Let's start out with some basic facts that have to be established before we dive too deeply into what is happening with Apple right now. First of all, the iPad announcement last Thursday was extremely boring. Throughout the entire event, there were three interesting points - the cool laser cutting the pencil intro for the iPad Air 2, Stephen Colbert's bit, and the iMac Retina. That's it. The overall tone was more light-hearted and fun; but overall, it felt like there wasn't a huge reason for Apple to have the event. Even worse, all of those "high points" have serious caveats attached to them. Stephen Colbert's bit was funny, but didn't really add anything to Apple's overall message or product announcements. And, while the iMac Retina's display and price tag are phenomenal, the market for $2500 desktops is getting smaller by the day, as users opt for laptops and mobile devices instead of desktops.
Today was a big day for Google and its Nexus line. Both the new Nexus 9 tablet and Nexus 6 phone are beasts on the spec sheet, and look like they will be great hardware for Android 5.0 Lollipop. But, that's not to say that there wasn't a bit of disappointment in the announcements. There was one bit of info that caught everyone by surprise, and certainly made some Nexus fans sad: the price tag. The Nexus 6 is reported to cost $649 off-contract, which is quite a lot more than the last couple Nexus phones.
For the record, I have been counting the days until this stupid iPhone 6 Plus #bendgate nonsense would end ever since the first time I saw the video that kicked it all off from Unbox Therapy. When I saw the knuckles of Lewis Hilsenteger go white in his attempt to bend the iPhone 6 Plus, I was convinced that this was all going to be blown way out of proportion, and any chance to highlight a real problem with the iPhone 6 Plus would likely be lost. I'm sad to say that I may have already been proven right.
As you've all noticed, there has been a ton of Motorola news recently. We were expecting the leaks to start coming through as we got closer to Motorola's scheduled September 4th event, and we haven't been disappointed. While much of the most recent news has been about the Motorola-built Nexus X, we want to take some time to run through everything Motorola is going to announce in one short week.
There has been a lot of news recently about the upcoming Motorola-built Nexus X, and the majority of the reports point to the fact that the Nexus Xwill feature a 5.9-inch display. There has been recent news that a 5.2-inch Nexus could come along as well, but that is dependent on certain Motorola releases. The main Nexus X will feature a 5.9-inch display, and this is a fact that has routinely caused a commotion in the comment threads (and among PhoneArena editors) because many of you don't believe the Nexus should be any bigger than the 5 to 5.2-inch range. So, I wanted to clear up the most likely reasoning for Google's choice of the larger display.
One of the biggest reasons for Android's success is in the hardware variety. There is an Android smartphone that fits everyone's preferences, size needs, and budget. The basic aim of the platform is to be incredibly adaptable and malleable, so why do people continue to try defining Android's success through the lens of what Apple has done with iOS? The comparison makes little sense when looking at market share, and even less sense when looking at how the platforms are built and how that affects the resulting hardware.
There are quite a lot of opinions and rumors going around concerning the Apple iWatch. Some think the device will be announced next month, others say it won't be released until early next year, and at least one person out there thinks that Apple should wait another year before releasing its first product into the wearable space. We can't really say what Apple will choose to do, but we can certainly examine the various possibilities, and the potential consequences of each path.
The idea of a "mobile device" is a little tough to get a gauge on. For the purposes of Phone Arena, we tend to limit the idea to smartphones, tablets, wearables, and occasionally cars, but usually just the first three categories. There is always a blurry line because for a long time, "mobile" essentially meant "a device that fits in your pocket", like a phone or PDA. Then, the definition was expanded to include tablets, but the reasoning there was tenuous at best. Tablets were packed into the "mobile" idea mostly because they ran traditionally "mobile" operating systems like iOS and Android and because they had similar input methods (touchscreens).
Earlier today, the deal that we all knew was coming finally got announced as Apple announced it had agreed to purchase Beats for $3 billion. Tim Cook praised the subscription service, but he also talked to The Financial Times and cleared up a bit of info that had a number of people curious: whether or not Apple would continue to support the Android and Windows Phone apps for Beats Music. The surprise of the day was that Tim Cook confirmed that Apple would continue to support the apps for other mobile platforms.
