Early predictions for the iPhone 5 were nothing short of miraculous, with some analysts going on record with a sales target of 10 million units sold in the first 30 days. Others went so far as to suggest the mighty iPhone would contribute a whopping 0.5% to the entire U.S. GDP. Keep in mind, we’re talking about a phone here, an expensive one at that, and thus not a necessity for anyone. I agreed that there was pent-up demand for Apple’s latest device, but these numbers seemed liked hype and not reality.
But I’m beginning to think the bulls were right.
TechCrunch is reporting that today, as pre-orders for the iPhone began at midnight, the demand for the iPhone 5 obliterated the previous sales records set by the iPhone 4 and 4S. Unlike the older models which took 20 and 22 hours respectively to sell-out of Apple’s first week stock, the iPhone 5 hit this milestone after 60 minutes.
Now, we need to be somewhat circumspect with our amazement, after all, only Apple knows the true number of units this represents. It’s quite conceivable that they simply had fewer units available for the September 21st launch date than with their previous models. And yet, there’s no question, despite lacking a single big “wow” factor feature, the iPhone 5 is likely going to be the most popular iPhone yet.
Update, September 17: Looks like the early reports of sell-outs weren’t just the result of low-inventory. Apple says that the iPhone 5 shattered the previous first day-sales record for an iPhone – the company sold more than 2 million units in the first 24 hours. That’s nearly double the amount of iPhone 4S units sold in the same period post-launch.
If you’re a Canadian looking to hop on the iPhone bandwagon, we’ve got good news: The $199 starting price quoted by Apple at their launch event on Wednesday is the U.S. contract price. Here in Canada, with our longer 3-year terms, the starting price is a little lower: $179 for a three-year term with all of the major carriers.
There’s not much to say when you look at the graphic above – other than a) There is indeed going to be an Apple event on September 12th, and b) it’s a virtual lock that at least one of the product announcements will be the next generation of the iPhone – which I think we can agree based on the shadow numeral above – will be called the iPhone 5.
Will there be other announcements such as the heavily rumoured smaller, iPad Mini? Or more details on the shadowy presence of an improved Apple TV? We’ll let you know as soon as we know!
I’ve got some bad news for folks who are expecting the next iPhone – widely predicted to be launching next month – to be a total ground-up redesign of the iconic smartphone. It won’t be.
But I’ve also got some good news: It doesn’t need to be.
Take a look at these photos pulled together by Chinese repair shop iLab. They tell a story of an iPhone that is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Surprised? Don’t be. This, for the foreseeable future is going to be Apple’s approach to their existing products.
Here’s why I think Apple will be “doubling down” – to employ an over-used expression – on their established formulas instead of ushering in completely new devices.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it
The first iPhone was a surprise. Not just to the industry but to Apple as well. They knew they had created something that was different and unique, but the degree to which consumers started rabidly buying up the iPhone was a shock – even the iPod, Apple’s most successful product in terms of sales, had never enjoyed this degree of enthusiasm.
After that, the course was set. Apple’s belief in the power of an all-touchscreen device and the versatility of downloadable apps had been vindicated by consumer demand. From here on in, the challenge was to find ways to improve on that formula, without disrupting what had become the hallmarks of iPhone’s design language.
Faster chips, better screens, a sleeker case design, better software, improved cameras… each and every part of the iPhone has undergone incremental improvements while maintaining an experience that would be as familiar to an owner of a first generation device as it would to someone whose first iPhone was the 4S.
Especially when you consider that a) the iPhone 4 and 4S have been ridiculously successful despite being identical on the outside, and b) nearly every Android phone on the market is simply a variation on Apple’s design, what would compel Apple to rethink their most profitable product along dramatically different new lines?
Just Enough To Make You Want One
These photos have already garnered criticism amongst Apple die-hards. They feel the design isn’t revolutionary enough, given how similar it looks to the current iPhone. But by now, these people should know that Apple prefers to tweak successful designs instead of reinventing them. Here’s how the next iPhone will offer up improvements over the current model:
– Slightly bigger screen. Apple already has one of the best mobile screens on the planet, so the trick will be to give it more real-estate without compromising the measurements of the phone itself which Apple spent a great deal of time and money developing. You’ll notice that the home button now has a little less breathing room above and below it, and the FaceTime camera has been relocated above the ear-piece speaker grille from its current side-car location. These changes, plus a slight lengthening of the phone’s body itself could yield a small but nonetheless noticeable increase in overall screen real estate. The current size is 3.5″ diagonal. A new iPhone could hit 3.9-4.0″ with the re-jigged design.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple manages to bump the specs of the screen too. Better contrast, better brightness, better off-angle viewing? All likely. It doesn’t take a lot to make a screen better when compared to an earlier model. When Apple released the iPad 2, they didn’t even mention that the screen was better than the first iPad – yet to anyone looking at it, it was obvious that they had made some improvements.
