Predictions for Apple’s September 9th Event

I’m guessing you’ve heard by now, but Apple is having a huge event this Tuesday.  It is widely believed that Apple will release the iPhone 6, but what else does Apple have up its proverbial sleeve?  Here are my predictions.  Be sure to check back here Tuesday for a special follow-up post detailing what I did and didn’t get correct, as well as any other surprises I might have missed.

iPhone
It’s expected that the iPhone 6 will be announced at this event (though it probably won’t actually become available for purchase for another 7-10 days).  But perhaps a better term to use here would be iPhone 6es.  It is widely rumored that we will be seeing multiple, different-sized models of Apple’s popular smartphone.  The most recent models (5, 5c, and 5s) have all have a screen measuring 4″ diagonally.  I expect a 4″ iPhone 6, in addition to a 4.7″ model.  The other number floating around the internet is 5.5″, which does sounds awfully big.  I’m not sure how this one is going to play out, buy my guess is that the 5.5″ model is going to happen.  As for the “-c” product line, I don’t think we’re ever going to see that again.  My prediction is that Apple will simply continue to sell the iPhone 5s as a cheaper option.

iOS 8
After seeing it announced last June at WWDC, I definitely think iOS 8 is going to launch at this event.  Like the iPhone, it probably won’t go live until a week or so later, but I’m pretty sure we’ll get an official date Tuesday.

iPad
If Apple’s behavior last year is any indication, I don’t think we’ll see any new iPads at this event.  Assuming that they’re sticking to a pattern here, there will be another event in October, at which we will see new iPads.

Mac
Like the iPad, I don’t think we’re going to see any new Mac software or hardware at this event.  Most likely, we will see the release of OS X Yosemite, as well as some slightly improved Mac hardware, at another event later this fall.

iWatch/iBand
This one is tricky.  It’s been rumored for quite some time now that Apple will be entering the wearables market.  What’s unclear is whether the device will be a Pebble-style smartwatch, or a Fitbit-style activity tracker (or, most likely, some of both).  Given Apple’s new Health app that will be pre-installed in iOS 8, it’s not a crazy thought to think that this device could have a large health focus.  What’s odd is that we have seen zero hardware leaks for this device.  None.  This is really, really unusual – especially compared to the wealth of iPhone 6 hardware leaks.  Either Apple has seriously cracked down on secrecy or… the iWatch may be coming later, or not at all.  Even still, I’m going to say yes to this one.  I think the iWatch is finally going to be announced, though it’s possible it won’t ship for another couple months.

Apple TV
I’ve talked before about how awesome the Apple TV could be (thought it’s still pretty great as it is), but I don’t think we’re going to see anything about it at this event.  I’m hoping that there will be a major Apple TV update at an October Apple event, but I think doing something drastic now could steal the iWatch’s thunder.

Beats
After Apple’s purchase of Beats by Dr. Dre, everyone is expecting Apple to do something big with Beats (or something at all, really), potentially in the streaming music market.  That being said, I don’t think we’re going to see anything significant about Beats at this event, or even this year.  I do hope Apple makes a new bid into the streaming music business, but I think it’s going to take them a while to work that out fully.

iPod
Sadly, I think the iPod’s days are over.  Based on Apple’s current time frame, we ought to be due for new models this year (we got them in 2012 and 2010), but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  Granted, I think Apple is going to continue selling the iPod, but I think we have seen the last of new iPod models.  If, however, I am wrong, and we do see new models, I really, really, doubt we’ll see them again in another two years.

The Death of 16gb
This is really just a vain fancy of mine, but I hope the iPhone 6 doesn’t come in 16gb models.  16gb is feeling increasingly small, and I think it’s time for the $200 iPhone to come with 32gb of space.  Let it go, Apple.

