2011 was a pretty eventful year for Apple. We saw updates to its core line of Macs, a new iPad, a looks-just-the-same but all-new-inside iPhone, a great upgrade to iOS and OS X, iCloud, a new CEO, and the passing of one of its co-founders. Quite eventful. Many of them great. Some not.
I think 2012 will be not only another eventful year for Apple, but an exciting year. Here’s some of the things I think are on the horizon.
The Pro Goes Air
I’ve been using a 15-inch MacBook Pro just a couple weeks shy of three years. It’s a fantastic machine, and has endured years of use more gracefully than any other portable Mac I’ve owned. The best part is — unlike my previous Mac notebooks — it still feels fast.
That said, my wife received a 13-inch MacBook Air for Christmas. And it makes my MacBook Pro not only look like a cow, but it makes it look like a slow, pokey cow. Some of that, I’m sure, is attributed to the Air’s Core i5 processor versus my Pro’s Core 2 Duo, but I know the majority of that is the Air’s SSD compared to the Pro’s traditional hard drive. Apple knows this.
When Apple introduced the revamped MacBook Air in October 2010, they said it was the future of notebooks. 2012 will be the year the MacBook Pro takes a backseat, much like the Mac Pro did in the desktop lineup. I see the 13-inch MacBook Pro disappearing in favor of the Air, like the 13-inch MacBook did. I also see the 15-inch MacBook Pro going on a diet and changing its name. The Pro will still live on, but only in the 17-inch form, for those who still need SuperDrives and ExpressCard slots.
A little wild card? I think the 15-inch MacBook Air will be equipped with a Retina Display.
Speaking of Retina Displays…
The iPad seems ripe for receiving a Retina Display this year. I do not think anything needs to change with the body of the device. I think the iPad 2 has a great feel to it. There’s also a manufacturing advantage to not changing the design of the iPad, as the assembly line is already set up and optimized for the current body.
There is one metric which I think could warrant a design change of the body: weight. I like the overall feel of the iPad 2, but weight could be better. Less weight would probably mean a thinner body in the iPad 3.
Another thing that has been bouncing around in my head is that Apple may continue to sell the iPad 2 alongside an iPad 3, much like how they sell multiple iPhone models. Imagine an 8GB iPad 2 priced around $299 or $349. What would that do to things like the Kindle Fire?
Also, I say the iPad stays at 9.7-inches. Quit dreaming of a 7-inch iPad, it’d be horrible to type on.
Of course, there will be a new iPhone. My guess is we’ll see it in the fall. I think the fall release of the 4S wasn’t because of any outright delays, but that Apple wanted to shift it to being part of their Christmas lineup, since iPod growth has stabilized. Apple already has a lot on their plate each year in the summer with WWDC and iOS. I think it makes sense for them to introduce new iOS releases at WWDC and then release it alongside a new iPhone in the fall.
So what will we see in the next iPhone? My guess is a better processor, better camera(s), a possibly a new body design (though I wouldn’t mind if the iPhone 4/4S design stuck around again. I love it). I’d actually like to see the front camera gain HD quality, as I think FaceTime HD (present in current iMacs and MacBook Pros) would be a great move.
I think the Retina Display screen will stick around at 3.5-inches. Last year’s rumors of a 4-inch screen just don’t sit right with me. Many of those I hear advocating the 4-inch screen rumor say so “because Android phones have larger screens”. Well, bigger does not always equal better. It’s similar to the argument that there will be a 7-inch iPad because everyone else is doing it. I say bulldonkey.
Beyond design changes and spec bumps, I can’t really fathom what else may be in store for the next iPhone. I do like this bit from Shawn Blanc’s predictions:
But the wild card is that in 2007, when Steve Jobs first introduced iPhone, he said that it was 5 years ahead of any other smartphone. It has now been 5 years. I could see the next iPhone being continued iteration because that’s how Apple rolls. But I could also see the next iPhone being something huge, something for the next 5 years.
I see iOS 6 going one of two ways.
- iOS will gain a bunch of refinements, just as in years past, and Apple will really tout 10 or so of them. The majority of these will address any extremely vocal shortcomings. Like a do not disturb setting for notifications.
- iOS will take a giant leap forward and set the stage for the foreseeable future. Think of this as equivalent to Mac OS 9 and OS X. And I have no clue what that would look like.
I’m not very risk-tolerant, so if I were a betting man on this topic, I’d go with the former scenario.
I think iCloud is going to become even bigger in our little Apple universe this year. Maybe around the time we see that 15-inch MacBook Air we’ll also see an update to OS X Lion and the iWork apps that will integrate iCloud’s document storage more plainly on the Mac. Then we’ll really see the hybridization of OS X and iOS start to blossom.
I’m sure Jony Ive has a prototype of an Apple television set in his lab. How long do you think he had an iPad and iPhone in his lab before they were released? I don’t think we’ll see it this year. I do think Apple will update their “hobby” device, the current Apple TV box, this year. I bet it looks the same, gets an A5 or the upcoming A6 chip, and plays back 1080p video.
Sure, we will likely see Apple release a full television some day. I just don’t think it’s the right time or season.