Grading my iPhone predictions
Friday, Oct 07, 2011
I'd meant to have this out a couple days ago but, well, you know. Over the past month or so I've made a lot of predictions about the immediate future of the iPhone and iPod lines. Now that the big reveals are complete, it's time to see what I got right, and what I missed.


This was the first year in a long while that didn't have an Apple 'Music Event' in the Fall. The changes made to the iPod line were just refinements here and there. None would have warranted an event of their own, not even if they were all combined. I imagine this is why we didn't get a music event, instead getting the updates rolled into the larger event. From Cancel the iPod Touch? Lunacy. (August 31):
John Gruber and VintageZen think it would be a good idea to cancel the iPod Touch, replacing it with a contract-free $200-300 iPhone. I think this is crazy.
Spot on. Grade: A From Preview: This Year's iPhones (September 21):
I think we’ll see a bump in the Touch, but nothing breathtaking. Something like this: [New rear-facing camera, WiFi+3G data model]
The only changes were the addition of white as a color option and a $30 price drop for the 8GB model. The hardware didn't change at all. I was right about no major changes or new model, but I was wrong about which small things would change. Grade: C+ From Shuffling up the iPod line (September 28), a post written in reaction to rumors that the Shuffle and Classic would be axed:
Ditching the Classic makes a lot of sense. The last torchbearer of the original iPod’s form factor only exists today because its use of a hard drive enables it to store 160GB of media, 2.5x as much as the 64GB Touch, at just over half the price. With the release of iCloud and Music Match, 160GB is no longer needed. Those deep tracks can be downloaded to your device on demand, so as long as you have wifi or a mobile connection you’ll have your whole catalog. If they drop the Classic, I wouldn’t expect them to mention it during next week’s presentation. If they drop the Shuffle and move the Nano farther down the line, they might mention that.
The Classic is no longer marketed as part of Apple's holiday iPod lineup, and will almost certainly quietly vanish from the site once current inventories are depleted. Grade: A
Eliminating the Shuffle is where things get dicey. It’s not an iOS device and it doesn’t pretend to be, unlike the Nano who’s multitouch UI seems like iOS though it’s completely different under the hood. Getting rid of the Shuffle would clean up the product line, but would leave a huge hole in the bottom end. The Shuffle costs $49 but the Nano starts at $149, and $149 is just too high a price for an entry-level music player with no video capability or mobile connectivity. The 16GB Nano is only $30 less than a new Kindle Fire tablet. Could the Shuffle be eliminated next week? Yes. But only if the price of the Nano was lowered a great deal. I would guess that $79 would be the sweet spot, though Apple may keep the price as high as $99. Pricing the Nano at $79 would represent a 47% cut from the current price, but the manufacturing and material costs for a Nano continue to drop, and this would probably still represent a healthy profit margin, while keep Apple’s market share at the low end of the product space.
I didn't give a solid prediction here, but Apple's moves this week seem to support my theory. They're emphasizing the iPod nano, giving it new software functionality, inclusion of Nike+ internally, and a $20-30 price cut to $129 and $149. Meanwhile the Shuffle was only mentioned as being part of Apple's holiday iPod lineup. It seems likely that the Shuffle will be eliminated once Apple gets the Nano's cost (and price) down to a certain level, which is probably between $79-99. Grade: B Overall iPod prediction grade: B+ Now on to...


