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The iPhone 5, and why it’s crucial for Apple

According to rumours, a new iPhone and a smaller iPad are set to launch in September. The iPad, if anything like Google's Nexus 7, will be somewhat anticlimactic and scrutinised to an extreme. The iPhone 5 will be Apple's only shot at regaining the mindshare that has been leaking from its iconic brand since the release of the Samsung Galaxy S III, Note and the other large Android phones.

This is now Apple's game to win or lose. It will all be determined by the initial reviews and whether or not the Cupertino company can muster lines of customers around the block outside the Apple stores days in advance of the sale.

I have trouble believing Apple can manage to keep this sort of demand going. The iPhone 4S already looks dated and the older iPhones seem particularly clunky.

This is both good and bad news. It's good news if Apple has identified a societal phone fashion trend similar to the mania that took place in the 1950s when car makers would completely change their designs every year. During this era, which saw the development of huge fins as style elements, people would buy new car after new car, finding a way to trade in their older ones.

Similarly with the Apple iPhone, many users have bought one after the other, always preferring the newest release. If Apple can keep this up, it can turnover another slew of phones just by reselling to the exact same customers.

This can only be done using a precise marketing ploy. It's cool to have an iPhone, but having an old one makes you look cheap. You do not want the 1956 Chevy, you want the new 1957 Chevy.

This sort of marketing is extremely risky and there is no guarantee it will work. That said, Apple is known for having the single greatest industrial in-house design team of any major corporation. In other words, it's possible the company can pull off such a feat. But part of the reason it has been so successful in the past is because the judge and the jury of the design team was the great aesthetic minimalist, Steve Jobs. I've always argued that it took forever to release a white iPhone because Jobs did not think it was the "right" white. This is just a supposition, of course, but most agree with my thesis.

Now, it's possible that Jobs was not as good as his design team and what they would ultimately decide on their own would be better than Jobs' selection. The fact is that we have no idea who is calling the final shots anymore. It could be Cook. It could be a committee. It could be Jobs' widow.

One thing is for sure: This new phone has to be more noteworthy than the 4S, which did little else but add one major feature. Otherwise, the media will attack both the phone and the company with all sorts of articles second-guessing everyone. Look for words in headlines such as "yawner," "ho-hum," "nothing special," "more of the same," "boring," and so on. This would be bad. The phrases you want to see are "Apple does it again," "Apple surprises," or "OMG, perfection!" This will generate those lines around the block one more time.

Now is the time to place your bets.