Wondering what’s been going on in Cupertino recently? Catch up on the most exciting rumors about Apple’s plans and products to surface this week, from speculation about products we already have, like the iPhone and iPad Pro, to discussion about new products, like the much-rumored electric vehicle that Apple is reportedly developing.
1. It might be difficult to get your hands on the iPad Pro
Luke Dormehl reports for Cult of Mac that Apple isn’t predicting that the new iPad Pro will be a big holiday seller. According to supply chain sources, Apple is taking a “rather conservative attitude” toward its orders for the new device, and has ordered just 2.5 million for the remainder of 2015. It could order even fewer than that for the first quarter of 2016 if holiday sales are weaker than expected.
The small order raises the possibility that it could be difficult to find an iPad Pro in the early days of its availability. Apple sold 12.3 million iPads in the fourth quarter of last year, down from 14.1 million units during the fourth quarter of 2013. A previous report suggested that the supply of the super-sized iPad could be linked to a panel shortage, which could make it even more difficult for interested shoppers to get their hands on the device.
The iPad Pro is expected to launch in November, and Mark Gurman reports for 9to5Mac that AppleCare staff have been given a November 6 deadline to complete their iPad Pro training. It’s unclear exactly when the device will launch, and Apple hasn’t yet shared whether it will offer a preorder period for the iPad Pro or not.
2. Future iPhones could use Samsung’s curved OLED screens
Dormehl also reports for Cult of Mac that Samsung is supplying Apple with OLED displays for the Apple Watch, and is trying to sell Cupertino on screens for its other devices too. Samsung has reportedly sent Apple OLED display samples for its other devices. Dormehl writes that future iPhones could come with an OLED-based curved screen, though that “depends on how the tests go.”
That seems to lend some credence to the rumor that Apple is considering equipping a future iPhone, likely one to be released in 2018, with a curved screen. Apple reportedly hasn’t decided whether it will use Samsung’s screens, but it is expected to make a choice in November. It isn’t surprising that Samsung wants to provide components for another area of Apple’s production, since earlier this year it was revealed that Samsung’s deal, to be the sole supplier for the Apple Watch’s screen, was worth 1.4 trillion to the company in 2015 alone.
3. Apple could expand the iPhone’s location-sharing features
Dormehl reports that a newly-published patent reveals that Apple is considering a new location-sharing functionality that would enable a friend or family member to monitor your location as you travel to a destination (with your approval, of course). The person monitoring your progress along the route could even be alerted with notifications along the way.
The patent explains that the functionality could alleviate the anxiety of waiting for someone to arrive at a destination, without knowing exactly where they are, or whether traffic, weather, or other issues are slowing their progress. The functionality would specify “geo-fence regions” along a route to a destination, and when entering and exiting these geolocations, would automatically trigger notifications to the iPhone of the person with whom you’re sharing your location. Dormehl notes that it sounds like a more capable version of Apple’s current Find My Friends app.
4. Apple TV seems to support 3DTV content
Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider that we learned something unexpected about the new Apple TV set-top box this week. It seems that the fourth-generation Apple TV is capable of displaying 3DTV content on compatible sets, since a third-party developer just released one of the first 3DTV-enabled titles for the new tvOS app store.
Pangea Software said that it’s making all of its tvOS games compatible with 3DTVs, and developer Steve Stroughton-Smith first noticed the feature after downloading Pangea’s Bugdom 2. Campbell notes that 3DTV support opens a wide range of new possibilities for third-party developers, and is a compelling feature that stands out against the largely uniform landscape of the set-top streaming industry. Campbell also points out that the early support for the feature is a sign of good things to come, as it “makes clear developer intent to tap into Apple TV’s full potential, though at launch the App Store is mostly populated by oversized iOS apps.”
5. iOS and OS X could converge for the iPad Pro
Dormehl and Killian Bell explore the idea that Apple could merge iOS and OS X for the iPad Pro, a device that has the potential to become a hybrid device that could replace a computer when you have work to get done, but is ultimately held back by the limitations of iOS. Bell thinks that the two operating systems don’t need to be completely merged, but could be tied together so that, for instance, the iPad Pro could run iOS when you’re simply browsing the web, but then switch to OS X, or an interface like it, when paired with the Smart Keyboard.
Dorhmel, on the other hand, argues that Apple’s strength is in creating different software for different scenarios and devices, using “context-dependent optimizations which are nonetheless able to communicate the vital information across platforms.” He also thinks that while what Bell describes sounds good in theory, Apple would have extensive logistical problems to solve in implementing it.
Whether or not Apple enters the age of hybrid devices with some form of hybrid software is clearly up for debate, but it’s an appealing idea for users who want something more out of a device like the iPad Pro.
6. Apple’s self-driving car is probably a collaborative effort
Mark Bergen reports for Re/Code that despite the veil of secrecy surrounding Apple’s much-rumored development of an electric vehicle, it’s a safe bet that if Apple is really building a car, it isn’t undertaking the project alone. The consensus — not only in Silicon Valley and Detroit, but also in Germany and Japan — is that self-driving cars are inevitable. Big car manufacturers and less-renowned suppliers and startups alike are already building the hardware and software that can equip vehicles with autonomous features, or are developing self-driving cars from the ground up.
After conversations with manufacturers, industry experts, and tech companies that are involved in the development of self-driving cars, Bergen compiled a list of the leading innovators, those who are expected to play a critical role not only in Apple’s electric vehicle, but in vehicles from Google and Tesla as well.
The chips for such cars as expected to come from Nvidia, Qualcomm, Mediatek, and Samsung. Cameras and Lidar systems will likely be supplied by Mobileye, Velodyne, Valeo, and Quanergy. Continental, Bosch, and Frimo will have a hand in the car interiors, while exterior components will likely come from Roush, Delphi, Edison2, Atieva, and Renovo Motors. And finally, major players in retrofitting existing vehicles with self-driving components will be Cruise, Zoox, and nuTonomy.
7. Apple’s secrecy may keep it from making its software smarter
Jack Clark reports for Bloomberg Businessweek that Apple’s intense secrecy is keeping the company from making real progress with its artificial intelligence software. While other tech companies have set up research centers staffed with numerous AI experts who race to publish the results of their research, Apple prohibits new hires on its AI team from even announcing their positions on social media. And the different teams working on making Apple’s software smarter are kept in the dark on what similar teams at the company are doing.
Clark notes that Apple’s biggest AI success has been its acquisition of Siri from a startup in 2010, and Apple Maps lags behind the capabilities of similar software from other companies. Apple has alienated many high-profile researchers in the field, and risks scaring away promising graduate students, who worry that Apple won’t allow them to publish papers or otherwise build a presence in the scientific community. Apple has expanded its AI staff by acquiring startups like Perceptio and VocalIQ, and by hiring researchers from companies like Microsoft. Apple is reportedly planning to publish its first major AI paper, but Clark’s sources couldn’t provide any details.
Those in the industry told Bloomberg that ultimately, any company that wants to make its software smarter will need to risk competitors learning a few of its tricks, since most researchers in the field want to publish and talk to others about what they’re working on. Apple’s reticence to share what it’s working on is hurting its effectiveness, and if something doesn’t change soon, Apple won’t be able to get ahead.