The Next 5 Apple Gadgets To Waste Time Obsessing About

Steve Jobs one more thing

Apple fans could not complain about 2010, as the company delivered what’s arguably its best product year ever — including the first iPad, the iPhone 4, the new MacBook Air, and an improved Apple TV.

But don’t expect Steve Jobs and co. to take 2011 off. After all, Wall Street expects Apple to post 35% revenue growth this fiscal year.

So what’s on tap for 2011?

Expect a refresh of each of Apple’s product lines — especially the iPad, the iPhone, and iPod — and probably some new gadgets, too.

iPad 2

Apple's original iPad surpassed our expectations, likely finishing 2010 with 12 million units sold. That's a lot!

We expect a new version in the first half of 2010, with faster guts, a front-facing camera for FaceTime video calls, and possibly a higher-resolution screen. We also expect Apple to lower the price of the cheapest iPad, perhaps by $100. Or it may allow wireless carriers to subsidise the iPad for people who want to sign long-term data contracts.

We also anticipate an iPad that will connect to Verizon's network; perhaps its new 4G LTE network.

Verizon iPhone + iPhone 5

Will the first Verizon iPhone also be the iPhone 5? Either way, we expect both of these in 2011.

The Verizon iPhone may or may not work with Verizon's new 4G LTE network, but it will at least work with its 3G CDMA network, which many believe is superior to AT&T's. This will open the door to millions of new iPhone sales for Apple; we predicted that Apple could sell 10 million Verizon iPhones in its first year.

The iPhone 5 probably won't be a huge update from the iPhone 4, but we expect a definitive solution from Apple for the 'Antennagate' issue, and perhaps something involving mobile payments. We also expect faster guts, longer battery life, etc.

Apple TV App Store

Apple's newest Apple TV is a decent hit, with 1 million sold since it was announced this past fall. We don't necessarily think Apple will do a major hardware overhaul this year -- maybe a minor one to accept hardware accessories -- but it makes sense that it would offer an Apple TV App Store, now that Apple TV has a big enough install base to convince developers to invest time and money into it.

One of the first apps we expect -- and maybe even before the App Store is ready to roll -- is MLB's At Bat for the Apple TV. Apple and MLB are close partners, and nothing makes more sense than watching live Internet baseball on an Apple TV, the way you already can on a PS3, Roku box, iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC, etc.

15-inch MacBook Air

When Steve Jobs announced the new 13-inch and 11-inch MacBook Airs, he made it clear that this isn't just the new MacBook Air, but the future of the Mac lineup.

So we expect Apple to roll out a 15-inch MacBook Air in 2011, which would undoubtedly be huge with business users, who want the benefits of the Air -- lighter, thinner, quicker, long battery life -- and don't care about the optical drive in the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple Television

Apple's 27-inch iMac, introduced in late 2009, is big enough that it's almost a living room television. As it is, it's an amazing bedroom TV for watching online video or DVDs.

There's a chance that Apple's next big push into the living room could be through actual TV sets. While the Apple TV set-top box is doing OK, there's still no surer way for Apple to get its software plugged into your TV than to build it right into the TV. That's what rival Google is working on, with partnerships with Sony and other TV makers.

Plus, you'd have to imagine that while Steve Jobs has been testing the new Apple TV set-top box, he's been looking at all the Vizio and Samsung TVs out there, and thinking, 'gosh, we could kick these guys' butts.'

The problem, historically, is that the TV business is too low-margin and too price-focused. But given how cheap LCD displays have gotten these days, plus Apple's own forays into processor chips and other components, you'd think it could make a decent business out of the high end of the industry?

Apple has notably said it has no interest in getting into the TV business. But it also said that about e-books, iPods that could play video, and phones. So what Apple says doesn't mean squat.

BONUS: Apple TV set-top box FaceTime accessory?

Apple will likely extend FaceTime video calls to the iPad next year, after launching it on the iPhone, iPod touch, and Mac in 2010. It also makes sense to be a feature for the Apple TV, because where's a better place to have a video chat than your big-screen living room TV?

Now that 1 million people have Apple TVs, a cute little webcam might be a cool accessory for Apple or a third party to sell. Apple used to sell the iSight FireWire camera before all of its computers and displays started shipping with built-in cameras. Perhaps they will announce a wireless Bluetooth or wi-fi version they can start selling now?

Or perhaps this will be one of the 'tent pole' features of the Apple television set, and Apple will push people to buy that to FaceTime?

BONUS: A bigger iPad?

Apple has poured cold water on the idea of a 7-inch iPad, saying that it's too small to be a good tablet.

How about a bigger iPad, maybe in the 13-inch range?

At first, it seems like it might be a little unwieldy. But if you look at the top lid of a 13-inch MacBook Air, it doesn't seem so crazy, especially if Apple can keep its weight down. (Likely the iPad-standard 4-by-3 aspect ratio, though.)

It's not necessarily the kind of thing you'd carry around everywhere, but it could be an even better lap companion on the couch at home than the original iPad.

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