On Tuesday, Apple will unveil the new version of the iPhone and may even unveil a number of new versions but lost in the shuffle of new product announcements could be the fact that the company is going through the most significant set of product updates on the iOS line in a very long time. Let’s look at why I predict a complete line refresh this week.
Over the last few years, Apple’s supply lines have evolved substantially, increasingly spreading across a variety of connectors, processors, and screen sizes. Take a close look and there are no less than 6 iPod variations, 5 iphone ones, and 16 iPad models to choose from (and that’s even before one considers the different color options.)
With 27 iOS powered products (not including Apple TV) on the market, Apple now supports supplies for at least 4 different computer chips (A4, A5, A6, and A6x), at least 3 different types of connectors (lightning, 30 pins, and shuffle), 4 different camera processors, and 7 different types of screens across 5 different dimensions.
Let’s assume that you’re a supply chain expert and think about how you’re going to increase margins on all your product lines: the primary way to do so is to reuse as many components as possible across all your product, a move that gives you greater leverage when making large scale purchases. You know you cannot do much about the form factor of many of your products but there’s a lot you can do inside them.
So the first thing you might look at is the processors, which are often one of the most expensive components in your bill of materials. Out goes anything powered by an A4 processor.
But can you do something even more radical when it comes to processors? For example, you could look at moving your A5 processors out, by upgrading everything to at least an A6 chip.
Then you look at your connectors: You’ve made a bet on a new proprietary approach and most of the vendors of accessories have adapted over the last year. So you say goodbye to anything without a lighting connector.
Your camera processors are also an area where you can get much leverage, especially if you tell consumers that you’re upgrading everything to the better quality ones.
Having simplified the product lines by retiring some older products, you are now left with a challenge on resolution. Your screens range from the 3.5 retina display of the iPhone 4 to the 9.7 inch one of the iPad Retina. Resolutions across iOS devices force developers to ensure that their graphics must look good on the following resolutions:
So this means that developers today worry about 5 different resolutions to make their app look good on iOS. A new set of product offerings can help reduce that diversity to only two different resolutions (or 3 at most) through judicious excising of certain products. Not only will parts be cheaper (as bought in bulk) but the move will make developers much happier as testing cycles will decrease.
Of course, there is always the argument that older products are due to be retired. There has been much complaint about Apple’s aging product line and here comes the opportunity for a substantial refresh, the kind that will touch most of the products the company offers.
So having taken all of the above in mind, it looks like Apple is preparing for one of the biggest refresh in the history of iOS.
Products that would be killed include:
With so many products seeing the end of the road, the potential for huge gaps in the product line exist so we will see some upgrades.
With this realignment, many improvements will have been made to Apple’s supply chain, improving its overall margins. In doing such a refresh, the company will have eliminated any non-iOS devices from its consumer electronic line (the death of the original iPod lines will increase margins across the board), dropped any non-lightning connectors, simplified its processor map (the A6 and A6x won’t be part of the new line, replaced by the A7 chip altogether), and decreased the number of screen resolutions it offers (to small, smallest, and larger).
On the low end of the spectrum, the company will have a tiny screen that is worn on a wrist (probably 512 by 384 at 264 ppi, mirroring the iPad dimensions), a 1136 by 640 at 326ppi resolution for its phones (and iPod Touch), and a 2048 by 1536 resolution at 264 ppi for its ipads. Developers will be happy to see that the simplified approach will remove headaches when trying to build apps that can run on the new variety of devices.
The price lines will remain the same, with the notable exception of the entry-point iPod shuffle disappearing, as well as the high end of the spectrum opening up for a potential new product to be introduced in the future.
With the long delays in a refresh on most iOS product lines, it seems the above case would present the optimal mode for the company and we will find out on Tuesday if the guesses are correct.
© Tristan Louis 1994-present Some rights reserved.