Friday, October 4, 2013

iPhone 6: Expectations vs Reality

While I do not own any Apple devices and adamantly refuse to do so, I have a deep-seated interest on mobile technology and can't possibly ignore Apple's recent developments. (Return readers would probably notice the unusually high number of Apple-related posts I have written...). This interest is in part explained by the fact that Apple is in my stock portfolio. As a good friend recently said, "while I invest in Apple personally, you invest in Apple financially." All I can say is, Apple has been a solid investment so far.

But let us not detract from the purpose of this blog post, which is to provide commentary on the numerous rumors regarding the next iteration of Apple's popular iPhone device: the iPhone 6. As articles like this or this speculate, the iPhone 6 should be a major upgrade in both hardware and software. And therein lies the keyword: should. Amongst the many features these writers/bloggers are clamoring for, there are few very popular ones: (1) bigger display, (2) quad-core A8 processor, (3) NFC, (4) iOS8, (5) wireless charging, (6) element resistance, e.g. water, (7) better camera, and (8) eye-tracking. All of the aforementioned would be major enhancements to the iPhone, but I think if we're rational and review what Apple has done historically, only 1 or 2 of will actually be part of the iPhone 6 next year. In short, people need to be real and stop overhyping.

Historically speaking, the "S" iteration of every iPhone release sequence has included the biggest and most evolutionary changes to the least on the hardware side. We've seen this most recently with the iPhone 5S -- with its superior camera, iOS 7, the M7 sensors and, arguably the most significant, the A7 SOC chip. The vastness of the 5S upgrade from the 5 is underscored by the folks over at AnAndtech labeling it, "quite possibly the biggest S-update we've ever seen from Apple." I'd have to agree, especially remembering that the biggest update from the 4 to 4S was the inclusion of Siri. So in other words, history has shown us that Apple tends to save its biggest "under-the-hood" updates to the iPhone for the "S" iteration.

With this in mind, I believe we can start debunking some of the wild rumors flying around. Let's go back to our original list of 8 and do a brief breakdown of each:

1. Bigger display -- Certain
The screen on my Samsung Galaxy S2 is still bigger than that of the iPhone 5S. Think about that for a moment. Apple is missing out a large part of the market by being fixated on a single screen side, and my best guess is that they will increase the size screen a further .5 inches to 4.5 inches. This should be the sweet spot for Apple as it won't alienate the current customer base while appealing to potential customers with a fetish for bigger screen sizes. The bonus is that this strategy would further differentiate between the flagship and the "C" iteration, and consequently sell more of the flagship device.

2. Quad-core A8 processor -- Likely, but...
...the performance update will be incremental at best. Think in terms of higher frequencies all around, rather than more physical cores per CPU and GPU. The A7 SOC already performs against the best other manufacturers like Intel and Qualcomm have to offer, and ushered in the 64-bit era to ARM chipsets. Apple might double the number of CPU cores to 4, but will certainly retain the quad-core GPU configuration. The potential for performance gain will fall on software developers to take advantage of the new architecture, rather than from the hardware side. 

3. NFC -- No
Apple is proud of its proprietary technology and I don't see them deviating from their current stance, unless NFC is somehow recognized as the de-facto contact-less payment and file transfer systems. 

4. iOS 8 -- Likely
The 7th version came out only six months after the 6th version, and I can see Apple continuing this trend. While the hardware on the iPhones is difficult to topple, it's another story on the software side. Android and, to a lesser extent, WP8 platforms have been on the forefront of innovations and iOS at this point comes off as an also-ran. It might be a big change too, considering the newer processing power available and Tim Cook's boast of "desktop-level" performance.

5. Wireless charging -- No
Just like the NFC above, Apple is into its own proprietary technologies and not about following others. 

6. Element resistance -- Unlikely
Aside from the usual resistance to fingerprints and scratches, Apple is not going to risk their profit margin on a feature that few customers will ultimately find useful. There's also an ascetic factor that can't be overlooked.

7. Better camera -- Likely
As good as the improvements to the iPhone 5S' camera, the resolution remains a mediocre 8 megapixels. An upgrade to 13 megapixels would be straightforward and bring Apple even to its other competitors -- all except Nokia's ridiculous 41 megapixel sensor.

8. Eye-tracking -- No
Just as Siri was cool but ultimately is proving to be relatively useless, eye-tracking is a gimmicky technology that customers are impressed by but won't be a deciding factor.

I'll add that I do also foresee the increase of the memory (RAM) from 1GB to 2GB for the iPhone 6 (before being doubled again to 4GB for 6S). This would be a no-brainer given the new 64-bit architecture now powering the iPhones. 


  1. Great observation and prediction right there! But the eye-tracking feature should really need to see the light of day.
    -Business News Australia