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Why the Apple iWatch is coming in 2013

Why the Apple iWatch is coming in 2013
Apple’s “iWatch” is much more likely to arrive this year than an Apple TV. I’ve been avoiding the iWatch hype for the same reason I ignore the yammering about Apple building a television: Apple works on a lot of projects that don’t see the light of day, and what’s important to me is what people will actually get to buy.

But with respectable news organisations like The Verge and Bloomberg weighing in (see our report from earlier today), I have to say that the iWatch fits Apple’s pattern of new markets to join, and it looks like the next 12 months are the prime time.

Apple must keep moving forward. The company’s successes have been driven by helping to establish new mass-market product categories: The home PC (1977), desktop publishing (1985), MP3 players (2001), smartphones (2007) and consumer tablets (2010). Even in the dark years of the 90s, Apple kept trying to build new beachheads in PDAs (1993) and digital imaging (1994). It’s in the company’s nature to keep looking for new markets so it can repeat its successful formula.

Smartwatches are ready for Apple

Smartwatches (and wearable tech in general) are now in a traditional Apple entry phase. Apple tends to enter new markets once there’s significant tech-world interest in a new technology, but while there are still usability problems Apple could solve. Apple arrives after the first pioneers, but before a category has entrenched leaders. It makes a category mainstream not by increased functionality, but by better usability.

The smartwatch market existed on a very low simmer for several decades, but has really started heating up this year with buzzy, geeky entrants like Pebble and MetaWatch (see our article on Apple’s smartwatch rivals), driven by the low-power connectivity of Bluetooth 4.0 and the trend towards larger, less glanceable smartphones.

All the existing players are marketing towards the tech-savvy, and none of them have any real consumer brand recognition. Someone like Apple stepping in with strong design, overwhelming marketing, and integration between device and content (as it did with the iTunes Store and the App Store, which helped cement the iPod and iPhone’s market positions) could easily define the category.

Zoom out to the category of wearables in general, and it’s still a fertile field for Apple. Apple has dabbled with partnerships in things like Nike+, something it’s done previously before establishing new product lines (with the Motorola ROKR phone, for instance.) Its most comprehensive competitor, Google, is still at least a year from making Google Glass a usable, decently priced consumer hit.

The iWatch can also serve to backstop Apple’s iOS ecosystem against lower-priced Android phones that are currently outselling iPhones globally. The developed world is becoming smartphone-saturated, and most of the new smartphone customers are in emerging markets – that’s why you’re hearing so much chatter about Apple trying to figure out a way to build a cheaper iPhone without damaging its brand.

A device like the iWatch helps in two ways. It gives Apple a fresh purchase from developed-world consumers, and if it has some standalone functionality, it could be a “low-priced” entry device to the iOS ecosystem in emerging markets where iPhones are unaffordable.

Watches are an Apple market; TVs aren’t

I probably don’t need to tell you that the TV market is completely different from all this. The hardware side is a largely commoditised, extremely mature market led by huge, entrenched leaders with excellent brand recognition. The content side is basically a stultified, government-regulated quasi-monopoly of huge cable and satellite companies with almost total consumer penetration.

Entering the TV market means going head to head with wealthy, entrenched interests with something to protect and decades of experience studying consumer demand. Entering the smartwatch market mostly means going up against smaller companies in a confused, nascent welter where they’re still trying to figure out what people want. You’re Apple. Which market would you pick?

You may want Apple to shake up the TV market, because the TV market – especially the content side – sucks as a consumer experience. But it doesn’t fit the pattern of markets in which Apple succeeds. The smartwatch market does. I expect to see an iWatch sometime in 2013.


The search for the truth behind Apple’s Lightning digital AV adapter

The search for the truth behind Apple’s Lightning digital AV adapter

Sending video from your phone or tablet to your TV is a very useful ability, and many options exist for doing so wirelessly – though most existing solutions are highly compressed and quite laggy. Obviously, a wired connection is what’s needed, right?

