Apple may be the most interesting and well-known tech company on earth, but it’s also the most secretive. That, of course, is part of its seductive power. So some of us spend a lot of time trying to figure out what Apple will do next, and why. Whole web sites are dedicated to writing about Apple rumors, after all.
Since it’s Christmastime, I think I’ll invent some new predictions (or re-gift some old ones) about what Apple will release next year. Why not? I’m about half rocked on egg nog and brandy anyway. So here they are…
1. Apple will release a new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in June. The phones will use the same plastic back that the iPhone 5C used. And these phones will be significantly less expensive than the original iPhone 6. This will be a good move for Apple because it will put more Apple devices with NFC chips on the market, so many more people will be using Apple Pay. It would also mean that far more people will own devices that can pair with the Apple Watch.
2. Following the path of previous release schedules and nomenclature, an upgraded iPhone 6S will show up in 2015. The phone may sport an improved camera, very likely a Sapphire screen, and possibly some 3D screen effects. Depending on the availability of the Sapphire glass, the 6S could be released with the plastic 6C in June (see above), or in fall 2015.
3. Apple Watch will arrive by Valentine’s Day. The Apple Watch could redefine the smartwatch category if it delivers on all of Apple’s promises. That’s why there’s so much anticipation for it. The watch could also significantly impact the futures of a few companies (Samsung, Motorola, Sony, Pebble). Anyway, we may not have very much longer to wait for the damn thing to show up. A couple of elves told me the device will go on sale before Valentine’s Day. Or were they Leprechauns?
4. The Apple Watch will be divorced from the iPhone for mobile payments. Yes, Apple designed a small near-field communications (NFC) chip in the Apple Watch. That chip can be used for mobile payments — a long as your iPhone 5 or iPhone 6 is nearby. But that’s no fun. The Apple Watch, and other smartwatches, will begin to do more things independent of a paired smartphone in 2015. Within the next year, Apple will update that Watch so that it can make Apple Pay payments without the iPhone. The watch might simply store the financial information until it can connect to the Internet, or it might transmit the financial information using the merchant’s point-of-sale system.
5. Apple will finally explain how the HealthKit platform works, and how consumers should use it with the Health app. When Apple announced its HealthKit platform and the Health app in iOS 8, lots of people were left scratching their heads about how they could use the thing. What is it anyway? Is it a cloud service that stores live health information? Or does it just direct one app to share data with another one at a specific time?
You can already use the HealthKit platform to unite biometrics data from different devices and apps on a dashboard in the Health app. But putting it all together in one place isn’t the same as deriving meaningful and actionable insights from the data. I think we’ll get a far better understanding of this in the new year.
6. Apple will launch a subscription music streaming service. With all the experience, clout, and relationships Apple has built up in music, why hasn’t it launched a subscription music service yet? The Spotify model clearly works; people want it. Apple took a step toward serving music in this way by launching its Radio service in iTunes, but that hasn’t been hugely popular. Look for Apple to leverage the Beats curation engine to power a new subscription service in the coming year.
7. Apple will release a set of wireless, heartbeat-sensing headphones. This could be a longshot, but it would be very cool. When the watch comes out, one of its main jobs will be to play music from the phone. But soon it might store its own music and connect to a pair of wireless headphones via Bluetooth. Why cede those headphones to another company? Apple’s Beats people will work with both the Watch and Health teams to create a pair of wireless headphones that also can track key biometrics like pulse, blood flow, and even maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 Max). Yes, the watch already has its own biometric sensors, so the ones in the headphones would be redundant, but the iPhones have no such sensors.
8. Apple will launch a 12-inch iPad. The company has been talking a lot this year about its desire to break further into the enterprise space. Look for Apple to specific efforts to target key verticals like health care with the iPhone 6 Plus and iPad Air tablets. But many in the business community want a hybrid device that bridges the divide between tablet and laptop. A large version of the iPad Air might be just the ticket. Expect the announcement in June.
9. Shocker! Apple TV will not happen in 2015, despite (more dumb) predictions. Duh. Building the hardware and software for the “iTV” isn’t the problem. Apple needs to bring the content, too. And prying that from the white-knuckled hands of the likes of Viacom, Disney, and the NFL at reasonable prices is a long shot, even for Apple.
10. We’ll almost certainly see a new and upgraded MacBook Air. This could be a new, smaller 12-inch model with an upgraded USB port. It might also come with TouchID for web purchases. Why not?
So with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head here’s wishing you the merriest of Christmases, a good figgy pudding without too many lumps, and a new year filled with shiny new toys — some of them, no doubt, made by Apple, Inc.