Will 2012 Be the Year of Apple?

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The Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) rumor mill never sleeps, but that's what happens when you take secrecy to extreme levels.

The newest rumor out of the East from usual suspect Digitimes is claiming that Apple is set to "overhaul" its major product lines in 2012. The report mentions the lineups of the iPad, iMac, iPhone, and MacBook Air, citing leaks in Cupertino's supply chain. The word "overhaul" implies that Apple is planning major hardware redesigns from the inside out beyond internal specification upgrades.

iPad 2S or iPad 3?
Digitimes also goes as far as to suggest that Apple has two different iPad models in the pipeline, one of which would be an upgraded version of the iPad 2, which is said to see 2 million units built by year's end. It is expected to feature a high-resolution Retina Display with twice the current iPad's resolution, which would come in at 2048 x 1536.

LG Display (NYSE: LPL  ) and Samsung are set to be suppliers for the display but may have run into production challenges, since Apple wants the device to be even thinner than its predecessor. The reports also contend that the "real iPad 3" will be launched during the third quarter of 2012 at the earliest.

It's harder to predict an iPad redesign, since it's been in the market for less than two years and the second iteration did feature a revamped body. It's not out of the question, but releasing two models in the same year is bound to alienate anyone who picks up the first model only to see a new one released six months later. The Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) iPhone 4 was released on a different schedule, but that device had a different context, with AT&T (NYSE: T  ) exclusivity coming to an end.

iPhone 5, iPhone 6, or iPhone 4SS?
Yes, we were all "disappointed" that Apple didn't release an all-new iPhone this year, instead opting to append an "S" to the existing model. Cupertino now has somewhat of a precedent of sticking with physical iPhone designs for two years, with the iPhone 3G/3GS and 4/4S. The stage is now set for a redesigned iPhone 5 (or iPhone 6) to be introduced next year.

Chances are it will include 4G LTE speeds and near-field communications, which would be a boon for NXP Semiconductors (Nasdaq: NXPI  ) . There's also been the possibility of an aluminum unibody tear-drop design with tapered edges, similar to the current iPod touch.

Although Apple has never gone with OLED technology for its displays because of supply constraints, to the protests of Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL  ) investors, Apple has expressed interest in the technology, as evidenced by recently submitting a patent application to improve OLED power efficiency.

I think it's safe to say some type of redesign is in the works, since using the same body for a third year and tacking on an additional "S," making it the iPhone 4SS, just doesn't have a nice ring to it -- not to mention the, er, associations some people would be bound to make with the name "4SS."

It's hard to say the iMac line is in dire need of a physical refresh. Apple first switched from white plastic to the aluminum unibody design in 2007 and has since only made minor tweaks. I wouldn't bet too heavily on seeing a redesign here: There's less motivation to revamp the family, as users' upgrade cycles are longer for desktops than they are for mobile devices. It's hard to imagine how Apple would improve on the design for such a mature product offering anyway, beyond minor refinements.

MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or MacBook AirPro?
The current family of MacBook Airs was introduced in October 2010 with the 11-inch and 13-inch models. I have doubts that Cupertino will unveil a dramatically redesigned exterior for a model that's been around for such a short period of time. I'm going to just come out and say no on this one. Instead, there has been talk of adding a 15-inch model to the lineup -- that has more of a likelihood of happening, if you ask me.

The MacBook Pro family is much more likely to see a new case design in 2012, as its exterior has been largely unchanged. There has been speculation that Apple could merge the Air and Pro families together, but a unified family wouldn't properly address the separate consumer and professional markets. The two could take design cues from one another, such as the elimination of the Pro's DVD drive, but creative professionals need power, and consumers want portability.

Who's counting?
Digitimes' track record is hit-or-miss, so keep that in mind with this latest batch of rumors. Many of the Apple rumors that float around nowadays inevitably lead back to the Taiwanese publication. Still, although I have reservations about some of the redesign rumors, others are fairly likely. The report doesn't mention the iPod touch, Mac mini, or Mac Pro lines, though, so no one knows what will become of those offerings.

Apple's industrial designs have always put PC vendors such as Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) to shame. If the company ends up releasing a broad-sweeping revamped lineup of all its best-selling product families, alongside a full-fledged Apple TV set, 2012 will be the Year of Apple.

