2016 is going to be a big year for Apple, with multiple new iPhones, new iPads, and new Macs on the horizon. Some of those products are closer to their introductions than others, and Apple is expected to unveil the brand-new iPhone 5se (or iPhone 6c) plus the third-generation iPad Air at an event in March. Curious about what you can expect from the Apple devices that are right around the corner, and those that won’t appear for a few more months? Read on to catch up on the seven most exciting Apple rumors to surface this week.
1. The iPhone 5se and iPad Air 3 could get the same chips as the iPhone 6s and iPad Pro
Even though they’ll be priced as mid-range products, the devices that Apple is expected to unveil in March could be equipped with the same processors that power the company’s current flagship devices. As Brad Stone, Adam Satariano, and Gwen Ackerman report for Bloomberg Business, a person familiar with Apple’s plans has indicated that the updated iPad Air and new 4-inch iPhone will feature “the latest A9x and A9 chips.” The small iPhone, rumored to be named either the iPhone 5se or the iPhone 6c, would run the same A9 processor as the current iPhone 6s, and the iPad Air 3 would run the A9X processor that powers the much-larger iPad Pro.
As Neil Hughes reports for Apple Insider, the information, if correct, would reveal that the new iPhone will be more powerful than Apple’s current midrange iPhone, the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 runs an A8 processor with 1GB of RAM. The A9 chip that Apple introduced with the iPhone 6s, meanwhile, has 2GB of RAM, which enables app data to remain active in the background for longer. The A9 is also 50% faster than the A8 at multicore operations and nearly 60% faster at single-core tasks.
The A9 chip also integrates the M9 motion coprocessor, which enables the iPhone 6s to keep track of your pace while running and powers the always-on “Hey Siri” function that enables users to make requests of the digital assistant without picking up their iPhones. If the new 4-inch iPhone 5se or iPhone 6c gains all of the features of the A9 chip, that might influence how Apple prices the phone; it was rumored to cost less than $500, but that would undercut the less-powerful iPhone 6 by at least $50. As for the third-generation iPad Air, the A9X processor is a dual-core CPU with a 12-cluster GPU. It doubles the graphics power of the A9 processor, and also boasts 4GB of RAM, which doubles the amount of memory found in the iPad Air 2 and the iPhone 6s.
2. The iPad Air 3 and iPhone 5se could go on sale the week they’re unveiled
Apple is reportedly planning to start selling its next iPhone and iPad models the same week that they’re introduced in March. Apple is planning to introduce the iPhone 5se and iPad Air 3 at an event on Tuesday, March 15. Mark Gurman reports for 9to5Mac that Apple will begin selling the products online and in its retail stores as early as Friday, March 18. Gurman reports that Apple is unlikely to offer preorders for the devices, according to sources who also noted “that the plans could still change.”
Launching the new iPhone and iPad so soon after they’re announced, and not offering a preorder period, would be a new strategy for Apple, which typically releases new iPhone models a week or two after the introduction event and an online preorder period. It’s followed the same strategy with many iPad releases, though the iPad Pro went on sale more than two months after its introduction.
Buster Hein reports for Cult of Mac that doing away with the preorder period for the new 4-inch iPhone would mark a big change in strategy, but would likely increase foot traffic to Apple’s stores on the first day that the new devices are available for purchase. The rumored March 15 event is also expected to bring new Apple Watch bands, as well as the iPad Air 3, which is expected to gain the Smart Connector, improved cameras, a rear flash, four-speaker audio, and possibly support for the Apple Pencil.
3. The iPhone 7 probably won’t include wireless EarPods
Many analysts and bloggers are in agreement that the iPhone 7 will probably ditch the traditional headphone jack. But a research note from Barclays on the topic of Cirrus Logic — a key Apple supplier and one of the companies most likely to benefit if Apple does do away with the headphone jack — indicates that Apple hasn’t purchased the rights to use the Cirrus noise-canceling tech it would need to create the wireless, noise-canceling EarPods that some are expecting.
As Business Insider’s Kif Leswing reports, Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Christopher Hemmelgarn say that Apple will include a pair of Lightning-equipped headphones with the iPhone 7, but it won’t purchase Cirrus’s noise-canceling technology for in-box headphones until the iPhone 7s (which would be released in 2017).
