With the rumored September 10th Apple keynote just weeks away, the rumor mill is in high gear and, as per usual, expectations will be soaring higher than ever as the date nears. For some products, a refresh or introduction is all but confirmed. For others, there only exists speculation or mere wishful thinking for even a mention at the keynote. Below you’ll find the opinions of some 9to5Mac staffers.
I think the September 10th event will be an iPhone and a software event. At WWDC, Apple set the stage for several major software launches to occur this fall, but did not share final details or specific launch information. The company announced iOS 7, OS X Mavericks, iWork for iCloud, and announced (but did not demo) all new releases of iWork for Mac and iOS. I think the first part of the event will discuss software, while the second half of the event will talk iPhone hardware.
I would not be surprised to see Apple Senior VP of Software Craig Federighi re-cap many of the major new features of iOS 7. With iOS 7 including an all-new design, it will be important for Apple to talk the changes in a non-developer-focused environment (like WWDC). Apple, in the past, has re-discussed its major iOS updates at iPhone hardware events.
I would also expect Apple to announce a formal launch date for iOS 7 during this portion of the keynote. With Apple focusing on iPhone iOS 7 development prior to WWDC and many beta users saying that the iPhone version is more stable than the iPad version, I would not be surprised to see an iOS 7 for iPhone/iPod touch launch in mid-September and an iPad iOS 7 release in October alongside the new iPad 5 and iPad mini(s?).
After iOS 7, I think Apple will talk about its other major operating system release this year: Mavericks. With OS X Mavericks including many features that work hand-in-hand with iOS, I would expect Federighi to announce a launch date for Mavericks that is within the two week period in which the iOS 7 release will occur. With OS X Mountain Lion, Apple had some surprise features up its sleeve for launch (Dictation, PowerNap, etc), but with Apple putting a lot of attention on iOS this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mavericks features that debuted at WWDC being the entirety of what’s in store for the Mac OS this year.
To round out the software discussion, I would imagine that Apple VP of Productivity Software Roger Rosner will give a quick overview of iWork for iCloud and announce a release date (perhaps even the event date or in-line with Mavericks and iOS 7). I think Rosner will also give a quick demonstration of the new OS X and iOS iWork apps, along with a release date in-line with iWork for iCloud, iOS 7, and Mavericks. The event would also be a perfect venue to perhaps announce that iWork is now free (like iLife on OS X).
As for Mac hardware, Apple has Haswell MacBook Pros, Mac minis, and iMacs in the pipeline, but I think those could be easily saved for the October event (like in 2012 when Apple talked Macs and iPad at its October keynote). Mac Pro tech specs, pricing, and launch month could also be saved for October or even an Apple.com press release.
On to iPhone hardware, I think most of the chatter shared so far is correct: Apple will launch an iPhone 5S and a plastic, lower-cost iPhone that comes in various colors. Like past “S” phone upgrades, I am expecting the same design as the previous iPhone (iPhone 5 in this case), along with major enhancements to the camera and voice capabilities. I’m thinking that the iPhone 5S camera specs will be in-line with the iPhone 5: Perhaps around 8 megapixels. Apple has continuously said that megapixels don’t matter, so I don’t think Apple would have said that within the past few months for nothing. What I do think will separate the iPhone 5S camera apart is the software-perhaps a slow-motion mode- and a dual LED flash for improved low-light pictures.
In terms of voice, I would not be surprised to see the iPhone 5S gain some on-board voice parsing capabilities à la Android. I don’t think Siri is ready for on-board processing (this year), but I’d say Local Dictation makes sense for the 5S.
Many are expecting the new iPhone to sport a biometric fingerprint sensor. Based on SDK evidence, Apple’s purchase of Authentec last year, and other variables, I’d say that this is likely. The only thing holding me back from thinking this is a 100% certainty is the absolute lack of supply-chain evidence for a fingerprint sensor. If Apple is producing tens of millions of fingerprint sensor equipped Home buttons, why hasn’t one piece leaked? Plastic iPhone shells in every single color, iPhone 5S back plates and camera parts have leaked by the dozen. Then again, the iPad mini barely leaked in terms of hardware parts, so we never know for sure based on this.
