The hype couldn’t be any bigger and new rumours swell daily, drowning you in an iPhone tsunami of information overload, but over the near horizon there appears to be clarity. Apple’s legal pursuit of the iphone5.com domain name and there recent acquisition of it this week can mean only one thing, the iPhone 5 is coming and it is coming soon. The fact that the 4s wasn’t the revolutionary upgrade expected from the 4, that co-founder Steve Wozniak has cited the current device’s short comings, the hushed whispers that Apple now the worlds biggest computer company are resting on their laurels all combined with the untimely passing of Apple founder and international icon Steve Jobs (whose last project this phone is stated to have been) means that this is Apple’s biggest product launch in a very, very long time. The chips are down, not only for this to be the best iPhone to date (it will be) but also for it to smash the competition out of the water.
However, while countless coverage has been put into the predicted features this mythical piece of metal and glass will have very little has been written about what these predicted features will mean for the app market, because a better iPhone means a better App store. Some of the rumours may be conjecture and some certainly are, but we aim to discover what the iPhone 5 could mean for those of us who live our lives through the apps.
Rumour 1: “The iPhone 5 will be made of Liquidmetal” – Rumour likelihood: Doubtful at best
It is only fitting that we start with the most recent and perhaps the least likely rumour first, “The iPhone 5 will be set in a Liquidmetal shell, with a Liquidmetal screen.” In 2010 Apple invested an estimated $11 – $20 million in Liquidmetal Technologies for the exclusive use of this material in their technology. Since then persistent rumours over the inclusion of this magical material have been incessant. Liquidmetal is a new form of alloy that is: strong, flexible, resistant to corrosion, water, fire, nearly unbreakable, scratch resistant, bendable… and more. While we do expect Apple to eventually use this material in an innovative product launch the inventor of this mythical alloy himself has recently conceded that Liquidmetal is not yet ready for inclusion in smart phone technology. Whether this is another genius marketing ploy by Apple or far more likely the alloy simply isn’t ready for mass production what a Liquidmetal iPhone could do for the app market wouldn’t only change it, it could revolutionize it. In reality what we should expect from the iPhone 5 is an improved glass retina display that will improve quality, but not revolutionize it.
App Pros for Liquidmetal
Just imagine the possibilities: “Siri, how hot is my bath?” Stick the phone in and find out. “What’s the PH level of the rain?” Easy. The possibility for apps that offer underwater cameras, apps that provide oven thermometers, iPhone games that involve bouncing your iPhone off your desk or the pavement, apps you can use to tell whether or not you have a fever… Ok I’m getting carried away, but for those with the nuance, creativity and some serious programming skills the potential for future apps within a device that will be made from an allegedly infallible material opens up opportunities for apps capable of boggling the imagination.
The fact that we are highly unlikely to see the inclusion of this alloy anytime soon is the main one, the other of course being the possibility that it simply doesn’t live up to the hype, and that the technology necessary to create such revolutionary apps simply won’t match up to the material, but most importantly you won’t be able to stick your phone in the oven anytime soon.
Rumour 2: “The Bigger Screen” – Rumour Likelihood: Expected
Multiple sources from the Daily Mail, T3, Tech Crunch, Reuters & Bloomberg to name only a few have reported that the iPhone 5 screen will see an increase in size from 3.5 inches to a size that ranges from 4-inches up to 4.6 inches. Competitors including Samsung and Android have increased the sizes of their latest models to 4.3 inches meaning that the times are a-changin’ and Apple will be expected to follow suit.
While this immediately sounds like a bonus for the app market there has been a reason that Apple has retained a 3.5-inch screen through 5 generations of phones before it and this is primarily down to the iOS platform and the extensive collection of apps custom built to measure this platform.
App Pros for a larger screen:
- A richer fuller display.
- Easier navigation.
- A bonus to any video based apps.
- An improvement to content based applications (easier to see / easier to read).
- An improvement in typing based applications.
- An improvement in in gameplay for gaming based applications.
App Cons For a Larger Screen
- Apps that haven’t been designed to fit a fuller screen will either look overly stretched or compressed.
- Those wishing to retain their older iPhone models will have to worry whether future developers will bear their devices in mind when bringing new Apps to market.
- Chaos for developers who haven’t taken measures to ensure the coding of their apps is up to an increase in size.
- Fear of the dreaded two-tier iPhone ecosystem, where those with dated models are left in the past.
Rumour 3: “Apple A6 Chip – Quad Core Processor” – Rumour Likelihood: Expected
With rumours of an A6 chip dating back to Autumn 2011 and leading competition already moving into the realm of quad core processors it is highly likely that the A6 chip will be included in the iPad 3 this spring and then later in the iPhone 5 in October. What this means is that the A5 processor currently found in the iPad 2, which currently offers a slick 45nm (nanometre) processor will be sliced down to the A6’s 28nm processor. This device will also be capable of 3D stacking, which means more transistors. To make sense of all of this in laymen’s terms the punch that the A6 chip and improved processors will pack is a lot more speed, much better efficiency, a vastly improved battery performance, slicker and better graphics, and the potential (despite it being highly unlikely) of a phone that packs 1GB of RAM.
App Pros for an A6 Processor
- Speed: Faster means everything from turning the phone on to browsing, game play and app loading times will improve. You’ll have a slicker running app store with slicker running apps.