– 4G LTE. 4G, or LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the latest standard in high-speed data connectivity for mobile phones. Where supported by carriers, it enabled speeds of up to 150Mbps which is significant leap over the previous 3G standard. As such, this one is the most obvious feature for the next iPhone. The new iPad already has it, and given the increasingly wide-spread availability of the new high-speed wireless standard, it’s time for the iPhone to get the new technology too.
– Bigger, longer-lasting battery. Increasing the size of the case doesn’t just allow for a bigger screen, it means a bigger space for the battery too. And if the next iPhone is going to have LTE, it will need a bigger battery. LTE is fairly power-hungry technology and presumably Apple doesn’t want battery life to suffer. So while the next iPhone may last longer between charges if you restrict it to 3G, running LTE will probably result in the same life you’re used to now.
– NFC. NFC or Near Field Communication is a relatively new technology which lets devices communicate with one another over very short distances, without using WiFi or Bluetooth. In mobile phones, NFC can be used to let people “tap to share” (e.g. photos or web links) or “tap to connect” (instead of needing to configure a Bluetooth speaker – just tap it), but the biggest feature of NFC is its ability to enable mobile wallet applications. This is how you can pay for purchases using nothing but your smartphone at retailers that can accept NFC payments. NFC on the next iPhone might be a long-shot, especially given that the technology has so far been very slow to be adopted at retail in North America. However, it is progressing and there’s no question that if Apple wants to play in the digital wallet space as they undoubtedly do, NFC is pretty much mandatory.
– Smaller, possibly mag-safe-based dock connector. There have been far too may rumours pointing to this: The new iPhone will absolutely have a new, smaller dock connector. Yes, that will mean that all existing docks and accessories will now require adapters in order to work with the next iPhone, but the 30-pin dock connector is now 10 years old and wireless technologies like Bluetooth and AirPlay have made it largely unnecessary for anything other than charging. A smaller connector also means they can now move the audio-jack to the bottom of the phone.
– Audio jack on the bottom. Why does this even matter? Well, for folks who never use the jack, it doesn’t matter at all. But those who do will have noticed that it is kind of inconvenient to stick your iPhone in your pocket with the bottom of the phone facing down. Not only do you have to flip the phone around when you pull it out, but it’s much harder to reach for the home button quickly. And given the importance Apple has placed on Siri, being able to grab that home button when you’re on the go is definitely a benefit.
– A little thinner. The newest Android phones from HTC and Samsung have put an emphasis on ever thinner dimensions. The next iPhone will lose a few millimetres too. Take a close look at the photos above. They clearly show that the metal sides (which double as the phone’s antennas) will be bevelled and the front and back surfaces will sit flush to the edge. The current design is 9.3mm thick, with at least a millimetre or two of front and back surface extending beyond the metal rim. The new iPhone could easily come in at 7mm or less. Given that the world record holder, the Oppo Finder comes in at an anorexic 6.65mm, 7mm seems realistic for a new iPhone.
– Another spec bump on the processor, possibly to quad-core, and more memory. This will be mostly to keep pace with the rest of the industry and because faster chips means more powerful applications – the life-blood of the iPhone post-sale revenue.
Am I convinced that these photos are 100% what the new iPhone will look like? No. There are a few details that don’t seem right:
– The power/wake button at the top looks like it has almost no height to it at all, which would make it difficult to press.
– In picture 6, it looks as though the front face of the phone starts flush with the metal sides at the top of the phone but then progressively ramps away from the sides as it meets the bottom edge. That definitely seems out of place. It may be that the folks who assembled this mockup didn’t fit the pieces together quite right.
– There are visible seams where the top and bottom pieces of the phone meet the back plate. Given that Apple went to great lengths to make the current design nearly seamless, I can’t imagine they would now be ok with seams. But this could easily be a pre-production mockup, with the final product getting a much smoother finish.
– There is a strange, small hole sitting between the LED light and the rear camera lens. It could be a mic, and I’d place bets that’s what it is, but why is it there? The current design doesn’t employ such a visible mic so it’s hard to imagine why the new design calls for it to be so prominent.
