What to Expect from the iPhone 6 in 2013

Matthew is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

No sir, those were not typos in my article title. I did indeed say “the iPhone 6” and “2013.” Although the iPhone 5 was only officially announced last week and will not go on sale until Friday of this week, I am already thinking about 2013 and what we could possibly expect from Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 6 release.

Around this time next year, what will CNBC, The Motley Fool, CNET and Apple fanboys and girls all be buzzing about? Asking that question this early is not as silly as you may think. Acquisitions by Apple, new product releases by other companies and promising technologies currently being developed can give us clues as to a possible future for Apple’s flagship product.

NFC (Near Field Communication)

NFC is a technology that allows cellphones and other devices to communicate with each other wirelessly. This technology is most often discussed as a method for mobile wallet transactions. Although Apple’s Senior Vice President said just last week “It is not clear that NFC is a solution to any current problems,” Apple’s recently announced acquisition of AuthenTec (NASDAQ: AUTH) seems to contradict that statement. Among some of AuthenTec’s products are fingerprint sensors used to make NFC mobile wallet transactions more secure. AuthenTec fingerprint sensors are already found in NFC-enabled phones in Japan.

The announcement of this acquisition (made on July 27) was far too late for any of this technology to make it into the iPhone 5 in 2012. However, the inclusion of the fingerprint sensors to secure NFC mobile wallet transactions seems like a given for the iPhone 6 in 2013. This inclusion of NFC security technology will be a huge plus for companies like NXP Semiconductors (NASDAQ: NXPI), which manufactures the actual NFC chips used to make these mobile wallet transactions.

Light-Field Camera

Described by the technology news website Digital Trends as “the camera that could potentially change photography forever” is the light-field camera, a technology that uses an array of micro-lenses to capture the 4D light-field information of a scene. This technology basically allows users to take a picture of all the light in every available direction. A user of a light-field camera is able to take a picture much faster than traditional point-and-shoot cameras and refocus those pictures after they are taken.

Lytro, Inc., a small privately-held start-up, is currently the biggest name in consumer light-field cameras, releasing their Lytro camera in February of this year. A few months before his death, Steve Jobs had met with Lytro’s CEO in June 2011. At the meeting, Lytro’s CEO demoed the technology for Jobs. The two CEOs reportedly discussed the camera, product designs and the possible inclusion of the technology in future Apple products. Since that meeting, however, there have not been any publicly announced discussions between the two companies. Despite that, it would not surprise me to see Lytro’s technology, or a similar technology, make it into an Apple iPhone sooner or later.

Silicon Nanowire Battery

Do you think the iPhone 5’s 8-hours of talk time, 10-hours of video playback and 225-hours of standby battery life is impressive? What if I told you that next year the iPhone 6 could have 80-hours of talk time, 100-hours of video playback and 2,225-hours (93.75-days) of standby battery life? You might call me crazy, unless you were aware of a game-changing battery technology called silicon nanowire. Currently being developed by a team at Stanford University, this technology could potentially revolutionize the mobile consumer electronics space (as well as have many medical, scientific and energy uses). This technology has the ability to hold ten-times the charge of a traditional lithium-ion battery of the same size.

This technology inclusion would be a no-brainer for Apple. That is, if the technology was available to them. If the technology was ready for primetime, Apple and other consumer electronics companies would be crazy not to make use of it. Unfortunately, the technology is not quite there yet for use in consumer electronics. Will it be ready by this time next year? It is possible, but I would not count on it. Still, be on the lookout for its possible inclusion in the 2014 iPhone 7.

Too Soon?

There you have it. There are three technologies that could possible find their way into the 2013 iPhone 6: one technology that is very likely (NFC), one that is somewhat-likely (light-field cameras) and one that is probably unlikely just yet (silicon nanowire batteries). Am I getting a little ahead of myself when the iPhone 5 has not even been released yet? Yeah, probably. But that is what you do when talking about Apple. You ask “What’s next?”

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