As a developer I get advance look at Apple's next generation software (none of this post discloses any Apple confidential info) which can sometimes give us a clue as to where Apple might be headed with their next products. However, the thoughts in this post pertain to what "products" Apple has released the last 2 months and my thoughts on where these products suggest Apple is headed over the next year or two.
As only a few predicted (including myself), the new iPad "Mini" with Retina that just hit stores is a "clone" (so to speak), of the new iPad "Air", just with a 7.9" screen rather than the Air's 9.7" screen, but keeping "identical internal components". This means that when you go to buy a new generation iPad, you are just deciding between screen sizes and weight (and a $100 saving with the iPad "Mini" with Retina), not between the performance of the internal chips or even specified battery life. This was not true of the prior generation of iPad 4 (4th Generation) versus first generation iPad "Mini", the former of which used the fastest processor Apple could make and a "Retina" screen, and the latter the "two year old, previous generation" CPU that was identical to that contained in the still for sale 2+ year old iPad 2 (2nd Generation) along with a "non-Retina" screen. Both the original iPad Mini (price cut to $299) and the iPad 2 ($399) are still for sale, but only the truly price sensitive will buy the original Mini, and only schools and businesses which have a large investment in related support hardware will buy the iPad 2.
Similarly, Apple introduced two "new" iPhones in September 2013 The 5c is a repackaged iPhone 5, ditching the "high end" metal body for a set of 5 colorful "unashamedly plastic" bodies, but keeping the same internal chips as the iPhone 5 (including the 32bit A6 processor), with a $99 "on contract" starting price for the 16GB model. The 5s is Apples new "flagship" phone, kept the metal body but updated the internal CPU to the A7, a 64bit "monster" that blows away every other phone from every supplier in terms of sheer performance, with a $199 "on contract" starting price for the 16GB model.
So what might these new products tell us about where Apple is headed? Here are my predictions:
1. iPhone Prediction: We will see Apple introduce two "new, no compromise" iPhones in late 2014 which use the "same internals" (just like the new late 2013 iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina), but with two different screen sizes, and both with metal bodies. The first will stick with the current 4" screen and resolution. This size works best with those who have smaller hands and prefer one-handed operation. The second "new" phone will have a larger screen, likely in the 4.7" to 5.2" screen size range. This will have a "Retina 2" resolution, what I am guessing will be double the number of pixels in the X and Y dimensions. allowing Apple to take the leadership position on screen density technology, while not requiring Developers to do any work, beyond providing some higher resolution images. The 4" phone will start at $99 on contract and the 4.7" to 5.2" phone will start at $199. Both will have the next generation A8 processor, M8, AC WiFi and Touch ID. So like this years iPad "Mini" and iPad "Air" your decision will be on solely on screen size (and saving $100) and not on the phones performance/feature combination. So "No Compromise". The current iPhone 5c will become the $0 "on contract" iPhone and be available only as a 16GB model. What is less clear is if it will get updated with the first generation 64bit A7 processor or stick with the 32bit A6 processor. Apple really wants to move everyone quickly to 64bit to have a marketing and performance advantage over Android and Windows Phone, but it's less clear if they jump forward to the first generation 64bit A7 processor on the 5c in 2014 or wait until 2015.
2. iPad Prediction: Late 2014 will be a "minor update" year for the iPad "Air" and iPad "Mini" (with Retina). Both will get the same A8 and M8 processors as the two "new" iPhones discussed above. Both will get AC WiFi. Both will get Touch ID. Both will keep their metal bodies. Sadly, the 16GB version will stay as the entry level storage (although most would like to see Apple make 32GB flash the entry level storage). If iOS 8 adds "multi-pane" capability like Windows Phone/Pad, then we will likely see DRAM increase from the paltry 1GB currently, to 2GB. The 3+ year old iPad 2 will likely disappear sometime in 2014 as a general consumer item, but may be available to schools as a special order item. The iPad Mini (without Retina) will likely stay for price sensitive users, perhaps with a price cut to $249 to continue to "stick it" to Android and Window tablets. None of the iPads will get the rumored "pressure sensitive" touch screen that has recently hit the press (more likely in 2015). There have been rumors of an iPad "Pro" being added to the iPad line in 2014. Reportedly boasting a 12.9" screen with UHD (Ultra High Definition) screen of 3840x2160 resolution. If true, this would require software Developer support to support this "new" resolution that is not a 2x multiple of the current iPad "Retina" pixel density (2048x1536). While possible, it seems unlikely that Apple would put such a workload on Developers to support what will likely be a relatively low volume device. If there were an iPad "Pro" model, it would either keep the same resolution as the current iPad "Mini" and iPad "Air", or go 4x the total number of pixels (4196x3072). I think it more likely that this rumored 12.9" screen size may be used in the Macbook Air, likely replacing both the 11.6" and 13.3" screen models with a single 12.9" "touchscreen" Macbook Air model, heralding in the age of touchscreen Macbook's to the Apple lineup (and decreasing the SKU's on a relatively low volume product for Apple as compared to iPhones and iPads).
We will see how many of my "predictions" hit the mark in 10 months or so. What are your predictions?