Apple is reportedly in talks to buy Anobit, an Israeli maker of Flash chips, for anywhere between $400 and $500 million. Even though Anobit's Flash chip may already be inside the 4S, Apple likely wanted to buy the company for a bigger reason: the iPhone 5.
Anobit would be Apple's first Israeli acquisition, and the first purchase with Tim Cook as Apple's CEO, but the purchase is noteworthy because Apple seldom buys hardware companies. The only ones Apple bought in the last couple of decades were Raycer Graphics, Intrinsity, P.A. Semi and NeXT, the computer company founded by Steve Jobs.
Anobit makes flash storage solutions for both enterprise and mobile customers, using proprietary memory signal processing technology that's designed to improve the speed and performance of flash systems while driving down the costs.
Apple already uses Anobit products in a number of its devices, including the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air, among others. In buying the company, Apple is heavily investing in flash technology and flash memory. Anobit's MSP-powered embedded flash controllers have the potential to significantly improve the memory performance of the Apple's smartphones and tablets, and we may see the chips as early as Feburary or March when two new devices are expected to be unveiled.
The iPhone 5 and iPad 3 were discovered in November, hidden within the iOS 5.1 beta code intended for developers. The next-gen iPhone and two next-gen iPads were internally named iPhone 5,1, iPad 2,4 and iPad 3,3, respectively. Analysts believe the iPad listed as iPad 2,4 is not a new iPad, but rather an upgraded iPad 2 with WiMax functionality, possibly powered by Sprint. The iPad 3,3 is likely a completely new device, and the same goes for the listing for an iPhone 5,1.
The iPhone 5 will reportedly feature an improved version of Siri, the voice-activated AI system that was only released as a beta in the iPhone 4S, as well as a bigger screen. In November, Hitachi and Sony began shipping 4-inch LCD panels for final production of new iOS devices believed to be the next-generation iPhone. A bigger screen would help Apple compete against phone makers that make bigger screens, such as Samsung, while also providing a more intense and deep Retina Display.
If Apple were to expand the screen size for the iPhone 5, the company would unfortunately force developers to build new sets of applications specifically for the new display. Apple's 3.5-inch Retina Displays are available on the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPod Touch devices, but that 326 ppi density would not hold up on a bigger screen. However, bigger screens with a higher pixel density would mean higher resolution for watching movies and viewing detailed images, from PDFs to X-rays to MRIs to 3D architectural renderings. Apple is reportedly doubling the pixel density of its next iPad, so it would make sense if Apple increased the pixels within its next iPhone, too.
Apple's iPhone 5 may also include a number of the company's recently granted patents, including NFC functionality to complete sales transactions and share work across multiple devices, as well as its crack-resistant glass solution. By installing a tunable shock mount between the glass and the body of the device, the specialized mount will instantly inflate if the device senses it's falling, which is determined by the device's internal accelerometer. An actuator within the device sucks in the cover glass as it accelerates to the ground, protecting it from damage.
The next iPhone will also reportedly feature 4G LTE, according to Will Strauss, president of market research firm Forward Concepts. LTE, which stands for Long-Term Evolution, features significantly higher download and upload speeds compared to 3G technologies, but the current implementations of LTE in phones appear to cause very short battery life, which is a major complaint by users.
If Apple wanted LTE in its prior iPhones, it would have been forced to increase the phone's thickness to accommodate a larger circuit board and a bigger battery. Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a company earnings conference call in April, said that first-generation LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises.
Luckily for Cook and Apple, Qualcomm is reportedly developing a new, thinner LTE chipset, which is considerably smaller than current LTE chipsets. The new chip is expected to debut in the second or third quarter next year, but Apple may try to speed up the process so LTE is included in the first iteration of its next iPhone if it hopes to release the product in time for a late spring or early summer 2012 release.