If you want a crisp 1080p signal from your iPhone or iPad, the best bet is to plug it in directly using Apple’s own £39 Lightning digital AV adapter. Unfortunately, it seems that this latest iteration of the device – designed to work with the new Lightning connector – isn’t putting out full 1080p.

Even worse, it seems that it is introducing noticeable compression artifacts (pictured below). Now comes the search for the truth amongst all of the Internet rage this is kicking up among Apple enthusiasts.

Cabel Sasser, a well-known software developer at Panic Inc., brought this issue to light at the end of last week. Through his own testing, he discovered that using the old Dock Connector AV adapter will output a full 1920 x 1080 video mirroring signal, but the newer Lightning AV adapter tops out at 1600 x 900.

After taking a hacksaw to the tiny adapter, it’s apparent that this isn’t just a simple cable. In fact, it has a minuscule ARM SoC and it is sporting upwards of 256MB of RAM. Cabel theorises that it is employing the same compression used in AirPlay to stream out the video, and that would explain the lag and artifacts being introduced to the signal. But why bother with this middleman at all? Well, we don’t have an official answer from Apple, but we have the next best thing: Wild conjecture and anonymous comments.

The Internet exploded with countless rage-posts about how Apple is screwing consumers. As cathartic as that may be, it didn’t provide much insight. Luckily, a comment on the original post provides interesting background to the ordeal. The anonymous commenter gives plenty of detail, and hints heavily that he or she is an Apple engineer. The commenter confirms that the SoC boots into Apple’s XNU kernel, but that’s as close as it gets to being iOS-like. Lightning isn’t capable of outputting an HDMI signal, so instead of adding complexity to each device, HDMI functionality was moved into the adapter.

According to this explanation, the iPhone uses the same hardware H.264 encoding that it would use to send video wirelessly over AirPlay. It then sends that compressed data out of the Lightning serial bus, and directly to the adapter. The SoC decodes the video, and handles the rest of the trip out to the end of the HDMI plug.

This accounts for all of the problems that Cabel ran into, and it seemingly has an understandable reason for existing in the first place. By having the iPhone spit a vanilla H.264 signal out of the Lightning connector, countless adapters can be made to work with existing phones instead of relying on the phone itself to support different specs (like HDMI itself). All of the heavy lifting is done by the adapter.

The quality is a problem, but updates are certainly a possibility if this commenter is to be believed. He or she even goes as far as to claim that iOS updates on the phone or tablet will be able to improve the quality of the output. At least it won’t require you to shell out for a whole new phone or £39 adapter. This isn’t a good excuse for the low quality output, but at least improvement seems inevitable and free of additional cost. Now we just have to wait for Apple to get round to making this better.

iPhone 5S release date, features & price rumours

Apple iPhone 6 render

UPDATE: New information on 4G 

The iPhone 5 is barely out of its pristinely white box but already a flurry of rumours are hinting at the launch of its successor, dubbed the iPhone 5S. Believed to be heading into production next month, sources claim the handset could hit shelves as early as June 2013.

Had such rumours surfaced this time last year, we would have been the first to label them as rubbish, but the early arrival of two iPads – the iPad 4 and iPad Mini – in October shows that even when it comes to its product launch cycles, Apple can be unpredictable.



The Apple iPhone 5S could launch in June next year, with a range of different colour options for the first time, according to an industry analyst.

In a note summarised by Business Insider, Peter Misek of investment firm Jefferies & Co. claims that the next iPhone will arrive in June.

The iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 were both released closer to the end of the year, but it’s not unheard of: both the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 4 came out mid-year.

Some of Misek’s claims fly in the face of previous iPhone 5S details, including a purported image of the handset’s casing – pictured below – taken on an assembly line, which suggests that the display won’t be changing from its current iPhone 5 specification.

Apple, naturally, is silent on the matter, refusing to comment until it formally unveils the handset – roll on Spring!

UPDATE: iPhone 5S to go into production in March

According to Misek’s latest information, his prediction of a June launch date is correct. The latest info comes from an analysis of Apple’s production schedule, which has seen orders reduced from 40 million units to 30 million units.

