Apple has always played by its own rules, oftentimes setting them for the rest of the wireless industry as well. Today’s event, however, which takes place at 10 a.m. Pacific at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., comes amid a very different environment, both internally and externally, with various factors weighing heavily on any new product unveiled.
Odds are good the world will see a new iPhone today. Whether that’s an iPhone 4S, an iPhone 5 or both remains to be seen. First and foremost on people’s minds will be the absence of ex-CEO Steve Jobs, whose charisma and iconic status have been the icing on the cake at past Apple events.
Today’s unveiling duties belong to Tim Cook, the company’s new CEO, who will be tasked with maintaining the magic of Jobs’ legacy. While anyone can go up and introduce a product, it remains to be seen what effect Cook’s presentation will have on the psyches of investors and consumers.
Regardless of who’s running the PowerPoint, it’s the actual product that will bring out the credit cards. In the past, consumers have simply been waiting for the next iPhone. Today, they’re waiting for the next iPhone amid a host of capable Android superphones (some of them dual-core, LTE-capable beasts like the Droid Bionic) as second options if Apple doesn’t produce.
Rumors and speculation abound as to what exactly the next iPhone will have under the hood, let alone what it will look like. Recent reports have suggested new features such as a 4-inch screen, dual-core processor, NFC and an 8-megapixel camera. However, few have gone out on a limb and prognosticated as to what kind of connectivity will be included.
Samir Sakpal, industry manager for Frost & Sullivan, goes so far as to suggest a redesigned form factor and faster processor but stops short of weighing in on connectivity. “From a device form factor perspective, we do hope to see changes to the camera on the device – consistent with some competitive devices or better,” Sakpal wrote in research notes. “Although we do foresee a sleeker device form, it might not be very significantly different from the iPhone 4. From a performance perspective the A5 transition into the phone will bring about clinical change to the performance when it comes to dynamic data and content.”
Various sources reported yesterday that a China Mobile executive had outed HSPA+ 21Mbps connectivity for the next-generation iPhone during remarks at MacWorld Asia. However, what China Mobile is getting could be an entirely different handset than the one headed to a carrier here in the United States.
It’s worth noting that Apple has been clear about its position on LTE. “The first generation of LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises with the handset, and some of those we are just not willing to make,” Cook said during a second-quarter earnings call.
The company has to be seriously weighing design compromises versus the compromise inherent for consumers who decide to take the leap on a device that doesn’t have LTE, a technology that enables 5 to 12 Mbps average download speeds on Verizon Wireless’s network. Is that something Apple can afford to leave entirely to Android’s domain?
A few things are on Apple’s side. Today’s event will undoubtedly include a definite launch date for iOS 5, as well as the company’s new iCloud. More specifics on those two things alone could smooth any rough edges in today’s announcements. Apple has never been about just the hardware but rather the complete package, which includes software, services and of course that “magical” aura that has catapulted the company to be deemed the No. 1 smartphone OEM in the world.
Sakpal of Frost and Sullivan says these are the changes iPhone users are really waiting for. “We are anxious to see the major changes that will come about with the new OS5.
Apart from some third-party app integration, the availability of a notification console, enhancement to Safari, cloud storage app and some other consumer/social network focused applications are expected,” he wrote.
At this writing, just a few short hours before the start of the show, Cook is no doubt dusting off his predecessor’s magic PowerPoint clicker and crossing his fingers that he and the products he’s about to unveil will meet the kinds of high expectations Apple fans have set for the company. Stay tuned to wirelessweek.com for more coverage of Apple’s next big thing.