For those who have been following the iPhone 5 rumors since the late summer of 2010, the notion that Apple would have waited this long to release the much-anticipated overhaul of the iPhone 4 might seem crazy. In the course of that time, numerous new Android smartphones have hit the market, including the recent Samsung Galaxy S 3, which to date has sold 10 million units. While that little victory is being celebrated in Android circles, it stands to be dwarfed once the iPhone 5 is finally released.
A new ChangeWave survey, as reported on by Computerworld and host of other tech media sites, indicates that the iPhone 5 is set for a massive sales wave:
“Advance demand for the ‘iPhone 5′ is strikingly higher than we’ve seen for any previous iPhone model,” said Dr. Paul Carton, 451 / ChangeWave’s VP of Research. “Overall smartphone sales should spike to an all-time high this fall, and of course Apple is going to be the number one beneficiary. But besides Apple, and to a lesser degree Samsung, no other manufacturer is likely to benefit from this coming wave of demand.”
More good news for Apple: 14 percent of consumers say they are Very Likely to purchase an iPhone 5 while a further 17 percent say they are Somewhat Likely, the survey said, concluding: “Advance demand for the next-generation iPhone is strikingly higher than for any previous iPhone model.”
What’s particularly interesting is the fact that polls like these have been claiming massive sales for the iPhone 5 for well over a year now.
Last year almost to the day we posted this article, which outlined a survey in which it was determined that “35% of all consumers will purchase the iPhone 5.” Not 35% of Apple customers. Not 35% of smartphone users. 35% of all consumers. That’s a bold statement, and one that Apple could only been seen capable of achieving.
Following up that study, Charles Moore posted an article last September that outlined an InMobi survey which found that 41% of mobile users were set to buy the iPhone 5 in September 2011.
Obviously, when you compare these big claims to the more recent survey quoted above, the new data appears lackluster compared to big numbers like 35% and 41%. And the difference in these survey findings is the difference between the iPhone 5 being a top-selling mobile device as a true cultural icon; something that the average person would come to possess that would completely change their lives.
In order for the iPhone 5 to reach that level of ubiquity, it would need to have some wide-ranging, new features that would change the face of everyday life. And no, I’m talking about the segway. I’m talking lightbulb. Is there anything rumored to be coming to the iPhone 5 that would come close to rising to the level of a game-changer like that?
NFC is one possibility, particularly in the U.S., where we, the hyper consumers, spend, therefore we are. Something like NFC technology could become so pervasive that it could lead to an economic stimulus in and of itself.
However, there are still many roadblocks to NFC becoming a mainstream feature, no so much because of limitations in the technology, but rather the massive rollout needed at the retail level, as well as trepidation among mobile users who are leery of making their money so accessible. In an informative piece on Technology Review today, Christopher Mims explores why NFC has still yet to take off, and why it still may end up being a no-show in 2012:
NFC has been in phones since 2006, so why aren’t we all using digital wallets by now? As futurist Scott Smith points out on Twitter, one of the problems is that “banks and operators would want a pound of digital flesh somewhere.” Indeed, even as operators like Square and Stripe try to make an end-run around banks, they remain inherently dependent on them. It’s a safe bet that Visa and Mastercard aren’t about to cede an inch of the incredibly lucrative trade in usurious rates on easy credit they’ve built up over the years.
In the case of the iPhone 5, since the NFC technology clearly exists, it might be that we’ll see it unfold in 2012 as an extension of Passbook. However, Passbook is not iWallet — the iWallet and NFC-related patents reveal a much different user interface, not to mention the fact that Passbook as it was first revealed will not be about making payments with your iPhone.
It very well may be that Apple will take baby steps into NFC payments, ensuring not to potentially gamble the long term success of the iPhone on the success or failure of an Apple-sponsored NFC initiative. But without something like NFC, it remains to be seen if iPhone 5 sales can live up to those lofty “35%” expectations.
By Michael Nace