This move obviously reduces the amount of stock and is responsible for what iPhone 5 sales “decelerating faster than expected”, according to Misek.

The reason for the reduction in order numbers isn’t because the handset isn’t wanted, but because “suppliers seem to be prepping for iPhone 5S builds to start in March”.

What this translates to is that Apple is clearing capacity to allow its manufacturers to switch to the new handset, while also reducing the amount of stock it has for the old phone, so it can concentrate on the iPhone 5S.

If this information is correct and the iPhone 5S goes into production in March, it means that the new handset should be out in June. Keep posted here for more information on the Apple launch.




Apple iPod Touch colours

In addition to a potential release date, Misek also claimed that the iPhone 5S will have a higher-resolution display than the iPhone 5, potentially based on the new IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) material. If true, it would provide the 5S with a brighter and more detailed screen than the iPhone 5, while also potentially dropping the thickness of the handset – albeit, only slightly.
This seems more likely following CES 2013, when the Sharp IGZO display technology was displayed for the first time inside a 32in 4K monitor.

That release certainly got the rumour mill going and it’s been suggested that Apple has already approached Sharp about its technology, but not just for the iPhone 5S, but also for the upcoming iPad 5

Other claims made by Misek include increased storage capacity of 128GB – up from the maximum 64GB available in the iPhone 5 – and plans by Apple to release the handset in a variety of different colours.



The rumours of a 128GB version would seem to be true, as we know that Apple now has that capacity, thanks to the recent launch of a 128GB iPad 4.


Recently quite quietly, the new model doubled the maximum capacity of the previous high-end iPad (64GB). This update was said to be about increasing the variety of uses for the tablet, with Apple stating that more storage was good for large files for use in applications such as CAD and music production. It’s also a more useful amount of storage for photos and videos.

The update to the iPad 4 was a completely new model with a new price, so we’d expect the same range of capacities and prices to be available from the iPad 5: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. With Apple now using 128GB storage in its tablets, the question is whether or not it will provide the same range of capacities in its iPhone and iPad Mini range, too.

Given that the capacity is now available to Apple and that the smartphone market is even more competitive, we’d say that a 128GB version of the new phone is more than likely.




The purported iPhone 5S is also claimed to include near-field communications (NFC) support, a close-range wireless system already adopted by many Android smartphones – but absent from the iPhone 5.




One of the problems with the existing iPhone 5S is that different models are sold in each country, each with its own specific 4G support. Currently, there’s no global model that supports world-wide 4G. We’re expecting Apple to solve this in the iPhone 5S and not just for convenience, but because making one model will work out cheaper for the company in the long-run.

Adding credence to this rumour is the fact that Qualcomm has created a new 4G chip, which will give the iPhone 5S global LTE support.

Called the RF360 Front-End Solution, the chip provides compatibililty with eight mobile network standards: LTE-TDD, LTE-FDD, EVDO, WMCDA, CDMA, TD-SCDMA, EDGE and GSM. This covers the full range of 2G, 3G and 4G networks, which means that a phone equipped with this chip should work with all mobile networks world-wide.

Although this hasn’t been confirmed by Apple, Qualcomm’s timing of the announcement would appear to suggest that its new chip will find its way into the new smartphone when its released later this year.




Apple has traditionally alternated between brand-new designs and tweaked designs for its annual iPhone releases: the original iPhone was replaced with the brand-new iPhone 3G, which was tweaked a year later into the iPhone 3GS. The launch of the brand-new iPhone 4 was followed by the tweaked iPhone 4S design, while the latest iPhone 5 model represents a complete redesign once again.

As a result, it’s little surprise to find that leaked details surrounding Apple’s plans for the smartphone market in 2013 revolve around a tweaked iPhone 5 design dubbed the iPhone 5S, rather than a brand-new design that would launch as the iPhone 6.

