Madison Avenue Takes the Long View on the New iPhone

The tech elite and Wall Street panned Apple’s release of an incremental upgrade to the iPhone 4S, but Madison Avenue sees another sign that mobile is finally maturing — and ready to hit scale with smartphones.

On the surface, the new 4S model provides little more than incremental technology advances to its predecessor, the iPhone 4. Sure, it has voice control functionality and increased processor and download speeds. For technophiles, this is ho-hum stuff. But agencies take a longer view, seeing the new features and, perhaps more important, the bargain-basement $99 pricing for the iPhone 4 as a sign that high-end mobile is finally ready to go mass.

“The moral of the story is that this release will accelerate mobile usage even faster,” said David Berkowitz, VP of emerging media at 360i, adding, “It’ll be better for consuming media, better for being social, better for getting things done, and will shift user behavior even further towards mobile.”

Despite the fact consumers are spending more of their time with mobile devices, marketer investment in the channel continues to lag. According to Berkowitz, the release of new handsets such as the 4S serves to grow that disparity on the one hand, but it also provides marketers with opportunities to buy great value campaigns on the other. “The potential just keeps getting better. There’s a lot of creative opportunities, a ton of inventory, and the acceleration of mobile usage has created so much inventory that deals are getting better and better,” he said.

Meanwhile Patrick Moorhead, group management director for mobile platforms at Draftfcb, agreed the 4S announcement was somewhat underwhelming from a technology standpoint, but suggested the launch will inevitably impact mobile media positively. “It creates more consumption, more inventory, and continues to push the space,” he said. “It’s further evidence of the dominance of smartphones on a global basis.”

The new $99 price for the iPhone 4 is significant. It would put an incredibly powerful phone within reach of tens of millions of new customers. This could speed the final demise of the feature phone, opening up new demographics and untapped audiences for advertisers.

But it’s not all happy talk. Many in the mobile marketing world hoped the new iPhone would come with support for near-field communication (NFC) technology, allowing contactless payments. While Berkowitz expressed disappointment at the omission, Moorhead suggested it points to the complexities of implementing the functionality successfully.
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