Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) sure had a giant first quarter in 2012, selling 35.1 million iPhones, 11.8 million iPads, 7.7 million iPods and 4 million Macs. What was once a computer company is now a consumer-electronics company, with computers actually contributing a relatively small piece of a pie that’s increasingly dominated by mobile devices.
However, mobile users are notoriously fickle (just look at how quickly they switched and made Apple the market leader), and hungry to upgrade to the latest, greatest and coolest new devices. As the iPhone turns five years old this month, sales of its latest version, the iPhone 4S, are slipping as consumers opt for smartphones with faster, 4G connectivity. At Verizon (NYSE:VZ), the Droid RAZR MAXX, a 4G Android offering from Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola division, recently overtook the iPhone 4S as the provider’s best-selling smartphone. Still, the iPhone 4S remains tops overall in the U.S. market.
Which leads to the question analysts and investors — not to mention consumers — are asking: What does the Cupertino company have in the product pipeline that could launch a fresh wave of Apple hysteria? Let’s take an educated look.
This is clearly the device everyone is waiting for. Apple being as secretive as it always is, we know very little about the iPhone 5. However, based on rumors, leaks and digging undertaken by the rabid Apple fan websites, here are the current most likely scenarios: release in the September/October time frame, smaller dock connecter and full 4G/LTE support.
The feature getting the most buzz is the possibility of moving from the current 3.5-inch display to a larger size, possibly 4 inches. While helping the iPhone compete against rival smartphones from Samsung and others with displays measuring 4.8 inches, any change to the iPhone display’s aspect ratio could be tough on app developers.
Due to arrive this fall, iOS 6 powers Apple’s mobile devices: the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The mobile market is seriously heating up with Android’s latest release closing the operating system gap and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) preparing to launch Windows 8 on everything from desktops to smartphones — and, oh yes, on its very own new tablet, the Surface.
So, Apple has a lot riding on iOS 6 when it arrives in the fall. New features include Maps with turn-by turn navigation (replacing Google Maps), beefed up Siri functionality, Facebook integration and a new Passbook feature for organizing gift cards and other e-documents. The good news is that iOS 6 is expected to be a free upgrade, the bad is that the two year-old original iPad won’t be able to run it.
OSX Mountain Lion
Technically, this is Mac OS 10.8 (the eighth iteration Apple’s Mac operating system) and builds on last year’s Lion release. Mountain Lion should have more swiping and other functional cues borrowed from Apple’s mobile devices, along with new capabilities such as iMessage support, more iCloud functionality, notifications and a Dictation feature that makes typing text optional. Priced at $19.99 and due to go on sale this summer.