Will Thunderbolt come to the iPhone and iPods this year?

I had a thought today that perhaps Apple will be bringing the new Thunderbolt technology to its lineup of iPhones and iPods in their next generations.

This is purely speculation on my part, but let me outline why I think this is a possibility.

Firstly, it is increasingly evident that the new iPhone will not be here until August at the earliest, probably not till September. The new iPods are also in the same sort of timeframe, as I detailed earlier this week.

By that time, the entire Mac lineup should feature Thunderbolt, as the Mac mini, MacBook Airs and Mac Pro are all expected to be updated in the next couple of months and Apple has included Thunderbolt in each new Mac iteration since first announcing it in February’s MacBook Pro refresh.

Apple is also known to be hiring people for its Thunderbolt team, and it is obvious that they see the technology as the future ahead of USB 3.0 and even their own (still unreleased and of currently unknown future) FireWire 1600 and 3200 updates.

With the entire Mac range equipped with Thunderbolt by the time of the expected announcement of the next iPhone, what better way to continue pushing the new technology than by rolling it into their consumer electronic devices? With proven data transfer speeds of 827MB a second, a cabled sync will take seconds, no matter how much data was being transferred.

There are a few problems with this theory, however. The first is that rolling out Thunderbolt could potentially undermine the new WiFi Sync feature of iOS 5 – whether Apple will see this as a problem is another matter, and the two features are likely to speak to two different types of user.

Secondly, it is not known (or at least, I don’t know, which for the purposes of this article amounts to the same thing) how backwards-compatible a Thunderbolt iPhone will be with the vast majority of Mac users who will still need to use USB to sync. But then that loops me back to that first point – WiFi Sync could actually replace USB sync on these new iPhones with Thunderbolt as a feature there for ‘power’ users.

The only other hurdle I can think of is the expense of including Thunderbolt in a consumer electronics device which Apple is continually trying to reduce the cost of building, especially with constant rumours of a cheaper, smaller ‘iPhone Nano’ (which, it has been speculated, could possibly replace the iPod touch if it got cheap enough).

There have been currently no rumours on this front, which is why this post is entirely speculation. But Apple have a long history of dropping technology for the next best thing when it suits them, so maybe, just maybe, this will become a reality sooner than we think.

Note: whilst writing this post, AppleInsider published a story stating that the component cost of adding Thunderbolt to consumer devices was stunting adoption of the new technology. Whilst this may be true, Apple themselves are more familiar with Thunderbolt than most manufacturers as they were involved in its development and may be able to achieve compatibility for cheaper. Or, this may be part of what Apple was talking about when they speak of reduced margins at their earnings calls.

Rumour Roundup

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to update this blog. It’s been a very hectic couple of weeks, and over last few days I’ve barely been able to even think about updates, let alone sit down to actually write any.

Unfortunately for me, it has been quite an active week on the rumour mill, especially for Apple. Very active. In fact, so active that we’re almost certain to see a new Apple product this week, if not early next.

To that end, let’s have a quick roundup of all the news that’s been bouncing around over the last week, starting with the big one.


New MacBook Pros, Light Peak Imminent?

This is now looking very likely. Numerous reports have pegged tomorrow, which is also Steve Jobs’ birthday, as the release date for the new MacBook Pro range, which will feature numerous hardware updates, including – apparently – a separate SSD boot drive for the operating system, and the alleged premiere of Intel’s new Light Peak technology.

In fact, today what appears to be the packaging for a new generation MacBook Pro has been posted around the web. It suggests that Apple will brand Light Peak as ‘Thunderbolt’, that FaceTime HD is about to be released, and the presence of an SDXC card reader (no mention of a separate boot drive however).

Thunderbolt is also apparently making use of, and in the MacBook Pro sharing, the Mini DisplayPort connector.

Intel is also expected to announce Light Peak’s release tomorrow, separate from the Apple event.


iPad 2, iPhone 5 delayed? Apparently not.

Two separate reports also emerged over the weekend alleging that due to ‘production bottlenecks’ and last-minute design changes, the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5 would be delayed until June and September, respectively. These reports both apparently came from Wall Street analysts.

The reports were both quickly refuted – indeed, since then more reports have suggested that, far from being delayed, Apple is in fact intending to announce the iPad 2 at a media event next Wednesday.

That said, a new story today claims that Apple has indeed lowers its initial order of iPads due to “device changes”, so there may have been a hint of truth in the rumour, even if it has not caused delays to the release of the product (although it will make the iPad 2 harder to get ahold of).

First indications that the reports were bogus emerged when reactions to the news of the iPad’s delay to June was met with concern of it bumping up against the iPhone’s release. This was quickly followed by another report that the iPhone was also delayed, this time until September. Which of course bumps up against the iPod release schedule; they would no doubt have also been rumoured as delayed if various reports debunking the whole thing hadn’t come along.

Long story short, we should hear about the iPad 2 in the next couple of weeks, and the iPhone is still expected to arrive in June/July.


iTunes to start selling higher quality, 24-bit music?

