Friday, May 04, 2012

The iPhone Edition

I confess, I love my iPhone.  No, I don't just like it, I LOVE it.

I grew up in the fifties and early sixties, reading sci-fi beginning with Robert Heinlein's Have Space Suit, Will Travel.  I read the comic Dick Tracy in the Sunday comix for years, and vividly remember when the author gave Tracy his first two way wrist TV watch.  It was cool!!

Well, we never got that flying car we all dreamed about, but now, today, I've got a pocket version of that two way TV.

And.  It.  Is.  COOL!  Even when we were reading about Tracy and his wrist TV, we never imagined the things the real version of that device would be able to do.  Email, messaging, camera.  Video, the Internet, telephone.  Videophone, electronic level, a music player, a mobile TV, and a thousand other things, limited only by what the developers' imaginations can come up with.

I've been watching Apple and buying its products for over twenty five years.  I've watched its ups and downs.  I've been delighted by its wonderful software releases and despaired when it was repeatedly called beleaguered.  But most of all, I've kept a close eye on what it has released, when and how it has developed the technology that has lead it to today's cutting edge position in the market.

Apple tends to fall into patterns in how it introduces a new product and develops that product over its useful marketing life.  They start out simple, but elegant.  Something that shakes up that market and virtually remakes it into Apple's vision.  Oh, and incidentally, consumers snap it up like it was made of gold.

Then they gradually introduce new features.  Some, they introduce via software updates.  Others require introduction with new hardware.  Gradually, version after version, they make it into an awesome device.

But there are limitations in every technology, and for a smart phone, the screen is a big one.  Designed to be a touch controlled device, the screen is the user interface.  Developers have to draw the screens of their apps to match the resolution of the screen that app is to be displayed on.  So, when Apple released the iPhone 4 with the Retina Display, developers had to increase the resolution of their app's screens to match that display, or risk the apps looking like crap.  More on this later.

Traditionally, there are several indicators that signal that one of Apple's products are about to be updated to another version.  One is supply constraint.  Others have to do with the parts of current versions and how many of them are being ordered - or not.  Another is when Mac centered websites get word from supply chain companies as to new parts getting ordered.

Everybody expects Apple to release the new iPhone in the fall, because that's when they did it last year.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a few predictions about this year's edition of the iPhone.

First, it's going to be released this summer, back on the original annual release date, so it can be introduced at the WWDC.  That is the highest profile venue Apple has, and the iPhone is, face it, the highest profile product they sell.

Second, they will NOT make the screen 4 inches.  That would require their developers to rewrite every app out there to match the resolution of the new screen, since that would change the aspect ratio.  Probably.  Which was why I mentioned the resolution earlier.  When the Retinal Display was introduced, that didn't change the aspect ratio, it simply doubled the number of pixels the display had to show.  In the current case, making the phone 4 inches, you can do it two ways.  retain the aspect ratio, which would make the phone wider, and make it harder to use with one hand.  Especially if you've got a small hand!

Or, you can make it taller.  This changes the aspect ratio, and would require every app made for the phone to be rewritten.  But, more importantly, it would break the pairing between the iPad and the iPhone.  This is important, because a lot of apps are "universal" apps, or written to be used for either one.  If you don't have the same aspect ratio for both devices, that doesn't work anymore.

So, no 4 inch iPhone.  Sorry!

Lastly, I don't think Apple will make the iPhone 4G/LTE this year.  They're getting sued in Aussieland and in another country for the use of that term, and I think they'll wait till the chipsets for 4G are out which they can use in those countries without the risk of getting sued.  Additionally, waiting another year will ensure that the 4G/LTE networks are more widespread and robust by the time their phone is out that supports it.

Probably, the form factor will change - it's about time for that, and they've got some cool new technology which just might be able to make the new phone a ground breaker - again.

So, there you've got it, my prognostications about the new iPhone, and no, I won't wade into the controversy over what they'll call it - but I do think they'll follow the iPad route and just call it the new iPhone!

1 comment:

Oldfart said...

If it is not 4G, I'm not going to buy a new one and I may start looking at an Android phone.