Playing the rumor game


Published: Monday, August 19, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:25 p.m.

Game on.

No, not the annual cupcake home opener for the Gators but the soothsaying and rumor mongering that comes ahead of Apple's new iPhone announcements. Websites are devoted to it and blogs are full of it (literally and figuratively) as so-called experts dish out loads of speculation on so-called leaks.

If you have a minute, yours truly is gonna get in the game.

Much has happened in the year since Apple released the iPhone 5. Android, its chief competitor, has blossomed in popularity, mostly due to the success of rival Samsung. Blackberry launched a failed resurrection and is now reportedly on suicide watch. Windows phone? Well, how many of your friends have one? Exactly.

Nonetheless, the biggest question in the tech world this year is the same as it's been since late 2011 when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died. Can Apple continue to change the world with its innovative brand of innovation? So far the answer has been no. Want proof? Just ask the suits on Wall Street where Apple stock fell by nearly 50 percent before a very recent rebound of sorts.

Suits and non-suits alike want to know if Apple will be serving up a dramatically new iPhone this year. Much of that answer came back in June when the company announced the first real overhaul of its IOS software that runs the popular mobile device. Apple has only tinkered with IOS since 2007, but this time they gave the keys to design guru Jonathan Ive. The result is a marriage between the hardware he was already known for and the software makeover job he recently inherited. Opinions aside, you can rest assured if you're an iPhone user and update to IOS 7, you will have a radically different phone on your hands.

Now that we know what's going on under the hood, let's look at questions surrounding the fit and finish. Ready, set, go.

Is this the year of the “S”?

Probably. Apple does not like to be predictable, but they have shown their hand in the past by following up newly designed models like the iPhone 3 and 4 with less substantial updates the following year such as the 3G and 4S. I wouldn't bet on an iPhone 6 this year but a 5S with features that expand on what is already a well-designed hunk of metal. Apple puts far more attention and resources in designing handsets than others and recoups that investment by invoking two-year life cycles. The downer for many is that the screen size will likely stay at 4 inches, which ranks among the smallest in the industry.

How will Apple put their “fingerprint” on it?

Actually, it looks like the main attraction will be putting YOUR fingerprint on it. All signs point back to Apple's acquisition of biometric security company AuthenTec last year. The goal was to bring fingerprint-based security to its flagship device via a tiny sensor in the home button. Why? My guess is that Apple will finally show the rest of the tech world how mobile payments should be handled. Cries for “wallet-less” technology have been around for years, and attempts by the likes of Google have never gained traction. Apple has the weight to force its will on the marketplace, and it might just have a device consumers feel is secure enough to hold their most vital information. If Apple could make even a few pennies per transaction, then they will have found their next cash cow.

Why is there only one model? Samsung has several.

Ah, the crux of most rumors this year is that Apple will unleash a new lower-priced model to compete with its South Korean rival. The web has been flooded with “leaked” images of a plastic-covered iPhone about the same size as the current model with more color options than a pack of Life Savers. There is even a name: iPhone 5C. It's almost a foregone conclusion to many pundits except that such a move is not in the company's DNA. Apple is feeling the external pressure of late because they have under-innovated. Why, then, would they answer with an intentionally throttled-down device? Apple doesn't do plastic anymore and it doesn't do multiple colors. The question is does it flinch when shareholders cry for more market share? I promise this: If Apple goes forward with such a device, Steve Jobs might just roll out of his grave in a zombie-like rage.

What about “one more thing?”

Jobs was arguably the greatest salesman since P.T. Barnum, and he had a knack for ending his rock-star product announcements by announcing “one more thing.” Whether it was surprise products like Macbook Pro, iPod or Apple TV, software like iCloud or even the year he invited musician John Legend on stage to perform. It kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Ultimately, it was the Jobs signature, and so far Tim Cook has only offered initials. Will this be the event? Probably not, but we could see a fabled new product like the iWatch or iTV.

Most would agree, however, that the best stamp Cook could put on this announcement would be a device that wows the world like none have since Jobs was at the helm.

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