Here Comes the Autumn... What's Next for Apple?

As the Autumn approaches (sorry, "Fall") Apple will be readying a number of changes to their product lineup. Here is what I expect to see and what I hope to see...

Expectations:

The new iPhone will arrive in September and will come with a few usual changes. Thinner design, new Ax chip inside which will be faster than the 6S, better graphics, improved camera. There has been a bit of talk about a new dual lens camera, and this certainly fits into the usual iterative updates. One question- will Apple continue to update the iPhone SE separately to the main iPhone lines? Looks likely this year as the SE is too new for a refresh in September.

The big question is the headphone socket and whether Apple will go for a lightening connection for wired EarBuds or opt for some sort of wireless option? My own view here is that this will come down to usability. Not only does the ease of connection matter, in other words how the Bluetooth or other wireless technology works, but also the battery life of any wireless EarBuds. I suspect we will see lightening EarBuds shipping as the standard and possibly new wireless versions as an optional extra. But let's hope that if Apple do go for wirelessly versions, they have got something better than the current Bluetooth technology, which is at best fiddly and normally frustrating to use.

It is possible that we will see changes to the iPad, especially as we approach Christmas. The iPad would be a good seller during the holidays and the iPad Pro (12" model) could see changes so it has the newer TrueTone display. The smaller 9" iPad Pro is less likely to change as it is less than a year old. It is also possible that Apple will leave the iPad out, given that the Pro has been changed in the last 12 months, and make any changes in the new year.

We will definitely see three updated operating systems- the new macOS Sierra to replace OS X El Capitan, the next version of the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch operating system, iOS 10 and watchOS 3.0. This was set out in June at WWDC and it is likely to ship (for free) in October.

It also seems to be time for new Apple Watch models. Apple launched the first Watch almost 18 months ago. As we approach the Christmas buying season it seems logical that there will be new Watch models; I have always maintained that the Watch is the new iPod, for music and fitness. Maybe it is also time to streamline the range from three to two families of Watch?

READ MORE ->

Apple's March Press Event: The Highlights

Today Apple held a press event which saw the release of a new iPhone, iPad and more. Here is a summary of the details:

- Tim Cook started by talking about Apple's 40th birthday on April 1st, and discussed the ongoing security case in the US

- Lisa Jackson talked about Apple and the environment, and their ambition to use 100% renewable energy. To date 93% of worldwide facilities run on renewables and 100% in the US (people may question the purpose of this presentation but this is a big aspect of the Apple brand)

- Jeff Williams presented update on HealthKit, used in the iPhone, iPod and Apple Watch. He showed how medical research can be improved by HealthKit due to the large number of participants. He also announced CareKit, which helps to monitor patients, especially those recovering from treatments/operations

- Tim Cook reported that Apple Watch is the top selling smartwatch, and introduced new woven bands, plus new sports bands. There are also new black Milanese Loop and new leather bands

- The price of the Apple Watch also dropped to $299

- On Apple TV, from today you will be able to organise apps into folders, enter text through dictation and view Live Photos

- Greg Joswiak introduced the new low end 4" iPhone- the iPhone SE. It comes with the A9 chip, 12MP camera, ApplePay, better battery life, Live Photos. It is twice as fast as the 5s.

READ MORE ->

Update on Apple Press Event- New Devices:

Apple held a press event last week to introduce a number of new gadgets- here is a quick summary of what they announced:


iPhone 6s and 6s Plus:
The new iPhones come in the same shape and form as the previous iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. These models are aimed at people who are still using an iPhone 5s or earlier. Most users sign up for a two year contract and this is why iPhone 5s (or earlier) users are the target as they are now coming off those contracts. iPhone 6 users will only find marginal differences to lure them away from their current phone.
The main changes in the iPhone 6s models are as follows –
- comes with a brand-new A9 processor meaning that it is a lot faster (up to 70%) than last year's iPhones
- new 3D Touch technology which means if you press slightly harder on the screen it will bring up a pop-up menu with some different options to choose from. This is a great way to access features inside an application without having to tap through a number of screens.
- there are a number of improvements to the camera including an upgrade to a 12-megapixel sensor
- new colour- rose gold!
- faster WiFi.

