alternative. We're looking at $80 a month for 700 minutes (we can talk to AT&T users for free) plus $10 for texting, which is comparable to our current Verizon package.

AT&T has improved things since the iPhone first went on sale, when you had a flat rate $40 unlimited Internet access charge. Well, improved things for some users. You can now get 200 MB of data for $15 (plus $15 per additional 200 MB), 2 GB for $25 (plus $10 per additional GB), or 4 GB for $45. It's obvious where the best value is for all but the most limited Internet usage: The 2 GB plan will save money over the 4 GB plan in any month where you use less than 3 GB of bandwidth. The 200 MB plan is cheap, but AT&T's data calculator says that at 40 Web pages per day and no other Internet use, you'll exceed 200 MB, bringing you to at least $30. Better to play it safe with the 2 GB plan, which brings the monthly total to $115 before taxes and regulatory fees.

The other option is an iPad with 3G, which has a $15/month data plan for 250 GB, a little bit more bandwidth than the $15/month iPhone data plan. Or there's the same $25/month for 2 GB of bandwidth, so nothing saved there. (Verizon has a $20 1 GB data plan, which might also be a good fit.)

My hope is that the next generation iPod touch will be available in a 3G version, just like the iPad. For those who don't want an iPhone, find the iPad too big, and want Internet on the go, it could be a big winner for Apple and for the carriers.

Where's the Best Value?

At $49, the iPhone 3GS is a steal, but at $199, the iPhone 4 (and I lust after the Retina Display) seems a bit rich. If only the iPhone 4G or 5 were just around the corner! When it arrives, we'll probably see an 8 GB iPhone 4 as the new entry-level model, and I think it would sell like hot cakes even at $99.

But it looks like it could be three more month before that happens, and we're simply tired of not having Waverly's phone ring when it should. At $49, the iPhone 3GS is a steal, but part of me doesn't want to buy a phone knowing it will be replaced within three months.

We plan to make the switch in late June. Maybe we'll know more by then. Maybe Apple will begin dropping the price on the iPhone 4 to clear out inventory in anticipation of the Fall 2011 model. I know we can't wait until September to move to AT&T, but perhaps I could get by with a secondhand out-of-contract phone until then. (I really like my Palm Centro and could happily live with the AT&T version until September.)

So many options to weigh.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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