These reservations aside, I think we are looking at the next iPhone. It’s a design that is in keeping with Apple doing what they do best: Give owners of an iPhone 4 or older model a strong reason to upgrade once they’re free of their contract, while not making people who just bought an iPhone 4S feel like they’re the proud owners of obsolete technology. This iterative, evolutionary approach to their product development can be seen across Apple’s line of devices and the next iPhone will follow this model.
Now, in case you’re sitting there feeling glum that Apple won’t be surprising and delighting you with a new, magical and revolutionary product come the fall, don’t fret just yet.
There’s still plenty of reason to think that Apple will finally make good on its much-rumoured move into the HDTV space, plus we keep getting hints of a new, smaller iPad model. This may yet shape up to be one of Apple’s most interesting years.
Before we dig into some of the new features in Apple’s latest update to Mac OS X, I just want to call out what has to be either the biggest coincidence in the launch of a new tech product, or a very cleverly timed piece of PR genius:
On Sunday, as reported by ABC and the Daily Mail Online, a woman in California called police 911 services in a state of deep worry over what she believed to be a mountain lion that had supposedly crept into her neighbour’s yard and then fallen asleep or perhaps died, while lying on the neighbour’s patio table.
Looking at the photo below, you can understand her concern – the animal looks like the real deal.
Turns out it was real, or at least was once a real live mountain lion. But the animal sitting in the neighbour’s yard was a stuffed animal placed there by the neighbour to intentionally prank his wife when she looked out the window.
Oddly, though the event happened on Sunday, it wasn’t reported until today – coinciding with the mountain lion story you’re hear to read. Coincidence?
Okay, now that’s out of the way…
Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion seems like a bargain when you consider that for just twenty bucks, you can upgrade from either Lion or Snow Leopard and get over 200 improvements including:
- iCloud integration, for easy set up of your Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Messages, Reminders and Notes, and keeping everything, including iWork documents, up to date across all your devices;
- the all new Messages app, which replaces iChat and brings iMessage to the Mac, so you can send messages to anyone with an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or another Mac;
- Notification Center, which streamlines the presentation of notifications and provides easy access to alerts from Mail, Calendar, Messages, Reminders, system updates and third party apps;
- System-wide Sharing, to make it easy to share links, photos, videos and other files quickly without having to switch to another app, and you just need to sign in once to use third-party services like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Vimeo;
- Facebook integration, so you can post photos, links and comments with locations right from your apps, automatically add your Facebook friends to your Contacts, and even update your Facebook status from within Notification Center;
- Dictation, which allows you to dictate text anywhere you can type, whether you’re using an app from Apple or a third party developer;
- AirPlay Mirroring, an easy way to wirelessly send an up-to-1080p secure stream of what’s on your Mac to an HDTV using Apple TV, or send audio to a receiver or speakers that use AirPlay; and
- Game Center, which brings the popular social gaming network from iOS to the Mac so you can enjoy live, multiplayer games with friends whether they’re on a Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
I’m especially keen to try out AirPlay mirroring – this has been one of those features that was notable for its absence from previous releases of the operating system as it is now standard on nearly all iOS devices. Being able to send any kind of content from a Mac to an Apple TV (and thus your HDTV) is very handy.
If you’re curious to learn more about Mountain Lion before deciding to take the plunge yourself, check out these helpful reviews:
While you’re at it, you may want to revisit the minimum system specs for OS X.
So readers, are there any Mountain Lion features you’re excited about? Drop us a line in the comments, and let us know – especially once you’ve had a chance to try it out. (Or if you’ve had any of your own close encounters with convincing stuffed animals)
Speculation that Apple might release a smaller version of their category-dominating iPad has been swirling for years. After all, nearly every one of Apple’s competitors have released sub-10″ models and while they haven’t achieved anywhere near the iPad’s success, they have been selling. The belief was that Apple would want to address the emerging threat from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both of whom released $200 7-inch tablets last year. New, lower pricing on the BlackBerry PlayBook was giving RIM’s embattled tablet some new life too.
But two factors argued against an iPad-mini: First, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that the Amazon/B&N products hadn’t dampened people’s enthusiasm for the iPad at all – a fact that was illustrated by the very strong opening sales numbers for the new 3rd generation iPad. Second, when Steve Jobs was reporting on the success of the original iPad, he claimed that the new crop of 7″ tablets would be “dead on arrival.” He hated them: ““7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad.” Apple had spent a lot of R&D on coming up with the size and shape of both the iPad and the iPhone, and there was a growing sense that the company wasn’t going to abandon those formulas in favour of a me-too strategy.
Things, however, inevitably change.
