As another year draws to a close, we take a look forward at the products/platforms that Apple Inc. is expected to launch in 2015. Watch, the first Apple product to have been created by the Tim Cook-Jonathan Ive combination, has already generated interest among techies all over.
2014 has been a big year for Apple Inc. The Cupertino company finally ventured into the phablet market with the ambitious iPhone 6 Plus (released along with the flagship iPhone 6) in September. The Apple-Beats deal earlier in the year also made the headlines. On the mobile payments front, Apple Pay was officially released on October 20 – and going by early adoption rates – it is almost certain to do better than its primary rival, Google Wallet. What more is expected from the stable of Apple next year? On this the final day of 2014, let’s try to take a few informed guesses:
- Apple Watch – The only guesswork involved about Apple’s very first smartwatch (announced at the September 9 event) would be regarding the actual date when it would hit the markets. On its part, Apple has promised an ‘early 2015’ release, which is being considered to be equivalent to the launch happening this spring. WatchKit was released for developers in mid-November, so that they could start making apps for Apple Watch. Although the smartwatch and the first set of apps for it will be heavily dependant on paired iPhones – there are reports that native app development for Watch might be possible later on next year.
- Beats Music subscription service – The offer to distribute the latest U2 album to customers has not exactly worked as CEO Tim Cook must have hoped for. In general too, the total volume of music downloads from the iTunes store have dropped off by almost 15% over the last year. To ramp up downloads and get music-lovers interested in iTunes once again, Apple might start a separate Beats subscription service in the online music store. The company had forked out $3 billion to purchase Beats Music – and it’s high time that investment served some fruitful purpose.
- iPad Pro – It took several years for those up top at Apple to finally realize that a ‘larger screen smartphone’ can be really profitable (a glance at the first quarter sales of iPhone 6 would confirm that). The company won’t make any such delays with its flagship tablets though, with a 12.2”-12.8” iPad Pro rumored to arrive in the second half of 2015. It would be powered by the new A8X processor, and would have Touch ID features (underlying platform would be iOS 8, unless Apple comes up with its successor earlier). The worldwide tablet market has slacked off in recent times – and the new, bigger iPad (also known as iPad Air Plus) might just give it a fresh boost.
- iPhone 6S/iPhone 6S Plus/iPhone 7 – It has only been three months and a bit since iPhone 6/6 Plus started shipping, and iOS app developers and general Apple enthusiasts are already buzzing about a new set of iPhones. The expectation is not really unrealistic, particularly given how quickly Sony has upgraded its Xperia series of smartphones. iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are likely to be launched sometime in the second/third quarter next year, with probably a better camera (13 MP, maybe?) and even more robust CPUs/motion processor. In case the flagship iPhone 7 also arrives, Apple might power it by its much-anticipated A9 processor. One thing is for certain though – Tim Cook won’t be too eager for budget smartphones, after the iPhone 5C debacle!
- A smaller iPhone – Probably the least likely of the expected Apple products on this list. However, there is a buzz in mobile development communities that Apple is indeed working on a 4”-iphone. There are absolutely no design specs or tech details available till date – and it is unclear why Apple would go back to a smaller phone, after having tasted success with the latest larger varieties. We have to wait for the time when (and if!) such a small iPhone indeed gets a mass launch.
- New Apple TV – This was something everyone had expected, and did not get, this year. However, it is almost certain that a remodeled Apple TV, with more channel-browsing options and (hopefully) video gaming support would be announced by the Cupertino tech giant, in the festive season of 2015. There is an outside chance that the new TV would be an ‘UltraHD’ set, and would have its very own App Store too (‘yay’ for app and game developers). There has also been news that the internet support on the new Apple TV would be better than that on the older model. The developers are also working on improving the functionality of TV’s set-top box.
- MacBook Air Retina – The undisputed success of MacBook Air has given Apple ample leeway to consolidate its position further in the PC market. The best (and the most likely) way the company would do it is by releasing a revamped MacBook Air with Retina Display. The advanced chips included in the Air Retina would give the device a strong 10-hour battery life (in fact, battery problems prevented it from releasing in 2014 itself). The display would be a whole lot richer than the 1440×900 max resolution on the existing MacBook Air, and Apple would reportedly be offering the new Air Retina in 3 alternative body colors. Nopes, no black MacBook Air in the pipeline though!
- iPad Air 3 – Given how well-received the new iPad Air 2 has been, gadget analysts and mobile app developers feel that the upcoming iPad Air 3 would be a relatively minor upgrade on it (the spotlight would be more on the larger iPad Pro). There is scope for improving the hardware specifications of the tablet, while battery performance might also get a lift. The thickness of iPad Air 3 would hover around the same 6-6.1 mm range.
- Customized enterprise apps – It has been nearly six months since Apple entered into an unprecedented collaboration with IBM – and suspense has been building as to how the Cupertino giant would leverage this partnership. Professional mobile app developers feel that custom enterprise applications could be a likely channel for this purpose. Direct sales and integration would also be offshoots from the Apple-IBM partnership we would see in 2015. The industry verticals that Apple gets into/acquires next year will be able to use these customized integration services, for which IBM has the necessary expertise.
- OS X 10.11 – The adoption rate of Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) has been more than encouraging, and Apple has already started on the next version of the operating system. The concept of ‘Continuity’ and ‘Handoff’ – introduced in Yosemite – are likely to be ramped up in the upcoming version, which would work even more closely with iOS devices. Mac experts are not expecting too many design/display changes in OS X 10.11, however.
- iOS 9 – Most iPhone app developers agree that iOS 8 has been the most troublesome version of Apple’s mobile platform till now. The release of iOS 8.1.3 and iOS 8.2 are already in the pipeline – but the recurring bugs and user-problems are yet to be completely removed. Tim Cook and his team would certainly hope that iOS 9 proves to be a much smoother, problem-free platform. In case iPhone 7 indeed sees the light of day in 2015, iOS 9 might be the platform it makes its debut on.
- New processor for iMacs/MacBooks – Apart from bringing MacBook Air with Retina Display to the market, Apple would provide improved processor support for its existing line of MacBooks as well as iMacs. If the rumors in online Mac hardware and app development forums are anything to go by, Intel Core M would be an integral feature in the new set of Mac processors. There has never been much of complaints regarding the speeds of Apple computers and laptops, and the new processors would make the iMacs and MacBooks a greater delight to work with.
- Further development of HomeKit – If and when Apple releases the iOS 9 platform, it has every chance of pre-loading it with a fine-tuned ‘Home’ app. Separate home appliances/tools would be detected and linked up by the new HomeKit via wi-fi networks, and there is a chance of it being integrated with iOS-in-the-car (so that users can stay in touch with Apple products at home, at office, and even on the go). The only roadblock would be in the form Google’s Dropcam and Nest – which have precious little chance of ever opening up to HomeKit.
- An iMac with 21.5” Retina Display – Apple has done a grand job with the new 27” iMac with Retina. In 2015, the company would look to keep up the good work with a smaller 21.5” iMac, also with Retina Display. iMacs with Retina 5K displays are likely to find acceptance among individual users as well as businesses, and can very well turn out to be a major profit-earner for Apple.
In addition to the above, the Thunderbolt Display would, in all likelihood, get a rejig in 2015 (it has been the same old for three years now). The new spaceship campus of Apple might get completed towards the fag end of next year. There might be a couple of other surprises on offer as well. All in all, 2015 is going to be a real exciting year for Apple fanboys, general gadget lovers, and iOS app development experts alike.