iPad 3 First; Then iPhone 5 or 6 With LTE Support At WWDC?
BeatWeek’s Bill Palmer has posted some thoughts about the projected timeline for the next forthcoming iOS hardware device releases. Palmer thinks, and I agree that next on the agenda will be the iPad 3, most likely for a late winter 2012 release, with the iPhone 5 not likely to follow until the summer or fall.
My guess would still be June. 2012′s World Wide Developer Conference for the iPhone 5, provided Apple gets the quad-core A6 CPU launched successfully in the iPad 3 next March or so. While Apple customarily lets a year or more elapse between major hardware version upgrades, the iPhone 4S, while incorporating solid and significant engineering advances and enhanced features, is, as its name explicitly affirms and its holdover form factor confirms, essentially an iPhone 4 refresh and update, which means that by WWDC time next year, two years will have passed without a full iPhone redesign, so rolling out the iPhone 5 (or 6) in June would not really be premature.
I’m reminded of the PowerBook 2000 FireWire (Pismo) release in March, 2000, nine months after the foregoing PowerBook Bronze Keyboard (Lombard) model, which the Pismo looked almost exactly like, had debuted. The Pismo, while a dead-ringer for the Lombard, incorporated a complete internal logic board makeover, the engineering of which was carried over inside the completely new and revolutionary form factor Titanium PowerBook G4 another nine months later in January, 2001.
While it’s an inexact analogy, I can envision a somewhat similar sequence unfolding with the iPhone in 2011-2012, with the multi-core CPU, much better camera, and antenna improvements introduced with the iPhone 4S laying the groundwork for a new form factor iPhone 5 or 6 next spring, further upgraded with 4G/LTE connectivity and a somewhat larger display as well as faster silicon.
Speaking of 4G prospects, the new Strategy Analytics Wireless Operator Strategies (WOS) service report, “US Wireless Market Outlook 2011-2016,” forecasts that LTE will account for half of all wireless connections by 2016. The report notes that expected completion of T-Mobile USA being acquired by AT&T will be the first of several carrier consolidations that will shape the US 4G landscape. As rivals look to catch up with the early LTE lead of Verizon Wireless, Sprint will dictate the viability of wholesale ventures at LightSquared and Clearwire.
Strategy Analytics foresees AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile being a success, although the market research firm predicts that concessions will need to be made, and AT&T will need to work hard to turn around T-Mobile’s stagnating operations and marry the two distinct brands.
“This is not going to be a simple rebranding exercise for AT&T, it will require considerable skill to retain T-Mobile customers over the next two years,” says Phil Kendall, Director of Wireless Operator Strategies. “A strong 4G smartphone focus will help to keep Verizon and Sprint at bay. More significantly, smaller carriers and MVNOs, such as MetroPCS, Leap Wireless and Tracfone, will widen their assault on the more price sensitive customers of T-Mobile.”
Sue Rudd, Strategy Analytics’ Director of Service Provider Analysis, observes: “The strong 4G dynamic in the US – driven by PC, modem and consumer electronics subscription growth – will rapidly broaden opportunities in this market. To meet demand, carriers must address not only network coverage and quality but also deficiencies in data pricing in order to support the needs of users with multiple devices.”
Whatever, Apple will want to be a player at the hardware end of this process, and presuming successful address address of what now Apple CEO Tim Cook described at Apple’s quarterly financial results announcement last April as first-generation LTE chipsets forcing “a lot of design compromises” that the company was unwilling to make at that time, it’s reasonable to anticipate that there will be an LTE iPhone in 2012.