Saturday, January 19, 2013

Apple’s 2013 in Rumors: Fingerprint Sensors and More Retina Displays, but No iTV

A much slimmer iPad, an iPad Mini with a Retina display and an iPhone with a built-in fingerprint reader could all be on tap for 2013, according to one industry analyst.
As MacRumors reports, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has published a research report that tries to predict Apple‘s entire 2013 product lineup. Although analysts tend to have terrible track records with Apple rumors, Kuo is a notable exception.
Let’s do a quick look at some of his past forecasts:
  • Kuo’s January 2011 predictions about the iPad 2, including the dual-core processor, camera specs and screen resolution turned out mostly accurate. (He was off by 0.2 GHz on the clock speed of the A5 chip.)
  • Apple’s iPhone 5 achieved a thickness of under 8 mm, thanks to in-cell touch technology and the use of a metal back plate instead of glass, just as Kuo predicted five months before launch.
  • As Kuo expected, Apple discontinued the 17-inch MacBook Pro last year and redesigned its iMacs, but without Retina displays.
That’s a pretty good track record. So let’s hear out Kuo’s predictions for 2013:
  • The iPhone 5S will be similar to its predecessor, but with a faster processor, a better camera with smart LED flash and a fingerprint reader built into the home button, which would reduce the need for passwords everywhere. Keep in mind that Apple acquired AuthenTec, a maker of fingerprint sensor technology, last year.
  • A cheaper iPhone for prepaid and emerging markets–a popular rumor these days–would be a lot like the iPhone 5, but with a plastic enclosure, available in six colors.
  • The next iPad will be considerably slimmer and lighter. That’d make sense given that Apple had to add bulk to its third-generation iPad to accommodate a Retina display. Kuo expects the iPad Mini to get a Retina display as well this year.
  • Non-Retina display MacBook Pros will meet their maker this year, as Apple moves to an all-Retina lineup at lower prices than before.
  • The MacBook Air line won’t get Retina displays this year, Kuo believes. Their main improvement will be an upgrade to Intel‘s Haswell platform, which will allow for better battery life. Apple’s iMac and Mac Mini line may get a similar upgrade, sans Retina.
  • The fourth-generation iPod Touch will be discontinued, but Apple may sell a cheaper fifth-generation model in its place, with 8 GB of storage and no rear camera, starting at $199.
  • Kuo thinks the Apple TV set-top box will get a refresh, but didn’t offer any details. The fabled Apple television, however, appears to be drifting off to 2014 due to those pesky content issues.
Kuo thinks most of this stuff will happen in the second half of the year, with the exception of a first quarter Apple TV refresh and new MacBook Airs in late Q2.
While there aren’t a lot of wild and crazy things on the list, Apple tends to avoid radical changes to its products, despite conventional wisdom. The fact that most of these predictions are quite reasonable–tame, even–makes me more likely to believe them. The most contentious claims are the less expensive iPhone (which smart Apple watchers no longer dismiss outright) and thumbprint tracking in the iPhone 5S (which at this point just seems like a matter of time). I wouldn’t count on Kuo’s forecast proving 100 percent accurate, but as a rough estimate of what to expect from Apple this year, it works.

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