Apple has had a pretty bright spotlight trained on it in the past week thanks to its very public battle with the FBI over whether its engineers have to help the government unlock an iPhone used by a suspected shooter in the San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting. While that’s a compelling and ongoing story, there have been plenty of other reasons that Apple has made headlines this week. Read on to catch up on the latest rumors about what Apple has in the cards for its future products.
1. Apple’s next-generation 4-inch iPhone may look like the iPhone 6
According to purportedly leaked schematics of the 4-inch iPhone Apple is expected to launch at a media event in March, Apple’s next-generation iPhone 5se or iPhone 6c may look very similar to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s. According to Apple Insider, schematics received by Steve Hemmerstoffer from an unnamed source in Apple’s supply chain show that the new iPhone model will look very similar to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s series, with an amalgamation of iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 hallmarks.
The diagrams show separate porthole groupings on the bottom of the smartphone to accommodate the speaker and main microphone. The oldest prototype shows a round True Tone flash module like the one introduced with the iPhone 6, while the newest drawing reverts to the generations-old pill-shaped design. The newer prototype also does away with two loudspeaker portholes to achieve symmetry around the central Lightning port.
Another set of drawings, provided to 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman by a case manufacturer, seems to indicate that the new iPhone is “essentially the 2013 iPhone 5s with significant internal hardware and software upgrades.” The case maker says that the device’s dimensions are indistinguishable from those of the iPhone 5s, meaning that the new iPhone 5se would fit into cases designed for the iPhone 5s. However, the schematics do show that the sleep/power/wake button has been relocated to the side of the phone, and that the edges of the device are slightly curved. Though it isn’t shown in the diagrams, Gurman reports that the phone will have TouchID support.
Rumors about Apple’s return to a 4-inch iPhone have been circulating for almost a year. The latest indicate that the phone, referred to as either the iPhone 5se or the iPhone 6c, will be powered by a variant of Apple’s latest A9 chip, and could incorporate TouchID and support for Apple Pay. Apple is expected to introduce the new iPhone at an event on March 15.
2. OS X 10.12 could finally bring Siri to the Mac
Apple has been gradually expanding Siri across its product lines, implementing Siri as a key feature in both the Apple Watch and the Apple TV in 2015. And in 2016, it seems that Apple will finally bring Siri to the Mac. Mark Gurman reports for 9to5Mac that Apple has been testing versions of OS X with Siri integration since at least 2012, but his sources say that Apple now has a clear vision for how Siri will be implemented on the Mac and what kind of user interface the integration will require.
Siri will reportedly live in the Mac’s Menu Bar, and an icon in the top-right corner of the Menu Bar will activate the feature. When a user clicks on the Siri button, a transparent Siri interface will appear in the top-right corner of the screen. The interface that Apple has been testing so far will use colorful sound waves to indicate speech input, though, of course, it’s possible that that could change before Apple introduces OS X 10.12 at its Worldwide Developer’s Conference in June. OS X 10.12, codenamed “Fuji,” is also expected to bring user interface tweaks across system applications windows, plus performance improvements.
Siri will gain a dedicated pane in System Preferences, and users will reportedly be able to choose a keyboard shortcut to activate the feature. As with recent versions of iOS, users will be able to enable Siri when they first set up the new version of the operating system. And if a Mac running the latest version of OS X is plugged in to a power source, a “Hey Siri” command will work much like it does on Apple’s most recent iPhones and iPads.
3. New bands for the Apple Watch seem to be on their way
Also expected from Apple’s media event on March 15 — in addition to the iPhone 5se and the iPad Air 3 — are some minor updates to the Apple Watch lineup. The company is expected to introduce new Apple Watch bands, Zac Hall reports for 9to5Mac that one band — the space black Milanese Loop — has already been accidentally revealed and another space black version of a current Apple Watch band has been spotted “in the wild.”
Marketing material from an Apple Premium Reseller called iConcept Toulouse Esquirol seems to show an unreleased space black stone leather Modern Buckle strap paired with a stainless steel space black Apple Watch. Apple originally only sold the stainless steel space black Apple Watch in 38mm and 42mm versions with the Link Bracelet, but then introduced a version in both sizes paired with a black Sport band last fall. The Modern Buckle band is currently only sold in stainless steel 38mm options, including soft pink, midnight blue, black, or brown. Apple hasn’t yet introduced any space black Modern Buckle bands, or versions with what appears to be “stone leather” like Apple’s Leather Loop.
If Apple does introduce space black versions of the Modern Buckle band and Apple Watch configuration, Hall projects that pricing will likely be between $249 and $349 per band, and $749 to $849 when bought with the space black Apple Watch. The unreleased bands are expected to be released next month, and NATO-style bands are also reportedly in the works and could make an appearance at the March event, as well.
4. Big changes may be coming to Apple’s Photos apps
Longtime Apple fans who were dissatisfied by the company’s shift to the new Photos apps for iPhone and Mac will likely be excited to hear about the big changes that Apple is planning with iOS 10 and OS X 10.12. Neil Hughes reports for Apple Insider that Apple plans to more closely align the capabilities of the iPhone and Mac apps, as well as to restore absent functionality that users grew accustomed to in iPhoto.
A report from Macotakara, citing a source with knowledge of Apple’s software development efforts, says that the new versions of Photos for iOS and OS X will function “at the same level” as the now-defunct iPhoto apps. Both iPhoto and its professional counterpart, Aperture, were pulled from the Mac App Store last April, and the transition from iPhoto to Photos left some key editing features behind, including brush correction, the ability to adjust the brightness of a selected portion of an image, the ability to flag photos, and EXIF data editing abilities. Photos for Mac is also unable to make batch changes to the names of photo files, and users can’t change the order in which photos are displayed.
The report didn’t provide specifics about which features will return in the new versions of Photos, though it did say that Photos for Mac “will be improved to the level of iPhoto 9.6.1.” Apple reportedly doesn’t plan to appease Aperture users, since the higher-end functionality found in that app won’t make its way to the new Photos for Mac. Aperture and iPhoto remain functional for users who had them installed, but new users cannot access the applications.
5. Even Apple might not be able to unlock the next iPhone
Apple has officially filed its response to a court that ordered it to comply with the FBI’s request and unlock an iPhone used by an alleged San Bernardino shooter. As Zac Hall reports for 9to5Mac, Apple has filed a motion to vacate the order, telling the court that it shouldn’t have to unlock the iPhone with a modified and insecure software version, which it’s calling a Government Operating System, or GovtOS. The company stands by its position that the request to unlock the iPhone in question isn’t about a single iPhone, and would set a dangerous precedent for users’ privacy.
At the same time, the company is reportedly working on strengthening the iPhone’s security, and Stan Schroeder reports for Mashable that even Apple may not be able to help government agencies that want to unlock future versions of the iPhone. The security updates that Apple adds in the future will be aimed at keeping both hackers and Apple out of users’ iPhones. The updates mean that Apple might not be able to help a government agency like the FBI crack a suspect’s iPhone, even if it wanted to.