6 Apple Rumors: From Floating iPhones to New Siri Skills
Trying to keep up with what we know about Apple’s future products and plans? Catch up on the week’s most exciting rumors with our roundup of the latest reports on what Cupertino is planning for Siri, its iPhone lineup, and even the second-generation Apple Watch.
1. Siri could learn to switch user profiles based on your voice
As Luke Dormehl reports for Cult of Mac, a recent patent reveals that Apple’s engineers have been developing a way for Siri to distinguish between different users and offer them customized options based on their past preferences. That would be especially useful as Apple integrates Siri into devices like the iPad and the Apple TV, which are more likely to be used by multiple users than the iPhone, or into CarPlay devices.
The patent describes how Siri would be able to identify “a user providing a voice input, and process … the input to identify a corresponding instruction based on the user’s identity. In particular, this is directed to processing a received voice input using the subset of library terms used to process the voice input.” Once Siri recognizes a specific user, the device could offer different options, such as different music playlists.
Siri isn’t the only digital assistant that listens closely to users. Google Now recognizes different accents and switches accents accordingly, and a number of companies, including Apple, promise that their voice recognition systems can be tuned to a particular user’s voice.
2. Apple’s Black Friday sales will likely be disappointing
Speculation over what tech companies and retailers are going to offer on Black Friday is picking up. But Cult of Mac reports that Apple’s Black Friday sales are probably going to be disappointing. In previous years, authorized resellers of Apple’s products have undercut Apple by as much as 13% on Black Friday, and this year isn’t likely to be any different.
Apple will likely offer a free gift card with the purchase of full-price Macs, iPads, and iPods. The amount of the gift cards has varied through the years, though resellers have offered bigger gift cards than Apple and might offer bigger gift cards than Apple does this year, too.
Neither Apple nor retailers are likely to offer any deals on the iPad Pro, but stores could offer about $100 off the iPad Mini 4. Retailers and wireless carriers alike will likely offer a variety of different promotions on the iPhone. To take advantage of them, you should determine beforehand what kind of plan you want, and figure out whether you need a subsidized phone, want to splurge on an unlocked version, or would find an iPhone that’s bundled with a prepaid plan the best fit.
3. Apple’s four-inch iPhone could use the A8 chip, not the A9
As Neil Hughes reports for Apple Insider, the new four-inch iPhone model that Apple is reportedly developing could feature the A8 processor that powers the iPhone 6, instead of the latest A9 processor. In addition to the A8 processor, the new four-inch iPhone is also rumored to include 802.11ac W-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, a FaceTime HD camera, and f/2.2 aperture rear camera. Many of those parts were introduced with the revamped iPod Touch that Apple introduced in July; the iPhone 5s, which currently sells for $449, is powered by the A7 processor.
The rumor contrasts with a recent report from IHS analyst Kevin Wang, who, according to Apple Insider, reports that Apple will debut the four-inch phone in mid-2016 with the A9 system-on-a-chip. The A9 chip features 2GB of RAM, which is twice the amount found in the A8. Beyond the controversy over the chip, most of the current rumors about a new four-inch iPhone are consistent. The new device is expected to launch in 2016 with a metal, not plastic, chassis, and all signs point to the new device being a budget model.
4. You might be able to control iPhone notifications with your eyes
Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider that a patent recently granted to Apple outlines a user input method that would use eye-tracking technology to manage the expiration and execution of time-sensitive notifications. Those notifications could include autocorrect popups and app notifications.
The autocorrect utility, for instance, could detect and replace misspelled words without additional touch gestures. When iOS or OS X recognizes a misspelled word, the autocorrect algorithm generates a “display event” and generates a popup with what it believes is the correct word. You can dismiss the correction by tapping or clicking the popup. But if you’re looking at your keyboard or at another window, you might miss the popup altogether. With the new, more intuitive system, the popup might not appear until it detects that you’re actually looking at the right region of the screen.
A gaze detection device, like a camera configured to detect absorbed infrared light, could track the position of the user’s eyes. The system would then estimate the probable gaze region, and the software would check that region against user interface elements. The autocorrect replacement would remain unexecuted until the system had detected that your gaze has overlapped with the text box. The same technology could be used for app notifications, popup windows, or even functionality like screen dimming.
5. Future iPhones might be able to float
As Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider, a recently published patent application reveals that Apple has developed an automated bumper system that doubles as a flotation device, which would protect iPhones from drops into bodies of water. The application is the latest in a series of intellectual property filings that outline Apple’s research into ways to make future iPhones more resilient to drops and other damage.
The system described in the filing uses sensors — including accelerometers, gyroscopes, cameras, and microphones — to monitor device motion for changes in velocity, acceleration, and other movement characteristic of a drop. When the system determines that your iPhone is in free fall, spring-loaded shock absorbers would emerge from the device housing. The bumper cushions could be made of foam, plastic, rubber, or other materials, and would be buoyant, which could help protect your iPhone in the event of a drop into a pool or a puddle.
6. Apple may be looking for a second supplier for the next Apple Watch
As Roger Fingas reports for Apple Insider, Chinese-language Apple Daily reports that Apple is currently in talks with Inventec, Wistron, and its primary partner Foxconn as it looks for a second manufacturer to help build the second generation of the Apple Watch. Rumors conflict as to the timeline for the release of the device, with reports so far placing the launch during or after the second quarter of 2016.
The manufacturing candidates are reportedly concerned that Quanta, which Apple relied upon to build the first generation of the Apple Watch, made weaker profits on the watch than expected despite making costly investments into equipment for the manufacturing process. Apple reportedly planned to order 6 million watches for the December quarter but scaled its order back to 4 million because of softer sales.
Few rumors have emerged on the specifications expected with the second-generation Apple Watch, though early ones have hinted at better battery life, an improved display, and even Pebble-style smart bands as features on fans’ wish lists. Built-in GPS is another common request, but Apple is unlikely to implement it thanks to the power-intensive nature of the functionality.