Archive for the ‘ iPhone ’ Category

Final Pre WWDC Thoughts

What’s going to happen Monday at the only real tradeshow/conference that Apple actually attends?

Stone Cold Locks

1. iOS 6 – Not that this was actually in doubt, but the banners at WWDC confirm the announcement of the new OS. In addition, iOS 6 will feature the start of the de Google-ization of the standard iOS apps with Maps being the first to fall.

2. New MacBooks of some kind. There’s some confusion over this announcement with some analysts predicting new MacBook Pros current form factor and new MacBooks with a new thinner form factor. Both will be available in 13/15 inch sizes. I just don’t see Apple making their product lineup confusing by having 13 inch Macbook Air, Macbook, and MacBook Pro. So new Macbook Pros or MacBooks but not both. And the new “MacBooks” are thinner, lighter, no CD/DVD, and SSD only. These new MacBooks will offer an retina display on some models.

3. Mountain Lion Gold Master release to developers, and release in the next 30 days.

Very Likely

1. New Mac Pros in a new case featuring Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. Apple has not updated this machine and it’s due for an update. But Apple could do something unique here with a new type of Mac.

2. Retina Display iMac in a new case. The iMac has been untouched for over 2 years as well. Not a radical redesign, but lighter and thinner.

Potentially Game Changing/Stock Skyrocketing

Apple TV SDK – new Apple TV OS and the OS for the eventual Apple TV display. This could be game breaking, the third tier for the iOS market. A serious long play product for Apple but when you have 100 billion in cash, then you can afford some longer play strategic initiatives. We will see some of the control elements via Siri? We will see how Apple TV can/will work with existing video feeds such as cable boxes? We will get to see some imaginative Apple TV Apps/Games?

This could be an iPhone type announcement moment if Apple has something to disrupt the current TV industry. It could also be a definitive sign that Apple can continue to innovate post Steve. In addition, who introduces this new OS will be interesting to track. A major new product initiative at a keynote could set the stage for the start of the Tim Cook era.

Advertisements

Apple’s New iSight Camera??

While the entire Apple obsessed world both analysts and rumor sites were trying to divine any hints about the proposed Apple TV display, iLounge dropped a stealthy unique not previously suggested rumor power bomb. With so much Apple coverage, how did iLounge accomplish this feat? By suggesting a product that on the surface seems just crazy, an Apple branded camera.

Initially this rumor just seems broken, the digital camera business is currently being destroyed by the ever increasingly capable smartphone cameras. The point and shoot camera business in particular is a disaster right now. The only camera product line with some buzz right now is the micro Four Thirds thinner cameras with swappable lenses like the Sony NEX lineup. Improved future iPhone cameras are a given, but a stand alone camera just seems silly. Or does it?

iLounge does a great job laying out the argument. Here’s an image from 9TO5Mac of the article that started the rumor found in the iLounge’s great iPad User’s Guide.

iPhones/iPads will reach a limit in camera capability due to the ever increasing demands of weight, battery life (interior space for a battery), and drive to keep down thickness. In particular, the ability to optically zoom is the main issue. The thinness requirement won’t ever allow a real optical zoom lens.

In the drive to add more features and capabilities, camera OSes/interfaces are total mess of buttons and menus. Horrible GUIs and horrible navigation experience. Sounds like ripe territory for a certain company that creates ground breaking intuitive interfaces.

Cameras are still a $68 billion business. So there’s cash to be made there.

A networked camera or camera that auto syncs wirelessly with an iPhone/iPad and then with iCloud would seamlessly work with the entire Apple ecosystem of hardware and software.

Photography was always a passion of Steve Jobs. Jobs’ frequently acknowledged the influence of Polaroid founder Ed Land.  Jobs was fascinated with the new Lytro camera that works on a completely new light capture principle. Graphics have always been a key industry for Apple. So unlike a TV, this is more in Apple’s wheelhouse. It’s a classic area where art (the humanities) intersects with technology.

Apple has renewed their hold on the trademark/brand name iSight, and adjusted the trademark to cover a stand alone camera. And there are a number of job listings at apple.com related to camera technologies.

What does MoD think of this rumor which iLounge goes to great pains to point out came from an excellent source and that the device is being developed to launch after the rumored Apple TV display?

