The iPhone rumor mill is pumping out competing visions of the near future, but one thing is likely to happen: the disappointment of the Apple-going public.
The release of the iPhone 4 was not without a certain amount of excitement, as well as the series of subsequent market announcements. FaceTime, dual cameras, new form, and a host of other features was enough to maintain sales for over a year, even though it was less of an advance than many people have hoped for. The delays and such have been pacified in the minds of consumers as the Verizon iPhone was released, the white iPhone rolled through, and the WWDC promised a world without storage through the iOS 5 and iCloud. This is still without anything concrete about the coming iPhone 5, and now the rumors have even bumped that to 2012. This year now looks as though it will release a slightly enhanced iPhone 4 under the title iPhone 4s. This is against the actually possibility of a discount iPhone model, which has re-invigorated the iPhone Nano mythology that we are going to see a miniature version at half the price. All of this does not come as a shock, but it does make us question the yearly success of the Apple's iPhone if it continues this.
Once a year we see the release of a new iPhone model in late spring or early summer, and this has been solid for the last five years. The newest incarnation of the iPhone has been delayed, but it is almost guaranteed that they will continue this yearly release only a few months late. The question is whether or not Apple can sustain this type of release pattern and still bring in sales that are high enough, or maintain customer intrigue. Unlike other phone manufacturers, Apple has a single Trojan horse to bring against the competition. If it finally diversifies and then releases a discount model and possibly even older models at discounted prices, like AT&T did with the iPhone 3Gs, then it may have more of a market share in the long run. This will not change the fact that there is essentially a single product release each year, and if that tanks then it could allow for some slippage. This is not too much of a problem at the general moment where we can see how the iPhone continues to dominate the smart phone market, and the iPad is decimating all other tablets egregiously, but longevity may not be in the cards for this type of release model unless we can see something substantial in the fall.
The debate here is not between whether or not the iPhone's development should be broken up into smaller, six month releases. Instead, what should really be in the cards is a major adjustment in the basis of the iPhone if it is to be released. Most people who did purchase the iPhone 4 will be skeptical about purchasing a marginally better iPhone 4s without signing a contract. If users are expected to shell out the money and update each year then there needs to be patented additions made that will justify the investment, though skipping a year tends to be the regular pattern for new iPhones.
Next year will be the release of the iPhone 6, or possibly the iPhone 5 if we don't get our way, and if there is no LTE and Near Field Technology employed by this point then Apple is in serious trouble. There is no question that September's release of the iPhone Something will be major news and will send stock prices soaring, but this may not be a permanent move if Apple doesn't start getting with the goods.