What can we expect from Apple in 2014? Well of course Apple is notoriously tight-lipped about what’s to come so not much comes directly from them until they deliberately make announcements but that doesn’t stop Apple analysts and devotees attempting to piece together snippets of information in an attempt to peer into the future.
It’s been an unspectacular year for Apple shareholders who are desperate for news of innovation and new product for 2014. Respected Apple analysts like David Hsieh from DisplaySearch, Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald and KGI Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo spend their time pouring over acquisitions and new supply agreements that could offer some hints as to the direction and timing of future product development.
Here, we take a look at these investment viewpoints, combine views from technology and design experts like Tim Bajarin, a recognised Apple expert and Carolina Milanesi, VP of Research at Gartner Technology Research and overlay some “leaked news” and rumours to shed some light on what the coming year might look like for Apple.
iPhone 6 set for an enlargement
Almost everyone agrees there will probably be a larger iPhone in 2014, although in keeping with one of Apple’s design policies, it would be unlikely it is so large that it doesn’t fit in one hand.
Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald was led to believe the iPhone 6 screen could be as large as 5 inches by tech suppliers. In a note to investors in October he wrote, "Our meeting with a tech supply chain vendor highlighted a bigger iPhone is in the works, and our contact expects a launch in the 2Q:14/3Q:14 timeframe.”
Also in October, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek reported back after a meeting with Apple suppliers that the screen on the iPhone 6 would be 4.8 inches, while DisplaySearch analyst David Hsiehs’ intelligence predicted a 4.7 inch screen for the iPhone 6. So although the size details vary, a lot of respected Apple analysts are confident the iPhone 6 will be quite a bit bigger than its predecessors.
iPad family set to grow
A number of predictions are floating around about the iPad. Perhaps the most exciting is the possibility of a ‘maxi’ iPad in the first half of 2014. Supply chain sources claim the new 12.9 inch iPad is in the final stages of production. Hsieh is also expecting the large iPad next year, along with the iPad mini 2 later with portrait mode in the second half the year.
Many people have expectations that Apple will develop a whole new product, or at least innovative new applications for their existing ones like the iPad. PC Writer magazine, Tim Bajarin is one of them. In a recent article on his own predictions for 2014, he states “Apple Will Release a Groundbreaking Productivity Device”. Bajarin believes that the growing business tablet user market will be a key focus for Apple in 2014.
He writes “I believe it [Apple] will create a unique, groundbreaking iPad-class product focused on business and productivity. I have no clue about its design, although some think it might be what they call an "iPad Pro" while others think it could be some type of convertible. I am not sure what it will be, but I suspect that whatever it is will be a surprise to all.”
In terms of technology developments, Milanesi sees gesture technology as well as voice and touch, playing a big role in the tablets of the future. This kind of technology could come in very handy for in-car use – a direction Apple is interested in.
New 12 inch Macbook
Ming-Chi Kuo from KGI believes his research points to the development of a 12 inch Macbook, “We expect the unprecedented 12” model will boast both the portability of the 11” model, and productivity of the 13” model. The high resolution display will also offer the outstanding visual experience of the Retina MacBook Pro. The offering will likely be lighter and slimmer than the existing MacBook Air to further highlight ease of portability in the cloud computing era. We think the form factor will showcase a much improved clamshell structure, and that it will redefine laptop computing once again following the milestone created by the MacBook Air.”
DisplaySearch analysts agree with Kuo on the 12 inch Macbook prediction.
iWatch this space
One topic the analysts are very split on is whether or not there’ll be an Apple iWatch anytime soon. Motley Fool contributor, Anders Bylund seems confident it has to be on the cards with Apple ‘due for a new device’, but most others aren’t so sure.
Bajarin goes all out with the opposite view, “Smartwatches Die in 2014”. He is convinced that so far no one has nailed the design, or is looking like they will. Until that happens, Bajarin is confident they’ll never achieve mass appeal. Having said that, if anyone can master the design…
Instead of smartwatches, Bajarin thinks a new ‘Digital Health’ category is more likely to make a debuit in 2014, writing, “What will be hot are wearable health-related devices such as the NikeFuel Band, Fitbit, Jawbone UP, and Bluetooth-related health devices such as wireless blood pressure kits, wireless blood glucose testing kits, and so on.”
Carolina Milanesi believes Apple will come up with something that we wear. Perhaps it will be in the digital health category?
The future of Apple TV
Talk about an Apple television has been going on for some time. Once again, there’s some disagreement on this topic. Motley Fool’s Anders Bylund takes the view that the margins in televisions are too thin to warrant any development in that area, but Carolina Milanesi thinks a product that there could be a hybrid Mac that combines a TV screen with a Mac for private and commercial use.
Bajarin believes any innovation is more likely to be on the Apple TV set to box which has not had a hardware upgrade for more than 12 months. A Bloomberg article in October announced that according to Masahiko Ishino, a Japanese analyst at Advanced Research, Apple would release 55 and 65 inch screen TVs at the end of 2014. Although Ishino kept his sources a secret, he ventured that the televisions would likely be frameless and cost are $1,500 – $2,500.
Hints from Apple Acquisitions
Pundits watch acquisitions closely for indications of future direction. Of course, even more than product development, Apple doesn’t generally respo9nd to questions on this subject. Instead, we’re left to guess. Some guesses are easier than others. First, acquisitions of HopStop, Poly9, Placebase and Locationary point to a distinct interest in improving Apple’s mapping and location capabilities.
The reported acquisition of PrimeSense, the Israeli company responsible for the development of the Xbox Kinect 3D sensor may support some of the analyst expectations around gesture recognition technology.
One acquisition that seems a little left field is Topsy, the Twitter social analytics company. Some say this could be important in the next Apple TV set-top box iteration, others suggest it may have more to do with iTunes Radio or their iAd product. Regardless, it has everyone guessing.
Definites for Apple in 2014
Speaking to Apple’s Q4 earnings recently, Apple CEO, Timothy Cook himself hinted at an exciting 2014; "We obviously believe we can use our skills in building other great products that are in categories that represent areas that we do not participate today."
One thing is clear – in 2014, Apple will continue to feed the hungry global demand for smartphones and tablets with more versatile devices that can take over more and more functions that used to be the sole realm of the PC.
You can expect to see all kinds of mobile technology continue to evolve quickly over the coming year and into the future – a trend that’s forcing us all to develop websites and applications that are both responsive and optimised at a faster rate than ever.