iPhone Anticipation Builds to Fever Pitch

At 1pm Eastern time we'll know how many of the iPhone 5 rumors are true. We'll learn whether Sprint has "bet the company" on the new iPhone and whether it's getting some form of exclusivity. (Extended exclusivity would be foolish for Apple.)

We'll know whether there are two devices or one and whether one of those is a different (larger) form factor than the iPhone 4. A larger screen is very much in demand, especially with Android devices now routinely exceeding 4 inches. 

We'll also hear more about the anticipated "Assistant," built on the earlier Siri acquisition. Some people have called it a "game changer" but that very much remains to be seen. Siri itself was novel and sometimes useful but not a "game changer."

We'll also discover whether the new iPhone (or iPhones plural) run on both CDMA and GSM networks. The new device(s) won't be 4G enabled, however, according to the WSJ. This is certainly a disappointment to many. 

Surveys have shown "unprecedented pent-up demand" for the next iPhone, leading some financial analysts to anticipate or predict that sales records to be "shattered." It will all be contingent on what Apple actually delivers. 

Although many others don't agree, I believe that the iPhone(s) being introduced today is/are critical for Apple, which now has a less-than-annual refresh cycle. If there's only a "4S" device or one that doesn't reflect obvious improvements it will fail to generate sales that live up to the outrageous expectations that have grown up around the launch. 

Screen shot 2011-10-04 at 7.45.46 AM

Android is now dominant in terms of sales and market share, though Net Applications data reflect that iOS dominates all other mobile operating systems combined in terms of Internet access. 

Regardless Apple's early multi-year commitment to AT&T exclusivity in the US was a strategic mistake, allowing Android OEMs to establish momentum with "good enough" copies of the iPhone. However now, larger Android screens, 4G capabilities and other features make Android handsets preferable for many people. And for this reason and others, a Sprint-exclusive iPhone 5 won't cause many (or any) to change carriers. 

Android phones are now strong enough that Apple's brand strength is not enough if the next iPhone doesn't "wow." The pressure is on the company and new CEO Tim Cook. There are only a couple more hours to wait.