The iPhone Rumor Rollup presents 11 predictions on what Apple will announce tomorrow. Overall, the best guide for what Apple will announce is the overall pattern of Apple’s past announcements.
For this, The Rollup likes the broad outline of the predictions, in a recent tweet, by Asymco’s Horace Dediu. There will be a new “lead phone,” the iPhone 6 with a 4.7-inch screen; a new “mid phone,” the iPhone 6c, which will be, mainly, the innards and 4-inch screen of the current iPhone 5s, with a plastic body, and some improved hardware components (Wi-Fi, faster LTE etc.) found in the lead phone. The iPhone 5c will continue, as the new “entry phone” for 2014-15 and possibly the 4s model as well, as a still lower price point.
There’s much less evidence for a 5.5-inch iPhone 6, at least for 2014. But it could happen as part of an expanded segmentation of the product line, started last year with the iPhone 5c.
There was and is much speculation that the next iPhones will look more like the iPads. But the most convincing “leak” regarding design is the iPhone 6 images recently revealed in the accidental disclosure of a China Telecom pre-order page for the new phone. Here’s the image. It shows a body that is closer to a cross between the iPod touch and iPod nano, rather than Apple’s tablets. Rather than making the phones and tablets look more alike, Apple will keep them distinctively different.
Pricing for the lead phone and “c” model will be unchanged (see Dediu’s tweet above). The iPhone 6 will start at about $650-$700 for a no-contract phone, or $199 with a two-year cellular contract. The 6c will be $100 lower in both instances. A 5.5-inch model, if announced, will be about $100 more in both instances.
Based on history, Apple is due to boost storage for the iPhone. That would mean a doubling of the current top-end of 64GB in the 5s, to 128GB in the iPhone 6, with an accompanying boost in price. Will Apple keep the starting storage level of 16GB for the phones? Several months after the 5c was introduced, Apple offered a new lower storage option of 8GB, and a lower price tag, available in some but not all markets.
Processors and RAM
The A7 in 2013 was a major advance, being the first 64-bit mobile processor, even though its impressive performance gains had nothing to do with “64-bitness” per se. Apple has only started to exploit the power of this chip. It might shift the A8 to a smaller semiconductor process, realizing some performance gain and, more importantly, power efficiency. Other gains will be real but dependent on Apple engineers exploiting the new architecture, in relationship to iOS and apps. Given the amount of video used by mobile users, Apple is likely to improve multi-media performance significantly. Again based on history, Apple is due to boost RAM, from the current 1G to 2GB and possibly using faster, more power efficient chips.
Sapphire screen cover
Not this year. The “iWatch” – expected to be announced tomorrow also - will almost certainly have a sapphire screen.
There have been vague rumors that Apple will improve “performance” somehow. But the real advances will be giving the fingerprint scanner much more to do than simply locking/unlocking the phone. Like…authenticating and authorizing mobile payments. Which brings us to….
There’s been a surge in fairly well-sourced reports over the past few weeks that Apple finally will offer some kind of platform for using the iPhone in place of a credit or debit card to buy goods and services. [See “What an Apple mobile payments system on iPhone 6 might look like”] Apple will need to incent iPhone owners to use it, partly through a more intuitive “buying experience” that involves well-designed phone-based app, and by adding some kind additional value for users.
Near field communications
The Rollup has been skeptical about Apple’s embrace of NFC, in part because Apple has not been stampeded into NFC-based mobile payments. But that skepticism overlooked Apple’s long-standing and expanding NFC patent portfolio. It looks increasingly like a larger phone body will make room for the very short-range NFC chip, and antenna. Will Apple also develop Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radios and its iBeacon specification as a wireless infrastructure for payments?
Wi-Fi and LTE
It’s feasible for Apple to offer 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which will still support linking with existing 11n/11g access points, and possibly two antennas to support two spatial streams. This 2x2 MIMO arrangement with 80-MHz channels could yield a downstream data rate of about 867Mbps, compared to 433Mbps for a single spatial stream. Apple could also boost LTE performance, with a new Qualcomm modem that achieves cellular download throughput of up to 150Mbps, compared to 100Mbps today for the iPhone 5s. Moving data faster means the iPhone is using the network less, a pay-off for battery life. Which brings us to….
Apple hasn’t focused on having the longest battery life. But it has worked really hard to achieve an acceptable battery life consistently over successive iPhones, even as it increases screen size, resolution, and processor power, with relatively small increases in battery capacity. A larger iPhone creates room for a bigger step in battery capacity. But Apple’s continued engineering in making hardware and software more power efficient, and smarter about power use, may have as big or bigger impact. Look for at least a modest improvement in battery life.