We’re just days away from the launch of the iPhone 5 (aka “new iPhone”) and the Apple [AAPL] stories are coming fast, with new features, new accessories, a chance to replace Samsung in processor supply and fresh questions as to the inclusion -- or not -- of NFC support within the new smartphone.
[ABOVE: A quite entertaining concept iPhone 5 ad. Nicely done and mercifully short.]
September 12 is expected to see introduction of the thinner than ever iPhone 5, which may well boast a 12-megapixel camera, a quad-core 1.2Ghz processor, a 4-inch screen and support for LTE/4G on the 1,800Mhz frequency.
AirPlay without Wi-Fi
One new iPhone 5 feature in discussion this morning is an incremental improvement to AirPlay, dubbed “AirPlay Direct”. We’re told this will allow iOS devices to stream audio directly without need of a Wi-Fi network, using Bluetooth.
This doesn’t sound too insanely great, until you begin to consider Apple’s plans to eventually eradicate all cables from its devices. AirPlay Direct should enable accessory manufacturers to introduce wireless speaker systems and home Hi-Fi equipment that (a) doesn’t require inclusion of a Wi-Fi chip and (b) enables seamless connection to any user’s iDevice.
It’s not that revolutionary as you can already use Bluetooth to stream audio from an iDevice to other systems, but hopefully Apple’s implementation will make for a more reliable connection.
At this point I’d note that in recent conversations with accessory vendors I’ve encountered huge reluctance to discuss anything pertaining to Apple’s plans on or off the record, however one source close to a vendor shared some excitement at the, “future of their wireless speaker systems”. Perhaps AirPlay Direct (aka. “AirPlay 2.0”) is the reason for this optimism?
New breed accessories
Accessory vendors are also optimistic at the introduction of Apple’s new Dock Connector, though many existing peripheral users may be a little miffed.
The new connector is smaller than before, meaning many will have to choose between forking out cold hard cash for an Apple adaptor (hopefully sold at a low price, rather than the company’s usual eye-watering charges for interface cables) or replacing all their existing devices wholesale.
Vendors will welcome the move, because it is likely to reignite accessory sales among the hardcore iPhone-fashionistas. iLounge has a first look at some of the new accessories.
Samsung, can you feel it yet?
To a chorus of the usual pro-Android cant, Apple prevailed in its important case against Samsung last week, proving that competitor to be a copycat. There’s an excellent article delivering a rebuttal of the majority of the kind of anti-Apple accusations I’m used to reading in comments to any iPhone piece here. Those who choose to ignore that report’s counter-arguments may perhaps benefit from learning the Earth is not in fact flat.
Despite the partisan nature of most public debate -- that old good and evil dualism limits the complexity of rational debate -- the true relationship between the Apple and Samsung is unusual in that the latter still manufactures a range of components for the former’s devices, including the processor and display. As previously noted, display manufacture is now shared between Samsung, LG and Sharp, and now it seems Apple’s also taking steps to replace Samsung as processor supplier.
Those claims aren’t new. Apple had been expected to migrate processor manufacture to TSMC last year, but this plot failed. Bloomberg claims Apple and Qualcomm have both attempted to take major investments in TSMC in an attempt to secure exclusive access to processor supplies.
Bloomberg explains that both firms have made proposals -- including investments of over a billion dollars -- in order to book exclusive processor fabrication from the company, but TSMC instead chose to retain complete control of its plants. Why? In order to remain flexible rather than finding itself in thrall to one customer whose requirements may change.
TSMC’s Chairman Morris Chang has previously said the company would be willing to devote “one or two factories” to a single customer. Apple has an option here, should it choose to take it. On the basis of these reports I’ve a feeling we may see TSMC begin processor supply next year, rather than within iPhone 5, but that’s just a hunch -- discount it if you wish.
Perhaps iPhone won't be a wallet...
NFC will feed the world, change the way we buy stuff and free us from the prison of cash in favor of a cashless planet. Well, that’s what the evangelists say, others remark that the more we remove currency from day-to-day dealings, the more controlled the entire fiscal system will become. Will charity collection tins suddenly develop NFC support? In other words it's possible the biggest beneficiary of NFC payments may be the IRS and banks.
No doubt that debate will enter public life soon, for now however speculation regarding Apple’s plans to support it continues. As mentioned before, Apple has been looking at NFC for a long time, and, with iTunes, it has the basic building blocks for a payment authorization system.
There’s been years of speculation Apple may introduce NFC support, but the last few days has seen Anantech predict this is unlikely to happen within iPhone 5:
“Given the primarily metal backside of the new iPhone, it’s highly unlikely that NFC is in the cards for this generation. In fact, given the very little space at top and bottom dedicated to those glass RF windows, you can almost entirely rule it out,” that report said.
Responding to the report beard-clad Apple commentator Jim Dalrymple pulled out the lyrical stops and said, “yep”, suggesting his sources at Apple are hinting NFC will not be supported in the next iPhone. Apple could implement NFC in a different way to Anandtech's prediction, if it chose to confound us all.
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