Note:
- The storage options remain the same – 16, 64 and 128 GB. very few people should consider a 16 GB model as this is too small for most users.
- the new iPhones are available to order in the US and UK, but not in Ireland for another few weeks.
- in the US, Apple have launched an upgrade program in their Retail Stores. This means you can pay a monthly fee and always be on the newest iPhone- it costs around $40 per month and users get to upgrade each year to the latest equivalent model. It also comes with AppleCare+ and so gives a complete solution in a monthly fee:

iPad Pro:
The iPad Pro will be available later this year, starting in the US in November. This is a new model of iPad which is placed at the top end of the range, and will be useful for certain people who need larger screen space. The new screen is almost 13” and gives almost the same space as two iPad Airs. This is unlikely to become the mainstream model of iPad, but instead a device which will be used by professionals who need multiple applications and lots of space.

The iPad Pro can also be used with a new stylus (Apple Pencil) which will be helpful to designers and artists. The other accessory introduced is a keyboard which is built into a screen cover. This will make the iPad Pro a strong alternative to a laptop.

Apple seem to be aiming this iPad at the enterprise market. The iPad Air and iPad mini models are still available and remain unchanged.

Apple TV:
The new Apple TV opens up a whole range of new features, most notably apps and games. There will be an App Store available on the Apple TV where developers can sell a range of new apps. The look and design of the Apple TV interface has also been updated.
This positions the Apple TV as a living room multimedia device and not just for TV/Films and Music. The new remote control also acts as a game console controller.

Siri (voice-recognition) is built-in so you can ask your Apple TV questions, such as for movie suggestions, information about who stars in the film you’re watching or command it to open an app for you.
The new Apple TV will go on sale later this year.

Two other snippets:
- iOS 9 will be released this Wednesday, and will be available as a free download on your iPad and iPhone:
- the next version of OS X, "El Capitan", will be released on September 30th:

The Future of iBooks

As a children's book author, I have been considering Apple's future options for iBooks and whether they would venture into the world of Windows or Android.  After all, iTunes runs on Windows PC and Apple Music will be available on Android this Autumn, so why not iBooks on other non-Apple platforms?

But when I look closer at Apple's use of iBooks, I don't see this happening. Books is an interesting side-show for Apple and it fits nicely into content-consumption on the iPad and iPhone but it's not a core business. The iBooks Store arrived with the iPad, as Apple touted the virtues of books on the iPad for consumers and in education. But it is not central to Apple's business and so does not receive the attention that say the iTunes and Apple Music stores receive.

Anyone who has interacted with the iBooks team will also know that the number of people behind iBooks is relatively small. The changes in the iBooks Store over the years have been gradual but not revolutionary.  

Instead, Apple see the iBooks app as an important piece inside iOS and OS X. The benefits of the iBooks app come as part of the operating system and the user experience on an iPad, iPhone or (recently) Mac, and launching a parallel experience for Windows and Android is not something Apple will do.  iBooks is key to iOS/OS X, which in turn is part of the user experience on an Apple device.  The message is- if you want to experience the iBooks app, buy an iPad, iPhone or Mac!

Adding iBooks to the Mac was a nice extra but it is a different experience to using it on an iPad and iPhone. iBooks is most at home on iOS and especially on the iPad, then possibly on an iPhone 6 Plus, with other platforms such as the Mac coming at the end. Putting it onto Windows or Android is a further step away from Apple's central aim here. 

In the end, while I would like to see iBooks extended out beyond iOS and OS X, I can't see it happening. With my author hat on, it would be great to reach new audiences. But as a long-time Apple observer, it goes against Apple's aims for iBooks, which is to draw more people to buy the iPad and other hardware devices.

[Note- at time of publication, the iBooks Author page still has not been updated to show that iBooks Author books can be read on an iPhone: https://www.apple.com/ibooks-author/]

WWDC Highlights

Looking back at the WWDC keynote, it is worth reflecting on what was good and what was not so great:

iOS 9: this looks like a solid upgrade. It will be free, will arrive in the late Autumn, and should help to make the iPad a more work-orientated device. The changes to the keyboard, such as new shortcuts when working with text, are very welcome. So too is the idea of the virtual trackpad. The iPad can be fiddly when working with text- my Mac is always my preferred machine for letters and documents. But these changes should help. I am typing this post on an iPad because I love its mobile capabilities which even the MacBook Air can't match. But typing does take longer on an iPad, and so anything to help is welcome. 