A handful of reports have made note that Apple is looking to improve the quality of the purchasable music in the iTunes Store, increasing it up to studio master quality of 24-bit (and presumably with a 192KHz sample rate). Obviously this sort of audio quality is of no interest to people who primarily listen to their music on their iPods or on cheap computer speakers, but for those using high-end audio systems they will really notice the difference.


Final Cut Pro/Studio to receive an ‘ambitious’ update this Spring?

Yet another report (like I said, there’s been a few lately) has suggested that Apple has shown off a major update to Final Cut Pro to a selection of professionals, ahead of an April release. The update will bring full 64-bit support, and a major user interface update.

As is often the case, there is no mention of the other apps in the Final Cut Studio suite, such as Motion or Soundtrack Pro, although these will presumably also get upgrades, at the very least to 64-bit (and hopefully Motion will be a little more stable).

“iPhone Nano” rumours resurface

iPhone Nano MockupRumours have once again cropped up claiming that Apple is working on a smaller, cheaper version of the iPhone. These rumours have been floating around almost since the release of the original iPhone, but this time, they may actually be true.

One thing I’ve come to believe during my time following Apple rumours is that almost every rumour has some truth to it. Usually ‘working on’ in the rumour sense can mean anything from ‘someone at Apple drew a picture of one’ through ‘a few prototypes have been produced’ to ‘there is a model feature complete and awaiting mass fabrication’. Usually it ends up being the former two; that generally means there is no guarantee that Apple will actually release a product they are ‘working on’ to market.

I have no doubt that Apple have been experimenting with small form factor iPhones since perhaps even before the original was released (the iPhone itself is basically a small form factor iPad, since Apple was working on the iPad prior to the iPhone). Now, however, the time may be ripe to actually release a device.

For starters, the iPhone is now well and truly embedded in the mobile phone market. It’s moved on from the niche device it was when it was first released to a mainstream device competing effectively with some of the previous incumbents in the sector. Releasing a low-end phone (in addition to, or more likely instead of, the previous generation iPhone which usually remains for sale at a lower price) will now only help Apple to gain more market share (I say market share, but Apple has often said, they don’t care about market share, they care about profits).

Secondly, the iPhone 4 screen. It has shown that you can squeeze a lot of pixels into a small space. The technology is now there that a smaller phone can have a screen with the same default iPhone res of 480 by 320 pixels, meaning the all-important compatibility with existing iPhone apps can be achieved, which is a must for any ‘nano’ iPhone. We would still likely see a third (or fourth) class of app (alongside  iPhone and iPad apps) which are better formatted for the smaller screen (much like iPad apps are for the larger screen), but original apps should still run (albeit with smaller screen elements). I also think they’ll change the main iOS UI for the smaller screen, as seen in our quick and dirty mockup, making icons the same screen size (no stylus here!)

Thirdly, it will provide a cheaper option for iPad users who don’t necessarily need the full-blown iPhone. Existing iPad users already have a device they carry with them capable of most of what the iPhone can do, and may find the cost of having an iPhone 4 alongside the iPad a needless expense. A toned-down iPhone, still capable of running most iPhone apps but at a fraction of the cost, could fill that gap.

Finally, with Nokia’s hold on that section of the market currently in some turmoil, the time is ripe to stake a claim on that territory. If Apple don’t get there Android will.

The return of these rumours, combined with how widely they’ve been reported (the Wall Street Journal is involved, and they are getting increasingly good at this game) and the increases in technology that actually make it a little more feasible, mean we could very likely see an iPhone Nano in summer.

Does Elton John have advance knowledge of the iPad 2 release schedule?

Elton John
Photo: Richard Mushet (Flickr)

As ever for a work day, I had the breakfast news on in the background whilst attempting to wake my brain up enough to convince my legs it was somehow in their best interests to get up and take me to work.

This isn’t strictly relevant to this story; I’m just trying to make it clear I don’t actively seek out and monitor interviews with Elton John as part of my daily routine.

Just as I was leaving an interview with the aforementioned singer came on; he was discussing his new, gnome-based version of Romeo and Juliet. This also isn’t really relevant.

One thing he did say during the interview, however, caught my ear.

“I can finally buy the iPad in April,” he said. “I’m waiting for the Skype iPad.”

By Skype iPad he no doubt means one with a front-facing camera to allow videoconferencing, which he seems quite certain to be hitting the shelves in April.

Now, to you, I, or anyone else who keeps their ear to the Apple rumour sites, this is all stuff we already know to be almost definitely accurate. However, Elton John doesn’t strike me as being the sort to monitor the rumour mill. He rolls in circles high enough that he’s more likely to have heard it from more reliable sources than, say, MacRumors. Maybe he got on the blower to someone in Apple PR and asked when he’d be getting a front facing camera.

Of course, it could just be that he is far more interested in Apple than he’s let on in the past. Or maybe one of his showbiz friends is an Apple fan like us?


UPDATE: UK users can check out the interview on the BBC News website.