The snow is melting, temperatures are rising, and it’s starting to actually feel like spring. I’m grinning from ear-to-ear, but it has absolutely nothing to do with coming out of the worst winter I’ve experienced since moving to Chicago. What I’m excited about is upcoming product releases from Apple. It has been a while since Apple shook things up in the tech world. Sure, they blew us away with the iPod, iPhone, & iPad, but we’re used to those now and with so many copy-cat products out there, its time to blow our minds again.
2014 could be a defining year for Tim Cook and it just might pull him out from behind Steve Jobs shadow. Rumors are flying around about four products Apple will release this year: iWatch, Apple TV, iPhone 6, & the iPad Pro. Fans are itching for something revolutionary again and its time for Apple to deliver. As long as two of the products are successful Cook will prove he’s the right captain for the U.S.S. Apple since product development for these devices came long after Jobs passed. If they don’t live up to the hype or there are numerous issues with these products, the court of public opinion will come down very hard on him.
I’ll start off with the iPhone 6 since I can guarantee it’ll be a hit. The updated iPhone 6 will sport a new A8 chip, still made by Samsung, and come in at least two different sizes. The smallest size will be close to what we enjoy now with the iPhone 5S, a 4 inch (diagonal) widescreen Multi-Touch display with a sapphire-crystal screen. The larger iPhone 6 display will fall between 4.7-5.5 inches. I’ve seen a lot of rumors hinting towards three sizes, but I don’t see that actually happening. Why? Apple just started offering different iPhones with the release of the iPhone 5s and 5c. The iPhone 5s was a hit and the 5c, I believe, did well hitting the target market Apple was trying to reach. When the iPhone 5 was released, Apple discounted the 4s to $99 with a two year contract. When the iPhone 5c was released, end users could purchase one for $99 and with a two year contract. In a January earnings call Cook commented how sales of the 5c were higher than that of the 4s a year ago. I believe Apple is content with their two phone setup for now and don’t want to rock the boat too much.
Another reason I feel there will only be two sizes is since the iPhone 5 was released production costs have continued to rise. New design features and hardware were more expensive resulting in smaller profit margins. iPhone enthusiasts expect great things in each new update thanks to the Jedi design skills of Jon Ive. Production costs are not going down for the iPhone by any means. The updated iPhone will have a new chip in it, new Sapphire-Crystal screen, and hopefully bezel free edges making the screen appear larger with a sleek and smooth front. These and other features come at a premium with profit margins being smaller. If Apple gives us 3 different sized iPhones in its update, I believe one of them will inevitably flop. Don’t get me wrong, there is demand for a larger screen but three sizes is too much for its inaugural stretching of the iPhone. Although I would love to see what an iPhone nearly the same size of my iPad mini looks like, I just don’t believe it will perform well. Some consumers will stick with the phone they have and go for an iPad mini with cellular data since cellular providers are starting to offer more competitive data packages and minimal, if any, line charges for additional devices. The other half will get the largest iPhone model and wouldn’t have any reason to purchase an iPad. Apple wants you to find a reason to get more of their devices, not develop something to push consumers away from opening their wallet again. For now I feel the safe bet is to offer two sizes and see how they perform against one another and stretch from there if need be. The iPhone isn’t the only device Apple is looking to improve upon; the iPad is getting bigger and better too.
Eventually we will have three different styles of iPads to choose from. I firmly believe it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Apple made an interesting move with its recent update to the larger iPad; they started calling it the iPad Air. I wonder how many people actually picked up on the significance of this. Making this move puts it in line with their laptop lineup and gave us clues as to where they’re headed with their tablets. Apple has shown us the iPad Air and next up should be the iPad Pro. This upgraded iPad will be between 12.5-13 inches in size and should come with a detachable keyboard. The iPad Pro will come equipped with at least 2K screen resolution. iPad Pro will be geared towards professionals on-the-go because of its mobility without sacrificing the functionality of a laptop. If you own a MacBook Pro and an iPad, how often do you reach for your laptop to accomplish the work you cannot complete on your iPad? I’m more comfortable completing work on my laptop than I am the iPad. Also on my laptop, I can use my mouse or trackpad while the keyboard doesn’t take up part of the screen. The iPad Pro will address some of these functional issues, which will make it more business user friendly. I recently visited Forever Yogurt in St. Charles Illinois and their cash registers were iPads. Something like the iPad Pro could change-up the cashier stands for some small businesses. I’m just speculating here, but I would imagine most small businesses would like to simplify the point of sale equipment and the iPad Pro will offer a great solution. The possibilities are limitless with third party apps delivering great software for everyday users and businesses.