The Great Unknown
The best part about this event is that, even though I’m pretty confident about much of what’s written above, there could be something entirely new and amazing that I have no idea about.  It’s all up in the air right now.  Be sure to come back here Tuesday for my follow up post to hear exactly what happened.  Better yet, why not subscribe so the post comes directly to your inbox?  That way, you can be the cool person around the water cooler (or on Facebook, there’s plenty of share buttons below) – the one who already knows all about that mythical iPhone 6 that everyone’s been talking about.  ••

My Wishlist for the Apple TV

My family owns two Apple TVs.  The Apple TV is a $99 set top streaming box that connects to your TV.  It can display content from iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and so forth.  There’s also a great feature called AirPlay, which allows you to stream from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac directly to the TV (this is basically the only feature my family uses).  All things considered, it’s a great piece of hardware.  But it could be so much more.  Steve Jobs once famously said that the Apple TV was just a hobby for Apple (since the market wasn’t quite ready for it).  Times have changed, however, and Tim Cook has said that the Apple TV isn’t just a hobby anymore.  There are lots of people hoping for big improvements to the Apple TV this fall, so here’s my list of features I’m hoping for.

1.  Third-Party Channels
Right now the Apple TV has different “channels,” which are very similar to apps.  For example, there’s a Music channel, a Movies channel, a Netflix channel, and the list goes on.  However, the only way for a company (such as Netflix) to get an channel is to work directly with Apple.  There is no SDK (software development kit) for developers to make channels on their own, and no store to download channels from.  In order for the Apple TV to really hit it big, this SDK and store need to happen.  For example, there is no Amazon Prime Instant Video channel on the Apple TV.  Therefore, we have to AirPlay from the Instant Video iPad app in order to use the service.  This works well enough, but it’s hardly ideal.  Opening up an SDK would also open up a whole new world of innovation.  Allowing developers to think outside the set top box could result in some really cool things, such as Apple TV games that use your iPhone as the controller (to be fair, some iPhone apps can already do this, but I’m sure it would work better if the Apple TV was more heavily involved).  Unfortunately, I don’t think this feature is going to happen this year.  If Apple intended to release an Apple TV SDK, they would almost certainly have to do so before the hardware was launched, so that there would be good channels available on the store the day it hit the market.  The perfect time to do this would have been at WWDC.  Since we didn’t see an SDK at WWDC, I don’t think we will actually see third-party channels this fall.

2.  A Real Cable Deal
My family has Dish Network.  Generally speaking, we’re happy with it, but there are a ton of channels we never watch.  As the Macworld Podcast’s Chris Breen noted, it would be awesome if Apple could partner with, say, Comcast, and have an Apple TV exclusive cable package.  This package would be relatively small, having only the most popular 30 or 40 channels (Discovery, History, AMC, etc.), but it would also be relatively inexpensive.  The key feature that really sets this apart from Netflix, however, is that it would also include locals channels – which of course includes local sports.  Live sports are arguably the biggest thing holding many people back from ditching cable entirely in lieu of Netflix.  I think my family would seriously consider switching to this Apple TV package.

3.  Supersized Today View
In iOS 7, there’s this really cool feature of notification center called the Today View.  Basically, it shows you your calendar, reminders, stocks, and the weather.  Even better, in iOS 8, third-party app developers will be able to create Today View widgets, to give you even more info (like sports scores).  Since the Apple TV is connected to a large screen, I think it has huge potential for this kind of glanceable information.  What I’m thinking of is a huge dashboard that you can look at first thing in the morning.  Instead of waking up and having to check four different apps to see how your day is going to pan out, you could just see one big screen on your Apple TV.  This would be similar to what morning shows do on The Weather Channel.  They have their main show playing in the majority of the screen, but there’s other stuff on there as well.  At the bottom is a news ticker; on the sidebar, a brief weather summary and flight delay information.  I would love to wake up and turn on the TV to see this dashboard.  I want a breaking news ticker on the bottom, and weather and traffic on the sides.  In the middle could be lots of boxes scrolling my texts, emails, Twitter feed, and so on.

And finally, I hope as much of this as possible will happen through software updates, and not hardware updates.  As cool as these features would be, I find it hard to believe my family would spend $200 to replace the two Apple TVs we already have.  Especially when most of us would probably benefit from watching less TV in the first place.  ••

Three iOS 8 Features I Want Right. This. Second.

Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference ended just over a week ago, and during the conference we saw some new stuff about iOS 8, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.  Apple likes to be really secretive about new hardware, but it has to be a little more open about software because third-party app developers have to be in on the loop in order to ship iOS 8 software along with the actual OS.  Because of this, we saw a lot of stuff about iOS 8 during WWDC.  After I got the lowdown from the excellent TechHive.com, I’ve compiled a list of my top three picks.

