And that could dampen enthusiasm among the faithful, many of whom have upgraded their iPhone annually.
"This may be the first time that an upgrade isn't compelling," Vronko said. "Before this, there have been pretty good reasons to get a new iPhone. But people who already own the iPhone 4 may not see a whole lot of reasons to run out and get an iPhone 5."
Apple's yearly advances have been noteworthy. In 2008, Apple debuted the iPhone 3G, the first to run on faster 3G mobile networks. A year later, the iPhone 3GS boosted performance and added a better camera. In 2010, the iPhone 4 boasted a revamped higher-resolution display and a second camera for FaceTime video calling.
"Maybe some of the first-party apps will require that [A5's] horsepower," Vronko said. "That's what will tell the story at launch." On his wish list: a full version of GarageBand for the iPhone.
"There will always be people maniacal enough to get the upgrade every year," said Vronko. "But this time around, I'm not sure that there will be as many."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.