Curious about what 2016 will bring for Apple? You may not have to wait months to find out. Rumors are already circulating not only about products that Apple is expected to reveal early in the year, but also those that aren’t expected to make their debut until the year is almost over. Read on to catch up on five of the most exciting Apple rumors to surface this week.
1. 2016 will bring numerous new products and software updates
As Juli Clover reports for Mac Rumors, 2015 was a big year for Apple, with the launch of the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, the new Apple TV, and the iPad Pro — plus the introduction of iOS 9, watchOS 2, and OS X El Capitan, plus the launch of tvOS with the fourth-generation Apple TV. 2016 is expected to be just as exciting.
For starters, a second-generation Apple Watch is in the works and could launch early in the year, and new flagship phones, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, are expected late in the year. A new four-inch iPhone 6c could also be introduced early in the year. An iPad Air 3 is expected early to mid-2016, the same time frame during which we could see a new MacBook Air, a new Retina MacBook Pro, and a new MacBook, all expected to be upgraded to Intel’s latest Skylake chips. An updated iMac, on the other hand, is expected late in the year.
2016 will also bring new software, in the form of iOS 10, OS X 10.12, watchOS 3, and a new version of tvOS. Apple will also continue to update its apps and services, including Apple Music, Apple Pay, and HomeKit. Other devices that could be updated at some point during the year include the Apple TV, the iPad Pro, the iPad mini, the Mac Pro, and the Mac mini.
2. The iPhone 7 could feature a twin camera system
As Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac, we’ve heard several months of speculation that Apple is testing an iPhone 7 model with dual rear cameras. That rumor has been validated by a patent application, which confirms that Apple is exploring the idea and has already fleshed out the details of exactly what features such a setup could enable.
For instance, the patent filing reveals that by fitting two camera modules behind the lens, and by creating a single lens with both standard and telephoto sections, you would be able to switch between two different focal lengths — effectively using optical zoom. That means that you could capture a zoomed-in photo, without opting for the low-resolution image you get when you rely on digital zoom to crop away pixels.
The application also describes how the system could simultaneously use both camera modules. One could shoot stills while the other shoots video, and both could capture at maximum resolution simultaneously. You could simultaneously shoot standard speed and slow-motion video, and the two could be automatically combined afterward. The document also suggests that a single filming could generate a combination of 4K video, 1080p video, slow motion video, and still images, which could all be combined afterward with editing software.
Lovejoy notes that some parts of the filing describe applications that would involve moving the lens or sensor, an approach that Apple has used so far in enabling optical image stabilization on the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus. It’s also possible that Apple is working on technology that would enable you to change the focal point of a photo after it’s been taken by combining shots captured by the two sensors.
3. The iPhone 7 may not have a headphone jack
This isn’t breaking news as far as iPhone 7 rumors go, but recent supply chain rumors have reaffirmed past speculation that Apple’s next flagship phone will ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack. As Joe Rossignol reports for Mac Rumors, Apple is expected to use the all-in-one Lightning connector for both connectivity and audio output, with multiple Chinese websites citing supply chain sources that reportedly confirm that the rumor is true.
The websites claim that Apple will release its own wireless Bluetooth headphones to accompany the new iPhone. The original report that first began discussion of an iPhone without a headphone jack said that Apple could release Lightning-equipped EarPods, as it already offers multiple models of wireless headphones through the Beats brand. When the company introduced new MFi specifications in June 2014, it enabled third-party manufacturers to create Lightning-equipped headphones.
As Rossignol notes, the rumor has led to speculation that Apple could introduce wireless charging on the iPhone 7, since users would be unable to charge the phone and use Lightning-equipped headphones simultaneously. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the rumor will be proven false, and Apple isn’t planning to jettison the headphone jack.
4. Apple could offer a 256GB option for the iPhone 7 Plus
As Daniel Eran Dilger reports for Apple Insider, a questionable report is claiming that Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus will ship with a 256GB storage option. The report doesn’t clarify whether that would mean that Apple would increase the entry-level storage tier beyond the traditional 16GB model. Apple still offers the 16GB variant to keep a lower price point (and to convince more users to upgrade to a more expensive model).
Somewhat implausibly, the rumor claims that Apple will offer a 256GB option only for the iPhone 7 Plus, not the standard iPhone 7. When Apple launched the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the specifications o the two models were almost identical, with the exception of optical image stabilization, which was limited to the larger iPhone 6 Plus.
The design choice was reportedly related to the limited volume of the smaller iPhone 6. The Plus model also has a larger battery than the standard model could accommodate, but Apple doesn’t market the Plus as a superior device. Instead, it’s positioned the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus or the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus as two options that are differentiated primarily by their size.
The same report that introduced the idea of a 256GB storage option also claims that the iPhone 7 Plus will get a 3100mAh battery, almost a 12% capacity increase over the iPhone 6s Plus’s 2750mAh battery. But last year, Apple reduced battery size, going from 2915mAH in the iPhone 6 Plus to 2750mAh in the iPhone 6s Plus, leveraging the efficiency of the A9 chip and improved software to maintain the same battery life while slimming down the battery. It’s unclear whether Apple would actually need to increase the size of the battery to improve battery life with the A10 chip and iOS 10, which are two major variables with the iPhone 7.
5. Apple may update 3D Touch for the iPhone 7
As Apple Insider reports, a series of images making their rounds on Chinese blogs claim to show a backlight assembly intended for the iPhone 7. It’s unclear, of course, whether the images are authentic. But they seem to show a changed layout that indicates Apple is updating its design for the iPhone 7’s 3D Touch sensors.
Compared to the backlight assembly found in the iPhone 6s series models, the assembly shown in the photos uses relocated flex cables, and what Apple Insider points out is a slightly-moved contact for the 3D Touch hardware. The site notes that one distinguishing mark suggests that the assembly belongs to an unreleased Apple device: “a small Apple logo can just barely be seen on the largest flex cable.”
Apple is believed to be working on a new force sensing technology for its devices, mostly the iPad. Many people think that 3D Touch has yet to make it to the iPad because of problems with scaling the technology, which some analysts think represents a significant production bottleneck in the supply chain for the iPhone 6s.