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Predicting 2010: iPod and iPhone

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The dawn of a new year never fails to make me excited about all the potential for new devices we’ll inevitably see released. This year is no different, and for Apple’s (s aapl) iPod and iPhone, there are some storms that have been brewing for quite a while that should break in 2010. Hope you packed a raincoat.

I recently came across my still functional (including decent battery life) 30GB iPod Video while rooting through my drawers looking for a proprietary USB cable. After I charged it and booted it up, the palpable feeling of the HDD platter spinning up, and the faint sound that accompanies said action reminded me of just how far we’ve come, and of how far we’ve yet to go with Apple’s portable devices. Here’s where I think we’re headed next.

The iPod

It’s long been the linchpin in Apple’s lineup of product offerings, and it deserves eternal respect for the role it had in reversing the company’s fortunes, but the iPod no longer enjoys the place of highest favor among Apple products, mobile or otherwise. I predict, as a general trend, a continued downplaying of the iPod’s role at Apple, and significant changes to the products on offer as a result of that trend.

Video Comes to the Touch

Probability: Guaranteed
The evidence all but guarantees that video is meant to come to the iPod touch sooner or later, and I predict it will be sooner, rather than later. Tear-downs of the most recently released iteration of the touch revealed a space perfectly designed for the same camera guts found in the new iPod nano, so unless Apple is just very interested in toying maliciously with Apple rumor hounds, this one is basically in the bag. It doesn’t hurt that it’s the next logical step for the rising star of Apple’s iPod lineup.

iPod Classic Gets Retired

It’s served long, and it’s served well, but the HD-based iPod Classic is not long for this world, in my opinion. Apple’s already streamlined the Classic to a single available model, and as the price of flash memory begins to trend downwards again in 2010, I think they’ll do away with the beast altogether and focus on turning Classic customers into iPod touch devotees.

Touch-based Control Returns to Shuffle

Probability: Possible
One of Apple’s most questionable decisions made in the service of sexy design is the loss of any and all buttons on the iPod shuffle. I think it will respond to mixed reviews and consumer skepticism by returning some form of manual (ie. non-voice) control to the device itself. That doesn’t necessarily mean buttons will return, if they can figure out some way to make use of the multi-touch tech it’s so clearly in love with.

Nano Gets Incremental Video Upgrades

Probability: Guaranteed
Look for the iPod nano to get steady improvements in the quality of its video camera, and in what you can do with said video on and off the device. Apple’s made its big changes to the device, and will now move into what amounts to a holding pattern in which it upgrades the upgrades it’s already introduced. And consumers will continue shelling out with each bump up.

The iPhone

Predicting where the iPhone will go is a bit more challenging than making calls about the iPod lineup. The upgrades made with the 3GS were logical enough, since many of them amounted to putting things in that should probably have been there in the first place.

The Usual

Probability: Guaranteed
There are the standard upgrades to be expected with any new model. These things include storage bumps (64GB next time around), improvements to the camera and video recording (bump up to 5 megapixels possible, but by no means a sure thing), and improvements to the processing and graphics rendering capabilities of the iPhone. They’re boring and we know they’re coming, so let’s not waste time on this.

New Look

Probability: Possible
The iPhone is incredibly recognizable, and that probably had something to do with the reason the 3GS still has the same distinctive look as the 3G. Other probable reasons include a rushed roll-out, and more emphasis on internal changes. I think next time around, we’ll be treated to a new look, and I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that we may have already seen some early prototypes of this design change.

Better Peer-to-Peer

Probability: Guaranteed
The future of mobile tech is in peer-to-peer interaction between devices. Apple knows this, and that’s why it opened up Bluetooth interaction between devices when it released iPhone 3.0. I think Apple will make further efforts to make P2P experiences technically better and more seamless in the next update. That might come via improved Bluetooth, or using the recently revealed Wi-Fi Direct tech that Apple’s thrown its support behind.

Physical Keyboard

Probability: Absurd
No. Just kidding.

The Big Picture

Flash-bang upgrades will all go to the iPhone, while the iPod line will get natural but relatively small and less showy enhancements. The reason being, Apple is using the iPod touch and its brethren to herd consumers towards the iPhone, which is the real cash cow and the better bet for long-term investment.

24 Responses to “Predicting 2010: iPod and iPhone”

  1. Like others, I’m hoping they’ll KEEP and enhance the classic even more. It’s the best iPod for those who want the ULTIMATE portable libray. Even does video. It’s great. The touch is great. But it’s no Classic when it comes to being a pure player.

  2. lalitaraja

    I’m in the process of upgrading to a larger capacity mp3 player, I want to stay with the ipod but sound quality is more important to me that it seems to be to apple….Rather than delete the classic I’d like to see them niche market it to audiophiles, perhaps a limited edition with best quality componants in all areas leading to fantastic quality sound. the ipod is rarely at the top of the list for audiophiles.
    I don’t need bells and whistles (or wifi) I just want a good quality music player that I can keep my whole collection on ( 45gb and counting…)

  3. scbond

    I don’t think (and hope) they will retire the Classic, not this year or for a few either. Flash memory is too small and expensive for a lot of people. One feature that has been hoped for for a long long time is built-in wifi and a simple menu-based iTunes store on it. With that and maybe one or two Classic only features I reckon the Classic will get stronger than ever.

