My iPhone 5 Predictions

Since everyone is making iPhone 5 predictions, I will too. Let me acknowledge up front that I do not have any inside information, knowledge of leaked designs, or special access to the powers that be. I am just trying to figure out what Apple plans to do by extrapolating from Apple’s past activities. By considering how the company evolves its products responds to the capabilities and features of competing products, including things that it tends to hold back on for a variety of reasons, I can make some reasonable predictions.

So here I go

The likely attributes

  • Physical dimensions:
    • On one hand, I tend to think that the external size will not change from the iPhone 4. This makes sense because it allows many of the existing accessories to fit the iPhone 5. On the other hand, it must have a distinctively different “look” so that people can easily spot the owners of the new iPhone 5 and separate them from the now-dated owners of the “old” iPhone 4. This will undoubtedly prompt even the iPhone 4 owners to inconveniently consider an upgrade.
  • Cameras:
    • I’m betting the new iPhone will have a back-facing Backside illuminated (BSI) sensor 8MP camera, perhaps with a better flash. Video shooting capability may be boosted to 1080p (even though the Apple TV doesn’t yet support it).
    • There is some chance the front facing camera might be upgraded to HD or XGA resolution because VGA resolution is barely adequate for high quality video conferencing.
  • Screen:
    • Based on the rumor mill, I see three options. However, given that I believe the size and shape and shape (form factor) will essentially remains the same (fitting in most earlier accessories), the screen can either
      • Extend to the entire front face (excluding the speaker and camera areas).
      • Be stretched to cover almost the entire front face (excluding the speaker and camera areas).
      • Be almost the same as iPhone 4, if not the same.
    • Resolution – I’d expect retina pixel density, no less and no more.
    • Technology – While it is possible that we’ll see something new here, it’s really not necessary since the iPhone screen is already amazingly good.
  • Behind the scenes:
    • Processor –I think the A5 will be enough. It will be advertised as at least doubling the speed.
    • Battery – It makes sense that this last at least same length of time and maybe 20-30% longer.
  • Connectivity:
    • Near-field Communication (NFC) – The ability to be used as a credit card will almost surely be part of the iPhone – to feature-match Android.
    • The Ability to serve as a WiFi hotspot will be built in and available, although perhaps dependent upon a carrier option.
    • There’s around a 50% chance that there will be some LTE capabilities in the modem. The reasons I’m still somewhat doubtful are that this technology is barely mature enough for Apple to adopt and global support might require too many variations based on frequencies. But there’s still a chance.
    • Question: Will the iPhone 5 be the first popular phone in the world to blend CDMA and GSM technologies and run both on Verizon and AT&T networks in the US? This is a possibility. The appeal to Apple is that this  would reduce the variability of the product line although it would increase the cost. For most consumers, this wouldn’t matter, but for some it would. Also, this cost will unlikely be noticed in the end user price.
  • Software:
    • Obviously, the iPhone 5 will ship with iOS 5which will be consistent with the features and capabilities already advertised. I expect no big surprises here. The most important aspect of this, of course, is iCloud, which will allow software updates and content syncing over the air. Another important capability is iMessage and Twitter integration.
  • Other changes:
    • Will Apple remove the home button and the mute button?
    • Some rumors (here and there) and inspections of Apple code reveal these changes are possible. I hope neither happens because both are useful, in particular the Home button – it makes the device more accessible to people.
  • Prices, availability, and other stuff:
    • An unlocked version sold directly from Apple will be available at launch with a higher price tag. This willclearly highlight the price of the subsidy. Note that Apple began with this, recoiled from it, and then quietly rolled out an unlocked version of the iPhone 4 earlier this year. This time around, I think the unlocked version will be made available right from the start.
    • The new iPhone 5 will cost $200 (subsidized) for the basic model and $600-$650 at retail unlocked – same as the iPhone 4, today.
    • The old iPhone will drop by $100-$150 and will continue to be available at Apple stores unlocked for a period of time.

What’s out:

  • 3D – despite rumors, I believe there will be no 3D display or cameras. I think Apple realize this is more of a fad than a real end user positive experience at this stage.
  • Privacy screen – despite rumors suggesting the display will be such that only one person can watch it at a specific angle – Apple want people to share their screen.
  • Different form factor – Apple does change this, and the iPhone has had 4 models, and only one of them did not change the form factor (3GS). However, even though this has been the longest gap in availability of a new iPhone, I believe the form factor may not change materially. Rumors contradict this (here and here).
  • Quad core processor or two processors. Some rumors suggested these, but I think the iPad will remain the processor testing ground for iOS and no new processor will be introduced – hence the A5 will be the processor.