From what I could glean, if the new iPhone does include a fingerprint sensor, I’d say with near certainty that it would be exclusively for unlocking the phone. Perhaps even as a conduit for unlocking the new iOS 7 iCloud Keychain feature. Apple is a hardware + software + services company, and fingerprint sensor integration into that (well-timed) feature would be sensible. I highly doubt that fingerprint sensor technology has reached a level of reliability to be suitable for conducting payments. I also don’t think Apple is ready to launch a payments service this year. I think that could be a long-term strategy of sort, but nothing suitable for 2013.
As for the plastic iPhone, I think that Apple will shoot for pricing under $350 sans contract. With contract, I’d say either free, $49, or $99. To ditch iPhones without Lightning and 4-inch screens, I’m thinking the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 are out of the line-up. With the iPhone 5S being similar to the iPhone 5, and for margins sake, I’d even go as far as to say that I think the iPhone 5 might even be done come next month. Perhaps the 2013 iPhone lineup will be the iPhone 5S and what some are calling the “iPhone 5C.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see the “iPhone 5C” come in one or two storage capacity options at most (perhaps 8GB and 16GB), and three for the iPhone 5S: 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB. For every “S” iPhone launch, Apple has doubled the iPhone storage capacities, and Apple’s launch of a 128GB iPad earlier this year should only add some more smoke to that possibility.
The focus of the event being the iPhone 5S seems as near certain as can be, with a 95 percent likelihood of a fingerprint sensor as the key differentiating hardware feature – though I too definitely expect a lot of focus on iOS 7.
Launching the iPhone 5C at the same event seems far more likely than not, though I do wonder about the naming. If Apple retains the existing iPhone 5, we’d then have a line-up that goes 5C, 5, 5S. That’s a pretty confusing nomenclature for the average consumer (ie. the ones who don’t hang out here), especially for a company that prides itself on usability. I think we might see a different name for either the 5C or 5S. There’s a small possibility the issue could be avoided by launching the 5C in emerging markets only.
Many of us were disappointed when the MacBook Pro 17 was discontinued. My suspicion is that a Retina screen just wasn’t economic in 17-inches at the time, and it would have been too confusing to have a model that sat above the 15-inch Retina in size but below it in resolution. I’d like to think we’ll see the MBP 17 return in Retina form, but must confess it’s more of a hope than an expectation.
With all of the rumors that Apple will introduce a low-cost iPhone (iPhone 5C?) in addition to a full-fledged iPhone upgrade (iPhone 5S?), there’s some question in terms of where that puts Apple’s current iPhone lineup. I’d expect to see the iPhone 4 and 4S officially gone from Apple’s lineup (along with 30-pin connectors), and the iPhone 5 to stick around as a mid-range option. If history is any indication, that would put the iPhone 5S at $199 on contract, the iPhone 5 at $99 on contract, and the new low-cost iPhone 5C at $0 on contract. Of course there is always the possibility that the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C pricing could be reversed with the 5C at $99, but that would require the new low-cost iPhone to be a much more compelling upgrade then the current iPhone 5. It might make more sense that way, however, given it would be odd for Apple to have a newly launched device sell for less than its previous generation iPhone. We’ve already seen the iPhone 5 sell for $99 on contract on a number of occasions.
Apart from iPhones, one thing that I expect to see at the event is new iWork apps. Apple showed of iWork for iCloud running in a browser at WWDC earlier this year, and you can bet that it has updates planned for the rest of its iWork apps on both iOS and Mac. Not only will it bring integration with iWork for iCloud (and hopefully a better explanation of pricing), but you can also expect the iOS apps to receive iOS 7 updates to make the apps fit in with the operating system’s new look. A new version of iPhoto popped up with some minor changes in the latest beta of Mavericks, so I’m hoping Apple will finally address the mess that is dealing with photos across devices with iCloud and iPhoto. We might even see the apps go free, and iLife app updates are long overdue as well. Apple also confirmed during its preview of the New Mac Pro that a new version of Final Cut Pro X is in the works– Perhaps we’ll hear even more about Apple’s pro offerings and where the products are headed, as we already know the new Mac Pro is set to arrive later this year. We’ll also most likely get official Mavericks and iOS 7 release dates.
