No Specs Please, We’re Apple

By  |  Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 10:35 am

My friend and former colleague Jason Snell, editorial director of Macworld, has a good piece up on the fact that Apple isn’t saying much about just how it made the iPhone 3G S faster–the list of tech specs for the new phone doesn’t disclose its CPU or how much RAM it has, which are probably the two most important aspects of its hardware when it comes to determining how speedy it’ll be.

Apple’s disinterest in talking about the iPhone hardware’s technical details was striking at Monday’s WWDC keynote. When Phil Schiller announced the phone, he said it was really fast and quoted some benchmarks of its improvement in speed compared to the iPhone 3G–and left it at that. If there was ever an assemblage of people who’d be interested in the nitty-gritty of the 3G S’s performance boost, it was the developers in that room: A faster chip and more RAM (which the 3G S surely has) makes the phone a better platform for sophisticated third-party apps. But Apple wants people to focus on what the iPhone can do, not how it does it.

Of course, Apple is willing to talk about its engineering when it suits the company’s purposes–I don’t know of any other computer company that would spend so much time explaining the manufacturing process for its notebook cases, for instance. But manufacturing processes don’t involve numbers, and I think it’s numbers that Apple prefers to avoid dwelling on.

On some levels, I get Apple’s thinking here. I’ve written that tech specs are simply less important than they use to be: It would be a lousy idea to buy (or avoid) the iPhone 3G S based on its clockspeed or the amount of RAM it contains, and neither spec can be reliably used to judge how the iPhone compares to other phones. I’m not sure if Apple’s approach is any less satisfactory than that of tech companies who only know how to speak in spec-ese, and who forget to explain why a normal person should care.


Apple products are, for the most part, bought by adults. Some of those adults are passionate about technology, and want to have a deep understanding of how the products they buy work. We already know that the iPhone 3G contains 128MB of RAM, which is on the tight side; if the 3G S has 256MB of RAM, that’s relevant information. So are basic facts about the processor, if it helps speed up the iPhone experience.

As Jason notes, third parties will break open iPhone 3G S units as soon as they get their hands on them, so we’ll know the phone’s technical vitals soon enough. Which is just one more reason why I wish Apple disclosed this information. It’s got customers who’d like to know; the info can help them understand Apple products better; trade secrets are not involved. Telling those who care to know what’s inside the iPhone would be a nice confirmation that Apple respects the intelligence of its customers.


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    And they can’t even promote the “faster” network, because 7.2 HSPA isn’t yet rolled out. So the chip is there; network isn’t.

    My research about what carriers are saying about 7.2 Mbps HSPA in parts of the world where it’s deployed is 1 to 4.5 or 5 Mbps in a band, which is up from AT&T’s 700 Kbps to 1.7 Mbps for 3.6 Mbps HSPA claim.

  2. Patrick Moorhead Says:

    Anandtech may have the answers here:

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