Apple in 2013: what to expect
24th Dec 2012 | 11:00
iPhone 5S, Apple TV, better iOS Maps and a "super Siri"
Because TechRadar's powers-that-be inexplicably rejected a perfectly sensible expenses request for a fully working TARDIS, we're stuck merely putting on our 'informed guessing hat' again, to figure out what's coming from Apple over the next 12 months.
This year, such predictions are perhaps tougher than usual: Apple's meticulous regularity regarding release schedules was thrown to the wind during 2012, most notably with the iPad 4 following the iPad 3 after only six months. Also, we were a year ago totally wrong about the iPod Classic finally bowing out - it's still on sale.
Still, we are heroically soldiering on regardless, with a list of 'Apple in 2013' predictions. They perhaps aren't as bonkers as some of those you'll find elsewhere on the web, but they are therefore probably more likely to come to pass!
1. An early iPhone 5S
You'd be crazy to think Apple wouldn't update the iPhone in 2013, given that it's responsible for much of the company's revenue. Judging by iPhone release patterns to date, it's likely to be a smaller bump this time round: an iPhone 5S, perhaps, with incremental improvements to speed, battery life and the camera. What's less certain is when it'll appear. With the recent autumn event suggesting a new iPad next October or perhaps every six months, the next iPhone might well arrive in the spring.
2. Apple TV or Apple iTV
Tim Cook recently referred to TV as "an area of intense interest" for Apple, adding: "When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years." So obviously this means a literal Apple iTV, right? Not necessarily. TVs aren't updated regularly, yet Apple likes to refresh hardware often. Smart money is instead on the existing Apple TV box in 2013 becoming more than a mere hobby, and disruption coming from further integration with iOS devices, bespoke Apple TV apps, and an iTunes Match-style service for video, along with other deals with broadcasters and TV companies.
3. Something for the pros
We last year predicted the last ever Mac Pro would arrive in 2012. Instead, we got a half-hearted update and a promise from Tim Cook that the company was "working on something really great for later next year". Macs remain the minority of Apple's revenue, desktops are the minority of Mac sales, and Mac Pros sell in lower quantities than the iMac and Mac mini. Still, if Cook's true to his word, we will see a new Mac Pro next year - and we reckon that will be the last one Apple releases before it concentrates entirely on appliance computing.
4. iOS and OS X interface changes
In October, Apple fired Scott Forstall, and Sir Jony Ive, senior vice president of industrial design, was given the role of leading and directing all Apple's 'human interface', including software. We doubt we'll see a wholesale shift from overblown textures to sleek minimalism, but by the end of 2013, Ive will make his presence felt on OS X and iOS. We hope whatever the result it will at the least mean more usable Apple operating systems, and potentially more beautiful ones as well.
5. Innovation question marks
Apple's expected to revolutionise an industry about every eight seconds or tech pundits get all huffy. In reality, though, Apple has always been a company of iteration, only occasionally making breakthroughs: the Apple II (1977), the Mac (1984), the original iMac (1998), the iPod (2001), the iPhone (2007), and the iPad (2010).
Nonetheless, expect question marks to be raised during 2013 if Apple doesn't disrupt another market, regardless of how well its other devices are selling. Also expect people to remark a lot how the company's not the same now Steve Jobs isn't around, despite the company being a corporate-sized embodiment of the man.
6. Map attack
Having ditched Google Maps data, Apple rolled its own mapping solution for iOS 6. The results were problematic and error-strewn. Tim Cook apologised, Scott Forstall in part got the boot for the mess, and Apple doubled down, yet still didn't fix things fast enough for the Australian state of Victoria's police force, reportedly concerned about people becoming stranded. (That last story was a tad overblown, as it turns out, with only one person actually stranded. Still, it showcased the system's inability to make sensible assumptions when two places have similar names.)
Apple's pretty hopeless when it comes to online services, but maps are an area in which it cannot afford to fail, and so we've two predictions: first, Apple Maps will improve at a rate of knots; secondly, the service will be under close scrutiny, and so will ostensibly appear to remain broken but will in reality be less so as time moves on.
7. Super Siri
Siri arrived on more devices through iOS 6 and also learned some new tricks in 2012. Although it doesn't yet do everything people want, the voice-control system is a little more intelligent regarding finding information, and it can now launch apps. Apple needs to up its game to compete with the impressive Google voice search, though, and so 2013 will see major enhancements to Siri, primarily in terms of speed, but also regarding the information it can access. Also expect Apple to increasingly use Siri to circumvent the need to search online — much to the chagrin of Google.
8. Release cycle changes
For a time, Apple's release cycle was like clockwork, especially when it came to iOS: new iPads in the spring and an iPhone in late summer. The iPad 4 changed all that, arriving a mere six months after its predecessor. Expect competition from rivals to further disrupt Apple's release schedule, with some devices moving to six-monthly rather than annual updates, and others shifting from previous cycles. Also, given Apple's launch/shipping misses regarding the new 27-inch iMac (which launched alongside the 21-inch new iMac) and iTunes 11, we won't be surprised to see the company revert to simply not announcing future products unless they're pretty much ready to ship that day.
9. More profits and less market-share
We don't think we're in for a repeat of Windows/Mac OS when it comes to Android/iOS, but cheap Android tablets and smartphones will nonetheless continue to have an impact on Apple's market-share during 2013. Figures will, however, continue to show iOS has the lion's share in terms of ongoing usage and profits. Another prediction: pundits will fail to realise Apple's stalling or falling share of a rapidly growing market nonetheless equals growth, and continue to lump Android into a single group, despite, as Ian Betteridge recently noted, it being "a set of semi-compatible platforms, built around the same technology".
10. Baffling survival of the iPod Classic
We last year predicted the iPod Classic's luck would run out in 2012, given Apple's shift to the cloud, its focus on iOS, and dropping flash memory prices potentially enabling larger-capacity iPod touch devices. Amazingly, it survived. Therefore, we're going to predict the iPod Classic will bafflingly remain in play for another year, in part because we were wrong last time, but mostly in an attempt to dare Apple to do otherwise.