Apple [AAPL] didn't mention the iPhone 5 during WWDC this week (though see the image below for current speculation) and only introduced a single Mac model equipped with a Retina Display, but there's more to come.
[ABOVE: A fragment of the WWDC presentation got attendees muttering: Was that phone in the picture illustrating future in-car integration a 4-inch iPhone 5? Answers on a postcard, please...]
Retina Display, the beginnings
Apple likes to tease us with new features. Remember the original iPhone which lacked support for 3G? That was a feature which appeared in the next release. Now the company is doing it again, upgrading its MacBook Pro and Air ranges, but introducing one new killer feature within the high-end Retina Display MacBook Pro.
That's what's available now, but in future it doesn't stretch the imagination to believe the company will introduce the screen across its Mac range.
Doing so will demand the cost of production shrinks. These displays are (apparently) expensive. A Digitimes report this morning tells us they cost $150 each, which is likely why they're only available on the high end model.
However, the way the company does its business is to introduce a high-end feature and then to slowly bring it to the rest of its product range. It's about encouraging consumers to spend that little bit more -- as indeed they are: availability for the new high-end model has already slipped to 3-4 weeks from 5-7 days, according to the company's own online store.
Apple also upgraded its Mac Pro during WWDC. The company didn't announce the improvements to the machine, they're fairly inconsequential -- so much so that Apple has removed the "New" tag which appeared on the Mac Pro's Apple Store description.
"Although we didn't have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today's event, don't worry as we're working on something really great for later next year."
It's open to question whether 2013 is soon enough for Apple's professional users.
Also missing from this week's announcements, the iMac. This seems due an upgrade of some sort, but the Mac Pro 2013 promise suggests we won't be seeing a Retina Display on the consumer desktop just yet, though perhaps this might in future first appear as an option at the high-end of that range.
That Retina Display Macs are coming is a certainty, once the cost of the screens begins to shrink. Perhaps this move to HD displays (including within Apple's standalone Mac Pro monitors) requires production capacity and cost improvements. But will customers wait until 2013? I'm not so sure.
"We also announced a MacBook Pro with a Retina Display that is a great solution for many pros," Cook added in his email.
As Apple focuses on the mobile segments I'm wondering if it hasn't once again become time for the company to license out its OS and technologies to hand-picked firms in order they produce high-end Mac desktop clones. After all, last time Apple licensed its systems to other manufacturers, the Mac was all of the company's business. These days, well, these days it's not.
iPhone 5 hints
This puts all the bets firmly on the September/October time frame if these things are to ship in quantity in time for Christmas, and with the second Tuesday in September being the 11th, I'm guessing we'll see it launch in the third week of that month at the earliest.
What else did we learn? Apple kind of mapped it out. The new Maps feature offers turn-by-turn navigation and the new 3D Flyover emulation, but only on the iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iPad 3. Why aren't these new features supported on the iPhone 4 or original iPad? I think it's about the processor.
The iPhone 4 is powered by the A4 chip while the iPhone 4S uses the A5 processor. The iPad 2 also uses the A5 while the iPad 3 exploits the more recent A5X processor. This suggests the iPhone 5 will offer an even faster chip, most likely the A6.
When describing Maps Apple's Scott Forstall showed us a slide in which you see an iPhone in a car (above). This seems to show a longer iPhone model. This could be much ado about nothing, but hints that the chorus of claims predicting a 4-inch model may turn out to be true.
Then there's these images purported to be of the iPhone 5 which appeared online this morning.
Then there's Passbook. This is a location-aware folder for electronic tickets: boarding passes, gig tickets, shopping vouchers and so on. When it works you'll find the ticket you need is shown on-screen when you arrive at the appropriate location. Some may not its similarity to Google Wallet, which does some of these things on those few devices running the latest Android OS.
Inclusion of Passbook could suggest Apple intends deploying NFC support in the new iPhone. The company doesn't need to do this. After all, since 2011 it has sat on the Bluetooth Special Interest Group and has helped create the standard that is Bluetooth v4.0.
The new MacBook Pro supports Bluetooth v4.0, joining the new iPad, the iPhone 4S and the MacBook Air range which also support this standard. All these products can potentially connect to any Bluetooth Smart device. That's good for all sorts of peripheral devices, but also supports technologies enabling secure device-based payments.
Will banks choose to support this? The signs are good. A new UK app called GetCash allows Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest customers to withdraw cash from cash machines using an app and their iPhone.
So, what do we have so far:
- iPhone 5 announcement in September/October;
- A faster processor;
- A 4-inch display;
- Payment support;
- New Bluetooth options.
That's not so bad for a keynote in which the company didn't once mention the iPhone 5. Did the company offer any other potential hints at the new device? Please let me know in comments below.
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