Tim Cook may have wanted to double down on secrecy at Apple (AAPL), as he said a few yeas ago, but give the company’s size and global scale, it’s proving impossible. As we draw closer to this year’s Apple updates, the level and detail of leaks is again on the rise. When your global supply chain has to start ramping up to make tens of millions of phones, there is seemingly no way to prevent the constant leaks.
Last week, we got a round up of rumors covering the entire product line from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, considered more reliable than most (though hardly perfect, I’m still waiting for my iPhone with 128 GB of storage. He did get the gold case option and fingerprint sensor correct, however.)
According to Kuo and many other reports, this year’s iPhone -- let’s refer to it as the iPhone 6 for convenience -- will have a bigger screen, 4.7” up from the 4” models of last year. There may also be an even larger version, an Apple "phablet" with a 5.5” screen.
Although some Apple fans have said Apple should just stick with smaller screens which work better for one-handed operation, the company is clearly aware that it is missing out on many sales simply due to the lack of a larger screen option. An Apple document disclosed last week in the company’s patent lawsuit against Samsung showed execs worried recently about “consumers want but don’t have,” with a chart highlighting the growth of phones with screens larger than 4” and, separately, prices under $300.
This brings us to another aspect of the 2014 iPhone announcements – one that Apple is able to keep much better control over: the price. Last year, everyone knew about the candy-colored iPhone 5C model before the official announcement but almost everyone assumed it would be a cheap model aimed at customers in fast-growing emerging markets. Wrong – Tim Cook stuck with Apple’s tried and true strategy of pricing last year’s model at a slight discount -- $549 without a contract or subsidy.
There’s a robust debate about whether that was a good idea for 2013. But this year? There has to be a true cheap model, right? We won’t find out until the official announcement, probably.
News of a low-priced iPhone is one of the few announcements Apple could make that would really get Wall Street excited because it has the potential to materially increase phone sales and address a market that has been left entirely to competitors thus far.
Kuo also says Apple will incorporate a “Near Field Communication” or NFC chip in the iPhone. That would allow iPhone users to tap into some of the new mobile payment systems, especially Isis. Android phones have long had NFC chips but Isis and its competitors have gone nowhere. Maybe the House of Jobs can jump start mobile payments with their wealthier and more free spending U.S. client base.
Aside from phones, Kuo is also predicting an iWatch in two sizes, maxing out at 1.5 inches. The focus is said to be on health monitoring apps and biometric security. He is also predicting the use of much more expensive materials, and much higher prices, than competing products like the $300 Galaxy Gear.
Wall Street has also been anxious for Apple to enter new markets and reveal its plans for the much hyped wearables space. A high-priced watch may be a bit disappointing to investors if it appears that it won’t sell in high volumes.
As far as that long-rumored Apple high definition television set, Kuo and others are hearing only about a more modest upgrade to the company’s little black box (David Pogue is urging we stop calling them “set top boxes” since none of them can even fit on top of a modern TV anymore).
Kuo says Apple will integrate a motion sensor in an upgraded Apple TV box using technology from Primesense, which helped build Microsoft’s (MSFT) Kinect for the Xbox 360.
Finally, Kuo doesn’t see a jacked up iPad with a 12-inch or larger screen coming this year. That was a subject of earlier rumors but Samsung’s massive 12.2-inch Galaxy Note pro hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire. Instead, expect the usual iPad improvements, with a migration of the iPhone’s fingerprint reader, a faster processor and thinner body.
But with all the leaks, that won’t be the big news. When Apple does its official debut for the new gear, listen closely for the strategy.
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