Taking a look back at another week of news and headlines from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes Tim Cook’s surrender to Qualcomm, updated plans for the iPhone 5G, hiding the ugly iPhone design, a sequel to the iPhone SE, more MacBook keyboard problems, and an expensive gaming problem for Apple.
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).
Qualcomm Defeats Apple And Wins 5G High Ground
It’s been a busy week for those following the potential of a 5G iPhone. As the week started, Apple was running out of options, Intel’s plans were delayed, and Qualcomm v Apple was returning to the courtroom. There was an option for Tim Cook but could Apple afford to have Huawei as a supplier?
…it would require Apple to acknowledge in public that it needs a rival manufacturer to provide cutting edge technology for the iPhone, and tacitly demonstrating that Huawei is one of the world leaders in 5G. It would also require a darling of the American tech industry to turn to a Chinese competitor, a competitor that does not have the greatest of reputations in the corridors of Washington DC.
We’ll never know if Cook was ready to break and accept the offer, because Tuesday saw Qualcomm and Apple come to an agreement and all legal cases over the IP dispute were dropped. Three hours later, Intel announced it was getting out of the 5G modem game. Although we weren’t in the room when it happened, CNBC’s Lauren diner looked at Qualcomm’s victory:
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A day after settling a multibillion-dollar battle with Apple, Qualcomm’s CEO told CNBC he looks forward to working with the iPhone maker, but he would not disclose how much Apple agreed to pay.
…Mollenkopf said the company will not disclose the payment Apple agreed to in the settlement. Following the announcement of the settlement on Tuesday, Qualcomm said it expects incremental earnings per share of $2 as product shipments ramp and it starts providing 5G chips to Apple.
And there’s the kicker. Apple has publicly surrendered to Qualcomm (as quietly as possible) so the iPhone can have the advanced 5G functionality that is already appearing on Android-powered handsets, even if it takes till late 2020. But the cost to Apple is very high, both in financial and reputational terms:
Apple has been left outgunned by 5G technology; Qualcomm has outmanned the opposition to be the least-worst choice for the iPhone modem; with a raft of 5G smartphones coming from rival manufacturers the iPhone portfolio was outnumbered; and for all of Tim Cook’s aura of supply chain wizardry, he was simply outplanned.
It may not be visible to the general public, but 5G has inflicted a permanent scar on Apple’s psyche. It is no longer the unstoppable magical innovator that can make anything happen. The innovation comes from outside Cupertino, Tim Cook and his team just put it in a shiny overpriced box.
Hiding The New Ugly iPhone Design
With no 5G, what surprises will Apple have for the 2019 iPhone models? While the larger handsets will be joining the modern trend of triple-lens cameras, the leaked design is one of the more ugly implementations this technology. That said, will Apple be able to mask the visual impact of the lenses? Forbes’ Gordon Kelly investigates:
…a new report from Ming Chi-Kuo, arguably the world’s most acclaimed Apple insider, reveals Apple’s next-gen iPhones will have such large front and back cameras that the company will use “black lens-coating technologies” in an attempt to make them look less “conspicuous”.
Yes, this sounds a world apart from Apple’s famed minimalism but Kuo’s report suggests the cameras themselves should be worth it. On the front, Kuo says Apple’s iPhone 11 and 11 Max will have 12MP cameras with five elements, a hefty 70% increase on 7MP, four element shooters in the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR.
The iPhone SE Sequel Is Under Development
That takes care of the ‘Pro’ handsets, what about those at the lower end of Apple’s expensive portfolio? It looks like Apple is working on a smaller screened handset – and assuming it keeps the bezels as small as the iPhone X design language, this could be the ‘small form’ handset many iPhone fans are waiting for. Gordon Kelly investigates:
Following reports Apple is testing a 5.42-inch iPhone to complement the 6.1-inch iPhone XR and 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max, exclusive news the company may shrink it down even further with a modern iPhone SE replacement of just 4.8-inches. The name? iPhone XE.
And while the report for the 5.42-inch model was light on detail, specs this spiritual iPhone SE2 are a lot more specific. Citing a source “closely associated with Foxconn’s manufacturing facility in India”, the reports claims the XE will feature the same bezel-less design as the X and XS with a notch for Face ID, a single 12MP rear camera (the primary shooter from the XS/XR) and an A12 Bionic chip.
More details here.
The MacBook Keyboard Problems Continue To Damage Apple
Apple continues to battle against its design decisions over the butterfly keyboard that debuted on the Mac laptops in 2015. Faults continue to appear, surveys suggest the problem could affect up to a third of users, and Apple has only recently said sorry. That’s not enough for Casey Johnson:
I am stupid for buying another one of these computers, but only as stupid as any of us are for learning to love these dumb tech products on their merits, becoming beholden to the system, and then having a big commitment out of which to dig ourselves (actually not very stupid at all). I’m far more inclined to subscribe to a different argument, which is that Apple is the stupid one for not only trying to reinvent a solution to the extremely solved problem of how to make a working keyboard, but continuing to pretend that, four years and four iterations later, it hasn’t utterly failed. The company declined to comment on the record for this article.
Apple’s subscription service or gaming requires one obvious component… games. So the news that a fund is being put aside for exclusives and developer incentives is not a surprise, but the size of it may be. Mark Serrels reports:
In late March Apple announced Apple Arcade, a subscription service that allows Apple users to play games across iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV devices. Back then Apple promised that 100 exclusive games would be playable out of the gate, games that wouldn’t be available on other subscription services or even other mobile devices.