Wednesday, April 27, 2011

White iPhone 4: it's finally here, brings with it the end of iPhone release predictability

Holding out for the white iPhone 4? Even though you had probably considered it vaporware by now, Apple says you can finally go out and get it tomorrow.

I'm not going to simply reiterate what you probably already know about the white iPhone 4 ordeal—that it was supposed to come out along with the black one last summer, that it kept getting delayed due to production issues, and that Apple made a few excuses here and there as to why it has taken so long to ship (well, I guess I just did). But I wanted to look at this release in terms of its sales forecast and what it means overall for iPhone release cycles.

Some analysts predict that the new white iPhone will boost Apple's handset sales by 1M–1.5M. Although I do agree there is a market for it—lots of people went as far as buying pre-release white iPhone parts overseas (an operation that was shut down and deemed illegal, if I remember correctly)—I still don't think we'll see a dramatic, if noticeable, sales increase. Two reasons: the iPhone 4 has already lost its newness. And I don't think novelty overshadows aging technology.

Which leads to my next point: a lot of folks thinking about buying an iPhone are probably considering waiting for the iPhone 5. Consequently, sales will plateau just before the summer, even if we see a short white iPhone sales boost. Traditionally Apple announces a new handset every summer at WWDC, but multiple media outlets (with all those reliable sources) are saying not to expect much until this Fall—a time usually reserved for iPods and iTunes-related stuff. Either way, this is the waning period for iPhone sales.

Overall, Apple is playing the cards right this hand. One thing consumers have had on their side is the predictability of a new iPhone each summer. By staggering iPhone releases this year—the Verizon iPhone 4 in February, the white iPhone 4 tomorrow, and the possible later release of the iPhone 5 this fall—Apple has effectively turned the tables back in its favor.

If you must have it, go get it. If you have that amazing virtue they call patience, wait for the 5.

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