[ABOVE: A ComScore glimpse at the different ways people use their iPads and other tablets.]
15-inch MacBook Air ships Q1
As previously predicted, this morning's Digitimes tells us Apple intends shipping new MacBook Air models in 11.6-, 13.3- and 15-inch configurations.
Scheduled for introduction in Q1, these machines will be offered at better prices than before, as Apple moves to punch out the expected flood of PC-based ultrabooks, also scheduled to hit market in the quarter.
"Commenting on Apple's move, sources from retail channels pointed out that Apple will start dropping the price of its existing MacBook Airs before launching its series and the promotion could further boost Apple's share in the global notebook market," the report informs.
The new Macs may be equipped with Intel's quad-core Ivy Bridge i7 processor, which delivers 20 percent better CPU performance and a 60 percent improvement in graphics power.
Apple's move to offer a larger MacBook Air model will likely win broad welcome from many Mac purchasers, but speculation still exists as to the future of the MacBook Pro range.
Company co-founder, Steve Jobs, once articulated the importance of this SKU to Apple's mobile play, saying: "If the Mac company were a separate company, and the iPad company were a separate company, what would the Mac company build to compete with the iPad? And I think the answer is the MacBook Air."
[ABOVE: Apple's latest iPod touch ad.]
iPhone 4S v. Android: The chase begins
Reports coming out of the UK claim Apple managed to take a chunk from Android device sales in October -- even though the iPhone 4S wasn't available for the whole month.
The latest smartphone data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech shows the iPhone 4S accounted for 42.8 percent of all mobile phone sales in the UK. Many of these sales were to existing iPhone owners, looking to upgrade. Android marketshare fell from 49.9 percent to 46 percent in the same month
"Apple's overall share in the latest 12 weeks of data was up 2.8 percent; smartphones made up 69.8 percent of sales, meaning that 44.8 percent of the British population now owns a smartphone." [The Irish Independent]
Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director, said: "While unwavering loyalty is clearly great news for Apple, it is likely to be a relief for other smartphone operators. With Apple predominantly driving sales from within its existing customer base, it leaves the field wide open for the likes of Nokia, BlackBerry, Samsung and HTC to focus on converting the remaining 29 million adults who don't yet have a smartphone to their brand."
Personally, I think he's supping the Android Kool Aid. I am in no doubt that Apple's iPhone will be under many a tree this season.
The smartphone wars aren't over yet
This isn't confined to the UK. I've no doubt we'll see the numbers later for the US, but anecdotal reports suggest the iPhone 4S has sold in huge quantities across Black Friday.
Analyst Chris Whitmore with Deutsche Bank reckons 75 percent of Apple retail stores were completely sold out of iPhone 4S devices by the end of Black Friday. Similarly, 50 percent of AT&T stores also sold out of the device.
(Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster claims iPad sales per hour were 68 percent higher than they were a year ago at Apple retail stores.)
One more thing: Loyalty
What does Apple have that other platforms lack? Loyalty. A recent study declared iPhone owners to be the most loyal smartphone users, partly due to the nature of their investments in iTunes content.
(Nearly one in five (19 per cent) of consumers that own both an iPad and an iPhone believe that changing types of smartphone is more difficult than changing bank accounts or gas or electricity providers, the report reveals.)
An international study based on 4,500 interviews conducted by GfK research reveals that 84 percent of current iPhone owners plan to purchase an Apple handset next time they upgrade.
"The smartphone providers that create harmonious user experiences will be able to increase consumer loyalty, as consumers find it more trouble than it's worth to switch their digital life on their smartphone as well as increasingly on tablets too," Ryan Garner at GfK Business & Technology said. "In a competitive market, brands that invest in user experience will yield great results."
A focus on the user and the capability to deliver a combined feature and multimedia experience competitors find hard to match will form the backbone of Apple's future success in the smartphone business.
Things will likely become more interesting next year, when Amazon is now expected to introduce its own smartphone. Will this be an Android, or a WebOS device?