"Predictions" that need to stop in 2012 - Part 1: Apple
Given how easy it looks to be an analyst for the mobile tech industry, after reading Shaw Wu's iPhone 5 predictions, we thought we'd try our hand at some predictions for the coming year, though we'll be doing something a little different: we're backing up our predictions with logic. Of course, logic is the only real tool at our disposal, since we don't have spies in the Asian supply chain, or sources who play Rock'em Sock'em Robots with Larry Page or Tim Cook on a regular basis. Still, we're pretty confident in these predictions, because while we don't have inside sources, we do have a (borderline unhealthy) passion for technology coupled with a hatred of baseless rumor. So, we're going to try to stay away from anything too far-fetched, and leave it in the realm of what's likely.
Essentially, we just want to run through everything that we already know is going to happen, so we don't need to bother with any more rumors on each subject (although we will anyway.) We're going to kick things off today with predictions about Apple hardware for this year, and in part two we'll tackle Google's release outlook. We may add in "the field" (aka RIM, Microsoft, et al) in part two, but it seems more likely that those will get bumped into part three.
The iPhone 5 will be released in the fall, and it will have most of the features that everyone has been clamoring for, but will still lack some things that others think should be standard. Thus, the iPhone 5 will make many people very angry, prompting calls of it being overrated, but the public at large and Apple fans will buy the phone in droves.
The logic: Apple has settled into a cycle of updating the design of the iPhone every two years. If we take the OG iPhone for what it was, a first generation device, and toss that out of the mix, every two years starting with the iPhone 3G, to the iPhone 4 and this year the iPhone 5, we've seen a physical design change to the device. Apple fans nearly rioted last year when the iPhone 4S stuck to that schedule and didn't change the design. Keeping the same physical design for a third iteration is not only ridiculous, but it simply isn't the Apple way. We know it will happen, it's just a matter of how it will happen.
The teardrop idea design has been tossed around enough to be believable, but we don't have any proof that it will happen. A larger screen is a definite, but we wouldn't expect a drastic bump in screen size (like say 4.3" or larger) because it seems unlikely that Apple will abandon the bezels that Steve Jobs seemed to love so much, and getting a screen that big without adding too much to the device itself means stripping the bezel to the minimum, like the Galaxy Nexus has. Some people find larger screen phones to be cumbersome, but it seems that is mostly only in limited use (like playing with a phone in a store), and prolonged use leads to what you'd expect - adaptation. People just hate change, once that change becomes the norm, people stop complaining, and that theory definitely applies to the size of a smartphone.
The iPhone 5 will feature LTE and faster HSPA+. With the rollout starting up on AT&T and Verizon already covering most of the US in LTE, releasing an iPhone without LTE would not only anger customers, but it would probably annoy carriers quite a bit too. The major block to having LTE in the iPhone so far have been battery life concerns, but with a bigger screen comes more space for a bigger battery, so that shouldn't be a problem, though we'd still expect that the battery life for the iPhone 5 may not be as good as previous models.
We do expect Apple to move back to a mostly aluminum case, since it has figured out the tricks to using aluminum without losing antenna signal, unlike Asus, but that's one rumor that will persist, no matter what.
The logic for the last part of the prediction is quite simple: Apple is a company that is all about focus. It focuses on certain changes and updates and makes sure every detail works right, and then completely ignores other features until the same focus can be allotted for that work. To that point, Apple will be working very hard on the physical design for the iPhone 5 and making sure that LTE doesn't completely kill the battery life, and in doing so other features that people may want, like an Applefied widget of some sort, or live wallpapers, will probably be pushed to 2013.
Of course, haters are gonna hate and fanboys are gonna love, that's just the way the world works. Apple haters will use the same arguments, that Apple is behind on features or specs or is losing market share, while fanboys will stick to their standbys that the iPhone is less buggy, better designed, and prettier than the competition. And, both sides will be right. Apple will be losing market share, but it won't matter because the overall smartphone market will still be growing (as will Apple's revenues), and the iPhone will likely be a beautifully designed device which will be prettier than most of the competition, but at the top level, it's all personal preference anyway. If you love Apple, you'll say that the iPhone is elegant and easy, while Android is complex and fragmented. If you hate Apple, you'll say that the iPhone is simple or behind, while Android has more power and options. If you can see both sides, you'll understand that those are two valid choices, because some people can't be bothered with the learning curve of Android.
iPad and other iOS hardware
The iPad 3 will be released. That's really all we need to know, right? The iPad will obviously see tech boosts from a higher res (non-retina) display, better cameras, and new CPU (likely the quad-core A6). We're certainly interested to see what updates come to iOS, because the iPad will likely get more powerful content creation tools, but it will still be more likely to be used to read or play Angry Birds on the toilet than it will be to make movies or music. The thing is that the iPad 3 just isn't a compelling story, it's a routine upgrade.
The real story is whether there will be an addition to the iPad line. Namely, we want to get some confirmation of the rumored iPad mini that everyone and their mother has been predicting since the original Samsung Galaxy Tab was launched. It is possible that reports are correct that the iPad 3 will launch in March, with an even more impressive iPad 4 in October, but that just doesn't seem very likely to us. It would seem far more likely that the iPad mini launches in March with the true 10" iPad update coming later in the year (in time for that lucrative holiday season.) Apple has always spaced out its releases so as to not cannibalize its own sales, so releasing two 10" iPads just 6 or 7 months apart seems incredibly unlikely.
Apple's iTV will be released, and Roku, Google TV, and Boxee users will scoff because for years their products have done everything that iTV does except have Siri built in. New iTV users will ask, "What's a Roku?" and ultimately everyone will win. The market may exist, but the casual consumer doesn't know it yet, and as is customary, Apple will bring a lot of attention to that market. The big question is in the apps that will be available. It is almost certain that the iTV will run a version of iOS, so apps are a must. Google has had a hard time getting compelling apps on its Google TV, but Apple has always had a far better relationship with content makers than Google has, so we'd expect a fair number of apps and games, not to mention some big name additions from media giants.
Next up: Google, Android and all of the Android partners