Even if you have a new Apple product in your hand or on your holiday wish list, it’s still exciting to learn about what’s next for the tech giant’s lineup. Looking to catch up on the latest rumors and reports about what’s going on in Cupertino? Read on for five of the most exciting rumors to surface this week on what Apple has in the works for its future products and services.
1. A second-generation Apple Watch could launch in 2016
As Apple Insider reports, Apple supplier Quanta is reportedly preparing for the launch of a next-generation Apple Watch, with upgraded hardware and software in the works for a launch by June 2016. The first Apple Watch launched in April with limited supplies, and Apple has since improved the device’s availability and distribution. It also expanded the Apple Watch lineup in September to add new color options and bands.
A launch for the “Apple Watch 2″ before the end of the second quarter of 2016 would place it as late as June. Quanta is currently expanding its capacity to assemble new products, and investors think that most of that expansion is focused on the Apple Watch. There haven’t been many rumors so far about the second-generation Apple Watch, though a report that surfaced in July suggested that the device will look the same as the current model, but integrate a larger battery. As Apple Insider notes, more questionable rumors have indicated that Apple might consider “smart bands” that add functionality to current models without requiring users to upgrade to new hardware.
2. Apple could introduce a faster Lightning protocol
As Juli Clover reports for MacRumors, an iPad Pro teardown by repair firm iFixit revealed that Apple has quietly included USB controller hardware that can support USB 3.0 data transfer speeds — which suggests that the company has a faster Lightning protocol in the works. All of Apple’s current iPads, including the iPad Pro, connect to computers using a Lightning platform that maxes out at USB 2.0.
Clover notes that a recent iPad Pro review from CNET reported that the new iPad will support “USB 3-level speeds with forthcoming adapters,” information that is reported to have come directly from Apple. USB 3.0 speeds have been rumored to be coming to Apple devices for several years, and so far the appropriate hardware has not yet surfaced. Apple’s current iPads and iPhones can only transfer data at 25 to 35MB/s. But at USB 3.0 speeds, data transfers would range between speeds of 60MB/s to 625MB/s.
The upcoming release of faster adapters will enable the faster file transfers, but the timeline for the release of those adapters is not yet clear. It’s also unclear whether Apple will introduce new Lightning cables that will enable USB 3.0 speeds when transferring files from a computer to an iPad Pro.
3. Apple is considering water-resistant iPhones
As Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider, a recent patent application reveals Apple’s invention of water-resistant iPhones that would be able to expel water from speaker and microphone cavities using electric charges and acoustics. Water — or any other liquid that you drop your iPhone into — would be transported out of the acoustic chamber by introducing hydrophobic properties to conductive elements within the cavity by varying their surface charges.
Apple currently installs a fine mesh over device openings, which doesn’t stop liquid from entering when a device is submerged or when humidity causes condensation to form. A water-resistant iPhone could be equipped with sensors to detect the presence of moisture, or existing hardware like the microphone could sense moisture through tone analysis.
If liquid does enter the cavity, a surface charge would be applied to conductive elements lining the chamber’s walls. Switching the conductive element’s surface charge between positive, neutral, and negative would modify the region’s hydrophobicity, so the electrode could be configured to attract or repel liquid. Applying varying surface charges to particular regions would enable the system to move water toward and out of an exit port.
4. Apple probably won’t use AMOLED displays in iPhones until at least 2019
Neil Hughes reports for Apple Insider that KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that Apple won’t implement AMOLED display technology in its iPhone lineup until 2019 at the earliest. Kuo thinks that Apple will stick with its current LCD panels until at least 2018, dismissing rumors that Apple could switch to AMOLED screens for its 2016 iPhone, likely to be called the iPhone 7.
Kuo reports that Foxconn has made a deal with the government of China’s Henan Province to build sixth-generation LTPS TFT-LCD production lines Zhengzhou; the plant wouldn’t begin mass production until 2018, and Kuo says that he’s “confident” that the major investment is aimed at LCD orders for future iPhones. Additionally, Japanese supplier Minebea, which supplies Apple with backlight units for the iPhone lineup, recently told investors that it doesn’t foresee the risk of LCD share loss to AMOLED in the high-end smartphone market. The company believes that demand for LCD panels will remain strong in that market over the next three years.
As Hughes reports, LCD offers a number of advantages over OLED, particularly when it comes to production cost, supply flexibility, product life, and visibility in sunlight. OLED panels, on the other hand, are known for their bright colors and power consumption savings, which is why Apple adopted OLED displays for the Apple Watch. But the Apple Watch uses a dark user interface, with most screens showing white text on a black background, taking advantage of the fact that dark interfaces can stretch battery life on OLED panels. No such advantage exists with LCD screens, which need a backlight to illuminate all pixels, regardless of color. Without a dark user interface, an OLED iPhone wouldn’t be able to achieve the same power savings that the Apple Watch achieves.
5. Apple could enable iPhone users to make person-to-person payments
Robin Sidel and Daisuke Wakabayashi report for The Wall Street Journal that Apple is talking to banks about creating a person-to-person payment platform, one that would compete with PayPal’s Venmo app. A small, but growing, number of users turn to such platforms to split dinner checks, share bills among roommates, and even to pay babysitters. The Journal reports that it’s unclear if any deals have been made, and most key details remain “in flux,” including the technical details on how the platform would tie into the banking industry’s infrastructure.
The move would make it easier for iPhone owners to use Apple’s apps for more everyday tasks. The platform would likely be linked to the existing Apple Pay system, though Luke Dormehl at Cult of Mac envisions how iMessage, with its high levels of encryption, could possibly power the functionality. It would make sense for Apple to build the capability into an existing app, rather than to create another new app.
Apple is reported to be in conversations with JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo, and Citi over the service. The company may opt to the run the platform at a loss, without charging fees to use it, since that would help the service gain users and would give consumers another reason to choose an iPhone.