What's next in Apple's product pipeline?

With the new iPhones and iOS 7 now out in the open, the iPad is next in line for a colourful refresh. Meanwhile,an iWatch might be just around the corner as well.

The new iPhones have hit the street and eager Apple acolytes are getting ready to get their hands on the iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S. With the iOS 7 update now also out in the open, it’s time to look forward to what’s next in Apple's pipeline.

The iOS 7 is a significant operating system upgrade, which underpins the architecture of new Apple devices, but for most Apple watchers the iPad looks set to be their next port of call.

Interestingly, the iPhone and the iPad refreshes also offer tantalising clues that suggest an iWatch might not be that far away, after all.

Technicolour iPads

Apple's product positioning of both the iPhone 5c and 5s will carry across to its tablet line. The second generation iPad Mini will adopt the design style of the iPhone 5c, which means Apple will forego the aluminum build for a polycarbonate body with plenty of colour.

The cheaper build will make it financially viable for Apple to introduce a retina screen on the iPad mini without needing to raise the starting price of $369.

Internally, Apple will use the same A6x chipset as the iPhone 5c which will be needed to drive the resolution packing retina display.

The iPad 5 on the other hand will continue to be positioned as the top tier Apple tablet and will echo the design and specifications of its high-end iPhone 5s. 

This includes retaining the aluminium build of the iPhone 5s and limited colour palette in addition to the same A7 64-bit chip under the hood. 

On the notebook side, the next update to OSX, Mavericks, will ship with the Haswell enabled Macbook Pros which will also be announced in October as expected.

Why an iWatch makes sense

Samsung recently showed its hand with the Galaxy Gear and with Sony having recently rolled out their updated SmartWatch 2, Apple isn’t going to stay away from the wearable market for too much longer.

You only need to look at the success of fitness related wearables such as Nike's Fuelband and Fitbit to see why the burgeoning market holds a great deal of potential for tech companies.

IDC recently lowered its forecasted tablet sales citing the growth in the wearable market as a driving factor. Canalys Research forecasts that over five million smart watches will ship in 2014, a massive 900 per cent surge over the 500,000 units it projected for 2013.

The ten-fold growth, while impressive on its own, is still only a fraction of the overall fitness wearable market.

With built in gyroscopes and accelerometers and a strong app ecosystem, smart watches have the ability to replace the need for dedicated fitness wearable products with the added benefit of being able to display critical information from your smartphone or tablet such as incoming emails, text messages and calls.  

"Smart watches will be the most important new product category in consumer electronics since the iPad defined the market for tablets", says Chris Jones, VP and principal analyst at Canalys.

"Software platforms tied to smart watches will also be a tremendous opportunity for developers to write apps in categories such as health and wellness or sports and fitness."

The M7 revelation

While Apple hasn't given anything way, the revelation of the new M7 motion coprocessor inside the iPhone 5s suggests that the chip will play a crucial role in the upcoming iWatch.

The M7 processor is designed  to handle the motion data coming from the handsets gyroscope, accelerometer and compass. In other words, it's a chip that can track your movements and determine whether the user is going for a gentle stroll, riding a bike, running in a race or riding in a car without taxing the phone's main processor.

At the iPhone 5s press conference last week, Apple's Senior Vice President of Marketing, Phil Schiller, made it clear that the company expected to see a number of dedicated apps that harness the M7's potential.

"With new software and applications you're going to get a whole new level of health and fitness solutions never before possible on a mobile phone."

Aside from potential battery saving benefits when running navigation and fitness apps, it doesn't seem like a necessary feature for the iPhone 5s when you consider that older iPhones can perform the same motion tracking duties without the M7 chip.

But pair the iPhone 5s with an iWatch that would conceivably act as a second screen for interfacing with fitness apps and the setup becomes immediately compelling.

The M7 powered iPhone or iPad will process the majority of the data in addition to providing GPS tracking capabilities and use the iWatch as the window to that information. Apple is reportedly trying to stretch the battery life of the iWatch to seven days and this type of setup would go a long way in achieving the goal.

It also suggests that Apple wants to get the chip out into developers hands as soon as possible so that there is a library of M7 optimised apps by the time the iWatch goes on sale next year.

What about Apple TV?

A software update to the Apple TV set-top box is expected to arrive later this month to tie in with the release of iOS 7.

The iOS7 update includes Apple's new music streaming service, iTunes Radio, and a tweak to Apple TV's AirPlay system which will finally allow users to stream purchased iTunes content on another Apple TV box without having to download the content to their idevice first or needing to be logged in to the same iTunes account on both devices.

Don't expect to see the tech giant finally open up access to the App store on the Apple TV though, it's a feature that the company is more than likely holding back for the full-fledged Apple television. 

Krishan Sharma is a Brisbane-based Freelance Journalist and writes for a number of different publications covering Business IT and Consumer Technology.

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