1. Actionable Notifications
I’m guessing you’ve been here: You’re in Safari, reading some article online.  Suddenly, you get a text message, and a banner pops up at the top of the screen.  You read the text and decide to respond to it right then, so you tap the banner.  iOS then takes you out of Safari and into Messages; then after you reply, you have to switch back to Safari.  Most of us take this for granted: that’s just how iOS has always worked.  But with actionable notifications, you can swipe down on that notification and a keyboard pops up.  You haven’t switched apps, this is just an overlay over whatever you’re currently doing.  After typing your reply, the overlay disappears, and you’re right back to Safari.  Nifty, huh?  (I’m not sure if I described that very well, so here’s a picture from TechHive/MacWorld if you’re confused.)

2. Hands-Free Siri
Google has recently made a big deal of the “OK Google” line.  On certain Android phones, you just say those words and the Android virtual assistant pops up, no button pushing required.  As of iOS 8, the iPhone will have a similar feature.  As long as the phone is plugged in (as a battery life consideration), saying “Hey Siri” will activate, well, Siri.  I think this is a cool idea, especially if your phone is charging on the table across the room, and you want to have it, say, play some music.

3. Continuity
Continuity is a feature that will tie your iPhone, iPad, and Mac closer together than ever before.  There are lots of different parts of Continuity, but I’ll only mention a few here.  One feature is called Handoff, which allows you to, for example, push an email draft from your iPhone to your Mac.  This is great if you decide you’d rather use a real keyboard for that email.  Sure, you could have just emailed it to yourself, but that’s a pain.  Continuity will also allow you to accept phone calls and send SMS on your Mac or iPad, basically routing things through your iPhone.

As a bonus, I’ve got one more feature that isn’t official yet, but is rumored.  I really hope the iPad will be able to run two apps side by side, at the same time.  I don’t think Apple should even bother allowing this on the iPhone, it’s just too small.  But the iPad is a different story.  It would be really nice to be able to use Mail and Notes (or other combinations of apps) at the same time, instead of switching back and forth.  So, for all you Apple engineers out there who I’m sure are reading this, could you please get on that?  Thanks, I appreciate it.  ••

5C, 5S, 5 inch?

Will Apple release an iPhone with a larger screen?  The short answer is: You’ll find out this September (or maybe next September).  However, there are many people out there already placing their bets as to Apple’s next big iPhone innovation.

I personally like the iPhone at its current size.  I think it’s easy enough to read, yet still fits in your pocket easily.  However, I could see myself using a slightly bigger iPhone.  The old iPhones (1st Gen, 3G, 3GS, 4, and 4S) all had a screen that measured 3.5″ diagonally.  The newer iPhones (5, 5C, and 5S) have a 4″ screen.  I think this increase was an enormous improvement.  The added vertical space allows you to see more items in a list when holding the phone vertically (read: most of the time), and also gives the screen a 16:9 aspect ratio.  This means that the screen has a shape the same as a widescreen TV, instead of an intermediate ratio between widescreen and fullscreen like the old iPhones had.

As to what the increased size will be, I doubt Apple will make their screen as large as some phones out there (the ones that make you look like you’re holding a small tablet up to your face when you make a call).  However, I could see Apple making a 5″ iPhone 6, along side other 4″ models.

Another thing to consider is that changing the screen size comes with challenges for app developers.  Before the iPhone 5, iOS developers didn’t have to worry about different screen sizes the way Android developers have to – all iPhones were the exact same size.  The iPhone 5 made things more complicated, however, and a larger iPhone 6 will certainly make things more complicated still.  Recently, Apple has been encouraging developers to begin using “auto-layout,” a development feature that can automatically readjust the placement of controls on the screen to fit different sized screens.  I see this move by Apple as a major implication that Apple is planning a bigger iPhone.

So in conclusion, my prediction is that Apple will release a new iPhone with a larger screen.  However, like all Apple rumors, we won’t really know until it’s official.  Now would somebody please tell that to the people holding out for an iTV?  ••