So this is a harder one to grade, because I viewed 'new phone' and 'new industrial design' to be the same thing. This was clearly a mistake. The iPhone 4s is a completely redesigned phone on the inside, and if put in another chassis would be called the iPhone 5. Many of my predictions ignored this possibility, so I'm going to try to have to separate 'new phone' from 'new industrial design' when grading. As an aside, I felt disappointed at first that we wouldn't be getting a new svelte unibody phone, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made for Apple to decouple industrial design from the internals. I was eager to replace my almost-new Macbook Air 11" with a Sandy Bridge Macbook Air because it had much higher performance. I didn't feel let down that the machine looked the same because I'm very happy with the design. So it should be with the iPhone. The 4's industrial design is still unique and, with the changes made to the antenna in the 4s, the only major shortcoming I have is reportedly overcome in the 4s. In Preview: This Year's iPhones I talked about two phones, a 'low end' iPhone 4s and a flagship iPhone 5. While Apple is sticking to the tiered model (and added a 3rd tier by keeping the 3Gs around a while longer) what we actually got in the 4s was a blend of my predictions for the 4s and the 5. I predicted that the new flagship model would have a single model with CDMA+GSM and an A5 processor, a new brushed aluminum form factor, a 4" screen, an 8MP rear camera and a FaceTime HD front camera. I would give it a C, if not for being wrong overall with the two-new-phone strategy. I believe the iPhone 5 I described will probably come out in 2012, along with the FaceTime HD camera, new enclosure, and larger screen that I missed on this time. Timing is everything though, so… Grade: C- My 'loose ends predictions in that article:
  • NFC chips - Only a few Android phones currently have NFC chips to support a true digital wallet, but with their faster product cycles and the huge resources Google is putting into the Google Wallet initiative, you can bet that most Android phones sold in 2012 will have NFC built in. NFC as a payment method is already very popular in Europe and Asia, and I find it hard to believe that Apple would go until late 2012 (or early 2013) before they start offering an iPhone that supports NFC. Considering that Apple has bragged about having one of the largest credit card payment databases in the world, they're clearly very interested in this space. If they do introduce devices with NFC chips this time around, I would guess it will be in both the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4s, but not the Touch.
  • LTE - I'm going to have to go with a big 'no' on LTE this year. LTE is still only available in limited areas, and Android phones that support it have abysmal battery life while using it. Also, download speed has rarely been a real-world problem for iPhone users, certainly not a big enough issue to cut into battery life, an issue that Apple puts a heavy priority on.
  • Release date - Friday, October 14th. The sooner the better, and 10 days is just about as short as Apple can stand between the beginning of an iPhone press cycle and the peak of fervor that's so important for a successful launch. And as Apple has shown, they like to launch on a Friday, when people can spend the weekend waiting in lines.
Two and a half for three. No NFC mentioned at all. I do know one thing though, that unlike Google with their Nexus S, Apple wouldn't unveil NFC in the iPhone until it has a solid wallet story to launch with it. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that the 4s has an NFC chip in it, unavailable to developers, lying in wait for Apple's wallet to be ready. We'll probably find out when iFixit gets their hands on a 4s and tears it limb from limb. Until then: B+ In my blog post '1 iPhone' does't mean what you think, I made a lot of ruckus about there being a hidden meaning in the Apple invitation.
When Apple puts a clue into an invitation, it’s a clue about a feature or other positive. Hinting about a single phone amidst widespread speculation about two phones is lowering expectations, and this is not in keeping with Apple’s track record on how they use invitations. If one wanted to be so literal, they might also note that the ’1′ badge would only appear on an iPhone if someone missed a call, or if there was a voicemail waiting, but of course those don’t make sense in this scenario, so we’re left to guess, and I think most folks are guessing wrong. So what does the ’1′ mean? Yes, it means one phone. But not ’4s or 5′. It means GSM+CDMA. One phone for the world. One phone for all 288+ carriers.
Spot on, though in hindsight I don't think the '1' had anything to do with it. On the other hand:
As for the 4s vs. 5 debate, I’m still firmly in the ‘both’ camp but, as I’ve said before, the 5 will be the star of our show. The 4s will be mentioned as a welcome revision to an old model, making it an excellent low cost option.
Swing and a miss. It turns out that Apple did have a 'hindsight clue' in their invitation, but it had nothing to do with the icons. The tagline, "Let's talk iPhone" was actually a reference to Siri. Put in a comma and you get "Let's talk, iPhone". Clever. The biggest miss was in the overall spirit of a new hardware launch instead of an incremental release (however substantial it may be). Therefore… Overall iPhone prediction grade: C+


From Preview: This Year's iPhones:

One more thing…

What will it be? Possibly nothing. Definitely not the iPad 3. Certainly much of the presentation will be the public release of iOS 5 and iCloud. There’s a good chance there’s a new app or two that will be rolled in to iOS 5 at the last minute.
and later, from More on Tuesday's iPhone announcements:

Surprises in iOS 5

Today Apple released iTunes beta 9, and this marks the first time this beta cycle that an iTunes beta hasn’t been accompanied by a corresponding iOS beta. Given that the final version of iOS 5 is reported to have been handed off to the Asian manufacturers earlier this week, it would be unusual for the developer community to not be given a Release Candidate or Golden Master version prior to wide release. This leads to the likely conclusion that there are surprises in the final OS that were left out of the betas, but couldn’t be left out any longer for final internal testing or (naturally) in the final release. There’s widespread speculation that that ‘something’ is much broader voice recognition integration throughout the OS, and this seems very likely. I wouldn’t count out another new app or two as well.
The robustness of Siri's integration was a surprise, but its inclusion, along with the new Cards and Find My Friends apps, were well-predicted here. Grade: A+

Overall grade: B+

At least that's my opinion.
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