iMore Editor-in-Chief Rene Ritchie has written a worthwhile opinion piece arguing that part of Apple's challenge in maintaining its performance in an increasingly competitive smartphone market is the predictability of its "tick-tock" strategy of a major iPhone release every other year and an 'S' refresh on the years in between.
Ritchie, whose close sources within Apple led him to report the Lightning connector several months before it was released and correctly predict both the iPad mini launch date and the announcement date of the iPhone 5, says this predictability hurts sales and helps competitors.
[Consumers] began to realize when new iPhones would be released. That led to a slowdown in sales for existing iPhone models just prior to the presumed next release. Apple taught people when to buy, and by extension, when not to buy.
Apple also taught competitors how to counter-program the iPhone. It's probably not a coincidence that HTC announced their next-generation Android phone, the HTC one, back in February, or that Samsung is holding their Galaxy S4 event this March.
Apple's approach of maintaining the same external casing and largely unchanged internal components in its 'S' models limits the innovation that can be offered, making consumers far more likely to look around at competitor products in 'S' years, giving competitors a great opportunity to launch major new models.
Ritchie points to the range of rumors circulating around potential new products from Apple, and says that while all are unlikely to be true, "breaking patterns and challenging expectations is just one way to solve that problem".