Now that we’re past the certainties of Apple’s annual iPhone event, there’s plenty of room to speculate about Apple’s supply chain, the company’s intellectual property, and what’s on the horizon for Cupertino. Catch up on the most exciting rumors about Apple’s plans and products to surface this week.
1. Your iPhone could get smarter, but still protect your privacy
Jack Clark and Adam Satariano report for Bloomberg that Apple has acquired Perceptio. The startup is developing technology to enable companies to run advanced artificial intelligence systems on smartphones, without needing to share as much user data as is currently necessary. Company leaders Nicolas Pinto and Zak Stone are both recognized AI researchers, and specialize in developing image recognition systems using deep learning.
The company’s goal is to run software that can recognize and classify images — like the ones you take daily on your iPhone — without having to draw on large, external repositories of data. That mission squares nicely with Apple’s renewed commitment to offering advanced software features without compromising users’ privacy or the security of their data, and to refrain from using customer data as much as possible.
A key tenet of that strategy is doing as much processing as possible on the device itself, rather than sending data to Apple’s servers for processing. Current image recognition engines routinely rely on cloud computing, offsite servers, and, of course, the Internet to recognize and classify images.
2. Apple could announce a new 4K, 21.5-inch iMac next week
Mark Gurman reports for 9to5Mac that Apple is planning to launch a new 4K, 21.5-inch iMac next week. According to “multiple reliable sources,” the company will announce the new iMac next week, and the machine could show up in Apple stores as soon as Tuesday, October 13. However, Gurman doesn’t think that Apple will ramp up production of the new iMac until November, which could make it difficult for Apple fans to find and purchase the machine early on in its availability.
The launch of a smaller 4K iMac is notable because the 21.5-inch iMac has remained largely unchanged since September 2013, while the larger, 27-inch iMac has received a number of updates over the past few years, including the addition of Retina 5K models. Apple hasn’t officially announced plans for a 4K version of the smaller all-in-one, but code discovered in a developer release of OS X referred to an unknown iMac model with a 4096×2304 display.
The new 4K iMac is expected to look largely the same as the current, non-4K version. If the machine is announced, the Retina display could finally become a (relatively) affordable feature for Apple fans. Currently, only the 27-inch iMac models, which start at $2,000, feature that level of resolution. A cheaper, smaller iMac with a 4K display would make the technology more accessible for consumers looking for a more budget-friendly machine.
3. A new trackpad, mouse, and keyboard could launch next week
Neil Hughes reports for Apple Insider that configuration files in Apple’s latest beta of OS X 10.11.1 reveal three updated pieces of hardware that are likely to be announced soon: a new Magic Trackpad 2, Magic Mouse 2, and a Magic Keyboard. Mention of the three new input devices, all using “Magic” branding, was discovered in the Bluetooth settings of El Capitan’s third beta.
Because the iMac rumored to be launching next week would rely on Apple’s wireless mouse, keyboard, and trackpad, it would make sense for Apple to introduce these updated accessories within the next week, as well.
The inclusion of the Magic Trackpad 2 is especially noteworthy, given that the device wasn’t included in FCC filings that came to light over the summer. Those documents did reveal that a new Magic Mouse and wireless keyboard would arrive soon, and indicated that both would include rechargeable batteries and support Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity, which the Magic Trackpad will, presumably, also integrate.
It’s also likely that the Magic Mouse and the Magic Trackpad will support Force Touch input, which Apple integrated into the trackpads of MacBook and MacBook Pro models released earlier this year. Force Touch trackpads don’t actually move or click like legacy trackpads. Instead, they simulate the feeling of the click with haptic feedback from Apple’s proprietary Taptic Engine. A new version of Force Touch, called 3D Touch, is integrated into the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, and it’s unclear so far whether Apple will rebrand Force Touch as 3D Touch on new, non-iPhone devices.
4. The iPad Pro could arrive in the first week of November
Speaking of timelines for new Apple products, Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider that the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and Smart Keyboard are expected to go on sale in the first week of November. The rumor originates on the Japanese blog Mac Otakara, and while it’s “light on details,” the report does cite reliable sources with knowledge of Apple’s Chinese supply chain.
When Apple unveiled the iPad Pro at its hardware event on September 9, it didn’t share a specific launch date for the device and the accessories designed to accompany it. Instead, the company simply said that the new iPad would begin shipping in November.
The Apple Pencil is an advanced stylus that works in conjunction with the new iPad’s display to detect the angle and pressure at which it’s being used. The Smart Keyboard is a keyboard and cover accessory that attaches to the iPad Pro via the new Smart Connector port, and the keyboard supports iOS 9 shortcuts for app switching, text entry, and app control.
5. Future iPhones could feature inductive charging
Mikey Campbell also reports that a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveals that Apple is investigating how to integrate inductive charging technology into its devices, such as its iPhones. The document describes a common two-coil inductive charging system, which uses a dedicated transmitter coil to interact with a receiver coil. But unlike current implementations of the technology, Apple’s version doesn’t require additional hardware; instead, it uses existing coils already found in the devices’ speakers, microphones, and haptic feedback engines.
In some implementations of the invention, the coil within the device can operate in two modes, one for the operation for which it was originally designed and another for inductive power transfer. The second coil, which would be integrated into a charger or a dock, could also serve dual purposes. Both coils, consequently, would be able to switch between operable and inductive charging modes, or could exist in both states simultaneously.
Campbell notes that, as it’s described in the patent application, Apple’s inductive charging system would combine neatly with its existing product lineup, which integrates many coil-bearing components. But the relatively small size of each coil could negatively impact the efficiency of the power transfer, which might result in unacceptably long charge times for high-capacity batteries.
An example of the current state of inductive charging technology is the coil in the Apple Watch and in the watch’s magnetic charging cable. Even with dedicated hardware, the system takes about this game time to charge the watch’s 205mAh battery as a 5W power adapter needs to charge the iPhone 6s’s 1,715mAh battery.