From the details of the iPhone 7 to the possibilities for user input methods that come after 3D Touch, there are plenty of Apple plans to speculate about in 2016. The ever-active rumor mill — comprised not only of analysts and industry watchers, but also supply chain leakers, iPhone concept designers, and well-informed sources with knowledge of Apple’s plans and projects — is never shy to speculate about what’s going on in Cupertino. These are the most exciting rumors about Apple’s future products to surface this week.
1. iOS 10 could add a better way to hide apps
Users have figured out a number of different tricks to hide apps on iOS, but Chris Smith reports for BGR that iOS 10 might bring an Apple-supported method for hiding the default apps that are usually relegated to a junk folder on your home screen. When looking through iTunes metadata, AppAdvice discovered two new keys labeled isFirstParty and isFirstPartyHideableApp, which began appearing in the App Store two weeks ago.
These keys seem to indicate that users will be able to hide certain apps. However, they also reportedly feature a Boolean value (true/false), which suggests that only certain apps might be able to be hidden. That makes sense, given a comment that Apple chief executive Tim Cook made when speaking with Buzzfeed last fall. At the time, Cook said that enabling users to remove stock apps is complex, since “there are some apps that are linked to something else on the iPhone. If they were to be removed they might cause issues elsewhere on the phone. There are other apps that aren’t like that. So over time, I think with the ones that aren’t like that, we’ll figure out a way [for you to remove them].”
2. The iPhone 7 Plus could gain a dual-camera setup
Joe Rossignol reports for MacRumors that according to a research note issued by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple’s next iPhone may gain a dual camera. Such a camera might be exclusive to the iPhone 7 Plus, and Kuo writes that “New iPhone shipments to be capped by similar form factor as iPhone 6s & 6s Plus; top hardware upgrade is dual-camera (5.5-inch model only), though many competing models with dual-camera will launch soon, joining others already on the market; first impressions could underwhelm.”
Rossignol notes that rumors surrounding a dual-camera iPhone have gained momentum since January, when Kuo reported that Apple was developing both single and dual-camera iPhone 7 models. Recent reports have been unclear as to whether the 4.7-inch iPhone 7, in addition to the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus, would also feature a dual-camera system. Leaks surrounding the dual-camera possibility have been limited to a blurry photo of a purported iPhone 7 Plus and a possible dual-lens module appropriate for the phone. Apple is reported to have received samples of dual-lens cameras for testing in February.
3. Apple may make the iPhone 7 thinner than the iPhone 6s
Juli Clover reports for MacRumors that according to a report from Korean news site ET News, Apple may be working on a few ways to make the iPhone 7 thinner and lighter than the iPhone 6s. Apple is said to be planning to use a new fan-out packaging technology for the antenna switching module and radio frequency chip in the iPhone (a feature that enables the iPhone to switch between LTE and other antennas like GSM and CDMA). Fan-out packaging technology would enable Apple to add a greater number of I/O terminals, while cutting down on chip size.
Using such a packaging method along with single-chip EMI shields would enable Apple to fit more components into a single package, while minimizing signal loss and reducing the potential for interference. As Clover notes, the radio frequency chip built into the antenna switching module will reportedly include two chips in one package, instead of two chips built into a printed circuit board, in order to save space. Rumors have repeatedly indicated that Apple will make the iPhone 7 thinner than the iPhone 6s, a goal that could be further helped along by rumored choices like the decision to do away with the traditional headphone jack.
4. The Apple Watch could gain support for new gestures
Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac that a new patent application reveals possible new Apple Watch gestures. Pointing, waving, and even extending your pinky finger and thumb in a “phone” gesture are all gestures that could be used to initiate actions on the watch or on a paired iPhone. According to the patent, turning your hand palm-down and making a patting motion could decline an incoming call, while lifting or dropping your hand palm-up could raise or lower the speaker volume, and waving your hand sideways in front of you could turn a page in an ebook.
