Since Apple tends to be the smartphone trend-setter, here’s some of the more interesting speculation (most gleaned from Engadget and ReadWriteWeb) about what next summer’s roll-out of iPhone 5 will feature — and competitors will rush to duplicate.
- iTunes Moves to the Cloud. With last April’s acquisition of now-defunct streaming music service Lala.com, Apple showed that it thinks subscription or ad-supported music services have a future. Given that most people still steal, rather than buy, the music they play on their iPhones and iPods, a cloud-based iTunes service would be a logical way to rope in many of those people. Rhapsody, Napster and Spotify have proven there’s a market for such services; but they don’t have Apple’s ability to create mass appeal.
- Facial Recognition. I have facial recognition software on my Toshiba laptop, and it sucks. Apple’s acquisition in September of facial recognition software concern Polar Rose suggests that it’s thinking about adding that capability to computers and devices, ReadWriteWeb speculates. If such software actually worked, you’d have something potentially a lot more effective than lock codes.
- Mobile Payments. Apple has filed patents for a mobile payments service as well as terms like iPay, iBuy and iCoupons, leading RWW to speculate that the iPhone 5 will ship with a chip enabling users to use their cell phones as digital cash. The idea is hardly new — Google and other mobile players have their own mobile wallet initiatives — but, as always, Apple’s moves carry particular clout.
- Digital Butler? Apple has envisioned a future of people speaking directly to machines for decades; it once released a video simulating a user doing just that. Its purchase of an SRI offshoot called Siri last April suggests to RWW that it’s planning to roll out a service allowing consumers to use use their voices or type to get answers to simple questions like: Where’s the closest Chinese restaurant? Or how do I get to the corner of La Cienega and Olympic? Google, of course, is well on its way with voice-based mobile Google services, but it’s clunky and inaccurate.
If nothing else, all this hopefully is a comforting reminder that innovation isn’t dead in Steve Jobs’ absence.