Can Apple actually surprise people anymore?
As much as anything, that is one of the big questions surrounding the electronics company’s planned press event on Tuesday. Whether it is thanks to controlled media leaks or due the tech blogosphere watching the company’s every move, users are expecting a packed slate at Apple’s product launch at 1 p.m.
While it is all based on speculation, here is what to expect from Apple’s announcement on Tuesday.
iPhone 6: It is time for the company’s annual phone refresh, and the potentially big news: Apple could finally embrace a bigger screen for its phones. While the current iPhone 5S has a 4-inch display, there are rumours of new models with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, which may be called the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, respectively.
MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Apple CEO Tim Cook at last year’s new-product announcement. The company is poised to reveal new products Tuesday.
The rumours make sense: The larger-phone segment is the fastest-growing category of the mobile phone market. According to a May 2014 report from Canalys, a mobile device analyst firm, sales of smartphones with 5-inch and larger displays grew 369 per cent, substantially greater than the overall market.
Canalys also concluded, “Consumers now expect high-end devices to have large displays, and Apple’s absence in this market will clearly not last long. It is notable that 5-inch and above displays featured on almost half (47 per cent) of smartphones with an unlocked retail price of $500 (U.S.) or more. Of the remaining 53 per cent of high-end smart phones, 87 per cent were iPhones. Apple plainly needs a larger-screen smartphone to remain competitive, and it will look to address this in the coming months.”
Other rumoured improvements include a faster WiFi chip, which should improve Internet speeds, and an improved A8 processor that should benefit overall performance and battery life.
The phones are also expected to have a bit of design refresh, with a thinner, rounded body. The new phones might have scratch-resistant Sapphire screens.
iWatch: The rumours are so strong that it would be a huge surprise if the company didn’t release a new wearable product. While there are many mock-ups and concept images online, it is unclear whether this product will be a watch, or more like a fitness tracker. Apple’s new Healthkit activity-tracking and fitness software will likely be well integrated with the technology. The big questions are how integrated the wearable and the phone will be, with many speculating Siri and voice commands will play a role.
Any wearable’s price will be key, as most competitors have priced their smartwatches in the $300 range, with little functionality beyond simple notifications. Apple has never been known as a low-cost alternative, so their product could carry a higher price tag. Apple has invited fashion journalists to the launch, which means there will likely be a number of styles available.
The real question is whether Apple will simply play catch-up with its competitors, or will pack in more functionality to differentiate its product, and potentially transform the wearable market. One good sign is that the device will reportedly do some computing functions and support third party apps.
Two potential negatives: the product is believed to not have particularly good battery life, and might not be available until next year.
Digital payments: Apple already has Passbook, a digital coupon and boarding-pass storage solution, but one rumour says the company might finally embrace near-field communication, a chip technology already in many Android phones that lets users touch something to connect via Bluetooth, then pay for a product. That might require a redesign of the iPhone, or perhaps be the killer app for the iWatch, letting consumers pay with a swipe of the device over a point-of-sale terminal.
iOS 8: With a captive audience awaiting word on new devices, Apple execs will likely spend some time talking about their new operating system, and beyond Healthkit, their new Homekit, an opening foray into smart-home automation.
Security: The nude-celebrity photo hack has forced Apple to deal with negative press surrounding its iCloud storage solution, so there will likely be talk about beefed-up security. Whether there is something with teeth or Apple just spreads the word on existing strategies such as two-factor authentication remains to be seen.
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