6 Apple Rumors: From the iPad Air 3 to New iPhone Screens

Apple is unique among technology companies not only for its wide reach and huge number of fans, but for the unprecedented interest that its fans take in rumors and reports about what’s going on in Cupertino. Each week, new rumors about Apple’s plans and future products make the rounds, and this week was no exception. Read on to catch up on some of the most interesting Apple rumors to surface this week.

1. The iPhone and iPad may get more efficient screens

iOS 9 on iPad and iPhone

Source: Apple.com

Tim Culpan reports for Bloomberg that Apple has opened a secret production laboratory in northern Taiwan for engineers to develop new display technology for the iPhone and iPad. These new screens will contribute to making Apple’s iOS devices not only thinner and lighter, but also brighter and more energy-efficient — which would be a welcome development for users who criticize Apple’s choice to prioritize an ever-thinner iPhone over one equipped with a battery large enough to last through a day.

The engineers are developing better versions of Apple’s LCD screens, and Culpan reports that Apple is “keen” to switch to LED screens, which are both thinner and don’t require a backlight. That could translate into significant battery savings if or when the technology makes it to a real Apple product. Luke Dormehl reports for Cult of Mac that the microLED displays that the company is reportedly testing not only make backlighting unnecessary, but also offer an increased color range and higher-resolution graphics.

This isn’t the first time that Apple has investigated microLED technology; in 2014, it acquired LuxVue Technology, a startup that specialized in “microLED-based displays for consumer electronics applications.” The introduction of microLEDs could disrupt the growing trend of using OLED screens, like the one Cupertino chose for the Apple Watch. Previous rumors have indicated that Apple could adopt OLED displays for the iPhone as early as 2017 — and Luke Dormehl reports for Cult of Mac that Apple is expected to use Samsung OLEDs when it makes that switch — and the company’s investigation of microLEDs adds some interesting possibilities.

2. The iPad Air 3 may not have a 3D Touch screen

Apple iPad Air 2

Source: Apple.com

Seth Weintraub reports for 9to5Mac that there are some new projections about the iPad Air 3. Respected KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo published a set of research notes predicting that the newest 9.7-inch iPad will be released in the first half of 2016, perhaps at the March event that’s expected to bring the launch of the Apple Watch 2 and perhaps the 4-inch iPhone 6c.

Kuo reports that it’s unlikely that the iPad Air 3 will feature a 3D Touch screen due to “production issues,” which might disappoint users who consider the feature integral to their experience with the iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus. Kuo does think that the upcoming iPhone 7 will feature the same 3D Touch technology as the iPhone 6s, using “similar technology & structure as iPhone 6s.”

3. Apple may be working on improved 3D Touch technology

iPhone 6s display with 3D Touch

Source: Apple.com

Also on the topic of Apple’s plans for 3D Touch, Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider that the reason why the iPad Air 3 won’t feature a 3D Touch screen is that it can’t scale the existing technology to accommodate the larger display. Campbell’s sources indicate that the company is working on an improved version of the technology, which would be integrated into both iPhones and iPads, and potentially be supported by a future version of the super-sized iPad Pro.

The catch is that the new technology won’t be ready in time for next year’s iPad Air 3, or even the iPhone 7. Apple introduced 3D Touch as “the next generation of Force Touch,” the pressure-sensing technology it originally introduced with the Apple Watch and later added to MacBook trackpads. Force Touch uses perimeter sensors to detect finger pressure, while 3D Touch uses a bank of capacitive sensors integrated with the display’s backlight, measuring  the distance between the iPhone’s flexible cover glass and the sensor array.

4. Apple Music may be catching up to Spotify

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Music Business Worldwide reports that respected music industry analyst Mark Mulligan estimates that Apple Music will have nearly 8 million subscribers by the end of 2015, a figure that he thinks will more than double in 2016. In fact, Mulligan forecasts that Apple Music should hit 20 million subscribers by the end of 2016. That means that it won’t have quite caught up with Spotify, but will be the solid second-place streaming service.

“The wildcards in the equation are whether Apple can do a better job of pushing users from iTunes Radio to Apple Music and what happens when Spotify restates its subscriber number to  reflect the impact of $1 a month 3 month trials,” Mulligan notes, pointing out that Spotify’s “paid subscribers” figure currently reflects users on three-month trials of Spotify Premium. Apple’s user figures come with their own unknowns, as well, since some paying Apple Music users may have simply forgotten to cancel their subscriptions after their three-month trials ended.

As Ben Lovejoy points out at 9to5Mac, Apple reported in October that Apple Music had reached 6.5 million paying subscribers. If Mulligan’s prediction of 8 million subscribers by the end of 2015 proves true, Apple’s streaming service will have acquired twice as many subscribers in six months as Spotify gained during its first four years.

5. Steve Jobs may have known about the Apple Watch

Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

When Apple fans and detractors alike turn a critical eye toward the Apple Watch, they often repeat the refrain that legendary Apple cofounder Steve Jobs would be turning over in his grave if he knew about the new direction his company was taking. But Buster Hein reports for Cult of Mac that Jobs probably knew about the Apple Watch, after all.

At the first Apple Watch conference, Tim Bajarin, a tech columnist who had a relationship with Jobs over three decades, said that Jobs had been at least told about the Apple Watch before he passed away. “Steve was aware of the Watch,” Bajarin told the audience. “He didn’t nix it as a product.” Bajarin didn’t offer much detail, though his statement does contradict a noted Wired profile on Jony Ive, Alan Dye, and the Apple Watch.

That report pinpoints the months after Jobs’s death as the period when Ive began “dreaming about an Apple watch.” Hein notes that both statements could be true, though it seems unlikely that Jobs had much input into what became the Apple Watch if all he did was not “nix it as a product.” It’s possible that Ive brought up the idea in its early stages. But as Hein notes, whether or not Jobs knew about the wearable isn’t that important. It doesn’t validate the Apple Watch if he did know about it, or make the idea worse if he didn’t love it.

6. Apple could see its first drop in iPhone sales

Ken Ishii/Getty Images

Ken Ishii/Getty Images

With 2015 drawing to a close, analysts are already speculating about how things will go for Apple in the new year. As Rob Price reports for Business Insider, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty is predicting that iPhone sales will drop for the first time ever in 2016. She projects that Apple’s iPhone sales will fall by nearly 6%, breaking the years-long trend that has seen iPhone sales growing every year since the launch of the original iPhone.

As David Pierini reports for Cult of Mac, Credit Suisse issued a report that sheds some light on why iPhone sales might finally start to fall: Smartphone ownership is nearing 100%. 2015 will close with the first-ever drop in smartphone buyers, and future smartphone sales will depend on upgrades and new phones for existing smartphone users. In short, Apple will soon run out of new buyers to sell iPhones to, and sales could slump if Apple can’t get Android users to switch to iPhones, or get users of older iPhones to upgrade to new ones.

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