Taking a look back at another week of news from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes FaceID for all and Apple Pencils for the new iPhones, 512 GB of storage for the iPhone X Plus, defeating the Galaxy Note 9, Apple tempting developers to subscription services, the return of the MacBook Air, and Apple’s tax bill appeals.
Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days (and you can read my weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).
FaceID For All New iPhones Confirmed?
With so many units expected to be manufactured, Apple’s impact on the supply chain can give a clear idea what it hopes to achieve with a new iPhone 9 (and when it cuts back on the orders, how over ambitious it was). The latest quarterly results from Lumentum Holdings – which supplies components for Apple’s FaceID system – suggest that all three new iPhone models will come with facial recognition. Forbes’ Gordon Kelly reports:
…while Apple is widely expected to integrate Face ID into its next-generation iPads this alone doesn’t account for the uptick. iPhones outsell iPads 4:1 and only the premium iPad Pro will move to Face ID, so that’s nothing more than a blip on the radar. 75% of Lumentum’s VCSEL sales are also to Apple, so Android isn’t a dominant factor here either.
What does move the needle dramatically, however, is the confirmation of iPhone-X inspired designs and Face ID security for the new iPhone 9 (details), iPhone X Plus (details) and second generation iPhone X (details). The switch (and elimination of 3D Touch) represents the most radical overhaul of an entire iPhone range, arguably, since its inception.
The Stylus Finally Arrives On The iPhone
Thanks to details obtained by the Economic Daily News via stylus supplier Elan. The Taiwanese company is behind the Apple Pencil. Currently exclusive to the iPad, the order for significantly more styli ties in with other indicators (including code snippets in iOS 12) that Apple’s smartphone will support the pencil:
EDN states Apple’s second-generation iPhone X (details) and new iPhone X Plus (details) gain this functionality, 11 years after founder Steve Jobs ridiculed the use of a stylus with phones. That said, smartphones now sport displays of a similar size to those seen on tablets a decade ago, the idea is not so laughable.
In fact, with art, design and productivity software flourishing in mobile app form, Apple Pencil support has the potential to give iPhones a major sales differentiator given Samsung is seriously considering cancelling the Galaxy Note range.
512 GB For Parity, But Apple Has Samsung Beaten In Top Trump Smartphones
Apple, like most smartphone manufacturers, struggle to keep hardware details ‘secret’ before a launch. From leaky supply chains to third-party peripherals that are required on Day Zero, the new designs will be out there for all to see ahead of the launch. Apple doubles-down on this by releasing beta versions of the new operating system, so the secrets revealed at the iPhone launches (or the Note 9, or elsewhere) are very much known… such as the move to 512 GB of on-board storage:
TrendForce states Apple will join Samsung in increasing the top end storage of its new iPhones to 512GB. Interestingly, the move would see Apple return to three storage tiers (64GB, 256GB and 512GB) having last year reduced them to just two (64GB and 256GB). Again, the iPhone 9 would miss out and be limited to 256GB.
Naturally, buyers for the 512GB model would be limited, but Apple is laser-focused on increasing its ASP (average selling price) and a 512GB model would do just that while pleasing its most hardcore / wealthiest fans.
That means that Samsung’s early launch of the Galaxy Note 9, which confirmed the expected changes to the South Korean tablet, will not trump the new iPhone X handsets due in September. By and large, the improvements in the Note 9 will be matched or exceeded by the iPhone X Plus, as I discussed earlier this week:
A glance at the product page of the Galaxy Note 9 shows Samsung’s key points. An all-day battery. 512 GB of storage in the high-end model (and the potential of another 512 GB through the microSD expansion slot), a handset optimized for gaming, never-bezel free full frontal glass display, and the use of the S-Pen stylus.
Tim Cook’s own iterative update to the iPhone X can counter all of these.
Apple’s Long Planned Move To Services
Following on from discussions about Apple removing the affiliate marketing payments to third-party sites and retaining more money for its Services division, Kif Leswing is reporting on Apple’s moves to encourage developers to move away from flat rate apps to subscription based services. Jeremy Horowitz follows up with some thoughts on Cupertino’s preferred model:
According to the report, however, Apple has quietly been pushing developers to convert one-time app purchases into recurring draws on customers’ accounts. Apart from filling its own bank accounts, Apple wants developers to “create sustainable business models, instead of selling high-quality software for a few dollars or monetizing through advertising.”
One challenge is that many of the apps customers purchase are tools that they use only intermittently, so they are unwilling either to pay high prices or maintenance fees that might keep the tools updated. While some development dollars might go toward adding features, others certainly go into tweaking apps to meet frequent Apple OS, API, and device changes.
The Return Of The Air
Is Apple set to refresh the MacBook Air? Clues in the supply line suggest a new ‘inexpensive’ MacBook with Kaby Lake tech is on its way. Is the laptop that Apple could never quite kill set to rise again? I picked up the story this week:
Apple has had countless opportunities to kill off the MacBook Air line-up and go all in with MacBook and MacBook Pro as the two main lines, but each time it has failed to do so. The higher price of the base MacBook speaks to one reason. Keeping the Macbook Air around as the ‘cheaper’ (relatively speaking) Mac laptop remains an attractive option for an unadventurous company, but it also gives the macBook Air an ‘air’ of being a zombie product – unloved by everyone but those watching the revenue streams.
While Apple basks in the glowing of (finally) passing the trillion dollar valuation of the company, its worth remembering not only that it’s in it for the money, but it’s going to fight for as many cents to stay in Cupertino’s coffers as possible. And if that means arguing that property around Apple Park is worth $200, and not $1 billion as suggested by the County Tax Office, so be it. Catherine Ho investigates
In Santa Clara County, Apple is the leading appealer of tax assessments, with 489 open cases dating back to 2004, disputing $8.5 billion in property value, according to the assessor’s office. Apple is largest taxpayer in the county, paying $56 million in tax year 2017-18.
…Some claims reflect extreme differences in estimated values. In one appeal filed in 2015, Apple said that a cluster of properties in and around Apple Park in Cupertino that the assessor valued at $1 billion was worth just $200. In another, property that the assessor valued at $384 million was, in Apple’s view, worth $200, according to an appeal application.
Apple Loop brings you seven days worth of highlights every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future. Last week’s Apple Loop can be read here, or this week’s edition of Loop’s sister column, Android Circuit, is also available on Forbes.