  4. I think they’re just going to beef up the capacity on the Nano and kill off the Classic, so they don’t have to maintain so many different iPod lines. I bought an iPod Touch 64GB and it’s rubbish. The iPhone/iPod Touch interface is just crap, and the touch screen keyboard is a nightmare to use. I’m actually returning it and going back to my 160gb Classic until the Nano has a big enough capacity for me. There are a lot of people who just want an portable media player to play media, and don’t have any desire to surf the web, etc. Even though I’m not one of those people, and I want a lot of the iPod Touch features, I can’t get past the interface.

  5. I think a high-capacity (over 64 GB) HD iPod is a fairly safe bet– having your whole music collections on a portable gizmo was always one of the iPod’s basic attractions and that hasn’t changed. In addition, with the higher fidelity (or even lossless) formats being used now, there’s a clear slot for an iPod with a big HD.

  6. John Davis

    I was pleased to see that Darrel gets decent batter (sic) life out of his 30GB iPod Video, but the remark left me wondering.

    Does Darrel batter people with his iPod? “Batter” in the sense of pummeling, pounding, hitting repeatedly, buffeting, thrashing, beating up, clobbering, trouncing, raining blows on; knocking around or about, beating the living daylights out of, giving someone a good hiding, laying into, lacing into, doing over, or roughing up.

    The older iPods do have a certain heft to them, but I wouldn’t have thought you could do a lot of battering with one and it might be a bit hard to explain to the Applecare guy when the inevitable happened..

    Perhaps Darrel is a cricket player or a baseball player?

    There wouldn’t be much of an iPod left if he did. Cricket balls and probably baseballs too have much less resiliency than people. No way he could convince an Applecare guy. “It’s not just the scratches, …..”

    Unless he was using one of the original Soviet yPods – the ones with a lead battery, made out of cast iron with CCCP across the top. You could do a lot of damage with one of them,

    Perhaps Darrel uses his iPod for cooking, making fish and chips? Fish would be more likely than chips. It would have to be VERY heavily modded though. Maybe he runs an egg whisk off the hard disk drive.

  7. Hey,

    Great list, but I think you were a bit too “conservative”…

    Here’s what I think might happen with the iPhone / iPod touch:
    – Improved battery life (though you might add that one to your “Usual” list, but I think it has greater implications – read the rest…)
    – RFID / NFC capabilities. There were several rumors and speculations about an RFID chip that might find its way into the next version of the iPhone. If it does, this might kick-start the NFC revolution many have predicted years ago.
    – FM and HD radio. The iPhone is said to have an FM antenna in it for syncing with the Nike+ accessory. Since the hardware already exists in the iPhone, why not provide free, simple and legal music for everyone? Besides, Zune HD has it.
    – Standard connector. Apple, with many other vendors in the industry, has agreed to come out with a single connector to their phone’s power cable.
    – Multitasking. Push notifications is nice, but it seems like a stopgap. I think the iPhone will eventually allow multiple apps to run at the same time, especially if they’ll manage to improve its battery lifetime.
    – Browsing the Internet. Adobe has managed to port Flash code into iPhone as a standalone app, so it seems hard to believe that Apple’s not working on this with Adobe in some underground lab. Also, Microsoft is said to show-off Silverlight running on iPhone – maybe that would be in the next iPhone version?
    – iPhone-native apps: IM and games. It seems possible that Apple will release an IM client in the near future, and based on their recent job posting, it is possible to assume they are also working on native games for the iPhone, and especially for the iPod touch, which they touted as the ultimate gaming platform.
    – Built-in turn-by-turn directions. Google has released its own free turn-by-turn directions app to Android phones. I bet it will end-up on the iPhone as well.
    – Improved personalization. Many users complain about the inability to change various aspects of the iPhone look and feel. I guess something might change in that department as well.

    No matter what – it’s going to be an interesting year for Apple, with all the growing competition and “iPhone-killer” devices all over, that’s for sure!

    Take care,
    Offir Ariel

  8. you forgot AppleTV! guess i shouldn’t be surprised.

    but what about “Take 3”? update the ATV OS – now a version of Tiger – to the iPhone Leopard-based OS. so then it could run iPhone apps on your TV! that would take ATV out of the hobby zone and make it into a powerful and unique living room – well i don’t know what to call it. much more than a gadget or set top box.

    so that’s my prediction.

  9. I really want to see a cessation of the crippling of Flash on the Internet on the next iPhone. We really should be able to get the full Internet experience on these devices.

    • Jason Toh

      it is not possible that 802.11n will be deployed into any mobile devices and 802.11n has MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) and this means every 802.11n reciever needs to have 2 antenna. that is the reason mobile the ipod 3g, iphone 3gs and other mobile wifi devices are still using 802.11g. another reason is there barley enough RAM to send data at 54Mbps

  10. Wendell Frink

    I know I want to become an iPod Touch customer just because of the new features that the Touch enables; internet browser, amazing apps, and the fact that they came out with a 64 GB model is pushing me to own and want one.