Well Apple did have a digital camera before, and it was overpriced piece of junk, so that’s certainly on the negative side of things.  Apple used to make printers too, and could probably create an excellent printer, but I don’t see Apple getting back into that business. While the camera industry is $68 billion right now, is that number just going to continue to drop leaving only the high end professional camera industry left? The high end camera industry requires a large investment in R/D to maintain market position. Is there really a significant enough delta in picture quality between what the iPhone camera will be able to do in the future and a stand alone camera in the sweet price range ($300 to $400 for the stand alone cameras).  Can Apple create something before the super Four Thirds designs eventually drop to that sweet price spot? Wouldn’t Apple’s resources be better spent on developing API s or a communication protocol to work with other camera companies in the same way AirPrint works with wireless printers?

However….

The megapixel spec war that drove the digital camera industry is becoming increasing irrelevant. Apple could develop a camera OS interface that is so easy and innovative that it gives back power to the average user to take great photos in all kinds of environments. If Apple could bury all the tech and all the specs/settings behind this GUI, then it could to use Horace Dediu favorite term “disrupt” a large part of the photography industry. Apple could even open the device to application developers. Perhaps the first camera has a power zoom lens that is not swappable, but works for 80% of the situations. It’s the iPhoto of cameras, then later maybe Apple releases the Aperture level camera with swappable lenses and perhaps partners with a major player for lens compatability. Still I’m imagining something like the Sony NEX – 3 with an iPhone type touch screen on the back.

iPhone 5 or iPhone 4LTE/Bigger Screen?

MoD has been suggesting over the last year that due to the massive scope of Apple’s current business especially iPhone and iPad that there’s no real way for Apple to keep the new designs under wraps completely for the product launch event. The supply chain is so long and only getting longer that there’s going to be a leak or two with hundreds of thousands of hardware kits and repair kits being built.

Once again, this leaky section has delivered images of the next iPhone.  9to5Mac is the source of the images and 9to5Mac lately has been doing a great job of getting “good” scoop and rumors about Apple hardware. In addition, the repair part source is the same one,iFixyouri, that accurately indicated to 9TO5Mac that iPad 2 would come in white back in 2011.

From 9TO5Mac the best image of a white  and black new iPhone, and the second image is of the front cover with a new screen size.

   

Several striking things about these repair parts.

1. The parts seem to be supporting the new 4inch tall iPhone display. Seeing it in a potential design, while I’m sure that I’ll appreciate the additional vertical room, I’m really wishing for some more horizontal room for browsing. I’m really interested in a 4.5 inch screen device.

2. Apple appears to be adding a metal band to the back of the case while still keeping two color options, white and black. While white looks good, the black design seems off with a gun metal grey back band instead of a silver metallic band. It just doesn’t look very good in this image at least not in comparison with the striking contrast of the white version. In addition, the repair supplier is indicating two other colors?

3. The new smaller dock connector is going to drive folks crazy, but it seems to allow for greatly increased speakers. With voice command being doubled down according to Tim Cook, increasing the speaker volume/clarity for Siri just makes sense.

4. Apple appears to have moved the headphone jack to the bottom of the device. Having a hard time coming up for a reason for that move other than shifting components around to create more battery room or a better configuration overall for more room in general.

5. It looks like the same overall design as the iPhone 4. For all the claims of a redesigned iPhone it looks like we’re getting the same overall design with a slightly bigger screen and reworked internal components and internal configuration. It’s not a new design but more like a reworked new model year than a true new car design. For that reason alone, MoD can definitely see these devices being called just the new iPhone. It’s like a new Porsche 911. It looks just like the old one. Unlike the iPad where Apple may have the perfect form, I think  there’s room for change with the iPhone.

6. It’s been suggested that these are “mules” for the real design. Assuming that the images are legit, they seem more refined and finished than mule devices.

7. Looking back in the past to the iPhone 4 launch leaks, it looks like repair sites got hold of actual front screen examples in late Februrary, 3 months before the June announcement of the iPhone 4 at WWDC. Based on that data as an example, the iPhone 4LTE/Bigger Screen is probably looking at a late August/early September release date and not October. If anything MoD could see Apple try and push up the US launch date as early as late July due to the iPhone 4’s lack of LTE ability will become a serious issue since AT&T and Verizon will have their sales staff pushing LTE devices exclusively. Once the US is launched, Apple could scale the rest of the launches as inventory builds up.

