It's fascinating how certain media predictions come to be. So there's a story that Apple will introduce an iPhone 5S, and a cheaper alternative, come August. This would be in keeping with the introduction timetable for the iPhone 5, which arrived 11 months after the iPhone 4S.
But there's yet another story suggesting it'll happen in June, which doesn't leave very much time for Apple to announce iOS 7 and get betas to developers to update their apps. Regardless of the truth of this story, or the one about the August introduction, you wonder where the alleged sources get this stuff.
This doesn't mean these reports don't have some basis in fact. Aside from the curiously later than usual introduction of the iPhone 4S in 2011, assuming an annual upgrade cycle, you'd expect that the next iPhone would arrive in the August or September timeframe. Suggesting an earlier introduction would appear to be an anomaly. On the other hand, if iPhone 5 sales really collapsed, and I mean in the real world, not the fantasy world portrayed by some misguided members of the media, Apple might indeed want to push for an earlier introduction.
Sure, it has been the norm for Apple to release a major iOS upgrade with the launch of a new iPhone, but that doesn't mean it has to happen this time. Whenever Apple seems predictable, the rules are apt to change. But a lot of that unpredictability may be as much about perfecting a product before introduction than timing considerations to suit the needs of marketing.
Now the most sensible prediction about an iPhone 5S would be in keeping with the way the product changed between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S. The physical design appeared nearly identical, with the key changes occurring inside. Keeping with that tradition, an iPhone 4S would have a speedier processor, perhaps a camera with more megapixels -- although just adding megapixels doesn't guarantee better snapshots -- and other assorted component changes. Some predict a larger battery, or at least one with more capacity. In fact, there's yet another rumor, also unconfirmed, that Foxconn, Apple's Asian manufacturing partner, has already begun production of the iPhone 5S.
The possibility of a major change -- an iPhone 6 -- would seem little to none. Apple doesn't routinely make huge form factor changes of that sort after just one year, although the media wants you to believe it happened all the time when Steve Jobs was running the show. Apple only recently got control of the complicated assembly of the iPhone 5, so it would hardly make sense to throw it all away and start over. This is not an iPod nano/iPod mini situation.
A real question is whether Apple will switch from selling older models for less money to building a new, cheaper iPhone for people who want an affordable unlocked phone, or cannot get a subsidized deal. The media keeps suggesting Apple is leaving tens of billions of dollars of potential sales on the table, and all Apple will say in response is that they don't build junk. But that doesn't mean an entry-level iPhone won't happen, if Apple can find a way to make it cheap and elegant at the same time. Remember there is a cheap Mac (the mini) and a cheap iPod (the shuffle).
Another set of predictions seems somewhat more reasonable, that there will be iPad refreshes come April. This would mean that the requisite media invite might go out before the end of this month.
The WWDC would likely bring news of iOS 7, and OS X 10.9, although I sort of expected a preview of the latter by now. But what do I know?
When it comes to Macs in general, other than spreading the Retina display joy to some more models, or bringing the prices down to more sensible (or affordable) levels, you wonder what Apple is going to do to keep the Mac platform cruising along. There is, for example, the Mac Pro. When and how will Apple deliver this long-awaited update to the Mac workstation? Sure, the iMac is plenty powerful for most users, but a fair number of content creators require the additional rendering performance and the expandability the Mac Pro minitower offers.
The existing model, which has a form factor that began with the Power Mac G5 back in 2003, hasn't had a serious update since 2011. The 2012 refresh was limited to a minor processor change. But since Tim Cook promised a whole lot more this year, expect something more significant than swapping out the parts, and adding Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports. Perhaps Apple will devise a way to include the same expansion capabilities in a much smaller case. Looking at the existing Mac Pro, if the cooling system were made more efficient and other space reduction schemes were employed, I would be willing to bet Apple could cut the thing down almost in half, and bring the weight down accordingly.
The main holdup appears to be the arrival of the next-generation of Intel Xeon chips, which may not happen until late in the year. So that is the stopping point, even though I suspect Apple would have preferred to get it out by the WWDC this summer.
There will, of course, be predictions about an Apple smart TV and an iWatch. Maybe they will come, maybe not. But it may not matter so much in the end, so long as Apple remains profitable and keeps customers -- and maybe Wall Street -- happy.
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