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The State of Predictability — Apple Style

All right, I was disappointed. The WWDC keynote in June was streamed live online and via Apple TV. I looked for an icon on my Apple TV and there was no comparable link, but I was able to simply consult the live blogs from those who were present. The presentation finally went online later in the day.

Still, you might ask why I wasn’t sitting in the audience with my friends and colleagues, as I used to do.

Well, in the old days I had no problem traveling to San Francisco or Cupertino to attend an Apple event, particularly when one of my publishers was paying the bills. These days, I rely on the streaming, the live blogs, and do lots of research.

But I came to a quick conclusion as rocker Elvis Costello took the stage to entertain those who did attend, and that is that the whole affair was mostly predictable. If you hoped for a surprise “and one more thing” announcement of some sort, it appears that ship has sailed. Or maybe you can hope for more at the next Apple event, which may occur in October to introduce a new generation of iPads.

In saying that, there was one surprise announcement: The iLife and iWork apps for iOS, except for GarageBand, will be free when you set up a new device. Sorry, this offer doesn’t seem to be available to existing owners, nor will you get a refund if you already paid for a copy. But consider that Apple has always delivered iLife free with a new Mac, so maybe it’s not so different. But it’s also a smart way to help entice customers to buy new iPhones, what with the extra bundled apps and all.

You can compare Apple’s no-sense and perfectly sensible approach to Samsung’s, a company that loads their Galaxy smartphones with useless features and equally useless apps. These are things that few customers want or need, but, on the Galaxy S4 as an example, it consumes half the available storage capacity of the entry-level 16GB version. What a waste!

Instead, Apple is following through on their philosophy of only adding features that have a purpose. So, if you buy a new iPhone, you’ll be getting some of the best-selling iOS apps as part of the package. Sounds like a deal.

As for the rest, yes, there will be an iPhone 5c, a plastic-cased version that’s similar to the outgoing iPhone 5, with a lower price and a somewhat larger battery to lengthen the interval between recharges. Colors are white, pink, yellow, blue and green, but Mrs. Steinberg remarked that the pink version, at least based on the photos, seems to have too much of an orange tint, and she seems to prefer white.

With a two-year contract, an iPhone 5c will cost you $99 for 16GB, $199 for 32GB. This is $100 less than today’s iPhone 5, which doesn’t seem to mean that the full price will end up being in the range predicted by the media. However, the iPhone 4s, free with a contract, will continue to be available for those of you on a budget.

The flagship iPhone 5s will come in slate, gold and silver. As predicted, the latest and greatest iPhone will include the A7 chip, which is Apple’s first 64-bit ARM-derived processor. What’s more, Apple revealed that iOS 7 already has 64-bit support, which can be quickly added to existing apps. There’s also the promise of twice the CPU and graphics performance of the original iPhone 5 with the A6 chip. Compare that to the claimed 31% improvement cited in some recent rumor stories.

The processing chores are aided by Apple’s M7 motion coprocessor, which is designed to handle motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. Apple touts fitness apps as one beneficiary of the new chip, which will also help reduce battery usage.

The rest of the features are largely in line with expectations. The fingerprint sensor, known as Touch ID, is present and accounted for. There’s a twin-LED flash that supposedly makes it easier to deliver the best exposure under low-light conditions. Although Nokia is touting a 41 megapixel camera on the poor-selling Lumia 1020 Windows Phone, Apple sticks with eight megapixels, plus a superior lens, with an f/2.2 aperture.

As with the iPhone 5, the camera is capable of 1080p HD video recording, along with improved video stabilization. In addition, you can also shoot Slo-Mo 720p video at up to 120 frames per second. So I expect a new generation of amateur movie making.

Pricing is the same as the original iPhone 5: $199 for the 16GB version, $299 for the 32GB version and $399 for the 64GB version. No 128GB version was announced, and its clear Apple still wants to gouge customers who want or need extra storage.

Both phones contain upgraded LTE radios that support up to 13 bands, which is likely to mean reduced need to build special versions for different carriers. So they are “true” world phones.

iOS 7 will be available for download for supported models of the iPhone and iPad on September 18, and the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s will go on sale on September 20. You’ll be able to preorder an iPhone 5c starting September 13, but the flagship model won’t be available for preorder; you can buy one the day it goes on sale, most likely because fewer will be available  at the starting gate.

Apple also announced that the iPhone would be available from Japan’s largest carrier, NTT DOCOMO. Availability from China Mobile, that country’s largest carrier, is expected shortly, according to published reports.

All in all, investors weren’t impressed. They had hoped the iPhone 5c would be cheaper, and for maybe more unexpected stuff. So Apple’s stock price went down during the keynote, and continued to slide through the end of the trading day. It will take record sales to change their tune, but don’t count Apple out just yet.