eXtensions - Sunday 25 July 2021


Sunday Notes: Speculation Special; Plus a Few Hard Facts

By Graham K. Rogers


Apple's Q3 2021 financial report will be released in a couple of days. While there is a typical silence from Cupertino, the rumor mills are hard at work with speculation of what Apple will deliver in the coming months. Experience suggests not everyone is right all of the time and while some inferences are possible, we will only know when Tim Cook starts the video.

In a couple of days Apple will announce its Q3 2021 figures and there is some anticipation concerning the continued highs that will be reported. A lot of analysts put out predictions concerning revenue and profit. I find it entertaining to look at the chart that Philip Elmer DeWitt normally publishes onlne a few days later to show how close some of them are to reality. Many of those employed by the most high profile names - presumably with stellar salaries and bonuses - miss by a mile, yet still investors accept their investment advice. I do not think that Wall Street understands Apple at all and tries to treat it as a normal company. It isn't and never has been.

If history repeats itself, within a week or two (sometimes a day or so) after this event, there could be some updates from Apple: a product adjustment, an update, a tweak. If it is a large change, such as new Macs, that would require a video introduction so I would expect at least a week before the announcement about the announcement. Some products are put out with no more than a press release. With time running short before the holiday season, there is certain to be a video from Apple on the next iPhone, but other devices are also likely before and after that event.

iPhone I have written here a number of times on my views concerning speculation. It used to be a lot of fun in the days before the iPhone. Even Apple referred to this in the 2007 iPhone introduction with a slide showing an iPod with a rotary dial that acknowledged the Photoshopping and other rumors.

In recent yeas it has changed into a mini-industry of its own, with three or four influencers who put out rumors that are immediately taken up by almost all the rest of the online commentators. Several of these are also taken as truths by Wall Street, affecting the share price; and there have been one or two notable gaffes, most notably the threat that Apple was doomed (there are a lot of these anyway) if it did not announce a Watch within a few weeks.

Apple did not meet the deadline set by Trip Chowdry and yet still survives, going on now to existence as a $2.5 trillion company. As a note, when Apple announced the iPhone the shares were at $200 they are now a touch under $149, but there has been a 7-way stock split since. Those original shares would have been $28.57 (521.43%) at current prices: boom, not doom.

One of the rumor creators is Ming-Chi Kuo of DigiTimes. Many regard this source as gold, but it is not always accurate and may only be sourcing information from specific sources. My approach is to look at the rumor, nod or frown, depending on whether I like the idea, and wait for the Apple announcement. There have been strong rumors of late concerning the iPad mini. If it is to continue - and I hope it does - it is due an update. For some, that has translated into there will be a new iPad mini. Wait and see. Additional to that, DigiTimes claimed that the new device would be produced with min-LED (see below).

A flurry of news reports, like Chicken Little, followed up with their own versions of the same rumor. Now Stephen Warwick (iMore) writes that this rumor is not to be. Citing Ross Young of DSCC (Display Supply Chain Consultants), we are now told the report was incorrect. Although the source has strong links to the industry, this seems to me that another rumor has superseded the one from DigiTimes. I do hope that other parts of the rumor, concerning the USB-C port and the A15 chip are still in play. Several other sources also repeated the "no mini-LED" rumor.

iPhone 12
The current model: iPhone 12 - Image courtesy of Apple

Back in May I did wonder about the naming of the next iPhone. After all, 13 is a number that some cultures regard superstitiously. That could affect sales. In early July, a number of higher profile sites also discussed this and the consensus seemed to be that Apple being grounded in reality would ignore the superstitious potential and keep the name, iPhone 13. I was not entirely convinced and now I see that there is speculation that Apple "reportedly plans to replace the iPhone 12 with a slightly tweaked 'S' upgrade that might look quite simlar, but could bring big changes under the hood" (Stephen Warwick, iMore). By that I take it to mean the exterior will look similar, but the main changes will be under the hood. That used to happen when the S was used more often and every time it was claimed by those who probably had not checked the specifications (or the iOS) that it was just a minor upgrade.

I would not be surprised if 13 was not used as triskaidekaphobia is common in several countries, although not (apparently) in China or India, two of the largest markets in which Apple sells iPhones. I looked through several web pages using Google search (in which countries is 13 considered unlucky) and much of the fear is north European, Christian and through those cultures to North America. With more than 50% of its sales outside the USA these days, I am not convinced either way. Warwick has a number of other ideas about what the next iPhone will have, including comments on the camera, battery, and of course the expected A15 chip.