4/23 Random Thoughts

–  Apple is announcing their March 2012 Quarter numbers tomorrow, here are 3 significant numbers that MoD will be tracking:

1. Mac Laptop Numbers – This is purely anecdotal but I know of numerous (US based) individuals holding off purchases for the new MacBook Pros. If Mac growth numbers can be sustained in this new product free quarter, then the growth numbers for Q3/Q4 when the entire lineup should be upgraded (Ivy Bridge processors at the very least) could be significant.
2. iPad ASP – Again purely anecdotal but Apple stores in Chicago only inventory issues since launch have been the the 64GB Verizon LTE. The retina display iPad in conjunction with the vastly improved cellular data access could push the ASP higher with the obvious margin impact as well. Since Apple won’t break out sales by iPad versions, ASP is really the only indicator of product mix.
3. Like everyone the iPhone numbers are going to be fascinating to review. How many iPhones can Apple produce a month and what is the real global market for the iPhone? The Pros and Amateurs who track Apple’s earnings and iPhone numbers have a wide disparity in estimates ranging from 33 million to a high of 44 million.

– WWDC Announcement. Based on historical trends, in order for WWDC to hit the June timeframe previously suggested Apple has about 1 week to announce the event. WWDC is important because Apple should announce iOS 6 during the keynote. And iOS 6 release date will almost certainly be in the same time frame as the iPhone 5 launch. June WWDC could mean a August/September iPhone 5 whereas a July WWDC would mean a September/October release. So all iPhone launch speculation is in a holding pattern until we get a WWDC date.

What Apple Should Do For the Next iPhone Launch

So if Apple launches two sizes of iPad, does the other product juggernaut the iPhone also get two screen sizes?

If MoD was running Apple (and we’re all glad that we’re not), this summer/early fall when the new iPhone lineup is refreshed here’s what we would do.

1. iPhone 4s with Siri dropped to free with contract price. iPhone 4s is a very flexible device in terms of manufacturing margin and carrier support. MoD realizes that it’s year early for this kind of price drop, but it would be a bold move that would likely garner significant carrier support.

2. iPhone 5  with a 3.5 inch screen, completely redesigned with an LTE chip set like the iPad 3. Whole new form factor. Available with contract for $99. Why update the 3.5 inch form factor at all? First, LTE will be a huge issue moving forward in the US market, and will also provide a potential carrier in China Mobile on their TD-LTE network. Second, the updated chip set will also provide the fastest GSM 3G connections throughout Europe and Asia. The screen size 3.5 inch has proved incredibly popular, and redoing it can extend the life of that form factor

3. iPhone 5 with a 4 inch screen. New form factor with the new LTE chip set with enhanced 3G GSM support. This bigger form factor will appeal to a whole subset of users. It will answer the one clear feature advantage of Android and Windows Phone devices. It’s the future flagship phone for Apple for the next 2 years at least.

MoD imagines something like this, two new iPhones using the same form factor, iPhone equivalents of the 11/13 inch MacBook Airs.

Apple to Announce a Monster March 2012 Quarter?

So MoD is far from a financial analyst type guy, but it’s easy to put 2 and 2 together, or put 2 stories together.

Evidence Item 1

Apple due to increased foot traffic volume at their retail stores is allegedly modifying their scheduling rules to increase coverage on Fri/Sat/Sun and increasing the minimum hours for part time employees. If the foot traffic volume has continued to the point of requiring a change in staffing rules, then it seems reasonable to assume that Apple’s stores have continued their amazing numbers in this 1st calendar quarter of 2012. The new iPad has probably boosted that foot traffic.

Evidence Item 2

Cannacord Genuity Analyst Mike Walkley has published a note to investors indicating that the iPhone 4s has been the best selling smartphone the entire quarter on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Walkley based on his data believes that the iPhone 4S has been outselling all other smartphones combined on AT&T and Sprint and equal to the volume on Verizon.

So the evidence would indicate that Apple’s momentum is just continuing, what could this mean in terms of reported earnings for the quarter in late April?

