With Apple’s media event scheduled for tomorrow, we have rounded up what Apple is likely due to introduce. We previously published a round-table of 9to5Mac author hopes for the event, but this roundup will focus on our specific expectations for the keynote address. You can find our roundup below:
Apple’s previous event, WWDC, was all about the software that runs on Apple’s devices. However, the last time that Apple actually talked in-depth about new devices was at September and October events in the fall of 2012. The September event discussed iPhone hardware, and the October keynote brought brand-new iPad hardware.
The September event discussed the iPhone 5, a major re-thinking of the iPhone experience. The changes brought a new, larger display, a more powerful processor, and improved camera hardware technologies. Though the hardware was completely new, the software (iOS 6) looked mostly like its predecessors, and it functioned the same way.
At WWDC with iOS 7, Apple began ushering in a fresh take on the iOS experience that hundreds of millions of people have enjoyed for over half-a-decade. With the September 2012 iPhone 5 and June 2013 WWDC/iOS 7 events in mind, tomorrow’s September 10th event in some ways will be a culmination of both of those events.
It will be a defining moment for Apple – an event that will merge iPhone 5 hardware and the iOS 7 software. We are expecting Apple to reveal two new iPhones tomorrow, both running iOS 7 and both based on iPhone 5 hardware.
The first new iPhone will be what many have dubbed “iPhone 5S.” The phone has gained this nickname (as of today) because of the device’s design similarities to the iPhone 5. Apple’s iPhone 4S and iPhone 3GS retained the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3G designs, and this is another reason why many have dubbed the next flagship iPhone the iPhone 5S. Besides carrying a nearly identical look to the iPhone 5, here’s what we are expecting in terms of new features:
Dual-LED rear-camera flash:iPhone 5S backplates out of China and information from our own sources has indicated that the iPhone 5S will include a dual-LED flash on the back. Currently, the iPhone includes a single LED flash, but the dual-LED flash setup will allow for much improved lighting quality for photos and video taken in low-light environments.
As we have also noted, dual-LED flashes can allow for a phone’s flash to reach further distances. There is also talk that this iPhone 5S dual-LED flash could light up either one or both bulbs depending on current lightning conditions. So, if you are at a dark concert, the iPhone 5S might automatically know to turn on all of the flash’s power. With iOS 7′s flashlight feature in Control Center, the dual-LED flash will also be a nice bonus.
As with past iPhone upgrades, we’re expecting the iPhone 5S to include an upgraded processor. While processor upgrades in past iPhones focused on overall speed and performance, indications this year point to the iPhone 5S’s processor bump revolving around efficiency and general improvements.
With the iPhone 5 being a speedy phone in its own right, perhaps the iPhone 5S’s processor adjustments are designed to improve the flow and speed of the new graphics, transitions, and animations in iOS 7. It’s no secret that some of iOS 7′s enhancements don’t run smoothly on older Apple hardware.
We have independently heard similar claims about the A7 chip, and we also understand that Apple, for at last a year, has been prototyping and testing versions of the A7 chip that run on 64-bit architecture. As of now, there are not many reasons for Apple to push a 64-bit chip in the current iPhone; however, the chip could allow for Apple to be more forward-thinking with its hardware + software, something that it has not truly done with past iPhone hardware.
In terms of other internals, even though Apple installed 802.11ac WiFi chips in its MacBook Airs earlier this year, inclusion in the iPhone 5S is unlikely based on the currently available mobile Broadcom chips.
For the past few years, Apple has increasingly focused attention on the camera in the iPhone. The iPhone 4 introduced back-and-front camera upgrades, the iPhone 4S brought the rear-shooter to 8 megapixels, and the iPhone 5 upgraded the front-camera to HD-quality and capped off the same 8 megapixel system from the iPhone 4S with sapphire crystal. For the iPhone 5S, it seems likely that Apple will make camera improvements, but unlikely that the megapixel count will change.
For the past couple of years, Apple has demonstrated a philosophy of noting that megapixels in camera don’t matter. It’s about other technologies in camera sensors, such as lighting sensors and the A-chips’ image signal processor, and we believe that Apple will continue to promote this tomorrow.
In line with an analyst report from earlier this year, it seems plausible that the iPhone 5S will retain an eight megapixel rear-camera. The aforementioned LED-flash upgrade will be a differentiator, along with an improved f/2.0 Aperture (iPhone 5 has a 2.4). The aperture size is what controls how much light is let into the camera sensor, and these slight changes could mean dramatically different results for photos.
In addition to tweaked hardware, we believe that Apple will introduce some software-based enhancements. Namely: a slow-motion camera mode. As we discussed in an earlier profile, we located code references in iOS 7 that point to a 120FPS video feature. Above is an example from YouTube of what 120FPS video could look like.
