So is Apple Revealing Too Much About the Next iPhone?

September 5th, 2012

Predictably, Apple has announced a media event for 10:00 AM Pacific on September 12 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Along with the telltale words “It’s almost here,” there’s a faded number five. I suppose there’s little left to say, but Apple will manage to stretch it out over an hour or so.

Sure, it’s clear the next iPhone will be called iPhone 5, a fact predicted for months. However, last year’s iPhone refresh was also supposed to be an iPhone 5 before it became a 4S, to the disappointment of some tech pundits. Customers didn’t seem to mind, however, as the iPhone 4s featured Siri, the personal digital assistant that has become a cultural phenomenon. Or at least that’s how it seems with famous people doing TV ads extolling Siri’s verbal dexterity. It works rather well, at least when Siri actually understands what you’re saying.

Certainly the features of the iPhone 5 seem obvious. The model name, incrementing by one number, essentially means that the case will be redesigned. With so many other smartphones growing in display size, the mockups of the iPhone 5 suggest four inches. This would be a vertical increase, but not a horizontal one, which means that it will be no more difficult to hold compared to the current models. You can’t say that about some of those other handsets, particularly the models with screens that exceed five inches. How current iPhone apps will be handled is anyone’s guess. Unless the iOS developer tools compensate, existing apps will have black borders representing the extra screen size, until they are updated of course.

Assuming a larger screen, you can also assume that there will be support for LTE wireless networking, since the iPad already went in that direction earlier this year. No self-respecting smartphone can avoid LTE nowadays, and Apple is somewhat late to the game. Part of this may be due to the fact that the early generation LTE chips were power hungry, and Apple doesn’t want to offer an iPhone with less battery life than existing models. So the internals may allow room for a larger battery.

The rest of the specs of the iPhone 5 might be expected, but become more speculative. Ever in search of fancy new technology, Apple may use an in-cell display, which combines the touch screen with the LCD. Turning two components into one means it’ll be thinner and perhaps lighter, and certainly Apple could use some of the extra space for a bigger battery. That might also explain the possible use of a smaller dock connector. The mockups are showing a 9-pin arrangement, compared to the current 30 pins. But I would hope Apple will include an adapter to allow you to use existing accessories, although the companies who build such gear will no doubt be rushing to update their designs.

From here, Apple might migrate to an A6 processor, in a move to boost performance way beyond current levels, and there have been reports about redesigned earphones. There will, of course, be iOS 6, but nothing you’ve read so far should come as a surprise, and I would be just as surprised if any of these predictions, widely reported by the media, turned out to be wrong. With all the advance publicity, you almost think customers might be disappointed, though I expect that Apple will report record sales after the first weekend.

You’ll probably be able to order an iPhone 5 within days, and it’ll go on sale the following weekend, probably September 21. iOS 6 upgrades will likely be available for download a few days earlier to keep from clogging Apple’s servers.

But will Apple announce the long missed “one more thing” at the end of next week’s event?

Some suggest that the long-rumored iPad mini will be launched. It’s reportedly designed to compete with the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Google Nexus 7. Or maybe not. According to Jim Dalrymple of The Loop, who tends to be on the mark about such things, Apple may hold off the iPad mini introduction until early October, still in time to get huge sales during the holiday season. There are also reports of a new iMac and possibly a 13-inch MacBook with Retina display, but Mac refreshes tend to get press releases rather than special events nowadays.

There are reports, however, that Apple might use next week’s event to introduce a new iPod lineup. Perhaps there will be an upgraded iPod touch with a design that closely matches the iPhone 5. That the iPod touch hasn’t been upgraded in a while makes it seem fairly certain something will arrive soon, particularly since it remains the highest selling model in that lineup.

In passing, I wonder if Apple plans to keep the 160GB iPod classic available. This product hasn’t been upgraded in three years, and you have to think that, with iTunes Match serving as an alternate storage method for large music libraries, Apple might just discontinue the last traditional iPod.

All in all, I expect to see more record sales reports from Apple going forward, but I also expect I’ll be just slightly disappointed with next week’s media event, unless, of course, Apple pulls out a surprise that has not even been suggested in the endless media speculation.

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7 Responses to “So is Apple Revealing Too Much About the Next iPhone?”

  1. dfs says:

    Gene’s headline raises an interesting question not really addressed in the body of his article. Yes, it is true that we seem to know an unusual amount of pre-release information about this particular Apple product. I’m not sure whether this is because, since it now relies so much on foreign (mainly Chinese) subcontractors and parts suppliers who are beyond its control, Apple is losing its ability to maintain strict secrecy about forthcoming products, or whether this represents a genuine change of policy on its own part. If the latter is true, then, yes, we could debate the wisdom of such a policy change. But personally I suspect the former explanation is more likely the right one and that Apple, like the US government, is learning that in our modern world it’s extremely hard to keep secrets. If Apple is hell-bent on maintaining its traditional secrecy, then it’s going to have to extend its “walled garden” approach to the manufacturing process and make everything in-house rather than relying on subcontractors, and I don’t see how it could do that without driving the price of its products through the roof.

  2. Larry says:

    There is one use for the 160G iPod that can’t really be replaced with iTunes Match: that’s for use in your car. I have a 160 that is always in my car. I’ll take it out every few months to update it, but basically I have my entire music collection on it and available in the car whenever I want it. Oh, sure; I don’t use it as much as I do Sirius/XM, but I use it a lot and I’d hate to lose it. Even thought about buying up a couple as spares, just in case.

    • @Larry, My son’s iPad classic is dead — bad hard drive. But he gave it rigorous use over the three or four years he had it. That’s the problem with those things. I’ve had several over the years develop drive issues.


  3. Leland says:

    Apple has made exactly one announcement about the iPhone 5 so far.

    It reads, in its entirety, “It’s almost here. 12. 5.”

    Everything else, accurate or not, is speculation. People ramble on about how Apple builds hype for its next product, but think about it — they don’t, do they? Pundits have been talking for almost two years about the iPhone 5 (I’m including the speculation prior to the 4S, of course) without ever having seen or touched a working production model.

    Does that make sense?

  4. Leland says:

    No, I don’t. I think the supply chain has a lot of people and all it takes is a few to sneak out a couple pieces of it — or at least some pics — and the secret’s out.

    Apple’s said in the past that they don’t want knockoffs hitting the market before their products do. Remember how the first Shuffle spawned some cheap knockoffs less than two weeks after it was shown to the public? This time around, there’s already a fake iPhone 5, called the gooPhone i5, that’s being shoved into the market with an added goal of patenting the style and blocking sales of the iPhone 5.

    There are real consequences to purposely leaking this kind of information before an official release. There’s also the problem of diminishing sales of current products by announcing updated versions a month or two ahead of launch. Just like how Tim Cook’s trimmed the inventory stash to a few days, the release of new product information gets tightened down.

  5. dfs says:

    “You don’t think Apple strategically “leaks” information to certain members of the press?” I strongly suspect that before Steve came back this was done by some Apple executives to kite the value of their AAPL stock. I also suspect that Steve put an abrupt and permanent stop to this dodge. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen again in the future, but there’s no reason to think it has yet.

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