Forecasting the Sept 12 Announcement

8 September 12

This Apple announcement is a weird one. Circumstances have everyone so off-kilter that no one is even ready to commit to calling this an “iPhone 5” announcement. But I will. I’m bold like like that. No fear. Malt whiskey is my drink – and my cologne. The Sept. 12 event is all about the iPhone 5.

Also, it’s kind of strange that we’ve known details about this product in far more detail then we ever have before with an Apple product. We have iPhone 5 parts aplenty and even the outer shell. It’s felt like we’re a part of the dev team. So, what surprises are left?

Rather than just pick out stuff I think is going to happen, let’s run down the things we think we know, and see what sounds good.


Lock it in. LTE (aka “Super Fast 4G”) is already present on the The New iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular. Every major manufacturer has LTE, the tower infrastructure is ready and the LTE chips are already in use.


The display, as we’ve all read about, is supposed to be taller. There was an interesting observation by Daring Fireball on why the initial run of various manufacturers’ LTE phones all were oversized. They needed the space for the chip set and battery. I think that’s the best explanation for a “taller” phone, not competition from the ridiculous Galaxy Note phones. The taller iPhone will give just enough extra battery time for the hungrier LTE chip set.

But what about the extra screen space? Many mock-ups have shown its extra pixels are nearly perfect to display an extra row of icons on the home page. Although, if I were an interface designer at Apple, and I had to drop a really cool iPhone feature due to screen space, the bigger screen might be a good time to put it in. Just speculation.

We’ve also seen some mention that the new display is improving on the retina display to show an expanded color range. If Apple can do this, they’ll do it. Color gamut is vitally important to Apple. That last sentence sounds like a joke, but no, they really are color geeks at Apple.

I have also been noticing that Apple is getting the display closer and closer to the surface of the screen. I expect that trend to continue.


The A5X processor from the iPad is the likeliest choice, and motherboard leaks seem to support this, but the leaks are inconsistent and many are bad fakes. Apple could pull an A6 out of its hat. The usual development pattern for Apple would suggest an A5X.


Apple likes to make one phone for worldwide use, so the LTE antennas would be global-compatible. LTE has different antenna frequencies in various markets, but the iPhone 5 would want to find the best mix for everyone.

I’m guessing a quad-band antenna of 700MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2600MHz. No 800MHz or 2300MHz. I’m not sure about 2700MHz. How’s that for a prediction?

By the way, if “Antenna-gate” sent Apple back to the drawing board in 2010 to design a better external antenna, this would be the year that antenna would surface, figuring the usual development cycle times.


I think the Giants have had their run, and the winner of the NFC will come out of the NFC West this year.

It may just be me, but I get the impression that the NFC payment system makes Apple nervous. They could have put NFC in the iPhone 4 back in 2010, but didn’t. To me, the iOS 6 Passbook app isn’t a gateway to an NFC-based payment system, but a way to provide that functionality while intentionally avoiding NFC.

Maybe there’s some security piece to the NFC puzzle Apple isn’t comfortable with. Maybe it’s a legal or financial issue with going through payment companies. Who knows. All I can really say is that Apple isn’t going to offer NFC right now. My instinct tells me that Apple wants to do a retail payment system, but wants to do it right.

New Plug

Many leaks of both the iPhone 5 and the “iPad Mini” show a new connector plug. You’d think Apple had just required its users to convert to the metric system by the feedback. The fact is that the 30-pin connector is delicate, easily damaged, eats pocket lint, and is way too wide for a mobile device. The plug was going to change sooner or later, and this is that time. I have faith in human civilization to find the strength to persevere.

I had made a prediction last year that the plug would disappear soon. I still think it’s a better option to make all syncing and charging wireless, but that doesn’t seem to be the way of things for now. Users will find themselves using AirPlay more and more, but most users still dock their iPhones when idle, so maybe it makes sense for them to keep the plug.


The jack is reportedly now on the bottom, which makes a bit more sense if you don’t like a headphone cord draped across the front of the phone when you hold it. I’m always trying to brush it aside, and put behind the phone, but the short cord makes that difficult. The jack on the bottom fixes that.

We’ve also seen a very good set of photos of new headphones, that appear quite credible.

The Apple punditverse seems to think these headphones are fake because the cord lacks a microphone, but remember that Apple makes some devices that don’t use the mic, like the iPod, and the images don’t really show the whole cord – especially where the mic/button bit is supposed to be.