Add Apple to your Watchlist to see if any of these rumors pan out. Then get access to this free report on near-field communications and see why it will revolutionize the mobile sector.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of AT&T and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of NXP Semiconductors, Dell, Apple, and Universal Display, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2011, at 5:24 PM, prginww wrote:

    Apple has the most risk that people may get bored with the same thing. Inside, everyone wants to try out different things.

    Think about it, Apple only world offers limited choice. No matter how good things are, you can get bored with it.

    I can live in a wildly beautiful world longer than a five star hotel. The exceptions are those who blindly follow Apple like a religion, where God of Apple directs you to use Apple products.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2011, at 5:28 PM, prginww wrote:

    "Yes, we were all "disappointed" that Apple didn't release an all-new iPhone this year, instead opting to append an "S" to the existing model..."

    No, I was not disappointed at all. Virtually everything inside the phone is revamped to a much higher specs from the dual core CPU and GPU to the 8 mega pixel backlit CCD camera.

    The only thing it did not change is the outer casing design of the phone. To be honest, I find the teardrop design that seem to have leaked in the press prior to the 4S official announcement to be quite ugly. I was dreading that the ugly teardrop design would replace the more elegant iPhone 4 design. Fortunately, that was not the case and I am happy that Apple stick with the iPhone 4 design.

    It baffles me that so many people got disappointed that the iPhone did not have a new outer casing and would like to see a more ugly design to replace a more elegant one just to be different.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2011, at 7:05 PM, prginww wrote:

    "secrecy to extreme levels" ? Weird.

    How can secrecy be extreme ENOUGH?! Why give any competitor even the scintilla of a chance to get in on the action ? WHO, precisely, is entitled to have advanced know? Why? To what purpose. As a stockholder in AAPL I see it to my advantage that they pounce AT POUNCING TIME; not one nano second earlier. As for all others wanting to know: accumulate your own, unique, knowledge, and, act on it.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2011, at 7:32 PM, prginww wrote:

    to poster bobyk3:

    Apple is VERY choice friendly: as in just spend your dollars elsewhere.


    I don't get "bored" by toiletpaper: it does the job. Likewise, phone, computer are tools. To me they are not sources of excitement & pleasure. As long as they do the job seamlessly they neither bore, nor, excite; they "do". Dental floss & BBQ & spare tire equally cannot bore; either they work, seamlessly, or, to the trash. 4s iPhone, on Verizon, works seamlessly, PERIOD.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2011, at 12:50 AM, prginww wrote:

    Apple needs to figure out how to cut down the heat production on those Macbook Pros. I think they should go with an ARM processor or AMD's fusion processors. Supposedly, programs like Photoshop can be converted to ARM-compatibility. It will be interesting to see what Intel does to ARM.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2011, at 3:04 AM, prginww wrote:

    just got my new 27 iMac. outstanding! please keep the products coming. i want the nfc as a feature in the next phone/

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2011, at 12:47 PM, prginww wrote:

    I disagree as to why Apple hasn't used AMOLED's so far. While production is a minor issue, the main issue is technical. AMOLED's, despite what some claim, are not nearly as bright as newer LCD/LED backlit screens. We can see this in reviews from Anandtech, where the newest AMOLED phones are at best, half the brightness of competing models, and at worst, only a third as bright.

    While indoors, this isn't a problem, outdoors its a major one. While my 4S is very usable in direct sunlight, I've yet seen an AMOLED model that's readable. Apple just obtained some patents to this effect for AMOLED screens, and so possibly we will see this from Apple at some point, but not yet.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2011, at 12:03 PM, prginww wrote:

    makelvin wrote:

    "It baffles me that so many people got disappointed that the iPhone did not have a new outer casing and would like to see a more ugly design to replace a more elegant one just to be different."

    I agree I like the square design of the current iphone4 it just feels better holding it...the teardrop design is flawed IMO I could just picture that phone falling/slipping out of ppl's hands ;)

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2011, at 12:05 PM, prginww wrote:

    Just to add I think one thing that ppl would love is to get rid of the stupid home button and expland the screen size.

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