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt posted his first earnings estimates tracking chart, and right now the Wall Street Pros have Apple at $35.88 billion. The independent analysts like Horace Dediu, Robert Paul Leitao, Daniel Tello, and Andy Zaky  have Apple at $42.68 billion, or a difference of $6.8 billion. If the independent analysts are close to being right, Apple will have had a year over year increase of nearly 72%. For some perspective in  April 2010 Apple announced earnings of $13.5 billion, so Apple could in two years have potentially increased revenue nearly 200% in two years.

How does Apple get close to those numbers according to Horace Dediu?

  • 37 million iPhones
  • 12 million iPads
  • 4.7 million Macs
  • 7 million iPods

So it’s quite possible that Apple’s winter Quarter numbers could come close to matching the sales of their holiday quarter of 2011. Which begs the obvious question of what numbers Apple might hit for the rest of the calendar year.

iPhone (5) March Rumor Roundup

So it’s started, the iPhone 5 rumor chase is on! There may not be a more important product for Apple than this year’s new iPhone. Expectations are high, and Apple’s carrier reach is hitting a high point. Wall Street expects Apple to potentially sell 120+ million iPhones this year.

Some features such as NFC or mobile wallet are dependent upon what’s coming in iOS 6. The biggest issue to be decided is screen real estate. Already this week, we have a rumor of Apple sticking with a 3.5 inch device, and then we have completely different rumors suggesting 4.6 inch or a 4 inch device.

What does the iPad 3 tell us about the upcoming iPhone? The iPad 3 breaks from some conventions of Apple mobile product design. Those dogmatic conventions were thinner, faster, with better battery life. MoD has to wonder if Apple had not pursued the retina display upgrade what would be the possible battery life of an upgraded iPad 2. Did Apple trade a device with 15 or 16 hours battery life for a device that has double the screen resolution? Apple is willing to compromise for a key feature . So far, the screen upgrades looks like a good move, and probably sets the stage for iPad 4 biggest upgrade, a new form factor that is lighter, thinner, with better battery life.

The iPad 3’s cellular chip set and energy efficiency of that chipset would seem to indicate that LTE is given for the next iPhone. The 3.5 inch screen status quo’s best defense/defender is John Gruber with the explanation that increasing the screen size would lead to a different resolution size needed. Supporting multiple resolutions leads to fragmentation and creates the kind of issues that drives developers crazy. So Apple stands pat screen size wise, but overhauls the overall design of the 3.5 inch iPhone and adds LTE which is needed by AT&T and Verizon and for Apple to sign a deal with China Mobile which uses a proprietary TD-LTE standard.

What could Apple do instead? The Verge in the linked article does an excellent job laying out the possibilities. A 4 inch screen could have a resolution of around 1080 x 720 and it would still be a retina display. The Verge indicates that would create 3 different resolutions with one that is not a simple double. The Verge’s best suggestion which corresponds with Apple’s overall strategy is making the resolution 1920 x 1280 (or 1080P HD/Blu-Ray resolution the reported resolution of Samsung’s next Galaxy flagship phone). This new resolution standard is again a simple double of the current retina display on the iPhone so while it’s 3 resolution types the image math is easy for developers. It would be even easier if iOS 6 was limited to iPhone 4 or higher, but with iPhone 3GS still being sold that’s unlikely.

It’s entirely possible Apple has not made a final decision on the form factor of the next iPhone. The rumors indicating no change or a big screen size could both be based on access to prototypes on trial. Apple is probably targeting either a late August or early September launch to get the a full Q4 out of the new phone. With that schedule, it’s possible that a final design decision has not yet been made. Or an iPhone 4 chassis could be used to test new internal components while hiding the new form factor.

If MoD was betting, we’d place our money on a bigger screen iPhone 5 using a 1080p resolution. The resolution Pixels Per Inch is overkill, but does give Apple room to grow. The extra physical space will provide the necessary working space for the battery life needed to provide the kind of working time with LTE that Apple wants. It will allow Apple to provide create a new iPod Touch, and could also be the resolution frame work for a larger iPod Touch/iPad Mini.

Could Apple also release an LTE version (using the new chipset similar to the iPad 3 would seriously extend the bands/standards for the device) of the iPhone 4S? Normally, MoD would say that’s a crazy idea, but at $99 with LTE an iPhone 4″+” would have a definite market in the US. And two TD-LTE devices for China Mobile certainly has some appeal.