Bill Graham Presents: Apple Comes Alive! (Part 2)

8 September 15

In Part 2 of our September 9th event coverage, we’ll talk about the other two items rumored to be on the agenda: The fabled iPad Pro and the inevitable iPhone “6s.”

Previously on theBrainFever: The iPad 3

In this 2011 article, I speculated on the possibility of an iPad Pro and what would define a professional approach to the iPad tablet device. Four years later, and we’re about to see if I got anything right.

iPhone 6ess

The certainty of this event will be the introduction of the next generation of iPhone. This is a tradition that’s gone on for several years, and this year should be no different. Cases have popped up in online leaks, even a box is floating around.

The one thing I have questions on is a minor point. I don’t like the name of the device being “iPhone 6s.” I think with a Samsung product already on the market as the “s6” this would be a good time for Apple to come up with a new naming convention. If Apple has to go into court and accuse Samsung of copying it, having a new product that appears to copy the “s6” name is going to be a point in Samsung’s favor. Not a big one, but lawyers can make a federal case out of anything.

As for the meat and potatoes of a new iPhone, the iPhone has gotten to a point where new features are difficult to come up with. It already does a hell of a lot already, everything you’d really want in a pocket-sized device. Recent features like Touch ID and the Retina display have been significant, but not essential, enhancements to the iPhone experience.

For the new iPhone 6s, being essentially a point release product, expectations are low. I’ve been calling for a higher-res camera for some time, and I really think we’ll get it this time. Apple needed to go back to the drawing board to deal with the camera bump on the back, so I’m sure they’ll also take the opportunity to up the specs at the same time. I also expect an increase in resolution for the FaceTime camera. Front-facing cameras are as important to kids as the rear-facing one.

Speaking of kids and cameras: would it be too much to ask to let people shoot landscape even if the phone is held in an upright position? I thought the sensors were square…

I expect the 6s to be the same two sizes as the 6 (4.5”/5.5”), with no inclusion of a new 4-inch model. The 5c was not a success, and doesn’t really warrant a “6c” upgrade, so the retro 5s will be the only, and potentially final, 4-inch phone option.

I have no reason to think that the rumors aren’t true about offering a new metallic pink option in addition to metallic beige, metallic grey and metallic extra grey. This business about “series 7000” aluminum goes over my head, but a stronger case is absolutely necessary, even if the Bendgate controversy was way overblown. You still shouldn’t be able to bend a phone with your bare hands.

As for the purported “3D Touch” sensors, adding a 3rd level of input detection beyond Force Touch, I am not in a good place with this potential input option. All of the sudden, the simplest interface in the world is getting really complicated and troublingly fragmented.

The Watch has 2-level force touch + digital crown + taptic. The portable Macs have force touch + taptic. The desktop Macs have regular touch. The iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPad mini and iPad will have regular touch. The iPhone 6s has the new 3-level touch (+ taptic?). That’s several different input methods over the product line. Is this a good idea?

Implementation is everything, and we’ll have to wait to see how the new 3rd level is used, but right now, I have bad visions of a left-click and right-click contextual menu situation. The interface does not need to hide more options or make touching the screen an unpredictable experience. So I’m curious to see how this works out.

There may also be some room to make that screen a few millimeters bigger and shrink the bezel slightly.

Bullet Points!

So to sum up, here’s what I expect from the iPhone 6s:

  • Same prices, memory sizes and screen sizes. Slightly thicker.
  • Rose Gold case (as was mined in the rose gold rush of 1849).
  • 3-level touch screen, same resolution.
  • HD FaceTime camera, 12MP rear camera (3rd time’s the charm on that prediction).
  • Enhanced internals, new A9 processor, improvements to the NFC and motion chips. Better phone-to-phone communication.

I also think Apple will have a new set of new-look iPhone cases, to match the new luxury aesthetic they’ve been pursuing lately.

No show stoppers in that list, but these point release phones are usually the more solid ones to get. I’ll be buying one.

The Third Man

There’s some doubt the iPad Pro will make the list at the Sept. 9 event, and Apple Keynotes are famous for getting last-second changes.

Let’s go over the things we expect from Apple in the closing quarter of the year:

iPhone 6s update
iPad Pro
iPad Mini 4
Apple TV 4
iOS 9 release
Mac OS X El Capitán release
24” iMac Retina
WatchOS 2.0 release
New Watch color
Watch accessories
New bluetooth keyboard & mouse
Apple Music fixes/updates

That’s a lot of stuff. This is easily a two-event agenda, even if you do consume the headline acts in the Sept. 9 announcement.

Apple likes to do these announcements with three items. I believe that the iPhone 6s, the Apple TV and the iPad Pro will all be announced at the Sept. 9 event, but the iPad Pro will not ship anytime soon, and a second event will cover it in depth. I think it will be along the lines of the Watch announcement: A twenty minute talk and then “more to come” at the next event, which will be in October.

So for Sept. 9:

iPhone 6s, shipping at the end of the month
Apple TV, shipping at the end of the month
iPad Pro, more to come at the October event
Apple Music fixes
Watch color & accessories

Also, does Beats Audio get a product or two in there? This serves as the Christmas event, essentially.

Then, in October:

iPad Pro, shipping ‘by the end of the year’
iPad mini, shipping immediately
24” iMac Retina
Bluetooth keyboard & mouse
OS X, iOS and WatchOS releases

As ever with Apple, the exact schedule of what they’ll talk about at a keynote is only known by about six people, so all we can do is guess. But the next big announcement will almost certainly be the iPad Pro.

The iPro Pad

The case has leaked and the screen size exposed thanks to data in the iOS 9 betas, so we know this: It’s going to be about 12-13 inches in size and it will have extra speakers. It will also have a stylus option. That’s not a whole lot to go on, but it’s a start.

Here’s what iPad Pro needs to be to satisfy the markets Apple wants to reach:

Creative Professionals: Make it function as a Wacom replacement, with a pressure-sensitive stylus and fine control. The pixels need to be extra dense. An easel-like case would be nice, too.

Enterprise: Make it function both as a portable touch input device and as a laptop replacement. Storage and a great keyboard are vital.

Education: Make it function as a multi-screen research and writing tool. Must be able to see web pages and write at the same time.

Prosumers & Consumers: Give it more screen real estate instead of a magnified iPad Air screen, and more storage and speed.

With those needs, one can guess what the iPad Pro will need. It will need a faster processor to drive a bigger screen. It will need new input methods like a stylus and a portable keyboard solution. It will need a new version of iOS and Apple productivity apps to accommodate new iPad Pro features.

So the best we can do is predict that it will ship with a larger storage capacity, a faster processor and more input options.

Memory: 32GB would be the bare minimum, and 128GB feels like the sweet spot
Screen: 12+ inches, with 3-level input, super-dense Retina resolution
Stylus: super-fine control with pinpoint accuracy and 256 levels of input
Keyboard: attachable keyboard that can be stowed away conveniently
Processor: big jump in computing power to smoothly render a much bigger screen. A9X or maybe even an A10.
Software: updates for multi-tasking and updates to productivity apps

Price? Let’s go with a starting price of $799, which will put it just below the $899 Mac Book. Rose Gold not available.

And to throw a wildcard in there, give it a USB-C port. Why not?