Apple predictions for 2016

What we can expect from Apple in the upcoming year

Wow. What a year it’s been for Apple.
The iPad Pro, Apple Pay, Apple Music,
Beats 1 and, of course, the Apple Watch,
have given us plenty to talk about over the past 12
months – and these releases do more than just hint
at what might be coming up in 2016.
Apple Watch
Apple hasn’t exactly bet the farm on its Watch. It
was launched with appropriate fanfare, but the
company’s played it slow and sure since then. In
store display areas are discreet, and overshadowed
by its longer-established lines. Perhaps it realises
that a fair few of us are waiting for the first revision.
Expect that to come in 2016 – around April, when
the original model will be 12 months old. If anything
appears between now and then it’s likely to be
another big-brand collaboration, like the one it rolled
out with Hermes back in September. Jumping in bed
with a sports brand like Nike – with whom Apple
has worked before – would be a logical fit, and give
Watch Sport more weight in the fitness arena.
The first revision will almost certainly be an
extensive upgrade to bring it in line with its most
ambitious competitors, so we’re expecting an Apple
Watch 2, rather than an iPhone-style ‘S’ variant.
We’re also expecting it to be an entirely standalone
device, along the lines of Samsung’s Gear
S2, which connects directly to the cellular network,
bypassing the Galaxy Phone entirely.
This might seem illogical if you considered
the Apple Watch to be a stealth marketing tool
for increased iPhone sales, but it wouldn’t be
the first time Apple has broken an explicit link
between two core products to boost the sales of
the newcomer. Think back to its original strategy
with the iPod, which was to use it as a Trojan for
the Mac (it required a FireWire-enabled computer
running iTunes which, at that time, wasn’t available
on Windows). Only when it produced a PC version
did the iPod really fly, and change the company’s
fortunes forever.
Why do we believe it’s going to do that here?
Aside from the need to compete with Samsung
it’s because watchOS 2, which rolled out on 21
September, made it possible for the first time to
run third-party applications directly, without using
the phone as a data conduit. Building in full-blown
phone-free comms is the next logical step.
This will require some additional components – in
particular a SIM card and associated circuitry – but
advances made in the last 12 months suggest that
shouldn’t be a problem. The S1 processor in the
current Apple Watch is built using the same 28
nanometer process as the chip in the iPhone 5S,
which was current while Apple was closing Watch’s
development cycle. Since then, we’ve seen both
the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s hit the shelves, and
they use a considerably finer process, with their
A9 processors built using a 14 nanometer process.
Assuming Apple develops a new chip – likely
called the S2 – for its second-generation Watch, it’s
reasonable to assume that it will employ the same
14-nanometer process and, rather than slimming
the wearable, use the reclaimed space to bolster its
built-in features.

Other notable omissions from Apple Watch that
could be addressed in the first revision are native
GPS, additional health sensors and a higher capacity
battery, not necessarily to deliver a longer work time,
but to deal with the additional load of the bolstered
range of sensors and comms.
iPhone 7
We’ve already had an ‘S’ model since the last full
update, so expect 2016’s iPhone 7 to be a more
extensive revamp. Pundits are forecasting the
death of the home button, which we don’t think
many would mourn. Adopting soft buttons, as are
common on Android devices, makes sense, and
it would allow Apple to increase the screen size
without bulking up the physical body. Conversely,
it may reclaim the lost space to produce a smaller
device with the same 16:9 aspect screen as it
employed in the iPhone 5, 5s and 5c to tempt an
upgrade out of anyone who was put off by the
iPhone 6 and 6s’s wider, taller bodies.
It would still need to accommodate a fingerprint
reader, which is key to Apple Pay, but there’s no
reason why this couldn’t be moved to the side of the
case or sited by the earpiece, on the opposite side
to the front-mounted camera.
Building the iPhone 7 around an AMOLED screen
– as used in the Apple Watch – would make sense
on several fronts, as it’s less power hungry than the
LCD technology Apple currently uses, can display
more colours and is more responsive, but it seems
unlikely that Apple will roll it into the iPhone any
time soon. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities,
believes the company will persevere with LCD for
several years, and with Apple suppliers building new
LCD factories in China to satisfy future demand, it
looks like he could well be right.
Apple Pay, Apple Music
Alongside these headline developments, there will
be a whole series of speed bumps along the way
as Apple extends and refines its offering. Apple Pay
will be accepted in a wider range of headline stores,
and the Apple Music – which is now available on
Android – will inevitably expand.
More importantly, Apple Music may prove to be
the one thing that keeps the iPod on the shelves
next year. If you’d asked us what we
thought of its chances at the close of
2014, we’d have said ‘slim’, but 2015 saw
Apple deliver the first proper update
to the iPod touch in three years, and
it’s now providing another entry ramp
for the firm’s £9.99 a month music
subscription service. That alone means
it makes sense to give it at
least 12 months to prove
itself. The same can’t
necessarily be said of the
nano and shuffle, which are
each available in just one
configuration and, without
streaming abilities, offer no
ongoing revenue source.


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