Model number for Apple's mystery iBeacon device may hint at upgrade to existing hardware

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited July 2014
A new Apple device revealed earlier this week in certification documents filed with the FCC appears to be the first in a new line of iBeacon-specific hardware, but the mysterious product's model number suggests that it may instead be an extension of one of Apple's existing products.




Since Apple switched to its current model identifier scheme -- an A followed by four digits -- in the early 2000s, no first-generation product has borne a model identifier above "A12XX." The Apple TV (A1218), the original iPhone (A1203), the Magic Mouse (A1296), and the unibody MacBook Pro (A1286), among others, share those first three characters.
The model number for Apple's iBeacon hardware suggests it's an upgrade to -- or accessory for?--?an existing product.
Apple increments the second and third digit with each successive hardware generation, though there does not appear to be a set pattern. For example, the iPhone 3G (A1241) shared its first three characters with the original iPhone, while launch models of the iPhone 3GS (A1303), iPhone 4 (A1332 for GSM, A1349 for CDMA) and iPhone 4S (A1387) all begin with "A13" before switching to "A14" with the iPhone 5.

Some product lineups have begun with model numbers lower than "A12," such as the first AirPort Extreme launched in 2003 (A1034) or the 2002 iBook G3 (A1005). But most modern Apple products -- including the entire "iDevice" range and the Apple TV -- debuted with models numbers starting with "A12."

This sequence makes the A1573 designation given to the mysterious Apple hardware outed by the FCC earlier this week exceptionally odd. For it to be a first-generation device would require Apple to abandon the numbering scheme it has used for more than a decade.

But if Apple has stayed true to form, it would suggest that the mysterious iBeacon device is an upgrade to -- or perhaps an accessory for -- existing hardware from the Cupertino, Calif., company.

The mystery device features a micro USB port -- something the current Apple TV uses for developer upgrades. But it also sports an on-off switch on the bottom, which would be a new feature for any of Apple's peripheral devices.


An iBeacon transmitter from Sonic Notify.


In drawings disclosed by the FCC, the new iBeacon device appears to have a design similar to the Philips Hue hub that controls the company's wireless LED light bulbs, which has prompted speculation that the device could be a "smart home" accessory. In that respect, its model number could potentially suggest it may serve as a location-based, second-room accessory for an upgraded Apple TV set-top box -- a device that some believe could be the centerpiece for an Apple HomeKit-powered smart home.

The FCC documents show a device that is sized 2.4 inches in diameter, which would make it much smaller than the current Apple TV or AirPort Express. Those existing devices have a square 3.9-inch design which measures 5.52 inches diagonally.

And Apple's newly uncovered hardware has an electricity-sipping 5-volt, 3-amp maximum power draw. That's the same rating as the DC power supplies in the Apple TV and AirPort Express.

However, the FCC documents show the device was only tested for Bluetooth capabilities operating in the 2.4-gigahertz range. If the FCC testing represents the entirety of the wireless capabilities of the device, and no other information about its internal radios has been withheld, it would appear that the mystery iBeacon device does not include support for Wi-Fi.

A lack of Wi-Fi support would make it extremely unlikely to be a new Apple TV or AirPort Express. That's led some to speculate that the new device could be an iBeacon transmitter not intended for consumers.

Since its debut last year in iOS 7, iBeacon has found the most traction in retail and commercial uses. Stores can provide iPhone users with location-based information, such as alerts about upgrade eligibility when browsing iPhones at an Apple Store. And some stadiums have pushed seat upgrade options to customers sitting in cheaper seats at an event.

For its part, the FCC filing for Apple's unknown iBeacon device notes that the company "has spent substantial effort in developing this product." It goes on to say that the hardware is "the first of its kind in industry."

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    lorin schultzlorin schultz Posts: 1,923member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    The FCC documents show a device that is sized 2.4 inches in diameter

     

    So whatever it is, it's small. That's about the diameter of a toilet paper tube.

  • Reply 2 of 16
    19841984 Posts: 955member

    Maybe it has a different model identifier because it's not meant to be sold to consumers.

  • Reply 3 of 16
    thomprthompr Posts: 1,510member
    This quote at the end is in conflict with the headline and premise of the article:

    "For its part, the FCC filing for Apple's unknown iBeacon device notes that the company "has spent substantial effort in developing this product." It goes on to say that the hardware is "the first of its kind in industry.""

    If the note in that filing is true, then the model number is not hinting at anything.

    Thompson
  • Reply 4 of 16
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 736editor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by thompr View Post



    This quote at the end is in conflict with the headline and premise of the article:



    "For its part, the FCC filing for Apple's unknown iBeacon device notes that the company "has spent substantial effort in developing this product." It goes on to say that the hardware is "the first of its kind in industry.""



