Apple Still Doing Some of What Steve Jobs Did Best

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the last several months, Apple (AAPL) has sold a considerable number of iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S devices. In fact, Verizon (VZ) reported that it sold 2 million iPhone 5 units in the first quarter and an equal number of the older model iPhones.

At first blush, this triggered concern. It prompted some folks to call for a cheaper iPhone, which we did not get at Tuesday's event. Others (like me) called for more innovation. If millions of people decided to save a couple bucks and buy the 4 or 4S, iPhone 5 clearly didn't bring enough to the table to move the needle in a meaningful way.

Fast forward a couple quarters, however, and this dynamic might open the door for massive sales of both new iPhone models -- 5S and 5C.

If you bought a 4 or 4S at launch or shortly thereafter, you're likely eligible for an upgrade. If you passed on iPhone 5 because you didn't see it as a significant upgrade, you have put yourself in prime position to pick up a subsidized iPhone 5S or 5C if you're willing to sign a two-year contract.

While it remains to be seen where the 5C will fall with consumers, it's not going to hinder sales of the 5S. As I told Jake Tapper on CNN's "The Lead" Tuesday, Apple did just enough to remain the best and most relevant smartphone maker in the universe.

The 5C may or may not fill an important gap (it could end up the fashionable choice for somebody looking for something different and slightly less expensive, particularly newcomers to the Apple ecosystem). But current iPhone owners, namely those who can upgrade at a discount (or swing a trade-in), will see enough evolution in the 5S to make them want it.

I have about a year left on my wireless contract with Verizon. I love my iPhone 5. However, as Tim Cook was speaking and details about the new phone emerged, I got that feeling best encapsulated as I want it. Steve Jobs used to spark that same sort of materialistic thirst.

That's not to say Cook is anywhere near the showman Jobs was. Far from it. In fact, The Onion nailed it in the hilarious, but wholly realistic Apple Unveils Panicked Man With No Ideas.

Reasons still exist to worry about Apple's livelihood without Jobs and under Cook. The latter hasn't proven he can produce another product on par with iPod, iPhone or iPad. But, at the same time, it's too easy to poke fun and rage with disappointment at what happened Tuesday. Instead, we should give Cook credit where it's due. Apple didn't go cheap. It stayed true to its credo of producing premium-priced, high-quality and attractive hardware, not crappy products that target nothing but thoughtless market share.

And credit to the team. There's no better smartphone on the market than the iPhone 5S. It's best in class with a processor that's twice as fast as what's in the discontinued iPhone 5. The 5S camera receives more upgrades than I can count, most notably a slow-motion option and a new 10-short burst mode. The fingerprint scanner doesn't just unlock your phone; it also allows you to make iTunes purchases without a password. And, cosmetically, the new colors look slick, but not as cool as the no-scratch sapphire home button.

The relatively modest upgrades to Siri and coming iOS overhaul portend a time when features such as Passbook become more useful, if not essential.

These devices will help Apple do a whole lot more than merely drag the puck before Cook finally gets whatever is next, new and fresh together.

Thoughts. I would expect something before the holidays. I hope it's not a smartwatch. It will probably involve iPad upgrades and some sort of nifty update to the current iteration of Apple TV. If we're lucky and Apple is really firing on all cylinders, we might see Apple finally reinvent the living room with an actual television set controlled by your iPhone or iPad.

But, if that major breakthrough doesn't come before the end of the year, I will not be concerned. Tim Cook did enough on Tuesday to buy himself some time, keep Apple relevant and provide hope that the company can remain long-term dominant.

You can see my entire appearance on CNN in this YouTube video:

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist and TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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