While as-yet unannounced by Apple, images of the rear cover – below – for the supposed iPhone 5S have leaked from the company’s manufacturing partners. Posted to the iPhone 5 Parts forum, the images show a tweaked design with the biggest change being to the mounting holes used to secure the smartphone’s main circuit board to the casing.

iPhone 5S leaked image - apparently

Moved holes suggest a redesigned logic board, and a redesigned logic board means either new hardware or altered specifications. As a result, even from these small images, it’s possible to hazard a guess as to what the iPhone 5S will bring: a more powerful, likely quad-core, processor with 2GB of RAM, possible near-field communications (NFC) capability to better compete with rival Android devices, and the likelihood of increased storage capacity.


iPhone 5S to look like the iPhone 5


UPDATE:According to new rumours, the iPhone 5S will look like the iPhone 5.

A recent report from an analyst has said that the iPhone 5S is going to look very similar to the iPhone 5. This information isn’t based on leaked documents or sly shots of the device, but rather on Apple’s quarterly filing with the SEC.

This financial document shows how much money the company has spent on things, and shows that two months ago Apple spend $4.5bn on equipment purchases, compared to just $903m the last quarter.

According to Morgan Stanley analyst, Katy Huberty, and reported on Business Insider, this shows that the iPhone 5S is likely to look like the current handset.

The argument here is that the larger spend from two quarters ago was when Apple was investing heavily in new screens for the iPhone 5. The decrease, therefore, is because Apple doesn’t need new hardware for iPhone 5S.

There’s certainly something to be said for this logic, as previous Apple phone launches have used roughly the same hardware for two generations.

That said, this is far from proof and could just mean that Apple hasn’t started to ramp up production or invest in new hardware for its new phone. With no confirmed release date for the handset, it could be that Apple only started to buy new equipment after its SEC filing in order to keep its movements secret for a bit longer.




UPDATE: Leaked photos of the iPhone 5S appear to be clones

If there’s one thing you have to be careful of when dealing with iPhone rumours, it’s the amount of false information that’s put out there. A recent ‘leak’ appeared to show the iPhone 5S being produced in a factory in China.

There are several problems with this scenario, including that that the phone doesn’t actually appear to have gone into production yet and doesn’t seem likely to do so until March.

Then, there’s the fact that the photos of the innards seem to show lower spec components than Apple uses and that are often used by the clone manufacturers.

Steve Hammerstoffer posted a detailed rebuttal of the images, with an annotated diagram (see below) highlighting the problems with the images, including that the phones showed an SD card slot, the connector on the bottom wasn’t lightening, a low-cost battery and a non-iPhone vibrator.

In other words, the leaked images appear to be a leak of a clone handset production line, rather than Apple’s latest and greatest.

Not the iPhone 5S

Don’t believe every picture you see – this shot appears to be of an iPhone clone, rather than the real thing


UPDATE: Mainboard images are fake

Also doing the rounds recently were shots that purported to be the iPhone 5S mainboard with A7 processor. Lots of people covered this as fact, claiming that the shot of the motherboard and the A7 chip were legitimate.

However, it turns out that Photoshop was at work. After some digging, Smartfan.plfound the original photo, which was a mainboard shot with an A6 processor.

Typically Apple keeps a very close eye on its suppliers and this kind of leak would be unusual to say the least. In other words, don’t believe the images you see.




While the iPhone 5S is likely going to look very similar to the iPhone 5, Apple’s next phone, the iPhone 6, could be very different in deed. A graphic designer has turned to Apple’s patent portfolio to produce 3D rendered images that guess at the design, features and functionality of the company’s next-generation iPhone.

InventHelp’s Nickolay Lamm has scoured Apple’s portfolio of patents for recent filings that may point to research carried out for the iPhone 6’s design, using them to provide details to a graphic designer to produce product renders that offer a glimpse of one possible direction the company may be taking for the smartphone.

