Apple leaks. Apple teases. Apple tells us a lot with little clues. The Apple press game is just that: a game. There’s a strain of conspiracy theorist whackadoo in comment sections – made up of the sort of drooling loonball who writes “fanboi”, “iSuck” and other hilarious puns – which will tell you Apple pays off journalists and throws out freebies like a broken vending machine. Nothing is further from the truth.
Apple’s strategic leaks usually come through two or three hacks at the Wall Street Journal. Read “rumour” stories placed there in the days or weeks before an event and you’ll see the line that Apple wants to stoke. It might be “cheaper” devices coming, it might be that a product will be more expensive than expected, only for Apple to then reveal it is much more “affordable” as its CEO Tim Cook does his affable Texan routine, avoiding the carnival barker enthusiasm that Steve Jobs was wont to slip into on occasion.
At other times, Apple’s marketing material contains fairly big clues as to what it will do next. In the case of the iPhone 5S, the company is practically teasing observers and commentators. The newest member of the iPhone family glories across Apple’s websites and print adverts with the slogan: “iPhone 5S: forward thinking.” The question is: what is the iPhone 5S looking forward to? And will today’s “new iPad” event bring us something else as well as the yearly cycle upgrades?
The idiot analysts who lick their fingers and stick them in the air before throwing around some baseless-yet-market-moving claims have been promising Apple will launch a) a watch and b) a full-size television for so long that their lies may just come true this time. Apple TV, the company’s set-top-box, has long been described by it as “a hobby” but it’s clear that the hobby is starting to encroach on the day job. Apple sold 13 million of the cheap but effective device last year. And the people driving that are Netflix fans who want to easily get it on their television sets. Apple will follow that herd further. Television can be done better and smart TVs are dumber than Piers Morgan.
On the question of the iWatch – and yes, Apple owns that trademark in several territories – the word “watch” is a total misnomer. Wearable tech is going to be massive over the next five years with devices like the Fitbit and Jawbone Up already becoming mass market propositions for consumers who are usually cash rich but time poor and a need to be told to stop eating so much and exercise more. Apple knows fitness and health apps are a gold mine as ageing populations turn to data to fix their flaws and serve their vanity. That’s where the “iWatch” comes in. Not simply as a device to see your texts, calls and emails without pulling your phone from your bag but as a health tech device, something that will tell you how to get fitter, faster.
As with any product class it has entered in the past, Apple will be far from the first mover in the world of smart watches. This year, Samsung tried to run a spoiler by kicking the Samsung Galaxy Gear, a mewling mess of product, out into the market. I asked a sales person in a central London phone store how the Galaxy Gear is selling – Samsung has paid the company to take a vast display flogging the device – and he just rolled his eyes: “No one is buying that piece of s–––. If you gave them away, people’d still give them back.” That’s the environment the iWatch will launch into – the bar is so low a limbo dancer would give up straight away.
The reason I believe we may actually see the iWatch during today’s iPad event? Because Apple’s press and public are demanding something new to be wowed by. Continuing evolution and competence in the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air/Pro lines along with slow decline in the iPod sector mean that the company is seen as a little staid and safe by those who want constant gadget fireworks. Apple stuffed all sorts of innovations into the iPhone 5S – the fingerprint sensor chief among them – but it still looks and feels like an iPhone 5 despite the arrival of the primary coloured iOS 7.
Yet inside the phone lies the biggest clue that the iPhone 5S is a kind of John the Baptist device for the iWatch – the M7 motion-processing chip. Apple has nodded and winked at future applications for the motion processor, predominantly health apps and the fluffy notion of more advanced gesture controls for the iPhone but there’s clearly more to it. The M7 aggregates and analyses all the input data captured by the phone’s other sensors and produces the most complex picture of how it is being used so far. The iWatch would add in a whole range of other sensors with the iPhone 5S taking the weight of processing that data, improving the wearable tech’s battery life and allowing it to be built lighter.
If we don’t see the iWatch today, we will see it in the new year. However, with the major battles of Christmas coming up and the fat fighting season always kicking off in January, the prospect selling iPhone 5S and iWatch combos by the lorry load will have got Apple fired up. If it launches now, it owns Christmas. If it launches in the new year, it will be a massive but not galactic smash hit.
As for the new iPads – well, they’ll be new iPads with better battery life, built-in fingerprint scanners and some new software to add the suite that includes iLife, iWork and Garage Band for iOS. Expect the usual suspects to carp and moan that Apple is “boring” or has “lost it” before having to eat crow as the sales figures go stratospheric.