With an expected iPhone launch less than a month away, many interesting rumors about Apple’s future plans and products have circulated this week. As always, some reports and rumors are more reliable than others, but many, nonetheless, provide interesting food for thought as Apple fans and tech industry watchers speculate about what’s going on in Cupertino. Here are seven of this week’s most interesting Apple rumors.
1. iPhone 6s could use 7000-series aluminum
Apple Insider reports that composition testing on a supposed iPhone 6s shell acquired by Unbox Therapy seems to confirm reports that Apple’s next iPhone will use 7000-series aluminum, an alloy first introduced with the Apple Watch. Adding zinc and magnesium results in an alloy that’s much harder than the 6000-series aluminum, and consequently, is more difficult to work with.
When Apple announced the Apple Watch, it said that the wearable’s 7000-series aluminum was a composition custom to the company, though it isn’t clear what was changed. Apple Insider notes that it’s possible that the company made alterations to make the material easier to handle during manufacturing, though Apple still claims the material offers substantial improvements in regards to strength. Of course, it’s not certain whether the same alloy used for the Apple Watch will be the one used for the iPhone 6s, but a change in material is expected to make the phones much stronger. Many users have complained that the rounded corners of the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus are easy to dent, as are the corners of the aluminum MacBook lineup.
2. The fate of the iPhone 6c is unclear
9to5Mac reports that even as the release of the iPhone 6s is imminent, the fate of the rumored iPhone 6c is still unclear. Many have speculated that Apple will offer a new four-inch iPhone, but there’s been no consensus on when, or even if, that will happen. A new Chinese report indicates that Apple could release the smaller iPhone 6c in November, alleging that Apple’s suppliers are ramping up to release the four-inch model.
While 9to5Mac notes that many Chinese reports should be looked up with skepticism, it’s not an isolated report. Others have claimed that the iPhone 6c will debut along side the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. However, reliable KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said that a four-inch iPhone won’t be released until 2016.
3. Apple might not update its flagship iPad this year
9to5Mac reports that while a large iPad Pro and a more powerful iPad mini are likely to launch this fall, it seems that Apple’s flagship 9.7-inch iPad Air will be left out of this year’s update cycle. A new report from Digitimes indicates that Apple isn’t preparing a third-generation iPad Air for this fall. The claim coincides with a report from earlier this year that such a tablet won’t debut until 2016.
9to5Mac reports that possible factors contributing to such a choice include the fact that Apple released the iPad Air in 2013 and redesigned its body and internals only a year later. Additionally, the expected launch of the iPad Pro is likely taking many resources within Apple’s engineering departments. Because an iPad Air 3 would, logically, add Force Touch and perhaps stylus support, it’s likely that Apple would want the new iPad Pro to debut those features before updating the iPad Air with them.
4. More evidence for an iPad Pro launch this fall
Apple Insider reports that Apple has chosen Sharp and Foxconn to build and assemble touch modules for as many as 5 million units of the rumored, super-sized “iPad Pro,” according to Digitimes. Sharp will reportedly manufacture the displays, while Foxconn will be responsible for touch module fabrication, lamination, and module assembly. Production is expected to ramp up this fall, and the publication says shipments of 4 million to 5 million units are expected by the end of the calendar year. Apple Insider notes that Digitimes is often accurate when it comes to reports on supply chain movements, but is less reliable on release dates and other schedules relevant to consumers.
Little is known about the iPad Pro, which is rumored to measure 12.9 inches, featuring a high resolution display and a stylus for precise tasks. KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted recently that the stylus will bring its own version of Force Touch. A device believed to be the iPad Pro also seems to have been spotted in commercial app analytics data, with a model carrying a “iPad6,8″ identifier and reporting a 2,048-pixel-by-2,732-pixel display. It’s unclear whether Apple will unveil new iPads at the same September 9 event where it’s expected to launch its new iPhones, though the company has traditionally revealed new tablets in October.
5. Work on the Apple Car seems to be progressing
MacRumors reports that Apple is scouting for secure locations in the Bay Area to test its rumored self-driving car. Apple engineers working on the car project have reportedly met with officials at GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base run by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, to explore the facility as a possible test site. That suggests that work on the car may be farther along than previously though if Apple already has prototypes ready for testing.
GoMentum Station is advertised as “the largest secure test facility in the world,” and is used to test both connected vehicles and autonomous vehicles. Previous reports on Apple’s car have disagreed over whether it will be an autonomous car or not. Some think that it will be electric, but not self-driving, while others say that the project does include autonomous cars. MacRumors notes that it’s possible that Apple is exploring both autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles, and its interaction with GoMentum Station doesn’t offer any further insight into the company’s plans on that front.
6. Apple may release a new Magic Mouse and wireless keyboard
Apple Insider reports that according to new filings with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Apple is planning to release a new Magic Mouse and wireless keyboard that add support for the more-efficient Bluetooth Low Energy specification. The documentation for the two new devices indicates that the hardware provided for testing “represents the final version of the equipment as it will be released to the market.” Both devices are equipped with Bluetooth 4.2 support with Bluetooth LE.
The filings also state that the new mouse and keyboard will feature integrated batteries, and will be rechargeable by USB. Both devices currently rely on user-replaceable AA batteries. But conspicuously absent from the documentation is any mention of the Magic Trackpad, another wireless input device that also relies on Bluetooth and, currently, AA batteries. The FCC filings don’t reveal when the new devices might be released, but because they’re intended for use primarily with Apple’s desktop machines, their launch is likely to coincide with an iMac refresh. KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently reported that he expects new iMacs to debut within the quarter, which is up at the end of September.
7. Apple’s A9 chip could be 20 to 30% faster than the A8
Apple Insider reports that a (questionable) graph purporting to show the GeekBench 3 scores for Apple’s anticipated A9-series processors shows significant performance improvements. In fact, the scores even show the A9 chips beating out Samsung’s latest 8-core chips. Apple is expected to reveal the A9 with a new set of iPhones at an event in September. The A9X is expected to debut with a new iPad.
The A9 achieves a single-core score of 2090 and a multi-core tally of 3569, significant improvements over the averages of 1611 and 2892 achieved by the A8 chip that Apple used in the iPhone 6 series. The A9X chip achieves 2109 and 5101 in the same benchmarks, compared to 1808 and 4526 for the iPad Air 2’s A8X. Samsung’s Exynos 7420, which is used in its S6, S6 Edge, Note 5, and S6 Edge+, bests Apple’s A9 on multi-core workloads with a score of 5048, but falls behind it on single-core tasks with a score of 1486.