An article today in the Wall Street Journal says that Apple is hiring hundreds of engineers and managers in China and Taiwan with the goal of speeding up product development and launching a wider range of products more frequently. This is just what Apple fanboys want to hear. We love Apple's products, and the biggest complaint is that there ain't enough of 'em. We want more gadgets, and we want them now. And that pretty much sums up the attitude of investors. If this is true, it certainly signals a shift for Apple, which has always taken its sweet time, and has always kept it's product line focused. Apple is expected to launch two new phones this fall, a new Apple TV, and possibly an iWatch. Plus, we'll likely see updated versions of the iPad Air and iPad mini. So already Apple is juggling a wider range of products than in the past.
Rumors were swirling on Friday that a new Apple TV device was imminent. The reason for the rumors? Apple began offering a $25 iTunes Store gift card with the purchase of each Apple TV. Analysts and enthusiasts concluded that Apple was clearing out inventory to make room for a new device, especially as it's been over two years since Apple has released a new version of the hardware. And then Jim Darlymple dashed all hopes with a single word: "Nope." He apparently has contacts inside Apple, because he's always been right when he says there's no truth to a rumor. So while the gift card offer may not herald a new device, it's an appealing offer in its own right.
StreetInsider.com reported Wednesday that a securities analyst who has contacts in Apple's supply chain says production of the iPhone 6 appears to be ramping up earlier than one would expect for a September launch, meaning that it could appear as early as July. It seems doubtful, and the bulk of the recent rumors have been suggesting September. On the other hand, analysts have been saying Apple needs to come out with a larger iPhone ASAP in order to stay competitive in a market that's rapidly moving toward larger devices. So perhaps Apple has indeed decided to try to speed things up. The analyst also says that his checks confirm that Apple's next generation of phones will have larger displays. His supply chain checks also indicate that Apple appears to be gearing up for a launch of an Apple TV set-top device and an iWatch, both no earlier than the second half of 2014.
The iPad Air took the top award for "Best Mobile Tablet" this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Well deserved. According to the judges, "The iPad Air packs class-leading performance in an attractive and svelte frame, while its ecosystem has an undisputed advantage in the number of format-optimized apps." That certainly makes it stand apart. Accompanying the judges' comments is a description, which reads:
If Apple pulls this off, it's doubtful that any other phone manufacturer will be able to match it anytime soon. Forbes reported today that the iPhone 6 will indeed come with a sapphire crystal coating on the display. This material is nearly indestructible, and would make it virtually impossible to scratch the display. That would really set the iPhone apart, and is just the sort of touch that Apple adds to their products to foster consumer love. Apple is already using sapphire crystal to cover the camera lens and Touch ID to avoid scratches.
On Tuesday Disney released a new app, Disney Movies Anywhere (free), that lets you stream or download your movies from Disney, Pixar, and Marvell, as well as browse and purchase additional movies. Plus, just for creating an account, the app offers a free movie, Pixar's The Incredibles (regularly $19.95). The app also offers free exclusive Disney content, including original programming and never-before-seen videos. The idea behind the app is that it lets you keep your movies from these studios all in one place as well as buy new movies. This includes viewing movies that you purchased from the iTunes Store. You can watch your movies via streaming or download them and watch offline. Each purchase carries with it Disney Movie Rewards points.
The big question for the iPhone 6 is what Apple will do to make it stand out from the competition. Just having a 4.7-inch display won't cut it, given that there's already a plethora of larger-display smartphones on the market. Certainly the rumored use of sapphire crystal would distinguish it from the crowd, since the display would be nearly indestructible. And if Apple goes with a bezel-free design, that would be a major innovation, giving you a larger display but keeping the overall size of the phone as small as possible. And now we have yet another rumor: according to an article on Forbes, there's a possibility that Apple will use Quantum Dot technology in the display — which would certainly be a major innovation. The virtue of this technology is that it can more accurately render colors.
Please update iOS on your iPhone or iPad as soon as possible, if you haven't done so already. On Friday, Apple released iOS 7.0.6 to fix a flaw that had been discovered. And according to this article on Wired, it's very serious. It's simply a typo in the code, an extra GoTo statement, that would allow hackers to bypass authentication procedures on your device and intercept email and other communications that should have been encrypted.
Samsung is really going after Apple in their commercials. I included their video making fun of the iPhone 5s in a recent post. They also have a video that parodies an iPad Air commercial and highlights the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 is marginally thinner than the iPad Air. I suspect, though, that the thinness comes at the expense of battery life. As we saw in a previous post, the iPad Air battery actually lasts for 13 hours of video playback, which is higher than the advertised 10 hours — and 40 percent better than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition. Apple's original video that Samsung is parodying shows a pencil on a table at eye level, and talks about a wonderful tool that can be used for so many different things. Then the camera pans up, and you see an iPad Air was hidden by the pencil and that the commercial was really speaking about the iPad Air — while highlighting its thinness by hiding it behind the pencil. In the parody, a pencil again obscures an iPad Air. But then hidden behind the iPad Air is the Galaxy Tab Pro.
It's a fact that Apple is investing heavily in supplies of sapphire crystal, including building their own manufacturing facility in Arizona that's expected to come online this month. It's unknown, however, exactly what this material will be used for. Virtually indestructible, the material is currently used to protect the camera lens and the Touch ID from scratching in the iPhone 5s. So what else will Apple be using it for? According to comments made Wednesday by the CEO of a company called Canonical that had to scrap plans for making a smartphone, Apple has bought up the "entire three-year supply" of the same sapphire crystal display they had been planning to use for their 4.5-inch device. The comments, which were reported by GigaOm, diverge somewhat from the most recent rumor out of the Far East that Apple would use Corning's Gorilla Glass for the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and sapphire crystal for an "experimental" 5.5-inch "phablet."