The multitasking features such as the split screen looks great, but it was a pity that it will only be fully available on a new iPad Air 2. My iPad Air 1 feels a bit left out, and this may well be the inventive to drive new iPad sales (reasonably Apple's intention, given how slowly people upgrade iPads).

OS X 10.11: also looks like a slick update, with a real focus on stability and bug fixes. I love when Apple do this as it helps all users and solves a few headaches for me when teaching about the Mac. 

Music: well, that was all a bit of a mess.  It has been a long time since I groaned at the style of an Apple keynote, but this was pretty bad.  It seemed chaotic, long, and without a real focus. I am also not sure that the Music app and streaming service will appeal to me. I can see how people like Spotify and Apple wish to get in on this game, but I will have to see what it is like when launched. It does not seem to be something I will be paying a monthly fee for. The three month free trial is a good hook though as I will certainly take a look.

--

Overall the keynote was way too long, and seemed to get out of control. Tim Cook started to run on and off stage towards the end and this gave the whole thing a panicked and rushed feel. It is a pity as I really liked the early part and the main iOS and OS X announcements. When it got to the Music section I nearly turned off. But overall the announcements set out an exciting set of changes for 2015-6.

Tomorrow- Apple reports Q1 results

Apple will announce its results for Q1 2015 tomorrow and there will be a number of items we will be looking out for:

1/ iPhone numbers: we expect these to be big and likely to set a record. Q1 covers the Christmas period and so sales of iPhone always hit a high watermark in this part of the year. But the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have been a runaway success so we expect to see all-time records for the iPhone.

2/ Apple Watch: we are unlikely to get a launch date tomorrow- this will probably come later in March. But we will be watching out for hints from Cook as to which part of the next quarter they are looking to. 

3/ iPad: iPad sales have flattened and so it will be interesting to see what happened in the Christmas market. Did the iPad Air 2 help to boost numbers or are people waiting for the next big thing in the segment before upgrading? The iPad Air 2 was not a huge change from the first iPad Air and nor was the new iPad mini that different to the previous model. We expect relatively flat numbers and for the media to over exaggerate the "deflation of the iPad bubble."

4/ iPod numbers- watch these dwindle. It has been nearly two and a half years since Apple revised this segment and do you know anyone who bought one as a present this Christmas?? The iPod feels like Apple history.

5/ Mac figures on the rise: these have been rising at a strong and steady pace in recent years and we expect this to continue. The new MacBooks Pros and Airs along with the new retina Display iMacs mean that this should be a strong segment in Q1. 

Simon Spence/2015

Six Colors on a Stylus

Jason Snell is right in his analysis of a possible stylus for the iPad. It may appeal to some customers, but is likely to be an extra option and not something that the majority of iPad users would go for:

I admit that I have a difficult time ginning up enthusiasm for this particular tech unicorn. While I’m sure that artists and other pen-oriented niches would love an iPad that was better at accepting pen input, I’m not sure how large those niches really are.

[ Link]

Simon Spence/2015

iPad Stylus a Sellout- Not Exactly...

Macworld UK ran an article this week discussing the possibility of a stylus with a new 12" iPad "Pro".

The article is entirely based on rumours. There is no evidence for this iPad or the stylus right now. They mention patents filed by Apple, something that is notoriously misleading as Apple file lots of these patent applications, the vast majority of which do not turn out as direct products. 

But it should be noted that if Apple ever did produce a stylus, it would be no great shock, despite the article's tag line which suggests this is a change of direction to the Jobs era. Apple regularly change their mind, or more accurately, redefine an area that it had fought against. One classic example is large screen phones. Remember the iPhone 5 adverts poking fun at large screens and pointing out how our thumb reaches from "here to here"? The iPhone 5's screen size was a "dazzling display of common sense" according to the commercial, only for Apple to launch the iPhone 6 Plus two years later [Link to advert via iSpot]

[Article Link]

Simon Spence/2015

Show more posts ->