iPhone 4S backstory: Jobs was working on iPhone 5, but it wasn’t ready for fall release

Oct 18, 2011
Tech

Remember all those rumors we heard about the iPhone 5? Originally, the iPhone 4S was a budget model releasing at the same time as the ‘real’ model. Apparently, there was some truth to that, according to a new rumor. CNET published a story claiming that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ last project with the company before […]

Remember all those rumors we heard about the iPhone 5? Originally, the iPhone 4S was a budget model releasing at the same time as the ‘real’ model.

Apparently, there was some truth to that, according to a new rumor.

CNET published a story claiming that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ last project with the company before his death was the iPhone 5, and that he wasn’t involved in the iPhone 4S because he couldn’t split his time between the two. As we’ve heard, CNET maintains that the device is a complete redesign of the iPhone 4, and is thinner than its predecessors.

Another story from 9to5Mac parses the CNET information, which comes from an anonymous source, with news reports and a touch of speculation to put together what might have been the backstory of the iPhone 4S launch, and the iPhone 5 delay. They speculate, probably rightly, that Jobs’ final project was meant to be announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, along with iOS 5.

The trouble was with iOS 5. Integrating the Siri features into the software was taking longer than expected, and as WWDC drew near, it became clear that the iPhone 5 wasn’t going to be ready to be announced. Hence, the breaking of tradition that pushed the iPhone announcement deep into the fall – every other iPhone to date has been announced at WWDC.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 4S was already completed and basically ready to go, but the iPhone 5 continued to suffer problems. Asian manufacturer Foxconn reportedly had some issues with the next big iPhone, and it wasn’t able to keep up the volume necessary to make a big launch. The Wall Street Journal quoted Foxconn’s founder, Terry Gou, as saying that it was having trouble getting all the phone components into a device so thin. This suggests he was talking about the iPhone 5, not the mostly unchanged iPhone 4S.

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As September rolled around, it was becoming clear that the iPhone 5 wouldn’t be ready for prime time, and Apple shifted its plans to launch just the iPhone 4S as a flagship device along with iOS 5. According to 9to5Mac, the iPhone 5 will be on its way in summer of 2012, which would make sense as a return to normalcy for Apple and putting the launch of the next handset in line with contract upgrades from AT&T iPhone 4 buyers.

CNET reports that the iPhone 5 will likely become a “cult classic” device as more information about Jobs’ final project comes to light. In the meantime, the iPhone 4S looks as though it’s on-pace to set some serious sales records, having moved 4 million units in just its first weekend, according to Apple. And it will still be in position to become a budget model next June, as Apple (may) have originally intended.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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