It’s October 4th, 2011, and Apple is hosting its highly anticipated iPhone event. SVP of Marketing Phil Schiller is on stage, and after about 5 minutes of discussing changes to the iPod line, he utters the words that everyone has been waiting to hear: “Next, iPhone.”

A sense of disappointment spread throughout the tech world as Schiller went on to unveil a familiar-looking iPhone 4S. Where was this teardrop-shaped iPhone 5 that we had been hearing so much about? With the bigger screen, and LTE? What about all of those leaked cases?

Of course, the 4S would go on to be a huge hit for Apple. But the whole experience has left a lot of consumers with low expectations for this year’s iPhone release. Well it’s time to raise them. There are actually a few reasons why you should be excited about Apple’s next handset…

Pattern

The iPhone 4S really shouldn’t have been as big of a surprise as it was to everyone. Over the past few years, a pattern has developed in the way Apple has handled iPhone updates. Think about it, iPhone 3G > 3GS > 4 > 4S — major update, minor update, major update, minor update.

So why does Apple do this? It could be related to carrier contracts. The average cell phone customer can get a subsidized handset every two years, so it could be that Apple has made this its timeline for major iPhone updates. Ie: it’s easier to buy a handset on a two-year contract if you’re not worried about it being completely obsolete in 12 months. Also, the decision could have something to do with Moore’s law, which says that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years. How can Apple dramatically update the iPhone every year, if the technology inside is only updated every two?

Regardless of the reasoning behind it, the pattern is evident. And if Apple continues that pattern with this year’s release, the next iPhone should be a major update.

Evidence

Other than a number of third-party cases, we really didn’t see a whole lot of physical evidence last year supporting the ‘iPhone 5’ theory. There were no radically different-looking leaked components, or display panels. Nothing. In fact, most of the parts we did see looked a lot like iPhone 4 parts. Go figure.

This year, however, that’s just not the case. We’ve actually seen a ton of evidence suggesting that the next iPhone will look different than the current model, from 4-inch display panels to engineering samples and schematics. And let’s not forget those two-tone back panels that keep popping up.

All of these components come from different sources, but all of them point to a similar design — an iPhone with a part-glass, part-aluminum back panel and a larger 4-inch display. Keep in mind, these are all likely prototype parts. But it’s still evidence that Apple is working on a new design for its next smartphone. Which, once again, suggests that this year’s iPhone will be a significant update.

Pressure

To say that Apple is under a lot of pressure to deliver a hit smartphone this year is a massive understatement. This will be the company’s first handset since Steve Jobs passed. And even though it’s believed that he played a large part in its development, his absence will be on everyone’s minds. Can Apple deliver a hit product without its beloved visionary?

Also keep in mind that Apple sold 37 million handsets during the quarter following the iPhone 4S release last year. So to top that, which it’s expected to do, Apple has to sell in upwards of 40 million phones during the 2012 holiday season. That means that it has to essentially convince 40 million people that its new iPhone is better than the competitions’ handsets, which, by the way, are looking better than ever.

Samsung unveiled its latest flagship handset, the Galaxy S III, back in May of this year. And it’s already believed to have sold over 10 million of them. Factor in the new Android 4.1 JellyBean update, which has been getting rave reviews, and the expected onslaught of new Windows Phone 8 hardware this fall, and you can see that Apple needs to come up big with its next iPhone to maintain marketshare.

Conclusion

All of these things combine for a pretty good argument on why we should expect a major update to Apple’s smartphone line this year. The pattern is there. The evidence is there. And the pressure?

The iPhone is Apple’s baby. It’s the company’s best-selling product, with the highest profit margins. And even though it’s sold extremely well in the past, as Nokia and RIM have proven, that can change in an instant. With the competition hotter this year than ever before, Apple doesn’t just want its next iPhone to be a hit, it needs it to be. What Tim Cook’s team unveils this October will set the tone for the rest of the CEO’s tenure, and the company’s immediate future.

Oh yeah, I’d say the pressure’s definitely there.

  • sorry guys, I think Apple is Steve Jobs, major things comes with him only. this is my thinking, I hope I’m wrong…

  • Where was the iPhone 5 last October? Right in Tim’s pocket.