Steve Jobs, the man who was known as much for his stubbornness as for his visionary role in the industry, is now silent and any influence he still wields at Apple is mostly cultural in nature. For the next few years, it’s a good bet that Apple will follow the course he laid out. But he can no longer shout-down ideas he doesn’t like and that means Apple is a different company when it comes to new product development.
While Tim Cook and his management team continue to adjust to an Apple sans-Steve, they must also grapple with another situation: despite Apple integrating iBooks into iOS and even developing an authoring platform for publishers to create rich and dynamic textbooks for the iPad, iBooks has so far failed to become Apple’s next iTunes.
This has got to be a sore point for the company. With very few exceptions, most notably their anaemic Ping social network built into iTunes, Apple’s product offerings tend to do very well with consumers. So why has iBooks foundered? A simple explanation would be that Amazon and B&N (and Kobo here in Canada) are too strong, too entrenched and too good at e-books. Apple has always succeeded by bringing something new to the game, or finding a simplification to a process or gadget that was overly complex (even when others didn’t realize how complex they were). But Amazon’s e-book experience is nearly perfect from the point of view of selection, simplicity and price.
That’s one explanation. The other possibility is that the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, for all their magic when it comes to creating mobile experiences that people love, are second-rate e-book reading devices. Even with its extraordinary Retina display, the new iPad is too big, too heavy and much like every other tablet, is backlit – which increases eye-strain for many users. If you were to take a poll amongst people who own both an iPad and an e-ink reader like the Kindle, and ask them which they prefer for reading books, I suspect the answer would be the Kindle – and overwhelmingly so. I’m one of those people and I only reach for my iPad or iPhone when my Kindle isn’t handy.
Which brings us back to why rumours of an iPad mini simply won’t die. When you take the e-books landscape into consideration and then throw in this week’s revelation that Apple has placed a large order for 7.85″ touch-screens, suddenly the speculation becomes plausible. When you further consider that the loudest voice at Apple in opposition to a small tablet is no longer calling the shots, an iPad mini starts to sound like certainty – with only the launch date remaining to be debated.
Obviously no one can confirm that an iPad mini is coming. Nonetheless, here are some observations on what such a product could feature:
- Roughly 7″ Retina display. The retina-level pixel density is key, especially if Apple hopes to make a bigger dent in e-reading.
- Front and rear cameras, but with specs to match the new iPad, not the iPhone 4S.
- 4G LTE as the cellular option.
- Between 6 and 14 oz (168 and 392 grams): the lower amount is the weight of Amazon’s Kindle, whereas the higher amount is the Kindle Fire. It’s probably unrealistic for an LCD-based tablet to ever come in at 6 oz, but Apple should definitely aim to beat the Fire which by all accounts is a twin to RIM’s PlayBook.
- Thin design – with a smaller screen, the battery can be shrunk as well. It may only lose a few millimetres but it will be the thinnest iPad yet.
- A5 processor from the iPad 2. Keeping an iPad mini as cheap to build as possible will critical for Apple if they’re going up against $200 tablets. The newer A5X chip from the new iPad would offer better graphics performance, but unless the Retina display on the mini requires it, it’s not a must-have.
- Starting price: The new iPad is $519, the iPad 2 is $419. So the logical price for an iPad mini is $319 (all prices in $US for simplicity). That’s still way more than a Kindle Fire, but it would be the cheapest iPad to-date. And though it would likely squeeze Apple’s margins to a new low, if the device succeeds in kicking Apple’s iBooks into high gear, they could easily justify the price.
You’ll notice that I’ve omitted any new technology from the specs list. That’s because I don’t think Apple has to offer anything new in order for an iPad mini to be a roaring success. The current feature set of new iPad isn’t the best in the tablet world (still no SD card slots or USB ports, no HDMI out, no replaceable batteries, no quad-core CPU). Doesn’t matter. Even without these features, the iPad outsells the tablets that have them by a ridiculous amount. An iPad mini doesn’t need them either.
An iPad mini really only needs to do one thing: Give everyone who was thinking of buying a Kindle, Kindle Fire, Nook or PlayBook (or any other 7″ tablet) a reason to stop, take a deep breath, and then buy Apple’s product instead.
There’s only one possible down-side for Apple: cannibalization of iPad sales. A worst-case scenario for Apple would be if all (or many) prospective iPad buyers decided to buy minis instead. Going from a high-margin model to a lower-margin model would hurt the company a lot. But if Tim Cook was correct (that Kindle Fires an the other small/cheap tablets haven’t hurt iPad sales), and if an iPad mini successfully attracts people who would have otherwise bought those devices, Apple could expand their reach significantly rather than water it down. There was some speculation that when Apple launched the Mac Mini it would have a chilling effect on sales of iMacs. After all, why buy an expensive all-in-one when you could have the same computer running on the monitor and keyboard/mouse you already own? It never happened. Sales of both Mac Minis and iMacs grew after the Mac Mini launched.
