If the published reports are correct — and they have yet to be confirmed by Apple — there will be a media event on Tuesday, September 9th to announce the next generation iPhone. Keeping with past as precedent, it'll be called the iPhone 6, and will present some heavy-duty changes in form factor, particularly a larger display size, or two larger display sizes. The recent reports have settled on 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches; the latter puts Apple in the phablet camp, though they certainly won't call it that.
Now it does appear Apple has been pushed perhaps kicking and screaming to build larger iPhones. Despite claiming that the 4-inch size is ideal for one-handed use, it's still true that Samsung and other companies sell an awful lot of larger handsets. You can argue all you want about quality, the worth of Android versus iOS and all the rest. But if customers want larger smartphones, and they are willing to pay for premium gear, Apple finds it hard to ignore the market.
True, Tim Cook hasn't in the past dismissed the idea of a larger iPhone. He talked of tradeoffs and the limitation of display technology, such as picture quality and longevity, though I've not heard of people with Samsung smartphones complaining about premature failures. Still, that's marketspeak for saying Apple has a better solution in the offing, and I'm sure that solution will be revealed next month.
The other features often mentioned include an A8 processor, enhanced Touch ID, perhaps a beefier camera with more megapixels, and maybe a few extra hardware goodies. NFC continues to be mentioned year after year, but is there really a case for that technology?
But maybe just a larger screen would be enough. One of my clients, whose eyesight has seen better days, told me the other day, "When the new phone comes out if there's no large screen I'll buy a Samsung." There ought to be other reasons, to be sure, but I can see where she's coming from.
Certainly, with the media and financial community all believing Apple must release an iPhone 6 product line with two display sizes, delivering anything less would be a real letdown. Apple wants to exceed expectations, but those expectations get higher and higher every single year. So even announcing an iPhone lineup that's pretty much what has been predicted so far might not be enough.
Last year, much of what ended up in the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s was predicted in advance. The 64-bit A7 and M7 coprocessor weren't fully described in advance, though. Unfortunately, the 5c didn't get the love from the media, although it seems to have been quite successful from a sales standpoint. Yes, that point has been driven home again and again, but perceptions count for a lot and the media seldom admits it was all wrong about Apple.
So unless Apple can pull something out of the hat that was totally unexpected, it may be that the media will deliver a yawn about the new products. This is particularly true if, as rumored, the 5.5-inch model is in short supply or won't arrive until a few weeks later.
Now every time I see all this advance chatter, other than the expected interest in a new Apple gadget, I wonder just whether the company's own marketing and PR team were responsible for some of the "leaks." It comes across as a conspiracy theory, I suppose, but clearly Apple benefits from a free marketing campaign worth tens of millions of dollars.
It will focus an immense amount of attention on the new products, and if there's a lot of pent-up demand, as most of you expect, the iPhone 6 ought to be flying off the shelves on Day One.
What will be telling is whether the iPhone 5c stays in the product line as the "free" product with a wireless contract. That would pretty much confirm how successful it really was.
Now some are wondering if Apple is prepared to release another gadget at the same time, perhaps the mythical iWatch. It has been years since an Apple person used the magical phrase, "one more thing" to introduce something unexpected. But it doesn't appear that will be the case this time. Maybe it's better to focus all the attention in the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 — though Yosemite might arrive the same day — and deliver the next product a few weeks later. Stuffing everything into one agenda might just diffuse interest, since there would be too much for the media to digest.
Consider the WWDC, rich with announcements of numerous changes and enhancements for iOS and OS X, and the curious conclusion on the part of some tech pundits that not a lot happened. Where's the new hardware, they thought? It was just some software updates.
In any case, I just hope that too much hype doesn't end up reducing attention to the real event.
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