The next item I’m extremely excited about is Apple TV. I’ve posted a couple stories about Apple TV in previous months: The Grown Up Apple TV, Primesense + Apple TV = Game Console, & 5 Moves Apple Will Make In 2014. I’m expecting great things from the upgraded Apple TV. First off, Apple TV should have an App Store allowing third party application development. This addition will open up the device for gaming, which will sell a lot of devices and be a huge moneymaker for Apple and developers alike. If Apple does add an App Store for Apple TV, storage must be added to the device so users can store their purchases and use applications. This will add to the overall cost for the device though.
The updated Apple TV is going to integrate into devices currently in the home. There’s information showing Apple TV with the ability to integrate with and control your cable box. If Siri is added in this update, it could start taking requests to find shows to watch or even setup recording schedules. It will be interesting to see how seamless the integration actually is. Controlling Apple TV will be easy using the remote provided or other iOS devices connected to your home network.
The next update won’t have a TV with Apple TV built-in. I see this taking place in the long-term, but not in 2014. I hope I’m wrong since I’d be thrilled to see what a big screen Apple TV would actually look like. I’ve fallen in love with my 27-inch iMac because the screen just pulls you into the computer. So to actually see what they do with a television broadcasting HD content would be…HOLY AMAZING! Unfortunately I just don’t envision people running out to the Apple Store to pick-up a television with a price tag over $2000. If the updated Apple TV finds it way into more and more homes, eventually consumers will be willing to put out more money on a full size television. Baby steps are a must here since there are other streaming devices on the market offering up the basics: stream Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, etc.
Last but certainly not least is the iWatch. There has been so much talk about what the iWatch is going to be. Other tech companies have beat Apple to the market with wearable tech, but Apple will do the job of perfecting it. With Jon Ive’s meticulous attention to detail, the final product will be stylish without resembling anything currently on the market. The iWatch will be unique and easily recognizable just like all Apple products are these days. Rumors state the display could be between 1.5-1.8 inches in size with a high resolution rectangular shape making it stand out in a crowd. The band will most likely consist of high-end polypropylene with touches of aluminum accents for added style and Apple recognizability.
Exactly what you’ll be able to do with the iWatch is still a mystery. Siri will be a huge part of its functionality, but it will require a constant connection to the internet or a Bluetooth connection allowing it to connect to the internet; this constant connection will drain your iPhone battery life though. Calendar will be accessible from iWatch, as well as Weather, Reminders, and Messages. Another great application to have access to would be Maps for directions but will also require an internet connection to use in real-time. iWatch will have Wi-Fi, motion sensors, Touch ID, Bluetooth, and iBeacon capabilities. Everything about this device will be smart, seamless, and elegant, which will make the iWatch extremely desirable for iOS users. One thing for sure, it will not take the traditional watch appearance we recognize today.
Aftermarket accessories for the iWatch will be exciting to see. The iWatch will be capable of monitoring users movements and some developers will focus on health and wellness applications. It’s easy to scuff up a new watch especially if you have an active lifestyle. I’m interested to see what aftermarket covers for the iWatch will entail. Protective covers for iWatch will most likely protect it while running, biking or working out. Otterbox will most likely come up with something to make the device waterproof.
There’s a lot to get excited about for Apple in 2014. Tim Cook could have a breakout year and surprise some of his critics. All four of these products are capable of helping him step out from behind Steve Jobs shadow, but I don’t think all four products will be huge hits. The iPhone 6 will be great phone, but its overall success will depend on how many sizes are released. If it’s only two, Cook will look like a genius. If it’s three sizes and one of them doesn’t out perform any previous iPhone model, his critics will have a field day. The iPad Pro has been rumored to be shelved for now, but I don’t think that’s the case. If it does come out this year, it’ll be in October or November. The updated Apple TV announcement should be any day now with April or early May as my pick for its debut. Apple TV will undeniably be a game changer. iWatch will be impressive and elegant, but the wild card for the year. It’s the only device we know absolutely nothing about. Since there are no previous models for comparison, everything about it is speculation and rumors at this point. The iWatch will either be a huge success or a major disappointment. We’ve been spoiled with breakthrough products from Apple time-and-time again. It’s hard keep that consistent track record, but I believe Cook has an excellent support team around him, especially with Jon Ive rejecting flawed prototypes.