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iPhone 4S Specs, iPhones For Free!! (Kinda), And What It Means To China

The new iPhone will be the iPhone 4S, not the iPhone5, but it is still a pretty solid update for a half-step.  The 3GS is now free in the U.S. with a new mobile contract, and the iPhone is reduced to $99.  Could this have an impact on Apple’s “status symbol” image in China?

The Skinny on the iPhone 4GS

The new iPhone will be the iPhone 4S.  It looks like the iPhone 4, so no excitement in the exterior looks department.

What it will contain:

  • Dual-core A5 CPU, the same as in the iPad 2
  • Dual-core graphics – estimated to be “7x faster than the previous iPhone”
  • Battery life: 3G talk time – 8 hours, 2G talk time – 14 hours. 3G web browsing – 6 hours, Wi-Fi – 9 hours, video playback – 10 hours, music – 40 hours
  • Theoretical download speeds of 14.4Mbps (as opposed to 7.2 on the iPhone 4.) Interestingly, Schiller called out Motorola, LG, and HTC for calling these speeds “4G”
  • World Phone (The 4S will support both GSM and CMDA – no need for separate models)
  • 8 megapixel camera (Resolution: 3264 x 2448) –  The camera is suppose to compete directly with dedicated cameras, big boost to image quality and handling of lighting
  • 1080p video recording –  Real-time noise reduction and video stabilization
  • Voice-controlled personal assistant, Siri, built in.  Works like an improved version of the app by the same name that Apple purchased earlier this year

While it wasn’t the iPhone 5, it’s still a pretty solid update.   Pre-orders begin October 7th and will ship October 14th.  No specific dates were given for countries outside the U.S. that I could see from the live blogs, but I would assume the usual pattern of distribution will be followed.  The 4S will land on Chinese soil…when it lands.  I’ll be picking up a 4S from Singapore to replace my aging 3GS.


iPhone Pricing

Speaking of my 3GS, it will now be free in the U.S. for those that are purchasing new mobile carrier contracts.  The iPhone 4 will be $99.  The three versions of the 4S will be $199, $299, and $399 depending on how much memory you want.  Overall, not to shabby.  Basically, Apple has said we want you to be able to get an iPhone if you want it, no matter what.  This is a big push.  Smartphones for everyone!! (As long as you aren’t on T-Mobile.)

Now some will say that the 3GS is quite old.  It is, but I still use mine. It works well for most things.  No, I can’t really play Infinity Blade on it, but I don’t really use it play games other than the occasional walk down memory lane with some of Square-Enix’s re-releases of the old Final Fantasy games.

But Calvin, you just said you were getting a 4S!!  Yes, I did. I do plan to get a 4S, but my 3GS is also an original 3GS.  The battery only holds a half charge at this point.  Frankly, being the semi-prudent person I am, I would not be looking for a new phone if not for that issue.  It’s just not necessary *yet* to have the latest hardware.  That time is coming though.  So if you on a low income scale, the iPhone 3GS isn’t a bad option when it is put up next to those other “free” phones.  Seriously,  have you looked at the quality of the “free” ones lately?


The China Angle

What does this new iPhone and the reduced price points for older models mean for China?

Granted, the Chinese versions of the various iPhones will still cost more than the U.S. version given the way luxury goods are handled here in China, but we *will* see a price reduction.  Lei Jun, Co-Founder behind the Xiaomi Phone, earlier tonight on Sina Weibo wanted to remind his followers that these prices are contract prices.  While true, the $99 iPhone require a 2 year contract to be signed with the respective carrier, that is still a reduction of its current price in the United States.  

The iPhone here was beginning to become a psuedo “status symbol” in the cities, but with the price reductions and the 4S looking dangerously similar to the iPhone 4, I would expect to see that trend continue more rapidly.  In March of this year I asked my former roommate about what his current life goals.  He is your typical 20-something Chinese programmer with little cash, but big dreams.  Build a successful app, makes lots of money, buy a fast car, get a girl – to be precise about those dreams.  When asked about an iPhone, he replied, “iPhone?  Everyone has one of those.”

Will this change the appetite for Apple products among the Chinese?  Heck no, how can your new Macbook Air and your Audi look cool if you’re using an HTC phone near them!?!  Basically, an iPhone will now be a required piece of personal property.   Well played, Apple, well played.  Now the Xiaomi Phone’s price positioning is looking a little threatened, but it will still have superior hardware specs against the version of the iPhone in the nearest price bracket.

Outside the cities and in the migrant population, an iPhone will still carry clout.  Just hopefully not enough for misguided teens to do crazy things (like sell their organs) to get one.  This has happened here in the past.  True story.

That said, I will go out on a limb and make a prediction.  

I predict an increase in sarcasm and snarky jokes on Sina Weibo when to someone blatantly shows off their iPhone to the masses in an attempt to look cool.  Following universal internet law, hot girls are exempt from this increase. This exemption does not apply if the girl is a mistress or the daughter of someone powerful.  That’s right, you heard it here first folks!



No iPhone 5.  The “S” in iPhone 4S stand for Siri-enabled (not really).  iPhone 3GS’s for the masses!  “Status symbol” of Apple still preserved, you just need to own all the Mac products now (Like Pokemon, gotta buy ’em all!).  Sina Weibo is fun.  I made a daring prediction.

Ok, it’s 4am here in Beijing.  Forgive the typos, I’ll fix them later.  Good night folks!


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