One of the most discussed and anticipated prospective features for the iPhone 5S is a fingerprint scanner. Talk of Apple implementing a biometric sensor in an iPhone began in late 2012 when Apple agreed to purchase Authentec, a developer of mobile-optimized fingerprint scanning sensors. Early this year, analyst Ming-Chi-Kuo first speculated that the iPhone 5S will include a fingerprint scanner, and he said it would be implemented in the iPhone’s iconic home button.
Many people, including analysts, speculated that the potential fingerprint scanner will be used for payments/Passbook purposes. However, back in August when we received reliable confirmation that Apple is planning to include a fingerprint scanner in the iPhone 5S, we learned that the scanner will not be used for payments. We understand, instead, that the fingerprint scanner will be built as a passcode replacement for unlocking the iPhone.
The process is said to be simple. To unlock the iPhone with the fingerprint reader, an iPhone 5S user simply clicks and holds their finger/thumb down on the sensor for a few seconds. It is unlikely that the sensor login and passcode could be used in tandem. There will be a preference in the iPhone’s Settings app to disable the sensor.
Contrary to claims from Ming-Chi-Kuo, we understand that the new Home button will be largely similar in appearance to the iPhone 5′s Home button, we understand that the “Etching/imprint” on the button may have changed. Clayton Morris indicated that the Home button will have a silver ring, and this was further corroborated by purported packaging leaks. Our own Michael Steeber mocked up the above Home button, and this mockup could be close to the actual design.
We have also been told that the iPhone 5Ss floating around Apple’s Cupertino headquarters are in bulky casings so the design of the device could not be easily seen by on-lookers around campus. It’s plausible that this has been done to keep features like the new dual-LED flash and tweaked Home button away from prying eyes.
It’s likely that the iPhone 5S pricing will likely stick to the iPhone 5′s prices: $199, $299, and $399. However, capacities have been up in the air. There’s been talk of a new 128GB model, but it is unclear if that would replace the $399 high-end device or come in on top at $499 (on-contract).
Hardware + Software:
The iPhone 5C will continue the trend of using the iPhone 5′s hardware, but it will not take the external design. Instead, the iPhone 5C will likely be based off of the iPhone 5′s internal hardware, but it will gain an iPod touch/iPhone 3G-inspired plastic back in several colors.
In terms of new features over the iPhone 5, we have no reason to believe there will be any present. Of course, the phone will include iOS 7, but we doubt the device will see the iPhone 5S’s fingerprint reader, improved camera, and processor hardware.
For this, we have to look at Apple’s other products. For instance the 32GB iPod touch is $299. Half the storage plus LTE Internals and perhaps a slightly improved camera and battery could cost an additional $100-$150.
4G upgrades for iPads are $130 on top of the base price, so theoretically, a 4G upgrade for an iPod touch should be around the same price.
Also, keep in mind that Apple has lots of margin to work with. So, for instance, if Apple wants to be able to offer an iPhone 5C free with a two year plan, it can (a two year subsidy can often remove $400-$450 from the price).
This is only if Apple decides it wants market share. If Apple wants to price the 5C at $500 (or $100 on contract) because Apple stuff isn’t “cheap,” then it will.
iPods: For the past couple of years, Apple has upgraded its iPods in tandem with new iPhones. Last year brought major changes to the iPod touch and iPod nano, but there have been absolutely no indications of major iPod updates this year.
The latest chatter came from a Ming-Chi-Kuo report from early this year that indicated minor upgrades to the iPod nano and iPod touch. It’s unclear what the upgrades will entail, but perhaps the iPod touch will gain the iPhone 5′s A6 processor or an improved camera.
Other possibilities include new colors for the iPod touch and iPod nano to match the colors of the iPhone 5C. On the other hand, with the overall decline in iPod sales, perhaps Apple will leave them out of the upgrade cycle for 2013.
What will the press focus on following tomorrow’s announcement? Surely the low-cost iPhone for emerging markets will be making headlines, but will a selection of shiny new colors, iOS 7, and a fingerprint scanner entice the average consumer looking to upgrade?
There’s no ignoring the fact Apple’s iPhone upgrades this year will not include a larger display while Samsung and others continue to attract new customers to its successful lines of 5-inch+ devices.
If this wish list from Quora (via Business Insider) is any indication, a lot of the features consumers want in a new iPhone are software features that Android does better: quickly accessible notifications, control over default apps, and a more intelligent Siri. Will Apple’s revamped iOS 7 and colorful new iPhones be perceived by average consumers as simply a facelift on its existing iPhone lineup?
Apple has been criticized in the past by the media and countless parody videos for introducing new iPhones viewed as minor upgrades, and iOS 7′s new look could very well overshadow new features & benefits of iOS 7 and upgraded hardware. With the iPhone 5S and 5C largely retaining the physical design of previous generation iPhones, it will be interesting to see if Apple’s new lineup will capture the attention of the public.
No matter what happens tomorrow, we will be bringing coverage all day and during the event. The actual event begins at 10 AM Pacific/1PM Eastern time, but we will be providing coverage for all last minute details and late-breaking news.