Some Guesses About Apple’s September 10th Event

According to All Things D, Apple is holding a special event on September 10th to make some announcements. What will they be?

ios 7

What is certain is that iOS 7 will be one of the topics at the event. While it was shown at WWDC back in June, many of its features were still under development, and the OS was available only to registered iOS developers under NDA. It’s quite likely that the veil on them will be removed on September 10th.

Everything else is a guess.

The Next iPhone?

iphone 5S

Since 2008, the pattern has been like this:

iphone 3 chassis

First, the iPhone 3G in 2008, then the iPhone 3GS in 2009, both of which had the same chassis.

iphone 4 chassis

Then came the iPhone 4 in 2010, followed by the iPhone 4S in 2011 — again, both had the same chassis.

iphone 5 chassis

The iPhone 5 came out in 2012, sporting a new chassis that looked like a stretch version of the iPhone 4/4S chassis.

The “same chassis every two models” approach is a smart one. It lets Apple get the most bang for its buck by stretching the lifetime of manufacturing lines for a chassis over two devices instead of one. This extended lifetime also allows them to work the kinks out of the process, gain experience producing that chassis, and find efficiencies that allow them to produce it more cheaply. The approach even has a marketing advantage: hanging onto a chassis even as the internals improve — especially one with Apple’s renowned industrial design — makes the iPhone an instantly recognizable device, even from a distance.

If the pattern holds, the new iPhone will be the iPhone 5S, and it will have the same chassis as the iPhone 5, but boast newer, better specs.

New, lower-priced iPhone models?

economy iphone

Apple’s strategy so far has been to do what Dalton Caldwell called “market segmentation by Moore’s Law”: selling older iPhone models at lower prices. He writes:

At my previous company I had some interaction with the [manufacturer redacted] Android team. I found it very strange that there were several mobile teams at [manufacturer redacted], each building Android devices as part of different market segments. They had one team working on a phone for the low-end of the market, another working on a phone for business users, and so on. Product managers inside of [manufacturer redacted] were responsible for creating product requirements for each handset, then delivering it within a certain budget. There were separate marketing and rollout schedules for each device. The one detail that blew me away was that these different devices were going to ship with different versions of Android. I seem to recall the low end phone was still on 1.5, and the others were 1.6. Holy sh\t*.

In contrast, when a new iPhone model is released Apple doesn’t shut down the line and liquidate inventory. Rather, Apple keeps some percentage of manufacturing capacity devoted to this legacy model. Manufacturing the old device is easy by this point; it’s a fully debugged process with increasingly cheaper components. I remember when the implications of this completely sunk in: Apple is doing market segmentation off of a single product line!

Offering the older model at a discount worked well in the era of Android 2.something, Windows Phone 7, and BlackBerry 6, but in the current market with Android at feature-par with iOS, customers wanting the latest new toy, and Android’s 10% gain in market share from Q2 2012 ro Q2 2013 (and Apple’s 3% loss in the same period), the rumours of a less-expensive iPhone model, which some have dubbed the iPhone 5C — seem believable.

Fingerprint sensor

fingerprint sensor

ExtremeTech have pointed to some pretty credible evidence that the next version of the iPhone will have a fingerprint reader, most likely built into the Home button. They point to a plist (Apple’s standard XML file used for largely for configurations and settings) contained within a folder of files for biometrics features found in beta 4 of iOS 7. This finding, coupled with Apple’s acquisition of Authentec last year, suggests that fingerprint-based user identification and phone unlocking will be announced on September 10th.

this article also appears in mobilize the cts blog