So Sync reader, what do you think of a smaller, cheaper iPad? Is it just the tablet you’ve been waiting for, or simply another i-device that you’ll take a pass on?
If you’ve been waiting to buy an iPad, Apple had some good news for you today: their new model – which now simply goes by the handle “new iPad” (think New Beetle) – packs a bunch of upgrades over the previous two models without any bump in price. Yes, it looks like the iPad’s reign as king of the tablets will continue for the foreseeable future, even if there is nothing bleeding edge on offer. It’s – wait for it – “resolutionary” according to the Apple.com website homepage.
Here’s what was announced:
iPad 3rd generation ($519/$619/$719 CAD for 16/32/64GB WiFi only – add $120 per model for 3G/4G) Available March 16
- Retina display
- A5X quad-core GPU
- iSight Camera in the Rear: 5MP, backside illuminated, 1080p video recording, Image stabilization
- Voice dictation, but no Siri
- 4G LTE, backward compatible with dual-band HSPA+
- Personal Hotspot feature added
- 10 hours of battery life, 9 if on a 4G LTE connection
- 9.4mm thin, weighing 1.4lbs
From an exterior point of view, the new iPad is nearly indistinguishable from the iPad 2.
The New iPad (yup, that’s the official name) will be supported by all three major carriers (Bell, TELUS, Rogers) for those who want to grab the 4G LTE version.
We’re a little surprised that Apple chose not to give the new iPad the same photo capabilities as the iPhone 4S, which has an 8MP rear camera, and that the front-facing FaceTime camera remains the same as the previous model instead of being upgraded to the FaceTime HD standard that adorns all new iMacs.
In case you’re wondering, yes you can now pick up older iPad 2’s for $100 less than they were selling for yesterday. Apple will continue to make these.
Apple also treated us to an unexpected surprise: A version of the company’s extremely popular photo software for the iMac, iPhoto – built for the iPad. It has a suite of touch-based editing tools but perhaps the coolest feature is the ability to ‘beam’ photos between devices – presumably between iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches and iMacs. $4.99 is the price in the App store and you can download it today. GarageBand, iMovie and iWork apps have all been updated for the new iPad.
Also announced was an update to the Apple TV set-top box:
Apple TV (3rd Generation) $99 USD, $109 CAD, available March 16
- 1080p streaming
- new UI with cleaner look and feel
Finally, today marks the release iOS 5.1, which mostly sports some minor enhancements such as Siri support for Japanese consumers. Also, iTunes in the cloud now has movie support.
Though I would be shocked to learn that you haven’t already committed every single iPad rumour to memory, for those who haven’t been glued to their twitter feeds, here’s what we’re likely to get from Apple’s announcement today:
- Higher resolution screen (possibly an iPad version of the iPhone 4/4S Retina Display)
- Faster processor (maybe even Quad-core)
- Faster data connectivity thanks to 4G LTE
- Siri (Apple’s intelligent assistant/voice-recognition software)
- Better front and rear cameras (HD in the front, up to 8MP in the rear)
Those are all very good bets and I fully expect the next iPad to include all of these features.
Good as they are, these improvements are all incremental, not big steps forward. And while they would be sufficient to keep Apple in the driver’s seat as far as the tablet wars go, no one is going buy it if Tim Cook attaches the words “magical” or “revolutionary” to such a device.
But what if Apple does indeed have something magical and revolutionary to announce? The guys over at BGR seem to think that’s exactly what will happen and that it will be a new screen technology which will give the newest iPad a tactile feedback system. Imagine being able to “feel” bumps, vibrations and textures through the screen of your tablet, and that these could all be controlled in real-time to correspond to actions on the display.
Such is the promise of a company called Senseg, which uses a patented process they call “Tixel technology.” It’s an electrostatic process that manipulates the difference in electric charge between the screen and the skin of your finger to fool your sense of touch into thinking it’s experiencing changes in the surface of the display. And according to some still-sketchy reports – Apple has licensed Senseg’s tech.
Wild speculation of this kind has proven completely wrong in the past, and this idea of a screen that could respond to human touch so dynamically may just be another case of wishful thinking. But there’s no question that Senseg’s Tixel tech has Apple written all over it. And if the iPad 3 (HD?) incorporates this tactile tech, it will truly be a product announcement to remember and a boon for Apple’s dominance of the touchscreen market – be it tablet or smartphone.