Cirrus is still expected to sell aftermarket headphones for the iPhone, and the analysts also expect that the company will sell Apple a piece of decoding software, called a codec, that would enable headphones to use a digital input instead of an analog headphone jack. Cirrus may also sell Apple a codec that would enable active noise canceling, a process that uses a microphone to cancel out unwanted sound. The space freed up by not including a headphone jack could provide room for another speaker, for which Cirrus could provide an amp.
According to Buster Hein at Cult of Mac, killing the headphone jack would also make the iPhone 7 more waterproof, plus give Apple’s engineers more space to add other features or pare down the device. “The Barclays analysts believe Apple will add a better speaker, but we wouldn’t mind more battery,” Hein notes. The iPhone 7 is expected to be announced in fall 2016, and could also feature a dual-lens camera, a refined metal body design with fewer antenna bands, a faster A10 processor, and other internal improvements.
4. The iPhone 7 could get extra protection from electromagnetic interference
Apple is building extra protections against electromagnetic interference into the iPhone 7, according to Buster Hein at Cult of Mac. The company is reportedly improving the shielding on all of the device’s major chips, which would lead to better performance. Hein notes that other Apple products have already featured chips with EMI shielding. The iPhone’s circuit board and several chips have been protected in the past, and the Apple Watch’s S1 chip was the first to have it applied to the major chip package.
Apple is reportedly ready to add the shielding to the iPhone 7 for chips like radio frequency, Bluetooth, wireless LAN, applications processors, and modems. Reduction of electromagnetic waves has become a topic of conversation as features like 3D Touch are added, and while production costs for Apple’s chips will increase thanks to the new EMI shielding, the process will lead to more elaborate, compact circuit boards that enable Apple to make the iPhone thinner or add a bigger battery.
5. A future iPhone could read sign language
As spotted by Patently Apple, a recently published patent application indicates that Apple has added another invention to its extensive collection of intellectual property on 3D mapping. The latest patent reveals an alternate method 3D mapping that uses depth sequencing performed by one or more cameras to perform three-dimensional hand tracking. As Patently Apple notes, three-dimensional hand tracking has many applications, like “touchless drawing, user interaction control, and sign language interaction.”
The technology described in the patent application would be able to find and track the three-dimensional location of hands, and retain the identification of particular hands if there are multiple hands. It could also detect the pose and gesture of the hands by analyzing the positions of individual fingers. As Luke Dormehl reports for Cult of Mac, that means that future iPhone software and cameras could support sign language recognition or add pose and gesture detections for additional interface controls. The patent application describes how devices would be able to follow the location of hands through 3D space in video streams, similar to the face-tracking technology that Apple already uses in its Photo Booth app.
Apple has been working on 3D mapping technology for years, and its 3D head-tracking patents first came to light in 2009. The company took a big step forward in the area when it acquired PrimeSense in late 2013, and while patents and patent applications don’t always indicate that a product is on its way, it does seem that Apple is investigating ways to push its interface further.
6. Apple’s current TV moves are probably all about commercials
News recently broke that Apple was making its own TV show: a series about Dr. Dre, a rapper, producer, and Apple employee. But as Peter Kafka reports for Re/code, while lots of people have talked about what it would look like when Apple would get into TV, this wasn’t how that scenario was supposed to play out. Instead of buying Netflix or creating a TV network or buying the rights to important TV content, Apple was simply making a show.
That led to some doubt about the story, but Kafka thinks that the story is true, and that Apple is simply using the Dr. Dre show to market Apple Music, nothing more. That’s much less exciting than the “Apple is getting into TV” narrative, but it makes sense given the fact that Apple has financed content ranging from Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video to a Taylor Swift concert movie. The rumored show and other content to come will likely be Apple Music exclusives.
In the future, it’s possible that Apple will stop regarding videos as things with which it can reward or recruit Apple Music subscribers. And maybe Apple will also get into the TV bundle business, but Kafka points out that until it does that or finds some other way to make money with video, video is going to remain a novelty for the company.