Spring has brought plenty of devices for Apple fans to be excited about, from the unveiling of the brand-new iPhone SE and smaller iPad Pro to the accelerating speculation about the iPhone 7. But this year’s new iPhones and iPads aren’t the only devices that the ever-active rumor mill has been discussing. Catch up on this week’s most exciting rumors about Apple’s plans for its iPhones lineup, Apple Watch bands, Mac operating system, and more.
1. Apple may introduce an AMOLED iPhone in 2017
As Chance Miller reports for 9to5Mac, a note from reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo at KGI Securities indicates that Apple may entirely rework its iPhone lineup come 2017, with a new iPhone with a glass casing and AMOLED display. Kuo writes that while Apple will need to decide among glass, plastic, and ceramic casings for its 2017 iPhone, he thinks that the company will ultimately settle on glass, like it did with the iPhone 4, “as plastic doesn’t offer thin and light form factor designs, and it would be to easy to precisely control the tolerance of ceramic.”
Kuo thinks that Apple’s 2017 iPhone will adopt a curved display and a curved glass body. He also predicts that, like the iPhone 4, the iPhone will feature a glass front and back with metal sides. Kuo thinks that the 2017 iPhone model will introduce a “completely new form factor design,” with narrower bezels. According to past notes, KGI also believes that Apple will introduce a new 5.8-inch AMOLED iPhone in 2017. Despite the larger display, the firm thinks that the device will feature a form factor that’s actually smaller than the current 5.5-inch iPhone. If Apple is able to produce enough 5.8-inch AMOLED displays, the larger device could entirely replace the 5.5-inch model.
KGI also indicates that Apple’s 2017 iPhone could include wireless charging and additional biometric authentication methods (perhaps facial recognition or eye recognition). It’s possible that Apple will significantly revamp its iPhone lineup in 2017, and that the iPhone introduced later this year will be larger similar to the current iPhone 6s, though thinner in form and without the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.
2. The Apple Watch may gain modular accessories
Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider that a trio of patent filings detail advanced Apple Watch strap designs that feature embedded electronic devices that connect to the watch’s diagnostics port. That means that the Apple Watch could soon support wireless charging battery packs, GPS receivers, and other accessories. Apple’s filings propose integrating sensor stacks, processors, and other components into a range of devices sold as watch band links, which could be electrically connected.
A modular design would enable users to add on the features and hardware that they want the most, and Campbell notes that such a design would bring with it the benefits of optimized power consumption and a lean internal layout, both of which are important on a small device like the Apple Watch. The accessories could integrate batteries, displays, processors, electricity generators, GPS sensors, cameras, thermometers, blood pressure sensors, sweat sensors, and speakers. When arranged as watch band links, the devices would connect to one another and ultimately to the six-pin diagnostics port on the Apple Watch.
3. The iPad Pro’s Smart Connector may get more capable
Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider that according to recent patent filing, the Smart Connector that debuted with Apple’s iPad Pro may become more versatile. The document details work on a magnetic connector interface that’s much like the recently-introduced Smart Connector. However, instead of being limited to a single accessory, the new design would feature stacked plugs to support multiple peripherals.
According to the patent filing, two or more plugs for peripheral devices would be able to be stacked vertically on a single connector. The filing shows two potential embodiments, one with two contacts and another with three, both of which feature a magnetic mechanism to align and secure accessories or accessory cables without the usual clips and prongs. Battery packs, keyboards, external storage units, and other accessories could benefit from this stackable architecture, which would be much more compact than the usual array of USB, Thunderbolt, and headphone jacks seen on most computers. Campbell also speculates that the lack of moving parts would also make such a setup nearly immune to daily wear and tear.
Connector stacking could also be useful in a docking station, which could enable hands-free viewing or data offload for a variety of devices. A dock could also be equipped with conversion circuitry and support for common connector formats, which would enable it to act as a universal adapter.
4. Apple may rename OS X “macOS”
Apple Insider reports that if code in OS X El Capitan is to be believed, OS X could return to the name “macOS.” Developer Guilherme Rambo discovered a reference to macOS in the frameworks for OS X 10.11.4. The discovery was made in a private framework called “FlightUtilities,” which, according to Rambo, enables tracking flights, but is not currently in use in El Capitan. Rambo posits that both the new framework and new “macOS” branding could debut with the next version of the operating system, which is expected to be introduced at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June.
As pointed out by Apple Insider, rebranding OS X to “macOS” would be “something of a back-to-the-future move for Apple,” since the operating system was known as Mac OS for years, and even retained the name Mac OS X up through recent releases. It wasn’t until 2012 that Apple dropped the “Mac” from the name of the operating system, simplifying the name to OS X.
Whether the next-generation operating system is called macOS or OS X 10.12, the release is rumored to bring Apple’s personal assistant, Siri, to the Mac. It’s also expected to bring major changes to the Photos app, and to restore some of the functionality that was left behind with the shift away from Photos predecessor iPhoto.
5. 3D Touch may be in trouble
Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac that the omission of 3D Touch from Apple’s new iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro could be a bad sign for the future of 3D Touch. Neither of the new devices offer what Apple has termed “the next generation of multi-touch,” which might make sense in the case of the iPhone SE, since Apple needed to make some distinctions between its new flagship phones and its new budget-friendly model.
However, it’s a strange omission from the new iPad Pro. Lovejoy notes that popular theories have posited that Apple hasn’t rolled out 3D Touch more widely because yield rates have been poor, which would limit the volumes in which the system could be produced and make 3D Touch an expensive feature to add. Another theory holds that there have been challenges in scaling up 3D Touch for larger screens.
Lovejoy thinks that both suggestions are likely true, since otherwise, Apple’s choice to leave out 3D Touch from two new products doesn’t make much sense. However, this still places the feature on hold for iOS users, since the feature has only been adopted by a minority of the apps available on the platform. Though adding home screen actions is a relatively easy task for developers to accomplish, few developers have added support for the feature to their apps. And even some of Apple’s apps don’t support it. Worse, there’s no way to tell which apps support 3D Touch except by trial and error. The future of 3D Touch is beginning to look uncertain, since app developers are taking their cues from Apple’s half-hearted support of the feature, which some of its high-end iOS devices don’t have at all.