5 Apple Rumors: From a Smaller iPhone to Solar-Powered Mice

It’s been an exciting week in the world of rumors and reports about Apple’s plans and products. Apple introduced the impressive next-generation model of the iPod Touch, and as the summer progress, evidence is mounting for a number of expected new Apple products, including new iPads, new iPhones, and a TV streaming service. Here are five of the biggest Apple rumors to cross the radar of Apple fans and tech enthusiasts this week.

Source: Apple.com

Source: Apple.com

1. Apple could launch an iPad mini and iPad Pro in 2015

Rumor has it that Apple will announce a larger, 12.9-inch iPad Pro and a refreshed iPad mini by the end of the year. But according to what Apple Insider characterizes as a “questionable report out of the Far East,” the company isn’t planning a follow-up to the iPad Air 2 for this year, and is supposedly planning to phase out the iPad mini after this year’s upgrades.

The report maintains that the next generation of the iPad Air won’t be released until next year in order to alleviate pressure on manufacturing partner Foxconn, as well as to keep the spotlight on the rumored iPad Pro. Economic Daily News, the publication where the report originated, has an iffy record of accurately predicting Apple’s hardware releases, and the report cites Fubon Bank analyst Liaoxian Yi, not industry sources, as the basis for the iPad rumors.

The most interesting of the analyst’s claims is that Apple will ditch the 7.9-inch iPad mini format altogether after this year’s updates to the iPad lineup, which runs counter to other current rumors that Apple will release an iPad mini with an A8 chip and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Apple updated its smallest tablet last year, though with the exception of the new TouchID integration and the addition of a secure element for Apple Pay, the iPad mini 3 was not substantially different from its predecessor.

The report also conflicts with reports from DigiTimes, another publication with a hit-or-miss record on reporting Apple’s plans, on the topic of iPad Pro production volume. Economic Daily News maintains that Apple is already starting mass production of the larger tablet, while DigiTimes cites supply chain sources who say that Apple is being “rather cautious” with orders for the tablet.

Apple Music on Apple's updated iPod Touch

Source: Apple.com

2. The new iPod Touch could lead to a new 4-inch iPhone

In a surprise refresh to the iPod lineup, Apple unveiled new colors for all of its media players as well as a brand-new iPod Touch that’s just as powerful as the iPhone 5s, which was Apple’s flagship iPhone just last year. Reporting for VentureBeat, Mark Sullivan wrote that the new iPod Touch reaffirms not only Apple’s commitment to the iPod, but also to the form factor of the four-inch screen. He posits that if Apple had completely turned its back on the smaller screen size, it would have just made the new iPod Touch in the same sizes as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. But the company stuck with the smaller form factor, which could be an indication that it will release a new 4-inch iPhone in the near future.

Though the iPod Touch is a niche product due to the lack of always-on connectivity in the iPhone, it’s now just as adept at offering music, videos, and gaming content as any of Apple’s iPhones — content that, Sullivan notes, is exactly what drove smartphone makers to larger screen sizes in the first place. But many Apple fans find the smaller form factor preferable, and Sullivan thinks that come September, Apple will announce a new iPhone that looks almost exactly like the iPod Touch, but will come with a cellular voice and data radio chipset, a Touch ID sensor, and an RFC chip for Apple Pay.

Sullivan thinks that Apple could even split the difference between the iPhone and the iPod when it comes to the cost of a new four-inch model. The iPhone 6 line ranges from $650 to $850 for the iPhone 6 and $750 to $950 for the iPhone 6 Plus, while the iPod Touch starts at just $200. Apple could introduce a new phone at a price tag of around $400 to offer a solid new choice at a mid-level price.

Apple Magic Mouse gestures

Source: Apple.com

3. Apple’s future computer peripherals could be solar-powered

A patent application called “Wireless Devices With Touch Sensors and Solar Cells” reveals that Apple is investigating how to make wireless mice, keyboards, and trackpads with embedded solar cells. Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider that the application illustrates devices which — like previous Apple inventions that deal with solar charging technology — embed solar cells beneath transparent, touch-sensitive surfaces. The document proposes integrating the tech into Bluetooth wireless keyboards, mice, multitouch track pads, and other accessories.

Solar cells would be embedded beneath the capacitive sensor layers in, for instance, Apple’s Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad, separated and stabilized by layers of liquid adhesive. The solar system would convert ambient light into electrical energy stored in a battery system or a regulated capacitor. The device would then draw on that energy to operate processors, touch sensors, wireless radios, and other components. Campbell notes that such a system could eventually negate the necessity of batteries.

The design of Apple’s current devices, which have multitouch capabilities and transparent casings, are ideal candidates for the solar energy solution. However, as with any Apple patent or patent application, it’s unclear whether the company has plans to integrate the invention into its actual product lineup. it also remains to be seen whether the solar conversion technology can supply enough energy for long-term, daily use, as is necessary with computer peripherals.

Apple SIM on iPad

Source: Apple.com

4. Apple may be in talks to establish an embedded SIM standard

GSMA, the industry association that represents mobile carriers worldwide, is expected to announce the technical standard for an embedded SIM card. According to a report from the Financial Times, both Apple and Samsung are involved in the talks to do so. A traditional SIM card locks a user in to a single operator’s network, while an embedded SIM would enable a user to avoid getting locked in to a single plan, or even opt to switch between networks instantly. In addition to Apple and Samsung, major carriers including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Vodafone are said to be in on the talks.

The report says that even once the technical standard is finalized, it will probably take about a year before any devices supporting it ship to consumers. As Neil Hughes notes at Apple Insider, that means that the iPhone 6s won’t ship with an embedded SIM. Apple Insider’s sources indicated earlier this year that Apple was strongly considering shipping this year’s new iPhone models with its own Apple SIM card, which it revealed last year with the iPad Air 2. The Apple SIM enables users to sign up for data plans from any participating carrier directly from the Settings app on the device. However, it was supported only by AT&T T-Mobile in the United States at its launch.

The Financial Times reports that the new embedded SIM is not expected to replace the Apple SIM, and the publication also emphasizes that the Apple SIM could ship in the new iPhone 6s this fall. However, if the embedded SIM standard is finalized and approved soon, that means that the iPhone 7 could feature a new, more user-friendly version. Apple has been working to expand support for its Apple SIM, and has recently made a deal with GigSky to offer iPad data plans in more than 90 countries and territories.

Apple TV

Source: Apple.com

5. Apple is reportedly making headway with its TV streaming service

Apple is expected to launch a TV streaming service this fall, and a report by The New York Post says that Apple’s discussions with ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox over its “cable-killer TV app” are quickly gaining momentum. Apple’s talks with the four major networks initially foundered because the company wanted to offer local live TV feeds for streaming to any Apple device. But the networks don’t control affiliate feeds, so Apple asked the networks to obtain those rights instead of pursuing them itself.

Sources told the Post that the networks are close to having the right to negotiate with Apple on behalf of their affiliates. The networks have told the affiliate groups that if they opt in and offer their feeds on the streaming service, they’ll be able to share in the added revenue that Apple’s service will produce.

Even once all of the networks can represent their affiliates in discussions with Apple, there are still other hurdles to overcome, such as Apple’s insistence that TV partners give up 30% of their subscription if users buy it through the App Store. Another potential issue is that networks have signed “most favored nation” deals with other parties; the deals state that they can’t charge some distributors less than they charge others. Apple also has yet to decide how much to charge for its streaming service, and the Post’s industry sources have heard estimates ranging from $10 to $40 a month.

More from Gear & Style Cheat Sheet: