Super-thin iPad, iPhone 5s, other Apple goodies coming, report suppliers

Refinements to Apple’s product line should keep fans buying, but where’s the company’s next category-defining breakthrough?
Refinements to Apple’s product line should keep fans buying, but where’s the company’s next category-defining breakthrough?
Image: AP/Ahn Young-joon
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Peter Misek, managing director at investment bank Jefferies, just got back from Asia with a bag full of early Christmas presents for Apple fans. In his latest report, he says that according to the suppliers he talked to, the following new products are on the way:

iPhone 5S

To be released in June 2013, Apple’s next phone will have a better camera, longer battery life, Near Field Communication (NFC) and will come in six to eight colors, says Misek. NFC allows phones to communicate wirelessly with objects in close proximity. In Android phones with NFC chips it powers, for example, Google’s “tap to touch” payment system known as Google Wallet. Apple has been resistant to incorporating NFC technology so far, and has publicly said that it’s a technology that is not “the solution to any current problem.” On the other hand, Apple may have acquired identity technology company Authentec for $356 million in July in order to get access to its combined fingerprint and NFC identity recognition system.

Thinner, lighter iPad

The next iPad will be a blessed departure from the third iPad (now known as “iPad With Retina Display”), which was even thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, says Misek. That’s due in part to a new screen technology that replaces the silicon that is the active layer in almost all flat LCD displays with something called indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO). IGZO allows for higher resolution, more responsive displays, and requires less material than silicon when used in a display, hence the reduced weight and thickness. Taiwan-based Digitimes has also cited anonymous sources suggesting that Apple could use an IGZO display in its next iPad, and sharp is already producing 10-inch IGZO displays, presumably for tablets. They would be perfect for the next iPad, and if a manufacturer as large as Apple were to incorporate them, it would fit with Sharp’s public declarations that shipments of these displays will soon surge.

An iPhone mini

Apple has yet to signal to suppliers that it’s going to build a smaller, cheaper iPhone, says Misek, but he thinks one is on the way. A cheaper, stripped-down iPhone could be the perfect complement to the pre-paid iPhone plans coming to the US from T-Mobile. Perhaps they’re being built in the US.

An Apple TV, finally?

Misek also claims to have seen prototypes of an actual Apple TV (and not just a set-top box like the current Apple TV) but in the past he’s been consistently wrong in his prediction about this device. That doesn’t mean Misek’s record is universally terrible: When everyone else thought the iPhone 5 would be the successor to the iPhone 4, he correctly predicted that the next device would be the iPhone 4S.