Some Apple Predictions — Mainstream and Fringe

September 2nd, 2015

So as we close in on Apple’s media event next week, it appears the basics of the next iPhone refresh are pretty well known. There will be an iPhone 6s, and an iPhone 6s Plus. Both will sport faster processors, perhaps more onboard memory, a better camera with more megapixels, Force Touch and perhaps a slightly thicker case made of a stronger aluminum alloy. It will be less susceptible to bending in your back pocket, though that was not a genuine problem.

Now Apple has said none of this. It’s all about rumors that has mostly coalesced around these features. Considering the accuracy of last year’s predictions, it’s likely they are close to the mark. It appears that supply chain leaks just keep on coming without letup. It’s clear Apple can’t shut this down, or perhaps basks in the glow of all this speculation, since it presages a pretty creditable iPhone refresh.

But not all speculation is quite as reasonable, or at least the basis is less certain.

One rumor I read mentions better battery life. Today it’s decent on the iPhone 6, and quite good on the iPhone 6 Plus, since it has a larger battery filling its larger case. But unlike computer chips and other components, batteries haven’t gotten so much better over the years. It’s mostly about using less juice, and thus parts are more power efficient. So is it at all possible the next generation iPhones will survive longer between charges? I suppose, though that’s not a rumor that’s been given much, if any, credibility.

Yet another report suggests the next Apple TV will cost more than twice as much as the current model, and perhaps twice as much as that model’s original price. So it would be either $149 or $199. While it may very well offer a large enough feature set to deserve the higher price, what about the inevitable comparisons to such gear as the $99.99 Roku 3? For that price, the Roku offers motion control and voice search, and a choice of 2,000 apps.

So would Apple really want to increase the price so much? True, there are no doubt going to be other features that will deserve a higher price. Perhaps Force Touch, 4K support, and more powerful graphics for gaming, along with a remote that may partly serve as a game controller. Add all this together, and Apple would be justified in asking a higher price. But if most users are primarily interested in video streaming from Netflix and other services, the frills won’t matter. The Roku will get the job done, even the cheaper models. Remember that Apple is not involved in this game all by itself, and Apple TV has, reportedly, fallen to fourth in recent sales surveys.

I wouldn’t dispute the possibility of a more expensive fourth generation Apple TV. But I’m still skeptical. Then again, it may be about “all this for $99.”

The other predictions are about Apple working on a subscription TV service, but being delayed because negotiations with the TV networks are taking longer than expected. Perhaps. There was also a report that Apple was looking to include local stations, which creates a complicated situation involving far more players. Even if the networks acted as proxies for their affiliates, what about independent stations with no affiliation?

The other possibility, and it can run separate from this service, is whether Apple plans to create its own programming. Certainly, the company has the resources, far more than Netflix, which has delivered great shows that win awards and have millions of binge-watchers. It would be easy for Apple to give producers millions to create new series and movie fare. There’s plenty of talent out there, and perhaps the larger budget from Apple would not just attract new talent but enable them to recruit producers and shows from other networks when contracts are up, or the shows are cancelled.

So would a show such as Hannibal, recently cancelled by NBC, find a new home at Apple? Or would it be far too gruesome for a company that would prefer more family oriented fare?

This also comes at a time when the industry is reportedly realizing that there are far too many shows now that are competing for attention. That means ratings for each tend to be lower, and the bar for avoiding the cancellation bear is also lower. As it is, when I look at this fall offerings from the major networks, and some cable alternatives, I wonder how I’ll have time to watch the shows I like. Even with a DVR that can record several at once, I realize I’m going to have to be more judicious in choosing which ones to embrace.

So if Apple wants to enter that game, how much room is there, even if their shows are great and fully capable of earning Emmy and Golden Globe nominations? If anything, I suspect the networks might want to cut back some in the hope of attracting larger audiences for their existing shows.

In addition, it does appear that expectations for an Apple Car have been buttressed by news of recent hires for Apple’s Project Titan. But it’s still not at all certain if this is a project to develop a car, perhaps electric and self-driving, or to build a platform on which to develop future versions of CarPlay.

But it’s more romantic to think of a car, so I’ll leave it there.

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