What else will be announced:

  • A cheaper iPhone. I suggested to Apple that they do this a while back – the sooner they allow more consumers to use their devices more affordably, , the better for them. Android is already the dominant seller. The predictions were for a $350 unsubsidized and unlocked iPhone 3GS. I believe that if it is the iPhone 3GS, it will be sold for $300 or less, perhaps even $250. This will compete with the iPod Touch – and therefore, the iPod Touch’s price will subsequently be adjusted to below $200.
  • An alternative would be an iPhone 4S – a cheaper version of the current iPhone, in which case, $350 is more likely.
  • The iPhone that will be announced MIGHT be called iPhone 4S rather than iPhone 5 – especially if it doesn’t change the physical dimensions. But the gap in availability leads me to think that it’s more likely to be called iPhone 5.

Bottom Line

You might wonder why this is important? Well, it isn’t terribly important for most people. Most will just get a phone if they like it. It will almost certainly be better than the iPhone 4 (which is already very good) and unless you have an iPhone 4, you will most likely want one – unless you are dead set against Apple. However, it is important for Apple’s competitors to try to correctly predict Apple’s maneuvers and to try to compete more effectively. Even for competitors, the most effective strategy is to innovate independently and to understand and anticipate consumer wants and needs. Yet, it’s good to know where the competition is going and consider this as part of the strategy and tactics.

I’m sure we’ll discover soon enough how accurate my predictions are.

Which of my predictions do you agree with or think I’ve missed or gotten wrong?

7 thoughts on “My iPhone 5 Predictions”

  1. Tal,

    Nice blog, and I reckon close to the mark. I hope Apple go with swapping the glass back with aluminium (a la iPad 2).

    Not sure if you spotted that the 4 already has a personal wi-fi hotspot available, or did you mean something else? That makes the 3G version of the iPad redundant as long as you have both devices.

    I absolutely buy that Apple will go for a cheaper version to drive wider adoption and compete with droids. And that LTE is too new-fangled for Apple yet.

    If my service provider offers a free upgrade I’d go for it, but can’t really see myself rushing to head the queue until I next drop my 4.

    Biggest excitement will be around iCloud, and that isn’t device dependant.



  2. Tony, re personal WiFi hotspot – if I’m not mistaken, originally this was an option paid extra as add-on by the service provider, e.g. AT&T. Technically, the device could do this well ahead of the iPhone 4. I doubt many will replace their iPhone 4 for iPhone 5.

    Shai, exactly what I was suggesting (very cheap iPhone) – but I kinda of doubt this rumor will pan out. No memory on the device sounds impractical for Apple to implement. While Apple TV might work almost like this – it still has 8GB of memory, if I recall correctly – perhaps for apps…

  3. Nice blog. We have very clear explanation. I got more information on iPhone5. We have lot of rumors on iPhone5. What about the rumors. And can anyone tell, What is At&t technology. Thank you.

  4. So, I’m glad to report I got it at least 80% accurate:

    Physical dimension:
    – Indeed no change in main dimensions – but some minor differences are visible – as suggested.
    – precisely as I predicted (1080p, 8 MBP BSI)
    – Like I predicted
    Behind the scenes:
    – LIke I predicted
    – World phone – I guessed right here.

    I did correctly state that it would be called iPhone 4S if the form factor doesn’t change.

    Correct on all of “what’s out”:
    – 3D
    – Privacy screen
    – Different form factor
    – Quad core

    I missed:
    – I had NFC pegged, not included.
    – WiFi hotspot without additional fees – not mentioned
    – LTE – while I gave it only 50%, it didn’t materialize
    – I forgot to emphasize Siri or even mention it… oops!
    – Got it wrong on price and the low-cost model

    Well – not bad. I think it’s 80% accurate, if not more.

  5. Hay Tal,
    I remembered you’ve had some interesting predictions, so I got back here to compare as well 🙂

    Indeed 80% is quite amazing – very nice! I don’t think I’ve seen such accuracy elsewhere.

    Seems like yesterday’s announcements left many people underwhelmed. I am wondering if indeed it is the essence of the announcements which is underwhelming, or perhaps they didn’t have a clear, coherent messaging around all the new stuff to package it nicely. After all, the 4S + iOS 5 + iCloud together indeed pack a serious punch.

    Finally and on a personal note, my shallow consumer self did want a new form factor to play with… Oh well 😉

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