But Lovejoy notes that the patent application gets even more ambitious, and depicts someone using sign language, and the paired iPhone being able to recognize the signs, and convert them to spoken or written language. The filing describes how the Apple Watch could use a wide variety of different sensors to detect and interpret gestures, including optical sensors, inertial sensors, mechanical contact sensors, and myoelectric sensors. Lovejoy points out that while the patent describes a complex system, even the current Apple Watch might be able to detect and act on some of the simpler gestures.
5. If you have a new iPhone, the FBI probably can’t unlock it
FBI director James Comey said that the agency purchased a “tool” from a private party to unlock the iPhone that was used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. But unless you have an older iPhone, you probably don’t need to worry, since Comey says that the tool only works on “a narrow slice of phones.” The identity of the third party that provided the tool is still unknown, and Comey said that the government was still considering whether or not to tell Apple how it gained access to the phone. “We tell Apple, then they’re going to fix it, then we’re back where we started from,” he explained. “We may end up there, we just haven’t decided yet.”
Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac that it had been widely speculated that whatever method Apple used to unlock the iPhone wouldn’t work on iPhones with the Secure Enclave. Comey’s comments also seem to support the most popular theory about how the hack was performed; Edward Snowden said that the auto-erase function could be bypassed by copying the contents of the flash memory, making some passcode attempts, and then copying the original content back to the iPhone to reset the counter. But on phones with an A7 chip or later, the Secure Enclave also seems to register login attempts, which means that even overwriting the flash memory wouldn’t override the auto-erase function.
6. Apple’s Magic Mouse is likely to gain Force Touch technology
Luke Dormehl reports for CultofMac that according to a recent patent filing, Apple is likely to equip the Magic Mouse with integrated Force Touch sensors. The patent describes a mouse with “at least one force sensor and at least one top portion movably connected to at least one bottom portion. When a force is applied to the top portion, the top portion exerts pressure on the force sensor. The force sensor obtains force data based upon the pressure.”
Apple’s pressure-sensitive Force Touch technology made its debut on the Apple Watch, and then made its way to the Magic Trackpad 2 and the iPhone 6s. Dormehl reports, “With Apple gradually rolling out the technology across its various platforms, it’s no surprise that the company would have the mouse in its sights next.” With the Magic Trackpad 2, Apple began incorporating aspects of Force Touch into OS X, and featuring the UI element on all of the Mac’s input devices would likely see Apple more throughly integrating the feature into its desktop OS.
7. New Macs could get big graphics upgrades
Chris Jenkins reports for MacRumors that Apple’s upcoming Macs may see significant graphics upgrades. Major graphics processing providers AMD and Nvidia are set to unveil new GPU products this year, featuring Global Foundries’ 14 nm FinFET and TSMC’s 16 nm FinFET Plus processor nodes, which would enable significant improvements in the graphics performance of Apple’s Mac lineup.
Jenkins notes that AMD’s Polaris and Nvidia’s Pascal architectures both use the latest FinFET silicon processes, and will represent the first GPU process node change since 28nm GPUs debuted in 2011. Both AMD and Nvidia skipped the intermediate 20nm node. In a statement released earlier this year, AMD claimed that the new 14nm Polaris GPUs will offer more than double the performance per watt of its 28nm predecessors.
Product launches for the new GPUs are expected to occur this summer, and while GPU rumor cycles usually focus on desktop products, AMD’s chief executive has stated that both desktops and laptops featuring the new Polaris GPUs are expected to launch before back-to-school season. Apple traditionally alternates between GPU offerings from both AMD and Nvidia, with AMD featured in the latest iterations of the 27-inch iMac and MacBook Pro lines. The MacBook Pro is due for an update, and rumors indicate that new models could be unveiled at WWDC in June. It’s unclear so far whether Apple would be able to integrate the new GPUs in time. Jenkins notes that Apple has sometimes been quick to incorporate the latest technology, and at other times, has waited “quite some time” before upgrading.