Mobile

iPhone 4S: It’s the Software, Stupid.

Published on October 5, 2011
by John Paczkowski

Though it might seem more incremental upgrade than new iPhone, Wall Street analysts say Apple’s iPhone 4S isn’t nearly the disappointment that some claim. And while its unveiling without the simultaneous debut of the iPhone 5 caused investors some knee-jerk dismay, consensus seems to be that it will likely prove another big step forward for the device and the platform on which it runs.

“The company did not announce a redesigned iPhone, which many were calling an iPhone 5 and which may disappoint some investors,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research note to clients. “That said, we believe the iPhone 4S will meet or exceed unit expectations, as it represents the first iPhone launch at two major US carriers (Verizon and Sprint) along with KDDI in Japan.”

J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz also bemoaned the lack of the so-called iPhone 5.

“We had expected the company to announce two new devices, an iPhone 5 and a 4-plus,” he said in a note to clients. “We are disappointed that Apple did not introduce a thinner form factor, but we see the feature set improvements in the iPhone 4S and the broader pricing strategy as positives.”

Moskowitz was particularly impressed with Siri, Apple’s new virtual assistant, and views it as an advantage that will raise the 4S above the pack of rivals that perpetually pursue it. “Once investors dig into Siri, we think its addition will overshadow the lack of full iPhone form factor change,” he said.

Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope took a similar view, arguing that the big news of the day was really the software that was on display. “Siri represents a more significant platform enhancement than we anticipated,” he said in a research note. “We believe this, coupled with iCloud and iOS 5, suggests today’s event represented a critical positive inflection point for the iOS platform overall.”

UBS analyst Maynard Um echoed Shope and went him one better, suggesting that the addition of Siri to the iPhone is one of those watershed innovations that will again change the way we interact with our mobile devices. “While some may be disappointed by largely unchanged design, Apple used its owned ecosystem to embed the Siri personal assistant throughout its OS to change the way we interact with phones. We believe Siri, iCloud & other iOS 5 features will continue to drive the next wave of demand.”

And in all likelihood they will. Sure, Apple did not meet some of the market’s hardware expectations. But what the market sometimes forgets is that it is software that truly differentiates Apple from its rivals.

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