I also think that the use of a multi-button control rankles the designers at Apple. It’s confusing and awkward. Siri would be a much more fluid feature if you didn’t need to press a button and hold it every time you wanted to use it. An in-ear mic that is voice-activated would be a very elegant solution.

Product Line

This is the end of the 3GS, I do think. It’s tempting to keep it on as a totally unsubsidized phone, but keep in mind that the unsubsidized market is found primarily in China, where the 3GS’ GSM antenna is no good. Plus, the old processor will hold back iOS development in the future. Time to move on.

The 8GB iPhone 4 becomes the $0 option, now available to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. The $99 option will be an 8GB iPhone 4S.

I do think it’s possible that Apple just simplifies everything and makes a new-ish hybrid 4/4S “iPhone 4x.” It could be priced at $0 on contract and they eliminate the 3-tier system and go with a two-tier price structure, or they could even build this new phone for the unsubsidized market.


In some of the leaked faceplate photos we’ve seen for the iPhone 5, what few seem to note is the presence of colored faceplates for the 4/4S. Maybe it’s just some silliness in the prototype stage, or they really are fakes, but a color option on the iPhones has always felt like something Apple could do if it really wanted to. Maybe now is the time.

Previously, Apple was restricted on doing colors because of the sheer volume of SKU’s it meant. 8/16/32 GB sizes, GSM/CDMA, and Black/White options resulted in 12 versions of the same phone having to be built, shipped and stocked. That gave Apple liabilities when it came to their inventory channel, as an unpopular SKU could make the inventories stack up and affect the bottom line.

But with an iPhone 4/4S or a 4x running one antenna & chip set, and just one memory size, a color option becomes not only likely, but kind of a no-brainer. I think the 5 will still be a black and white proposition, but the 4 will have color options. Light blue, bright green, pink, black and white. Maybe orange, maybe red.


Same deal as last time. The iPhone 5 on contract will be $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32 and $399 for 64.


The optics may be in for a big improvement. The space vacated by the headphone jack could let Apple really innovate here, but there have been virtually no leaks or credible information about the iPhone 5 camera. I’m thinking 12MP might be the new spec, although Apple is far more concerned with quality then megapixels.


It’s going to be thinner. That’s Apple’s thing. And yes, it’s taller. According to the leaks, the back will be metal with panels at the top and bottom for antennas. I have to say that I think the mockups I’ve seen of this design are incredibly ugly. Either the mock-ups are wrong, or just poor recreations of the real thing. Apple products always look better in person.

If I were to have to decide on upgrading based on looks alone, I would not upgrade to something that looked like this. I hope what we see on the 12th will be different than the leaks and mock-ups.

Killer Feature

Every iPhone needs a killer feature to make a splash. LTE will be a touted feature, even though Apple is late to the party. “The fastest iPhone ever.” Since we know the details of most of the iPhone 5 hardware due to leaks, and there’s nothing to get excited about, the only thing that’s left is software. I think a “hands free” Siri could be a killer feature, and I also think Apple will have an app or iOS feature to debut. It’s tough to say exactly what, but Apple focuses on “Lifestyle” features.

Often it feels like Apple wants to be a vacation in a box. They have iPhoto to help you with vacation photos, iMovie to make movies from your vacation, Garageband to score the movie, Cards to send postcards from your trip, Maps to find out where to go, Siri to find a place to eat, iBooks to read while you relax and now Passbook to manage your tickets. I think we’ll see something that will follow in this tradition. Perhaps an easier method of sharing photos, movies and what-not, much like the Android “beaming” capability.

Personally, I’d like an app that would give me enough money to go on a vacation.

Release Date

If I were a betting man? Friday, September 21. Next guess would be the 28th.

What Else?

Nothing else. New iPhone 5, new colors for iPhone 4/4S, iOS 6.

Next Up

Apple has a glut of rumors all of the sudden: new iPhones, a 7-inch iPad, iPod updates, iMacs, updates to iTunes, iTunes Streaming, MacBook Pro Retina 13-inch and an Apple TV re-boot.

Although I’ve long thought that the Apple TV is due for release this fall, there’s been no sign of it happening. No one has seen an iPod leak yet, nor has an “iPad mini” part surfaced. So it’s all just rumors for now, but fairly intense rumors. The truth is, there’s enough going on for not just a second event in October, but a third. That’s not a prediction, but expect a busy 6-month period for Apple product releases.