Apple rumours picking up ahead of iPhone 5 release

Apple’s announced its third quarter results, and now that’s out of the way, attention has turned full steam to Apple’s upcoming September announcement, expected to be a new iPhone...

Apple’s announced its third quarter results, and now that’s out of the way, attention has turned full steam to Apple’s upcoming September announcement, expected to be a new iPhone and perhaps even more. We’ve cast an eye over the rumours and will give you the EFTM view of Apple’s next big thing (or things).

Having sold 17 million iPads, 26 million iPhones, 6.8 million iPods and 4 millions Macs – all of which is apparently “disappointing” to the “analysts” out there – Apple now have a bumper five months toward the year end with pre-Christmas announcements likely to lead to a huge sales boost on potentially more than one new product.

There is little doubt, in fact no doubt at all, that a new iPhone will be announced and available before the end of October. Perhaps it’s a smart time to hit the market with an all new product, like an iPad mini or Apple iTV. This is where Apple will win the element of surprise because sadly for Apple’s crack PR and marketing teams, the leaks along the iPhone parts and assembly lines are now coming thick and fast.

So let’s have a look at what ‘could’ come from Apple at a San Francisco announcement in the next month.

Apple iTV

While it is a much discussed “device” and the Steve Jobs biography added some weight to its likely existence, the fact is the TV market is a crowded place, and Apple would really need to blow this one out of the water. So I suspect it’s more likely a 2013 timeframe for Apple to transform the TV. TVs today – as smart as they might say they are – still go to a TV picture by default when turned on. Imagine a TV that, by default, takes you to a menu like that on the current Apple TV set top box unit, with the addition of a “LIVE TV” button which would take you to your channels. That puts content and apps at the forefront of the large screen experience. That alone will be the first big step in the revolution.

iPad Mini

I’ve said many times before on the radio and in my podcasts that this product is a must release for Apple. The almost unknown Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 and now the Google Nexus 7 and to a lesser extent the Blackberry Playbook have all shown the great promise that this size form factor can have.  Ease of grip, ultra portability, large screen browsing and email when compared to your smartphone all make for a compelling device. However, the collection of 7-inch tablets so far have all lacked one simple thing: iOS. Talk to any non-technical user of an iPhone or iPad and you will realise fast that what they like is that it ‘works’. The use, the store, the quantity of apps make iOS a tough challenge for Microsoft and Google.

If Apple can introduce a product with the build quality of the iPad, the advantages of iOS and price it below $299, it will make the market very difficult for competitors. $US199 would be a stunning price for an iPad Mini. The screen would be smaller, but the aspect ratio would be the same, and the resolution would be the same as the iPad 2 meaning app compatibility would be 100% but with a retina like display.

New Macs

There are a few members of the Mac family still waiting patiently for important upgrades, such as USB 3.0 and Intel’s 3rd generation Core processors. This must come soon, so a September announcement would be the time to throw it in and upgrade them in the store. Expect USB 3, Ivy Bridge and enhanced displays. Perhaps not retina though on your 27inch iMac – although that would be stunning.

Big ticket upgrades would be touch interface for iMac to take advantage of the launchpad upgrades to OSX and retina displays.  But don’t hold your breath.

iPhone 5

Well hasn’t there been some information out there about this one! We can pretty much guarantee now that the look of the device is similar to the iPhone 4 style, but a bit less sharp on the edges and a tad thinner.  Also the back has clearly moved away from full glass to some sort of brushed metal look with gloss or glass top and bottom. It’s an impressive looking device if the leaks are to be believed.

I doubt this will be called anything but the iPhone 5, however that naming convention will have to end at some point, so expect one year for the “new iPhone” to be its global name. Car companies have done it successfully for years with model names but year of build instead setting the models apart. This would be the wise early move for Apple. (Nick’s note – totally disagree there. Apple realised the increasing number naming convention was stupid with the iPad this year – the iPhone 5 will be the “New iPhone” or I’ll name my next child Batman.)

It may well be larger, but I believe there are two important aspects of any screen change that would be considered by Apple. Firstly aspect ratio. If the aspect is changed, that is the height goes up but the width does not, then every app in the App Store will require an update and re-design. If instead it is marginally increased in all dimensions then that could work, But it would be a marginal change. Then there is the “retina” issue. Any increase would have to come with the “retina” badge, and while fitting more pixels into the space is possible, keeping costs under control will be crucial.

The next iPhone will feature NFC (Near Field Communications). With Apple’s own loyalty card app Passbook included in iOS6, NFC is a no-brainer to take that app to the next level. Tap and go for payment or loyalty is the future, and it’s just starting to gain enough support in the community to mean Apple can join that playground with confidence.

4G will be an interesting one. It cannot launch in the USA without 4G, that’s all the buzz over there, so the carriers will demand it. However after the confusion around the 4G label globally, especially here in Australia, has Apple had enough time to develop a radio inside the device to make it compatible with ours and other markets? If so, expect a subtle iPad refresh also to add this global availability to the tablet.

Most of the controversy in the media over the recent months is around the changed size of the charging/docking connector. For years and years the dock has been the same, with all Apple products basically interchangeable (save for the voltage issues from iPad to iPhone). The debate here is that with a new (smaller) dock connector, you’ll have to “throw away existing accessories”. I think it is guaranteed that the dock will change, likely for the better with perhaps Apple’s magnetic clip in style connection being the smart move (the style used on MacBooks) to make it that little bit ‘cool’.

If the dock does change as we expect, we should also assume Apple will announce an adapter to fit existing docking stations (for a small fee) which really puts the accessory whinging to bed. However, there is something bigger at play here, it’s not about the dock, its about the future of docking. Apple AirPlay is what Apple wants to be the standard for playing music across the room. Hey, who wants their phone sitting on the stereo playing music when you could be challenging your friends to Song Pop, Draw Something, or Words with Friends while listening to music wirelessly streamed to the other side of the room or house?

Expect it, it will come. The weirdest part of the change seems to be the rumoured move of the headphone jack down to the bottom. However, perhaps there is more to it than just a simple change. Like the iPod Shuffle, which charges and outputs audio through a “docking headphone jack”, perhaps there is an ulterior motive to the move?

Whatever the case on all these rumours, we won’t know until it’s announced whether any of them are accurate. And even when it is, we’ll all be “amazed”. 

We expect an announcement in early September, with availability for any or all announced products in early to mid October.

What do you expect?  Does all this surprise you, or disappoint you?  Let us know in the comments below.

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Trev produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He hosts a nightly radio show on Talking Lifestyle, 8pm Monday to Friday in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
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