Apple iPhone 6 render

“I feel that the sales success of the iPhone 5 overlooks the fact that it was a pretty boring phone,” Lamm said. “I looked at all of Apple’s recent patents and chose four which Apple may include in the iPhone 6 or later version. I then hired a 3D graphic designer to illustrate each of these patents so that the illustrations were as realistic as possible. I gave him very specific guidelines to follow.”

The designer, Matteo Gianni, has generated the photo-realistic images based on Apple’s current design ethos, and has based their technologies on patents recently filed by the company.

Some features, however, are more likely than others: the suggestion that Apple’s iOS platform will get integrated augmented reality functionality, dubbed ‘Transparent Mode’, seems more than believable, but the suggestion that the iPhone 6 will feature a hybrid LCD and E Ink display, capable of being viewed in full sunlight and boosting battery life considerably, seems less so given how recent the company’s patent on the matter is.

Other suggested product features include a ‘smart bezel’ that moves controls to the edge of the screen, meaning it’s possible to use the phone without obscuring the display with your fingers, and an integral projector – a feature already making its way to rival devices.

The image gallery can be seen in full on InventHelp’s blog, but so far Apple is silent on how close to the mark Lamm’s guesswork may be.

Rumours also suggested that it would be a budget iPhone 5S launched alongside a fully-featured iPhone 6.

According to reports, the budget model would let Apple compete against low-end Android devices, by using cheaper components and a plastic case to lower the price.

Apple has been quick to dismiss a budget iPhone 5S. Speaking to a Chinese newspaper, Apple’s vice president of global marketing Phil Schiller denied that the company would make a cheaper product.

“Some manufacturers use cheap smartphones as a replacement for feature phones, but this is not Apple’s product development direction,” Schiller said.

Asked directly about possible plans to launch multiple devices aimed at subtly different market segments, Schiller was clear: “We are not like other companies, releasing multiple products in one breath then pinning their hopes on one single product to gain the favour of consumers.”

That, it would seem, is that for a budget Apple phone, then.

Brace yourself: new iPad 5, iPhone 5S could debut in April and August


Brace yourself: new iPad 5, iPhone 5S could debut in April and August
Apple apparently has a thing for the letter A

Before the iPhone 5 was even available to purchase, Apple users were already wondering just what the iPhone 5Swould be like.

What’s more, rumors of the iPhone 5S’ features and release date were bandied about almost as soon as the iPhone 5 fell last fall.

The same could be said of the iPad 5 and iPad mini 2, the next-gen successors to the iPad 4 and iPad mini, which were just released late last year.

According to new reports, the Apple faithful won’t have to wait much longer to get their hands on the latest iPads, though the wait for the next iPhone may be a bit longer.

April showers bring iPads?

Sources knowledgeable about Apple’s impending release date plans revealed to iMore that the iPad 5 and potentially the iPad mini 2 will be available in April.

That seems like a pretty accelerated timetable considering it hasn’t even been a full six months since the iPad 4 was announced.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of a spring release for the iPad 5, asother sources tipped a March release window for the tablet.

New cases reportedly designed for the iPad 5 have already leaked, and point to a whole new iPad mini-inspired look for Apple’s flagship tablet.

The iPad 3 did launch a full year ago back in February 2012, which would make this refresh sensible. Although, there’s that pesky iPad 4 that just came out, making such a quick turnaround hard to fathom.

The same could be said of the iPad mini 2, which is also believed to be slated for an April unveiling.

However, it’s unclear if this updated mini-tablet will include the ballyhooed Retina display, even though some evidence points to that feature being the major upgrade in the follow-up mini.

Summer winds are blowin’ in iPhone 5S

These same sources indicated the iPhone 5S would arrive sometime in August, which would give Apple plenty of time to produce the new model.

Apple’s slightly advanced “S” models in the past have featured the same shell as the core model, though with different features and slightly different tech specs.

The iPhone 5S isn’t expected to differentiate itself from the iPhone 5 too drastically, though a better camera and slightly faster processor are believed to be part of the package.

A late summer arrival lines up with earlier estimated release date info, thought it’s still too early to say for certain whether or not Apple’s plans will match these reports.