Fun With Predictions

As you know, Federal guidelines require tech writers to give wild and hair-brained predictions about what new things they expect to be announced in the near future. As a strict rule follower, I am here to do my duty of predicting what I think we’ll see this year.

The long and the short of it is, I expect 2012 will be a great year for new tech.

The third iPad

Though I doubt it will be called the iPad 3 (probably the iPad HD), I am confident it will have a Retina Display, a better camera, and Siri.

And, I hope, it will be easier to hold in one hand. The biggest culprit to using the iPad with one hand is its weight and the slippery aluminum back. This is a problem I don’t know how to solve without either shrinking the iPad’s size or going to a more “grippy” plastic back. But even the HP TouchPad, which had a plastic back, was not easy to hold with one hand. And we all know that the iPad won’t be getting any smaller.

Perhaps the iPad will simply not be easy to hold one handed for quite some time.

I think the smart cover is here to stay. It’s a winner, in that it’s elegant, clever, and useful.

Also I think Apple is going to sell more of the 3G models. Just a hunch, but as people start to realize that their iPad can serve as a primary computer then an extra $129 to get 3G becomes a valuable upgrade.

The iPad’s wild card is that we still don’t really know what the common upgrade cycle is. For phones they are every 2 years. For iPods they are every 5 years. For computers they are every 3 – 4 years. But what is the iPad’s upgrade cycle?

My hunch is that for most people, the iPad’s upgrade cycle will span out to be once every 2 years. It borders on being as useful as a computer, but it is much more affordable.

A casual poll of my Twitter followers revealed that the vast majority of those who currently are using the original iPad also plan to upgrade to the iPad 3. Especially if it has a Retina Display.

I think the iPad will have a new case because it will accommodate the new internals that make the retina display possible, and also because I think the iPad is still flawed at being easily hold able with one hand.

The Sixth iPhone

It seems to be commonly referred to as the “iPhone 5″, but the 4S is the fifth iPhone. The next iPhone will be the sixth iPhone. But I don’t expect that the next iPhone will be called “iPhone 6″. No doubt they’ll return to just iPhone one year. Maybe this year?

Will the next iPhone have a new case design? Possibly. But only if it’s an improvement. Change for change’s sake is pointless. I don’t think the next iPhone needs a new hardware design, and honestly I would not be surprised if it stayed relatively similar to the current design.

You’ve basically got two theories or trains of thought going one way or the other regarding the next iPhone’s hardware design:

  • Theory Number 1: This camp says that the iPhone is on a two-year development cycle that started with the 3G. There was the 3G and then the 3GS. Then there was the 4 followed by the 4S. Next will be the iPhone [whatever] followed by the [whatever]S.

    This theory is proven by the past four years and two development cycles of the iPhone. It’s an easily identifiable pattern, and it makes a strong case for why the next iPhone will have a new hardware design.

    What else make sense about this development cycle is that it does well to help keep current iPhone users happy. Those who upgrade once every 2 years (from 3G → 4 or from 3GS → 4S) don’t feel like they’re getting left out too much in between their upgrade cycles, and those who are hard core enough to upgrade every year still feel that there is something worthwhile to upgrade to.

  • Theory Number 2: This camp says that the iPhone 4 is the iPhone that Steve Jobs wanted from the beginning, but it took 4 years of iteration for Apple to get there. I don’t know that I would say the hardware design of the iPhone 4S is perfect, but it is darn close. It’s robust, attractive, feels great, looks great, has a killer display, a great camera, long battery life, and strong cellular reception.

    Moreover, Apple is still having trouble keeping up with consumer demand for the iPhone. Keeping the same hardware design will not only allow them to further improve upon their production times, it will also allow them to focus more energy on the internals of the phone. Hopefully bringing us faster mobile data speeds, faster processors, longer battery life, and who knows what else.

But the wild card is that in 2007, when Steve Jobs first introduced iPhone, he said that it was 5 years ahead of any other smartphone. It has now been 5 years. I could see the next iPhone being continued iteration because that’s how Apple rolls. But I could also see the next iPhone being something huge, something for the next 5 years.

iOS 6

I’ve only got 2 guesses as to what we’ll see in iOS 6.

  • Updated Maps app with voice navigation. When I was using the Galaxy Nexus, this was by far one of the coolest features of Android. Comparatively, iOS maps and navigation are sorely lacking.

  • Significant improvements to and the expansion of Siri. As I’ve written below, I expect Siri will already be available on the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 before iOS 6 ships. But I don’t think the current functionality of what Siri does will be expanded until the next major release of iOS. Then I think we’ll see more options (such as the ability to launch and control apps with Siri), and allowing 3rd-party apps to utilize Siri via the iOS 6 SDK.

I also think iOS 6 will be one step closer towards the semi-amalgamation of iOS and OS X. With Lion, Apple tipped their hand that this is where their operating systems are going. I have a hard time picturing the two operating systems being literally identical, but in terms of the front-end user experience I think there will be only more and more similarities.

Put another way, Apple wants OS X to be as easy and safe to use as iOS is.

Speaking of Siri

I have no doubt that in 2012 Siri will branch out to many more Apple products this year, including the iPad 2, iPhone 4, and the latest iPod touch.

And I think we all know it’s only a matter of time until Siri comes to the Desktop. When that time will be, I have no clue.

Thunderbolt Peripherals

Hopefully we’ll begin to see 3rd parties coming out with external hard drives, microphones, USB/Firewire hubs, and other Thunderbolt peripherals this year. One thing I do know for certain is that I’m not buying any of the aforementioned peripherals until I can buy one with Thunderbolt.

15-inch MacBook Air

Before I bought my 13-inch Air I was in want of a 15-inch Air. I loved the screen real estate on my 15-inch MacBook Pro and didn’t want to give that up. What I did want to ditch was the Super Drive and the extra weight. Of course, as you know, I bought a 13-inch Air last summer and I’m glad I did.

Television?

Not yet. I think we’ll see moderate improvements to the current Apple TV’s software (such as the addition of access to our purchased movies), but I don’t think we’ll see the Big Whopper until 2013. There’s not hard proof that Apple is even planning on making a television, but where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. And there is a lot of smoke around this topic.

My reasoning for why an Apple Television (iTV?) won’t be introduced until 2013 is totally random. In short, I’m guessing that 2012 will be a very big year for Macs, iDevices, and iCloud. I see these things laying a stronger foundation for what an Apple television will offer and how it will integrate with all the Apple stuff folks already have, and so this next big thing will ship after this year.

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