Mark Pickavance wonder whether Apple is on the edge of a
stunning futuristic vista or a deep abyss
We’re not entirely averse to a little prediction here at
Micro Mart, even if the technology runes can be especially hard to read. In
respect of Apple, this is always a thankless task, because it often appears
that the company has little or no idea where it will go next, and the path is
as much a surprise to Apple as it is to anyone else.
Mark Pickavance wonder whether Apple is on the edge
of a stunning futuristic vista or a deep abyss
Part of that stems from the super-secret nature of product
development at the company, where employees are under no illusion what fate
might befall them if they reveal company secrets to the press or public.
If the last few months are a good example, the passing on of
the Apple leadership baton to new CEO Tim Cook hasn’t altered the company’s
persona in this respect. It skill likes to prime the rumour mill discretely
with one hand while deploying legal representatives to deal with anyone intent
on stealing its product launch thunder.
However, its last two major product launches, the iPhone 4S
and the new iPad, both raised questions about where Apple goes from here.
Neither broke any new ground, choosing instead to rework the model of their
predecessors in predictable ways.
So has Apple run out of ideas about making new devices or is
it just waiting to invade new territories with something radical and new?
The future of the iPhone
Many people got concerned when they saw the iPhone 4S, which
in many aspects isn’t much of a stepping stone from the iPhone 4 it replaced.
Compared with the distinctive step-change that it went through when moving from
the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4S seemed a modest improvement that meant proud
owners of the new phone were forced to tell their friends about it, rather than
it be obvious they had the latest design.
That, coupled with the expectation that it would be the
iPhone 5 that was actually appearing, meant there was a degree of
disappointment with the iPhone 4S that probably it didn’t deserve.
However, it served to underline a greater concern, which
was, given the capabilities already in the phone, where could Apple take it
from next. Because of Steve Jobs’s focus on the ‘user experience’, a number of
a rules were laid down early in the development of the phone that provided
Apple’s competitors with lots of opportunities to exploit the market. Probably
the most critical of these was his obsession with screen size, where he
entirely discounted the notion of a phone screen greater than 3.5”. LG, Samsung
and HTC all went with larger displays and demonstrated that they would be
popular even if Jobs had written them off for the iPhone.
The world is full
of people who would like to design Apple’s next phone or tablet, and some
designs look quite believable
As I reported in a recent Logging Off, Apple has now changed
its mind about big phone screens, and has even done some preparation of the
message change by suggesting covertly that Steve Job’s last work for the
company was assessing a new iPhone 5 with a bigger display, and that he was ‘on
board’ with it. Since then, more rumours have emerged that the display Apple
will go with is even bigger than the one that Steve blessed, so clearly once it
crossed that physical rubicon, Apple just kept on going.
It’s seems safe to say the iPhone 5 will have a bigger
display, but that’s hardly revolutionary. What else? Well, the obvious other
step that goes along with a bigger panel is a higher resolution one, much in
way that Apple enhanced the iPad with the Retina display. However, quite what
advantages this might bring over the Retina display already in the iPhone 4S
isn’t clear, and it might be rather pointless, and also break a number of
applications that are resolution sensitive.
It’s pretty much accepted that Apple will go with an
quad-core ARM processor, but it would require some major recoding of iOS to
exploit. Traditional multi-tasking came late to the iPhone, and it’s not a
strong point, so a multi-threaded/multi-core update might make the phone
operate more dynamically.
Even if a very small portion of the US population, and
almost none of Europe, can access the LTE service, the iPhone 5 is very likely
to offer it. Other likely features include NFC (Near Field Communication) for
mobile payments, wireless charging, and the just approved Nano-SIM.
I can say with
some certainly that the iPhone 5 won’t be this cool, even if Apple would love
it to be
If none of this sounds super-exciting to you, then join the
club. There isn’t a show-stopping feature mentioned, and not all the ones
listed are likely to make it into the phone.
Unless Apple has a technical ace up its research and
development sleeve, then it’s operating on the basis that fans of Apple will
buy the product irrespective of almost every feature already being part of an
The iPhone 5 will undoubtedly sell well, but it might not
set the technocratic hearts aflutter. This is one of a number of areas where
Apple now seems to be the follower, rather than the leader it once was.