Apple is set for its special event Tuesday, where the company is widely expected to take the wraps off an upgraded version of its flagship iPhone — and perhaps a less-expensive version of the phone to appeal to the fastest-growing part of the world’s smartphone market. Here’s a look at what analysts and tech blogs are expecting to see.
iPhone 5S: Apple’s due for its annual iPhone refresh, and that’s exactly what most analysts are anticipating Tuesday. No big changes are expected for the upgrade to the iPhone 5, which is likely to be called the iPhone 5S, in keeping with the company’s naming patterns. That’s not to say that phone won’t be appreciably better than its predecessor. Analysts think it will have a faster processor and a better camera than the iPhone 5. It might also come in a new color — gold.
One feature that could distinguish the new iPhone is the rumored inclusion of a fingerprint scanner in the home button, a move that could bring Apple a better reputation on the security and payments front. The Wall Street Journal reported that people familiar with the company’s plans say the phone will include the scanner and could prompt Google to follow suit in its Android operating system.
If the rumors for this version of the high-end iPhone aren’t enough for you, there is already some chatter about the next version. The Journal has also reported that the company is testing screens as big as six inches for its next iteration of the iPhone. If such a phone went to market, it would be among the largest on the market and only slightly smaller than the company’s iPad mini.
iPhone 5C: Analysts also expect that Apple may be prepared to release a less expensive version of its iPhone to appeal to more price-conscious consumers.
Analysts and reported industry “leaks” have indicated the company is doing so by making phones out of plastic rather than glass and aluminum. The tech press has nicknamed this new phone the “iPhone 5C.” Adding a bit of personality, the company is also expected to release the 5C with a variety of candy-colored backs, reminiscent of its iPod line and iMacs. The iPhone 5C wouldn’t have the bells and whistles of the premium phone — and, analysts say, will probably run the current iPhone’s chip rather than any upgraded version — but would be a good way for Apple to move into the entry-level part of the market.
Lowering the price of an iPhone would better position Apple against Android software manufacturers in markets such as China, where the company faces stiff competition from Samsung, Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi and others — all of which make low-cost smartphones that have broad appeal in that crucial world market.
The main question is about price. Subsidies overseas don’t work the same way as they do in the United States, so Apple will have to offer a fairly low price for the phone, even without price offsets from carriers. On the Stratechery blog, writer Ben Thompson has done some serious thinking about this question, coming to the conclusion that Apple will probably settle for a price around $500. That would make it about $150 less than the current base price of an unsubsidized phone — enough of a difference to keep the phones from appealing to the same consumers.
Apple also has another incentive to make a new, cheaper iPhone, rather than stick to its strategy of selling older iPhones to cover lower price points in the market. In a note e-mailed to media, Seton Hall University marketing professor Daniel Ladik noted that introducing a cheaper iPhone gives Apple the opportunity to unify the whole iPhone line under the umbrellas of the four-inch screen size and the smaller Lightning connector introduced with the iPhone 5. That would cut down on fragmentation for developers and accessory makers — always a plus.
iOS 7: Apple debuted iOS 7 and its radical redesign at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, but the new generation of iPhones will be the first to ship with the operating system. The company’s new music service, iTunes Radio, is also a part of iOS 7, which will let users make personalized radio stations and share them with friends. Similar to Pandora, the service will be a part of Apple’s updated music app.
One more thing? As for other announcements, there is some speculation that the company might have news to share about Apple TV — but probably not the news that most people want to hear. All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka threw some cold water on suspicion there would be new hardware last week, reporting that people familiar with the company’s plans are not expecting any new boxes from Apple on Tuesday.
That said, Kafka reported, the company could be making tweaks to the software, including a possible feature that would make it easier for Apple fans who have bought Apple TV content to view that content on another user’s Apple TV. That could make movie night much easier, and — as Kafka points out — might make the Google Chromecast seem a little less attractive.