The big tag line for Microsoft's announcement of the new Surface Pro 3 earlier today was that this is "the tablet that can replace your laptop." This isn't the most surprising tag line, because since the inception of Windows 8, Microsoft has been trying to push the idea that it is a "post-PC" company, mostly by pushing manufacturers to create hybrid devices and tablet convertibles that would replace traditional laptops and desktops. The plan has had somewhat mixed results. Many consumers aren't really on board with the new Metro/Modern UI, which essentially means that they aren't all that interested in Windows 8 and any tablet/hybrid devices running the system.
Today has been one of the rare days where we got big announcements from both the Android world and the Apple world. This morning, we finally got a look at the new OnePlus One Android smartphone (phablet?), and then this evening Apple announced its Q2 earnings which (mostly) exceeded expectations. But, there was an interesting subplot behind both stories: do tablets really matter?
As we covered in Part 2, Windows Phone is expected to take a big jump with its feature set when version 8.1 hits. When you combine that with the reportedly aggressive licensing fees and expected expansion into more emerging markets, and there are good reasons to expect that Windows Phone can continue growing its market share in 2014. Although, without some incredible hardware and marketing, it's hard to tell exactly if continued growth will be enough to really allow Windows Phone to cement its place as one of the leaders of the mobile ecosystem.
What was the last flagship smartphone announcement that really surprised you? Maybe last year's HTC One, or the Nokia Lumia 1020? The LG G Flex and its self-healing back was somewhat surprising, but it's hard to call that a flagship device. Similarly, the HTC J Butterfly in 2011 was the first device with a 1080p display, but that was definitely not a flagship. Maybe it would be the Nexus 4 in 2012, because of its extremely low price tag, but if you're just considering hardware, would you have to go all the way back to the iPhone 4 in 2010?
Earlier today, the first set of benchmarks came out to compare the Oppo Find 7 and its lower-cost sibling, the Oppo Find 7a. The results weren't exactly surprising, if you've been paying attention to what Motorola has been saying for the past year, but it does bring up an important question: is it worth a higher price tag to get the same relative performance?
Now, it's time to move on to the main event, because 2014 is expected to be all about new Apple hardware. We'll start off broadly, because there is a lingering question regarding just how much new hardware we see. It is almost a certainty that we will see at least two new iPhones in 2014 (including the iPhone 6 and a maybe a plastic iPhone 5s to fill the mid-range) and the iWatch; but, after that, things get a bit hazy. You would normally assume that there would be a new iPad and iPad mini, and the rumors have also been talking quite a bit about a potential 12.9-inch iPad, which the media has taken to calling the iPad Pro.
Samsung president and CEO JK Shin set the tone for the Samsung Galaxy S5 announcement right from the start by saying, "After all, people choose meaningful and relevant improvement for day to day use, and that is small. One step further, evolution always changes the world. That's the meaningful innovation." (English is not Mr. Shin's first language, but you get the idea.) Simply stated: consumers don't want the Galaxy S5 to be filled with bloat, they want useful updates.
As those of you who follow the site know by now, I'm a fan of the Moto X. I was sold on the device the first time I held it back in August of last year, and once the Moto Maker support extended to T-Mobile and the price dropped a bit, I traded in my Nexus 5 for the Moto X. But, the entire time, what I've really wanted is the ebony wood version of the Moto X. Now I have it, and the TL:DR version of this article is this: the wooden back takes an already great phone and makes it even better. We always talk about glass and metal as so-called "premium" materials, but maybe we should consider wood in that same category when it comes to our mobile devices.
There is a new report from from Taiwan’s Economic Daily News, there is almost certainly another handheld device coming from Apple this year to go along with the new 4.7-inch iPhone 6. That much isn't really news at this point. The interesting thing is that the Economic Daily News claims that the 5.6-inch device will not carry the iPhone branding. Frankly, we're not sure what to make of this rumor.
The rumors about a potential 12.9-inch iPad Pro being in the works for Apple, and those rumors have stirred up quite a bit of speculation about the future of the Mac line, including some speculation here about whether or not an iPad Pro could eventually replace the MacBook Air. Unfortunately, most of the speculation (ours included) was based on a mobile-centric view, and forgot to include MacOS.
There have been fairly consistent rumors that Apple has been working on a larger version of its signature iPad tablet, and those rumors simply won't go away. The general rumors have put the larger version of the iPad in the 12-inch range, and earlier this month we heard that Foxconn is already working on a 12.9-inch iPad, which a new report seems to confirm.