As the world prepares itself to receive the iPhone 5 this summer and the wind-down of the iPad 2 launch has onlookers contemplating the iPad 3 already, the inevitable question regarding the fifth generation iPhone is fairly straightforward: does Apple has one major left turn up its sleeve in the next year or two? With the iPad 2 feeling an awful lot like a straight-line upgrade from the iPad 1, it's nearly a given that Apple will next opt to take a serious left turn with the iPad 3. Expect a major external redesign, an entire new slate of features, and a sea of iPad 1 owners who skipped the iPad 2 suddenly deciding they need a new one after all. But the iPhone 5 is in a different boat, as Apple's iPhone history suggests that the company could go either way with its next iPhone.
The first iPhone was an island unto itself. It came and went within a year and little carried over to the next iPhone, which essentially lasted through two generations. In other words, the iPhone 3GS was to the iPhone 3G what the iPad 2 is to the iPad 1. One could feel that hard left turn coming with the iPhone 4, and sure enough, it was a complete redesign from top to bottom, one of Apple's more ambitious change-ups in recent memory. With the iPhone 5, Apple can go one of two ways. It can extend the iPhone 4 into a second year, with the next model being an "iPhone 5 in name only and instead really being the existing iPhone 4 with better specs. Or it can decide that two different iPhone 4 iterations in the past year has been enough (original and Verizon models), the lack of a white iPhone 4 has been embarrassing, the iPhone antenna nonsense is too pervasive and should be pushed into the past, and the threat of competition means that now is not the time to offer up an iPho ne 5 that's really an iPhone 4.5, instead throw caution to the wind, and take another risky big left turn with the iPhone 5. At this point, the bigger risk may be in playing it safe and attempting to milk another year out of the iPhone 4 era, attaching the number "5 to a year old product and hoping no one notices. Gut feeling says the iPhone 5 will turn to be more fascinating with the iPad 3 than it will with the iPhone 5.
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