iPhone Expectations

In just a few minutes, Apple will begin its on-campus “Let’s Talk iPhone” event in Cupertino, CA.

Like all Apple product announcements, it’s a big day for nerds all over the world, but this one has a particularly high level of anticipation because it’s been almost seventeen months since the iPhone 4 was announced. Traditionally, Apple unveiled a new iPhone every year at WWDC, but this year’s conference was dedicated entirely to software: OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud. There were no new hardware announcements. Thus, the Apple community has been starved for a new iPhone for longer than usual.

Notably, this will be the first product announcement with (presumably) Tim Cook at the helm as CEO. It’s also being held in Apple’s on-campus Town Hall auditorium, rather than at a huge convention center.

Rumors and speculation about new products is part of Apple fan culture. It’s fun and exciting, because Apple’s products mean a lot to people in ways that other phones, computers, music players, and software don’t. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype.

As Stephen M. Hackett wrote in his article, “On Expectations and New iPhones”, it’s important to recognize the value of managing your expectations and not letting them run too wild.

Some of this year’s rumors include multiple iPhone models, improved voice control, a faster A5 processor, 4G compatibility, and so on. With all the speculation flying around, people become increasingly vulnerable to disappointment. If you’re really looking forward to one special feature, and Apple doesn’t include it, you’re going to feel like a sad trombone.

The better strategy is to look forward to the announcement, knowing that this new iPhone, whether it’s a 4S or a 5, will be a great device. It has to be, or Apple wouldn’t release it. However, the only certainty is that it will be better than the iPhone 4. How much better will be the subject of debate for the next few weeks. Since we’ve had to wait an extra long time, there’s an additional expectation that this new iPhone needs to be leaps and bounds better than the iPhone 4. It doesn’t. The iPhone 4 is still a tremendous success today, seventeen months later.

Apple itself seems to be downplaying today’s event. The press invitation for the announcement suggests there will only be one new iPhone announced. The event is being held at a much smaller and intimate venue. The event’s tagline, “Let’s Talk iPhone”, suggests that that will be the singular focus.

That’s good strategy. It’s all about managing expectations. It’s much easier to under-promise and over-deliver than it is to set a bar so high that it becomes unreachable.

For me, even if the new iPhone only features the A5 chip and an improved camera, it’s still an exciting day to be an Apple nerd. I’m not due for an upgrade until February, so I probably won’t own this generation of iPhone. That’s fine, because I’m still perfectly happy with my iPhone 4, and I’ll get to enjoy the iPhone 6 when it’s announced next year. I’m not saying I won’t be drooling over whatever gets announced today, because I almost certainly will, but I like to keep things in perspective.

Whatever gets announced today, just remember that we’re lucky to have a company that produces such consistently fantastic products at such consistently reliable intervals. No matter what happens, it’s a great day to be part of the Apple community.