Amongst all the speculation, there are some knowns, because Apple has told us. All Macs will be using Apple silicon. What that means after the M1 was released, we do not know although some have speculated on the M1X, the M2 and more. The A-series (iPhone and iPad) and the M-series are scalable, which means it is easier to make larger, more powerful versions. While we already have the new M1-equipped iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Air and 13" MacBook Pro, that was followed a few weeks later by the iPad Pro. These all used the M1 chip, but each had subtle differences, with power output, battery use and ports (iMac, Mac mini).

M1 Macs
M1 Macs: iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro - Image courtesy of Apple

The MacBook Air does not have a fan so needs power needs to be managed carefully and there is reduced power from the cores to control output and heat. The MacBook Pro 13" has a fan so the cores are not managed. I have yet to see anything over 50% power use and temperatures are always well below 40 degrees C. I could not say that about my older MacBook Pro with the Intel processor. The iPad Pro has a single USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) port, plus speakers and microphone inputs, although there is no longer any 3.5mm port for connecting speakers. I link mine through Bluetooth although I could use the OWC Hub that adds 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports and a single USB-A port. I have moved on and would like Apple to dump the Lightning port too. I have a drawer full of old connectors going back to the SCSI and DIN days all of which gather dust - you never know when they might be useful.

Even with the notebooks there are a number of ways that Apple could provide updates and the obvious advance is for an evolution of the M-1 chip. That was the first step on the ladder and I would not expect this to be used in updates to (traditionally) more powerful computers in the line, such as the current 16" MacBook Pro versions that use 2.6GHz 6-core and 2.3GHz 8-core Intel processors. Speculation has already suggested M1X or M2 nomenclature, and this expected power improvement from the increased number of cores is about right. It might also be expected that the 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports would be increased to 4 and there would be other features that befit such high end notebook computers.

Having only recently updated the MacBook Air, there have been rumors in the last few days that this is to be updated again, but with external design changes including the end of the iconic wedge shape. Using one of the well-known rumor sources as source, several articles, including from Stephen Warwick (iMore) also suggest that the display will be enhanced and a different keyboard is to be used. This would also benefit from different Apple silicon which I find odd. The article here also mentions two other rumor-mongers: Mark Gurman and Ming-Chi Kuo.

Intel MacBook Air
Intel MacBook Air - May 2020

One of more the persistent rumors has been that the next Mac will no longer come with the Touch Bar. This idea has been aired several times in the last couple of years, but the additional touch input device is still there. I saw a comment from Roman Loyola (MacWorld) this week that focused on the Touch Bar with a slightly contradictory stand. This reminded me of the expert who refused to even use AirPods, until one day he did and, not only loved them, but wrote write enthusiastically thereafter.

Loyola claims not to like the Touch Bar and cannot wait for it to go. His main argument seems to be that it does not suit his way of working. He uses the MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar and a Mac Pro without. Like a lot of power users he has learned the efficient use of Key commands. I use the MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro most and there is a similarity with the way, when I am writing or editing text that suggestions appear: Touch Bar on the Mac; bottom of the screen on the iPad Pro. Loyola grudgingly accepts that suggestions here are useful when filling in forms online. These need active input from the user to be inserted into the text which is far safer than the lazy, passive use of autocorrect when writing.

Touch Bar
Touch Bar on 13" M1 MacBook Pro

As other apps, particularly from 3rd party developers added support for the Touch Bar, like Affinity Photo and others, it became more useful although even Apple did not push the features enough and it remained a fairly weak extra. The Function keys are still easily accessible (press the Fn/Globe key), but it was sensible of Apple to add a physical ESC key with the latest Macs as its previous incorporation into the Touch Bar could cause problems. I expect that the Touch Bar will disappear eventually, but not everyone will be happy to see it go.

As a reminder, it is easy to take a screen shot of the Touch Bar using similar commands to other screenshots. Those available are:

  • Command + Shift + 3 Full Screen
  • Command + Shift + 4 Part Screen (select with movable box or space bar)
  • Command + Shift + 5 Timed screen shot or record (not on iPad Pro)
  • Command + Shift + 6 Touch Bar (not on iPad Pro)

Touch Bar

It dawned on me a few days ago that I used to be able to take phone calls on the Mac. While I use the Apple Watch for many incoming calls, I wondered if the feature had been replaced. An online search found me the HT209456 Support Page and I began to follow the relevant instructions: On your iPhone, go to Settings > Phone > Calls on Other Devices, then turn on Allow Calls on Other Devices. That was declined twice as one of the devices was to signed in to iCloud.

I looked on the Mac first and FaceTime had the right information, so it was back to the iPhone. I found that the iCloud account details were not entered, so added them to the Phone settings panel and signed in. After a short delay, panels began to appear on other devices telling me of a new sign in. I presume now that when someone phones me this might again appear on the Mac, but when a call did come later about an online food order, the Mac was not running, so I missed that chance.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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