The sheer number of leaked parts for the lower-cost iPhone make its addition to Apple’s lineup an inevitability. However, “lower cost” does not necessarily mean the model will be cheap. In the same way the iPad mini is not a budget product, I expect the ‘iPhone 5C’ to cost between $300 and $350 unlocked. This is lower than any current iPhone sells for, but I don’t see the point of creating an entire new model of phone if the target price point is not significantly lower than anything available before. Spec-wise, the iPhone 5C will share internals with both the 4S and iPhone 5.
At the moment, Apple runs with three products, the 4, 4S and iPhone 5. From September, I think Apple will simplify the lineup to just two products, the iPhone 5C and the 5S, as the 5C is too similar to the 5 to warrant keeping both around. As a further distinguishing factor, I think it is time for Apple to start the entry-model iPhone 5S with 32 GB of storage. This enables Apple to have a low-end 16 GB iPhone 5C and a 32 GB iPhone 5C standing in for the ‘mid-range’ option currently occupied by the 4S.
In 2012, Apple hosted an event in January, March, June, September, and October; yet so far in this year, we’ve only had the WWDC keynote. Thus, the company has the choice of either pulling out all the goodies and introducing updates (or additions) to all of their software and hardware lineups, or they can stagger all of the new products over multiple events. As much as I would want to see all of the great innovation from Cupertino come out all at once, I believe the company will follow their usual regiment and spend a majority of the time introducing the new iPhone 5S and low-cost iPhone 5C (which will inevitably stand for “cheap” according to the anti-Apple squads) and only spending a small amount of time recapping and announcing the release dates for already-known products. Sadly, there’s a really good chance that the Apple TV will not be getting any love.
While I would love a refresh for the retina MacBook Pro, there’s a slim chance that it’ll actually show up during this iPhone-focused event. Mavericks, on the other hand, will see its release date announced. iOS 7′s release date will be announced as well, which I presume will be just a few days before the release of the iPhone 5S.
iLife struggles in Mavericks, so they’ll either need to do a small update to fix the compatibility issues or they can do a full refresh like Logic Pro X. iWork also needs to be much smarter (real-time, multi-person collaboration), but iWork for iCloud shows that the company still isn’t that far yet.
The iPhone 5S itself, honestly, needs to be more than an S upgrade. The processor will no doubt be upgraded, which will be great for iOS 7 and making sure that everything is silky smooth. However, the hardware features will really need to shine for this iPhone. The fingerprint scanner as Mark described it – one that simply allows you to unlock your phone – will not cut it at all. I believe the fingerprint scanner must be a part of a larger payment network. Surely Apple has plenty of money in the bank and a large, loving audience. But Tim Cook and the rest of the executives need to prove that there is still fire in the engine.
I think the September 10th event will be mainly focused on the iPhone and iOS 7, will dive in a little bit further into the new iWork for iCloud, Mac and iOS and touch up on OS X Mavericks.
I think the September 10th event will be an iPhone event but Apple often slips some other product updates into an event as well. Haswell Minis/MacBook Pros/iMacs as well as the redesigned Pro are all due this Fall so Apple could announce and start shipping them at the September event. We almost always get more details as events get closer on Macs so stay tuned for that.
iPads had their own October event last year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same this year. That said, the iPad 5, which will look like big Minis, have been floating around since at least January so Apple could drop these at any time. Speaking of Minis, I think Apple will expand the mini line to include both Retina and non-Retina models - but probably not on September 10th.
As for the iPhone, this will be as much about showing off a polished iOS 7 (which has so far been polarizing) as it will be about new hardware. We’ve got a pretty good idea of iOS 7, but Apple often saves some nuggets for the final reveal. It appears that Apple is going to show off a new plastic-backed ‘iPhone 5C’ which will have iPhone 5-ish specs. I believe that will be the $399 iPhone or “free with 2 year plan” we’ve grown accustomed to in the US. The iPhone 5 might stick around as the mid-tier ($99 w/plan) but probably in a base 16-32GB configuration only. The flagship iPhone 5S will have a better camera, faster/more efficient chips and of course fingerprint reading capabilities. We might even see 32/64/128GB configs to help differentiate from the 5 and 5C.
Wildcard: Apple could show off its latest thinking in Apple TV land.