Despite the fact that the iPhone 5 is a feature-rich hardware overhaul, some big, rumored features have still yet to arrive onto the iPhone. Will groundbreaking new features spur Apple to release another overhauled iPhone in 2013, or simply a refreshed iPhone 5S?
One of the things that Apple enthusiasts are always looking for are patterns: patterns that give consumers a clue as to what Apple might do next with its extremely popular mobile devices alla the iPhone and iPad. In one way, the prognosticating of future Apple releases has become a kind of tech pastime — a fun, exciting diversion that keeps people guessing and getting incrementally more psyched as the clock counts down to the next release. And on a pragmatic side, the prospect of new designs and features helps users decide if they are going to buy a new iPhone now, or wait until the next one.
Unfortunately, finding clues to patterns in Apple’s release schedule are hard to unearth.
However, a pattern is beginning to emerge: Apple may now be resigned to staggering its iPhone overhauls with incremental refreshes. A pattern seems to be developing: 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, 5 . . . and in 2013 — iPhone 5S?
There are two key outstanding issues with the iPhone as it currently stands that will ultimately determine if the 2013 iPhone is a 5S or 6.
The iPhone 5S: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
Clearly, the iPhone 5 is going to go on to be the biggest-selling iPhone of all time. At present, it appears as if it will sell at double the pace of the iPhone 4S, which of course shattered the iPhone 4′s sales records. But it also isn’t hard to imagine that the iPhone 5 could manage to have even exponentially higher sales numbers than what we are currently seeing. It would not surprise me if Apple sells more iPhone 5 units than all previous iPhone sales combined — or some crazy sales figure like that.
If the is the case, then it’s hard to imagine that Apple will feel the need to bend over backwards to offer an overhauled iPhone 6. Just as gaming consoles like the Wii, Xbox, and Playstation have seen few overhauls in recent years due to steady, impressive sales, so too could Apple seek to simply reinvigorate iPhone 5 sales next year at this time by doing a refreshed iPhone 5S. This could entail a big software update alla iOS 7, A7 processor, and the usual improvements in cameras and displays — but no change in the form factor or major hardware.
The iPhone 6: NFC/iWallet, Biometric Security & Other New Hardware Deserves a New Form Factor
It remains to be seen if NFC will be ready to go on the next iPhone, and if its appearance would constitute a jump from the iPhone 5 straight on to the iPhone 6. The prospect of iWallet is that it could change the way that people spend money on a daily basis. Because of this potentiality, it remains to be seen if Apple would simply add it into a refreshed iPhone 5S or not: making a bigger deal out of it via an iPhone 6 might help facilitate sales and adoption.
Also, if Apple were to include some kind of biometric security to work in tandem with iWallet, that too could necessitate a new form factor.
It appears now that the form factor coincides with whether or not an iPhone is a refresh or an overhaul: when Apple makes changes to the form factor, it gets a new number. When they stick with the current look, they simply slap on an “S.”
iPhone 5S, Then iPhone 6
Although it’s not a tough prediction to make, I would not be entirely surprised if Apple opted for an iPhone 5S in 2013 and wait to release the iPhone 6 in 2014. Along these lines, I would also not be surprised if Apple is still two years away from adopting NFC and iWallet. Yes, we’ve seen multiple NFC patents from Apple, but that certainly doesn’t mean that using your iPhone to pay for things is right around the corner. For Apple, getting into iWallet means that they have to get into a completely new type of business. You don’t just launch that overnight.
it looks right now like for the past couple of years, Apple has simply been wrestling with the NFC technology just for the iPhone. Now that the technology appears to be in place, Cupertino might only be in “phase two” of its development.
This would mean that 2014 will usher in a new iPhone 6 that offers a brand-new form factor, as well as the NFC innovation.
If you’re really excited about iWallet and are anticipating it for 2013, then my feeling is that you should hope for the best, but plan for the worst. iWallet — and the iPhone 6 that could usher it in, might actually be two years away.
By Michael Nace