It won't come as a massive surprise that the technology world is awash with speculation regarding Apple's product roadmap. Most recently, the iconic US manufacturer has been linked with the development of a smart watch that shifts core smartphone functionality - like communications, navigation, and mobile payments - from your pocket to your wrist. The 'iWatch,' as the mythical device has been dubbed, is apparently already undergoing testing, and Apple is said to be discussing production scenarios with its principal manufacturing partner, Foxconn. It all seems plausible enough, especially as the latest rumours are emanating from reputable news sources in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, as opposed to spawning from the keyboard of some spotty teenager. But what if the iWatch doesn't come to fruition? The time certainly seems ripe for Apple to unleash its next big thing, so what might it have up its sleeve in the absence of an intelligent timepiece? We've rounded up the most likely contenders.
Of all the radical new directions that Apple could take this year, a fresh slant on old favourite the iPhone is perhaps the most likely. In addition to the release of its next flagship device - the iPhone 5S/iPhone 6/sixth-generation iPhone - numerous sources are tipping the Cupertino-based company to launch an entry-level 'iPhone mini' targeted at emerging markets. To keep costs down, such a device would likely be constructed using plastic instead of the customary aluminium and glass, while specifications could resemble those found on 2009's iPhone 3GS. There's also considerable chatter surrounding the possibility of a large-screen handset dubbed the 'iPhone Math,' so if Apple is going to step out of its comfort zone in the near future, the smart money is on the tearaway gadget still being able to slip into your pocket and make calls.
Image credit: Graham Bower
An Apple-branded HDTV has been tipped for some time now and Q3 2013 is a logical launch window for an iTV, if the company is indeed lined up to release such a product. Apple already offers a set-top box, of course, but a lightweight, hangable display with minimal cabling, a content delivery system based on iTunes, and Siri functionality to augment the traditional remote control would surely be a market-altering product. The iTV is rumoured to feature Corning's flexible Willow Glass technology and borrow design DNA from the ultra-svelte 2012 iMac, while there has been talk of a passive 3D projector peripheral as well. Watch this space - the mythical Apple TV could finally be on the horizon.
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Apple has stockpiled augmented reality (AR) patents over the years, and in 2012 one of its filings with the USPTO alluded directly to "head-mounted displays." There seems little doubt that AR is a surefire boon for big electronics firms, and with wearable technology all the rage among early-adopters in 2013, there's a distinct possibility that Apple will shake things up in the near future with the launch of a Google Glass-like project. With this in mind, it seems that iGlasses aren't so much a matter of 'if' but 'when.'
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Like most smartphone manufacturers, Apple already indulges in some serious flirting with the photography space. As consumers demand increasingly sophisticated imaging capabilities from their handsets, there's every chance that Apple will look to enter the camera market in earnest and that the iPhone could soon be complemented by either a dedicated iOS photography device or a jazzy add-on. Mark ours words - the iCam won't be the stuff of fantasy forever.
Image credit: Antonio De Rosa
We have relatively simple tastes here at ITProPortal: give us a fruit bowl, Nespresso machine, and the occasional raisin whirl and the only thing that soars more than our spirits is our productivity. That said, we'd be severely tempted to splash out on an Apple-branded fridge if one became available. Not only would its design knock the socks off the average utilitarian unit, but how cool would it be having a touchscreen refrigerator that tells you when the milk goes off? Samsung has made inroads into the smart refrigerator market with the Evernote-integrating, Android-running T9000 (pictured, above) and there's already an iFridge app - could the iFridge proper only be a matter of time?
Last year, a report published by consultancy firm KAE found that Apple would have a very receptive audience were it to branch out into the financial sector - around half of the firm's existing customers said that they would trust the iPad mini manufacturer to safeguard their money as well as furnishing them with snazzy electronics. Indeed, iBank software is already available to assist fanboys with their cash management, so perhaps it isn't that much of an imaginative stretch to envision a future chock full of iLoans, iMortgages - and iCrises.
Image credit: Cult of Mac
Let's not forget that Apple is an American firm and, in the land of the free, bigger is better. If the company is really looking to stretch itself, it could opt to enter the automotive market and an Apple-designed car would surely represent an aesthetic triumph. The downside? Given the questionable quality of Apple Maps, an iCar would also likely herald a regression to the days of the A-Z, so perhaps this particular stone is best left unturned.
Image credit: Retrevo
People like cats. People have money. Apple likes money. The sum of this elementary equation could be a robotic feline pet bearing a familiar fruit logo, except that as always, fact is stranger than fiction and the crazy heads at Philips have been cleaning digital litter boxes for some time now. Long live the iCat (pictured, above), Apple or otherwise.