    If the note in that filing is true, then the model number is not hinting at anything.



    Thompson

    I disagree. Touch ID in the iPhone 5s was in many ways the first its kind in the industry, and Apple certainly spent substantial effort bringing that to market. You could say the same for many next-gen product improvements (Retina displays, Lightning ports, etc.). Not that it all really matters much, as the text included in the FCC filing is probably just boilerplate.

  • Reply 5 of 16
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,382member
    thompr wrote: »
    This quote at the end is in conflict with the headline and premise of the article:

    "For its part, the FCC filing for Apple's unknown iBeacon device notes that the company "has spent substantial effort in developing this product." It goes on to say that the hardware is "the first of its kind in industry.""

    If the note in that filing is true, then the model number is not hinting at anything.

    Thompson

    Some people read way way way to much into a product number for a new device.
  • Reply 6 of 16
    thomprthompr Posts: 1,510member
    nhughes wrote: »
    I disagree. Touch ID in the iPhone 5s was in many ways the first its kind in the industry, and Apple certainly spent substantial effort bringing that to market. You could say the same for many next-gen product improvements (Retina displays, Lightning ports, etc.). Not that it all really matters much, as the text included in the FCC filing is probably just boilerplate.

    Did TouchID have a "model number" and require an FCC approval as a separate entity? I read the quote as indicating a new product, not a new component of an existing product. I do not believe you need to acquire FCC approval for individual components. All of the emitting components will be part if the test, sure, but the application is for the whole product.

    Therefore, I don't see how TouchID is a counter to my argument, and I hold to my original point. Oh, and if that particular quote is boilerplate then it is the strangest boilerplate I ever saw.
  • Reply 7 of 16
    dappledapple Posts: 44member
    If AppleTV gained an iBeacon seed, then what would grow from that?
  • Reply 8 of 16
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,200member

    It looks like a low cost hardware component that will facilitate a number of tasks for businesses like helping customers navigate stores, displaying product information or prices on request, requesting staff assistance and facilitating sales transactions. This would solve many problems for businesses and could provide incentive for them to get on board with an Apple-managed mobile payment system. 

  • Reply 9 of 16
    So the lightning port will take up too much space? Why the micro usb?
  • Reply 10 of 16
    phone-ui-guyphone-ui-guy Posts: 1,017member
    But it also sports an on-off switch on the bottom, which would be a new feature for any of Apple's peripheral devices.


    No. Magic Mouse has a small on and off switch like the one pictured in the filing.
  • Reply 11 of 16
    thrangthrang Posts: 694member
    At first glance, it appears to be a wall mounted device. But with a USB port on the bottom, it wouldn't set flush against a wall, or desk, for that matter...perhaps there is a wall mount with integrated power connector as well.
  • Reply 12 of 16
    jp55jp55 Posts: 15member
    wireless power emitter?
  • Reply 13 of 16
    Bluetooth microphone - Designed to be distributed around your house to facilitate true hands-free speech-driven home automation. - Minority Report style.
    Think - "I am chopping up dinner or wandering down the hall with 2 arm-loads of washing but I can still send a message at the same time".
    Probably assumes your phone is in your pocket, or at least within 10 meters, on a desk, charger, etc.

    Obvious follow-up to HomeKit announcement. (Which is a bit bland otherwise...)

    Been waiting for someone to build something like this for AGES.

    You think Apple is hiring Speech engineers for Siri on iPhone??? Expand your mind... Speech is not just about something in your hand...

    Apple - If you want to hire someone who shares your passion here, drop me a line!

    (Hey, I could be wrong.... I hope I am wrong, because if I am right, Apple are going to make the millions I could have made...)

    If anyone else is with me on this, and has some serious funds, drop me a line...
  • Reply 14 of 16
    My guess - An inexpensive bluetooth microphone/speaker that doubles as an iBeacon.

    Sprinkle around your home, mix in a wake-up-word chip, a beefed up Siri (You know apple are hiring Speech people like crazy?), and Voila, you have Minority Report style home automation. - It not only knows where you are, who you are, but you can converse with it.

    Timed perfectly with HomeKit release.

    USB Power? Perhaps it only needs recharging once every few months? It can tell you, you plug it in somewhere overnight, and you can forget for another few months. (Or leave it plugged in permanently if convenient)

    I've been waiting for someone to make something like this for AGES.

    You heard it here first.

    And Apple - If i've guessed right - Drop me a line. We could be a match made in heaven... (Well, I can dream...)
  • Reply 15 of 16
    mactacmactac Posts: 315member

    Damn typo!

    It's supposed to be iBacon.

    A small microwave bacon cooker.

  • Reply 16 of 16
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