Sunday, January 30, 2011

What can Apple do with iPhone 5?

First. Not call it an iPhone 5. It sounds like the phone will be
different. It will not, at least not visually. If you give some
credence to the rumor mill the biggest change will come from getting a
new SoC+GPU combo that will likely bring significant improvements in
speed. Hence iPhone 4S name is one option.

The second major feature expected is the ability to support both CDMA
and GSM standard, possibly even the LTE. iPhone 4G name would then make
sense. What would make even more sense is if they name it iPhone 4GS. That will immediately resonate with people as far as what to expect: 4G and Speed.

With the iPhone 4, Apple really made a bold new move with the design
and according to reports that design has been in the works since 2008. With so much R&D and subsequent commercial success it is therefore given that the iPhone 5 will retain this integrated athena design. There are just some many things about it that make the iPhone
unique and more that half into the 4 lifespan the device still has a huge backlog of orders.

Antenna-gate? What was that? A purely lab problem it seams, one that
Apple has address in two ways culminating in the release of the CDMA
iPhone for Verizon. First, just like the iPhone 3GS benefited from the
case compatibility with the 3G, so will the iPhone 5 benefit from all
the cases already released for iPhone 4. Given that the iPhone 5 will
likely adopt the new antenna tweak of the CDMA iPhone 4, case makers
will have to enlarge the silent/ringer switch hole, but that's barely
any change at all.

What is this antenna tweak we talk about? Well, some have speculated
that Apple has the now two identical prices of the steel band to work
solely for as CDMA antennas. One may be able to draw the analogy those routers with two
antennas. The future iPhone may manages it's reception dynamically based on which
antenna gets a better reception. So if a user accidentally creates the antenna-gate issue on one side, the iPhone will switch to reception from the opposite end.


Needless to say bridging the connection on both sides will required
very awkward way of holding the device, making it hard to reproduce the lab problem dubbed antenna-gate.

This change supposedly makes moving the GPS / Wi-Fi antennas to a
different place. iFixit will likely verify those speculation within days of he CDMA iPhone going out of the door.

With the look staying the same, Apple is expected to have a whole new
set of components inside the next iPhone. Starting with a new SoC
possibly having dual cores CPU and a new graphics GPU also allegedly
having dual cores. It's not the the A4 chip on the iPhone lacks power
but it is expected the iPhone 5 to also feature 1080p video recording
and editing.

Frankly, my iPhone 4 while initially feeling fast has started to take a
breath every now and when while switching between those Retina
Display optimized apps. 4 times the pixels does required 4 times the
graphic processing power after all.

The biggest change component wise will come from the GSM/CDMA/LTE* capable
signal processor. How will than influence the design of the logic
board remains to be seen.

A better rear camera? For sure. Probably 8MP with 1080p at 30fps. Some
sort of night image enhancing technology is expected as pictures taken
in low light still lack on the iPhone 4.

A Near Field Communication chip is widely rumored to be the next big
thing in phones after the accelerometer. As with everything else on
the iPhone, the software side will be the key in making this feature
useful and not just a bullet point as is the case for the Nexus One.

All these changes and addition can be done while Apple simultaneously
works aggressively to lower the cost of manufacturing of the most
critical components such as the Retina Display. With the iPhone 5,
Apple will be able to order much more initially and in some cases
invest in expanded manufacturing to secure ever larger quantities.
Manufacturing of those high quality touch screens was clearly the main
reason while the iPhone 4 is still backlogged in orders and why Apple
plans to invest 3.9 billion in strategic component supply guarantee
over the next few years.

All in all the iPhone 5 will likely be a clear improvement in
capability but with corresponding drop in manufacturing cost enabling
Apple to increase shipments and gross margins at the same time.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

On iPad 2 and Retina Displays

From Evernote:

On iPad 2 and Retina Displays

With all the iPad 2 mockups in agreement as far as physical dimensions and surface features, the biggest unanswered question about the iPad 2 is the screen resolution. One thing is certain, Apple will not stick to 1024x768 forever.

Given their past history with the iPhone they will move beyond only when they cam double the pixels. A lot of tech commentators have expressed skepticism of this supposed 2048x1536 resolution. Reasons being, that it will be too expensive, or that at 264dpi it does meet Apple previous Retina display standard of over 300 dpi. Consequently Apple will not be able to market it as such. Let's also not forget when did Apple move to retina display on the iPhone. On it's forth generation. However that happened to be the year Androids phones got mainstream with screens with higher dpi and resolutions that the iPhone. At 2011 CSE, a few tablets did emerge that have higher screen specs than the iPad. Apple is again forced to up the game in some way in the specs department.

What does common sense logic of the way Apple does things say? Apple will not put a higher res screen just for then sake of staying ahead. They will also not do so if the cost was prohibitive nor if they could not do it on a mass scale. Apple has stated many times that they are building a software platform. From a developer perspective, to make sure your App will look good on a screen with new resolution without effort, it will have to scale automatically 2x. Uncovered iOS file references in the past have suggested that Apple has already build support for this.

The questions are: will Apple manage to produce a 2048x1536 res displays the iPad 2 affordable and in numbers and how will it justify calling them retina screens.
I cannot speculate on the first part much beyond the report of Apple ordering 65 million iPad screen for 2011. If that does not bring their cost down, nothing will.

Retina display does not just imply a specific resolution but a one couple to a certain viewing distance. It is understood that perfect human yes can discern pixels at dpi of 300dpi at 1 foot. Increase the distance or the dpi and you can no longer see the pixels, hence you have a Retina display. Normal magazine reading distance is 1 foot and logically so all quality print magazines have adopted this 300 dpi print standard.

The iPhone however is certainly held at a closer than 1 foot distance and so to maintain a Retina display quality it needs a higher dpi: hence the 326 dots per inch. The iPad however is a device you will often leave in your lap while using it. That's way more than the 1 foot and so you can decrease the dpi from the 300 standard and still have a retina display effect. The doubling of the dpi of the current iPad will give it dpi of 264 which might be just enough.
In any case, Apple might need to explain this again at the next event where the iPad 2 is introduced. Remember the blog posts disputing Apple original retina display claim for the iPhone 4?

Other interesting thing that I hope will make it to the iPad 2 and specifically the WiF only version is GPS. The benefits are just too many to ignore them any longer. So many apps will work a lot better if accurate location info is available.

So will the iPad get a Retina Display? I think yes. Will it be 326 dpi? Certainly NO!