Weekend Roundup: Rotten Apple iPhone 5 hype & the Kindle Fire finally set to light up the UK

by James Laird
, 08 Sep 2012
Weekend Roundup: Rotten Apple iPhone 5 hype & the Kindle Fire finally set to light up the UK

Get your iPhone 5 a day, every day

This week will be remembered by the history books as the final calendar period of the pre-iPhone 5 era.

In just five days, Apple is set to unveil its eagerly anticipated new smartphone at a special event in California, with the iconic US firm formally sending out invitations to the world's press last Tuesday. Tellingly, the bolded '12' on the invite casts a shadow of a '5', spelling out what has become increasingly obvious - that Apple will officially announce its latest iPhone device on 12 September. More interestingly, the second figure would seem to confirm the mobile's name as the iPhone 5, quashing speculation that - like the latest iPad - it might simply be called the new iPhone.

Indeed, Apple's new-gen handset can't arrive soon enough, as the flurry of wild rumours, amateur image leaks, and sketchy hands-on videos surrounding the iPhone 5 has been enough to drive even the most right-minded technology journalist to the nearest feature phone retailer. Arguably the most positive thing to have come out of Apple's confirmation of the 12 September event is that it seems to have satisfied the more obsessive wing of its fanbase. By-and-large, inane speculation is now on the wane, and the ridiculous mock-ups we have all been treated to on a daily basis are petering out - presumably the fanboys have reverted to more traditional closed-door online activities.

Now, it seems to be the turn of industry analysts to have their share of the spotlight, as attention has shifted to the commercial side of the new iPhone launch. This week, Samsung enjoyed what may be its final moment in the sun for the foreseeable future, announcing that the Galaxy S3 had surpassed the 20 million units shipped milestone in record time. It's all very impressive, of course, but it could be seen as small-fry in the near future, at least according to one particularly bullish insider, who ventured that Apple may sell 10 million iPhone 5 handsets in just a week.

It's just as wild a claim as those that have typically come out of the blogosphere in the last few weeks, of course, but it's still slightly more interesting than most of the other piercing commentary we've been privy too: "consumers eager to buy new iPhone" offers about as much insight as "humans keen to breathe oxygen." Fortunately, we'll be able to get down to the nitty-gritty and look at the phone itself from Wednesday, so watch this space.

High-definition stupidity

The week began with the 2012 iteration of Europe's biggest consumer electronics show starting to wind down. ITProPortal spent a few days on the ground over in Berlin at the event, and while many of our IFA predictions came to pass, there was also a good deal that took us by surprise - like the fact that almost no one confronted the 4K content quagmire.

Pretty much everyone knew that next-generation, "ultra-definition" televisions were going to be one of the headline acts at this year's IFA. Yet however good the 4K sets looked at the show - and many did come across as truly impressive machines - ultimately doesn't matter a damn because, YouTube aside, no one is pushing out compatible content at the moment. It's an uncomfortable truth: these sleek and sexy new displays are, for the time being at least, one of the industry's biggest white elephants. The sets are wildly expensive - well over £10,000 in the case of the 84in models being shown off at IFA - but will have little to distinguish them from current-gen HD for around five years, making them a silly proposition for those with both money and sense. 

Even though the general absence of 4K content in 2012 is hardly TV manufacturers' fault, it's a shame the issue of content wasn't addressed openly. In fairness, Toshiba had a go, highlighting the ability of its 4K Cevo engine to upscale and optimise existing 2D and 3D content for the set's QFHD display. The process negates the passive 3D capability of the set, but it's a step in the right direction nonetheless where other firms seemed largely concerned with the more bling aspects of their sets. Only Panasonic got away with the latter approach in my opinion, showing off an 8K, 145in television where its rivals were fixated on 4K rollout.

Set Fire (HD) to the rain

Apple doesn't have a monopoly on high-profile announcements, much as it might seem to thanks to the aforementioned iPhone 5 launch coming next week. Amazon can build suspense with the best of them, this week announcing a wide-ranging refresh of its popular Kindle tablet and eBook reader range. Most importantly from the perspective of ITProPortal, a number of the devices launched on Thursday will finally be coming to the UK, including updated versions of the original Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD.

But most intriguing of all was the Nexus 7-rivalling Kindle Fire HD. Set to retail for £159 when it drops on the UK at the end of October, the latest Amazon tablet has boldly undercut its principal market rival by nearly £40. Unfortunately, there are some very obvious reasons why Amazon is able to offer an even more competitively priced device than Google, as a glance at Will Dalton's Kindle Fire HD vs Nexus 7 spec comparison reveals.

At 16GB, both devices have comparable memory - though the Kindle Fire HD will be also be available in an expanded 32GB model - and the LCD displays are also identical, offering a resolution of 1,280 x 800-megapixels. The Nexus 7 is superior thereafter, most notably in the cockpit, where it sports a quad-core Tegra 3 processor that easily bests the Fire HD's dual-core engine. Then there's the camera, which Amazon is being suspiciously vague about, simply describing it as 'HD,' and the new Kindle tablet is also heavier than its Google-made competitor. Finally, the Nexus 7 also features a more modern operating system, running the latest Android OS, version 4.1 Jelly Bean, where the Amazon product is on a customised iteration of 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich - and software is key to the mini-tablet equation, according to analyst Ryan Whitwam.

Still, there is little doubt a significant consumer segment will be willing to back-pedal on specifications to keep a bit of extra dosh in the coffer. In the end, the Kindle Fire HD's greatest contribution may be to further increase expectation – and scrutiny – of an iPad mini, if and when it arrives. An Apple 7in tablet is unlikely to match the entry-level pricing of the Google and Amazon devices, so it had better be an impressive specimen – Retina display, anyone?

Moreover, the fact that Amazon announced its product this week confirms, in my mind at least, the likelihood that Apple's 12 September launch will focus solely on the iPhone 5. Other than the fact that the rumoured iPad mini's production schedule has always seemed to be slightly behind that of the new handset, the concurrent rollout of the two products wouldn't maximise potential sales of the individual offerings - and Apple's marketing strategies are normally spot on.

Rather than forcing more frugal fanboys choose between the new products, a later launch for the iPad mini would mean consumers could look forward to spending most of their wages on Apple products for months to come. It's a shrewd move, not least because the Cupertino-based tech titan should make the most of its current influence and positioning - Apple's recent blockbuster patent trial victory over Samsung may represent the beginning of the end for the American brand's dominance, as a battle of units shipped starts to morph into a high street war for hearts and minds.

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