- Efficiency / Battery life: The vampire apps which suck your battery dry In what seems like a matter of moments will have to work twice as hard to drain your resources, which means that the preconditioned iPhone owners constant fear of finding the nearest power source will be replaced by a tranquillity typically reserved for notebook holders.
- Graphics: With a processor that offers a substantial step forward there is the possibility for the phones graphic capabilities to follow suit. While there are no realistic rumours of Apple designing a video game console, why would they need to with technology like this?
Cons for the App Market
- None / Zip / Zero
Rumour 4: “Improved Camera” – Rumour Likelihood: Near Certain
The iPhone 4s’ improved 8mp camera and 1080p video capture were a big step up from what the 4 had to offer but still a fair shout short of smart phone industry leader Nokia’s latest 12mp offering. It is well documented that the Apple team have been in talks with Sony, their go to camera supplier, regarding a new back-illuminated CMOS sensor with HDR settings which will aim to create a thinner, quicker and more efficient camera but it is unlikely that the iPhone 5 will see a significant increase in camera quality from its predecessor. Other (slightly more ludicrous) rumours circulating regard the possibility that the new device will feature a 3D camera & display and while it is well documented that Apple have invested heavily in 3D technology realistically the waning sales of 3D televisions, 3D cameras and the almost farcical lack of interest from the public in 3D technology (with the exception of the movies) means that this is a highly unlikely inclusion in the latest iPhone model.
- No one does photo apps like the App Store and with improved image quality, a better sensor, HDR video capture and minor tweaks to speed and size expect your favourite photography apps to only get better. Expect rapid updates from leading photography apps that will exploit the iPhone’s new features to improve user experience and photos.
- While feature length films are already being filmed on iPhones the predicted improvements to the already rich 1080p video will be a huge step forward for Apples interface. While we don’t expect a FC X app just yet or anything with the editing power similar this improvement will make a marked difference to how YouTubers, journalists and amateur film makers ply their trade.
- Only one: Being ‘un-photogenic’
Rumour 5: “Increased Memory” – Rumour Likelihood: Unlikely
The iPhone 4s rolled out Apples first 64GB offering on the market and if current sales reports are anything to go by the iPhone 5 will also include a 64GB offering. While like the current 64GB 4s this model will come with a hefty price tag, on the plus side you’ll definitely struggle to fill it up. It is unlikely that we will see a further increase to these specs and a 100+ GB iPhone model probably won’t even make an appearance in the iPhone 5s model.
- More memory means you can store more apps, bigger apps, and have to deal with less petulant maintenance.
- More memory also means a hefty increase in price.
Rumour 6: “An iPhone with 4G” – Rumour Likelihood: Near Certainty
While for us in the UK 4G capability seems like a distant dream in the US leading Apple competitors have already rolled out slick new 4G offerings and Apple would be criminally negligent not to follow suit. 4G compiled with a slicker processor & improved memory will mean that for those of you in countries that currently offer 4G access you can put down your sails whilst negotiating the data waves and turn on the engines for smooth data based sailing.
App Pros for 4G Inclusion
For those of you who have been frustrated waiting for maps to load, pages to surf or just your turn on online gameplay 4G will mean that these issues should become a thing of the past. Apps will be quicker, they will be more efficient and the currently thick line between data and WiFi will quickly become blurred meaning that you can enjoy more on the move.
App Cons for 4G
The main con will be availability, see the map for the current international 4G hotspots. While the USA has been a market leader with 4G technology there are still patches across the country that are not covered. The first 4G capable networks are not expected in Europe until 2013. Savvy app developers will know this and are highly unlikely to produce Apps that aren’t capable of functioning well on a 3G network but while having a 4G compatible iPhone will be great…for those of us not in the designated areas it will just be a feature that we will have to wait to enjoy.
Rumour 7: “NFC Technology” – Rumour Likelihood: Near fact
Android has already rolled out a device capable of NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. NFC allows you to make payments via a scanner using your mobile phone and whether it appears in the iPhone 5 of the iPhone 5s this is guaranteed to be a feature in the iPhone in the very near future.
Expect a rush of apps from your bank and card carriers when this development comes to fruition. NFC technology will mean ease of use, ease of payment and potentially the possibility that you won’t need to carry a wallet at all. Money managing apps will also be closer at hand with more up to date and interactive information on how best to manage your finances. It is also not ludicrous that public transport, toll companies any service capable of utilizing NFC technology will follow suit with their own offerings to the app market.
- Security, no matter how many assurances that we receive informing us that NFC technology is safe there are always naysayers & there will always be criminals with the means to exploit the technology.
- Annoying regulations on maximum spend.
- Overspending, a payment option that is this simple is likely to encourage overspending for those of us who lack the necessary control over their finances (me included).
While there are plenty of other rumours circulating regarding what the iPhone 5 will feature, most notably a slimmer design, and the possibility of no home button we will have to wait for Apples annual WWDC conference this coming June and hope that they will enlighten us about what is rumour and what is fact. Whether these proposed changes are minor or major, their influence on the app market and the apps available to us will be a direct result of the specs the iPhone 5 will be equipped with. One thing is for certain; the iPhone 5 has a lot to prove and it has an expecting public.