  • Totally inaccurate to say that the 3GS and 4S were minor updates. Both were entirely new phones on the inside – 3GS shot video, took 3mp photos, had double the ram, had hsdpa. 4S added a better camera, 64gb of storage, hsdpa+, faster processor, better gps coverage, world phone for CDMA models, and Siri (WITHOUT hacking it in).

    Just because a phone slips into the same case you bight a year ago, doesn’t mean it’s not a major update.

    If body designs were all that mattered, than the brand new Ivy Bridge MacBook Pros are no different than the four-year-old original unibody machines.

    • ok – than the cycle goes like this:
      outwardness update -> inwardness update ->
      outwardness update -> inwardness update -> …

    • yeah because the article said that body design is all that matters…

    • Pavelbure

      Thanks. It irritates me when they keep saying the 3GS and 4s were minor updates. Everything but the screen and case were changed.

      Kinda like this years new iPad, about the only thing changed was a camera nobody uses and the screen and it is considered a major update.

      Sometime tech writers are so superficial that if the outside is the same then nothing has changed.

      • You’re forgetting LTE, combine that with a Retina display and an A5X processor and yes, it’s a very major update. Don’t be so blind.

    • Obsidian71

      Hmmm why did 4 people ding you for this excellent post?

    • shawn7798

      U mean hspa +. The iPhone already had hsdpa

    • seyss

      The original iphone shot video. i have it here.

      The ONLY major update was iPhone 4. Retina display, amazing design and Facetime.

    • Anyway it is upgrade. And it will be

  • No. Not necessery. iPhone 5 won’t release until next year 2013. This year we going to get iPhone 4GS

    • Outhig

      Source?

    • Haha this, if it would be true would be the death of iPhone. Galaxy S3 is rocking right now! Apple cant pull this 4S, 4GS stunt all over again otherwise its iphone to Its grave believe that!

      • Apple can do or call it what ever it wants and you and i will still buy it and it will still out sale everyone else. If anyone is good at pulling off stunts its apple.

      • Not me man no more! Will deff get a sg3 or some if they pull this.
        Im not gonna walk around with a boring OS no more! New iphone must be unbelievable and ios6 better have some secret new sh*t or I’m out.

  • Aleksander Azizi

    Don’t forget, Steve left behind some ideas for new and current product’s to Apple before he died ..

    • seyss

      I believe that was a lie told to calm down the market and investors during SJ’s death…

  • Tucker Brown

    by the way, dumb ass, Apple hosted the event on October 4th. Steve Jobs died the next day, remember?

    • Mohamed Hassabo

      You do know that he was still working at Apple and on the 4S, right? -.-

  • twited21

    Don’t care about the next iPhone I won’t be getting one my ip4 is still rocking bad ass
    What I do care about is the 4th gen iPad wake me up when it drops

  • This is completely irresponsible journalism. Aside from the 3GS and the 4S being far from “minor updates”, you can’t draw any conclusions from a few supposed leaked parts. You guys are reporting on how Apple has missed the mark with iOS 6 and now they’re falling short on the new iPhone. These things don’t even exist yet. You’re wasting your time and ours by drawing speculation on nothing more than vaporware.

    Setting expectations based on intentional misdirection then berating Apple for not coming through on your personal wishlist is ridiculous, as is this constant speculation on a product that most people inside Apple haven’t even seen.

    As other Smartphones are just now catching up to the 3GS, I’d say we’re pretty safe.

    Now go write about something that exists…

    • Stop your whining! You don’t speak for everyone, I like every single thing iDB post. They’re fantastic. Stop complaining and get a life.

      “Just catching up to the iPhone 3GS”. – Are you a complete idiot?

  • Are they ganna reaveal it on august 7th? Thats what i read?

  • I think people are forgetting about the software updates as well. Apple maps, FB Integration ect..

  • TheDutSerio

    Still the only things I want improved battery speaker and screen. They will have to give me at least 2 of 3 of these improvements for me to consider getting another iPhone. Otherwise I’m fine with my iPhone 4 running ios 6 jailbroken. I’m crossing my fingers for a 4 inch screen 2100 mAh battery and 200-300X louder speaker. Honestly the end consumer got shafted by the iPhone 4s.

  • It was minor update, major update, major update, major update… Just that the design doesn’t change isn’t the reason for calling it “minor” the only minor update was iPhone 2G -> iPhone 3G