As Apple fans look forward to Apple’s expected launch of new iPhones in the fall, speculation is heating up about the iPhone 6s, as well as other hardware and software that Apple reportedly has in the works. Several rumors about the iPhone 6s, Apple’s electric car project, the Apple Watch, and other inventions made the rounds this week. Check out seven of the biggest rumors to capture Apple enthusiasts’ interest this week.
1. Apple is likely planning a big launch for the iPhone 6s
Apple’s quarterly earnings report revealed some interesting facts about how Apple’s products are selling and what the company is doing. Neil Hughes reports for Apple Insider that the company’s financial reports revealed that Apple had $26.5 billion in off-balance sheet commitments at the end of the June quarter. Hughes says that that figure amounts to “a massive year-over-year increase that suggests the company is planning for a record breaking launch of its next-generation ‘iPhone 6s.'”
The purchase commitments were highlighted by Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, who said that the numbers indicate that Apple is planning for year-over-year growth in the next iPhone cycle, even though some industry watchers have expressed concerns that the iPhone 6s could see slower growth. The commitments are to acquire components and capital assets, which include product tooling and manufacturing process equipment, and Huberty posits that the figures strongly correlate with revenue for a coming quarter.
Extrapolating from the numbers, she predicts that Apple’s revenue in the September quarter would be at $63 billion, though she warns that she thinks the number for that particular quarter is “too high.” Apple projected that is revenue will be between $49 billion and $51 billion, and Hughes notes that it was analysts’ inflated expectations for Apple’s June quarter that sent its stock down this week. The tail end of the September quarter is expected to be affected by the launch of the next-generation iPhone, so far dubbed the iPhone 6s. The phone is expected to look much like the current iPhone 6, but to feature revamped components like new screen tech to enable Force Touch.
Apple Insider also reported this week that the first photos of what’s reported to be the iPhone 6s’s front panel have surfaced, provided by an “informant” to French website nowhereelse. The source claimed that production of the front cover glass has begun in earnest, but wasn’t able to determine whether the screen uses sapphire or alkali-aluminosilicate glass like Gorilla Glass. Reportedly, iPhone 6s leaks are beginning as Apple ramps up production.
2. The iPhone 6s could drop the 16GB storage option
Benjamin Mayo reports for 9to5Mac that a “sketchy Chinese report” claims that Apple’s next-generation iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus won’t come in 16GB variants, and will instead start at 32GB of internal storage, with 64GB and 128GB versions also available. MIC Gadget’s report is based on the word of sources within Foxconn, who have supposedly seen product packaging and say that stickers for a 16GB phone don’t exist.
Mayo notes that internal production models used 16GB of storage, but it’s not unprecedented for Apple to use lower storage capacities for test units than for the final version of a phone. A lack of storage has been a common complaint among iPhone users, as the 16GB base model is easily filled with apps, photos, and other media. Apple is adding new tech to iOS to reduce the amount of storage it needs to be usable, but because the 16GB option was introduced in 2008 with the original iPhone, it’s likely time for a change.
9to5Mac reports that another possibility is that the iPhone 6s follows the options offered with the new iPod Touch, which is offered in four storage capacities: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB. If Apple applied the iPod Touch strategy to the iPhone 6s, the $199 base model would still have 16GB of storage, but the 32GB upgrade would cost just $50 more.
3. The Apple Watch Sport could come in gold
John Brownlee reports for Cult of Mac that the Apple Watch Sport could make its debut in gold and rose gold later this year, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Brownlee characterizes Kuo as “the best and most reliable Apple analyst on the planet,” reporting that Kuo thinks the yellow gold and rose gold options will be offered alongside the iPhone 6s later this year.
The logic is that Apple will want the available colors of the entry-level Apple Watch Sport to match those of the iPhone 6s. To accomplish that goal, Apple is expected to anodize the aluminum of the case of the Apple Watch in gold colors, which would guarantee that users don’t need to spend $10,000 or more to get the gold tone of an Apple Watch Edition.
In addition to the new colors for the Apple Watch Sport, Kuo also predicts that a thinner and lighter iPad mini, with a design more like the iPad Air 2, will be announced later this quarter. He didn’t mention the rumored iPad Pro, which seems in keeping with recent rumors that the 12-inch tablet could be delayed until 2016. However, Kuo does think that we’ll see new iMacs later this year, though he doesn’t expect any major overhauls.
4. Apple seems to be working on a driverless car
As The Cheat Sheet reported earlier this week, Apple really does seem to be assembling a team to build a driverless car. Evidence has been mounting that the company is working on a vehicle, and the Wall Street Journal noted this week that Apple recently hired Doug Betts, the former head of global quality at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Betts has more than two decades’ worth of expertise in manufacturing, product quality, and automotive supply chains.
It’s not clear yet whether Betts is part of Apple’s car initiative or is working on another product line. But Apple has reportedly hired hundreds of people to work on an electric car project codenamed “Titan.” Other hires include veteran product designer and former Ford engineer Steve Zadesky as the leader of the project, plus well-regarded autonomous vehicle researcher Paul Furgale. The company has begun recruiting other robotics and machine vision experts to work on a confidential project, and Furgale has been recruiting students and researchers to work with him.
Apple is rumored to be working on an electric vehicle, since such cars are regarded as the future of the industry. As Apple Insider notes, specific indications of the company’s interest in electric vehicles includes a number of hires from battery technology firm A123, which filed a lawsuit against Apple earlier this year, alleging illegal poaching of researchers who were involved in high-performance, large-format battery products.
5. Apple could introduce a new form of user input
A patent granted to Apple and spotted by Apple Insider’s Mikey Campbell reveals that Apple may introduce a new gesture for nudging onscreen objects and selecting text on the iPhone or iPad. The novel mode of gesture input would convert taps on detected on non-touschreen surfaces, like the side of the iPhone, into on-screen controls.
The patent, for “Fine-tuning an operation based on tapping,” describes a solution to a problem faced by iPhone and iPad users who attempt to conduct what Campbell terms “highly granular user interface manipulations on multitouch displays.” The patent explains that touchscreens excel in operations requiring only coarse granularity, like swipes and taps, but are less well-suited to fine adjustments. Picking out a single letter in a line of text, for instance, is difficult because the function relies on the use of the relatively large contact area of the user’s finger. While iOS features a virtual magnification loupe as a workaround, the method isn’t as precise as a computer mouse.
Instead of looking to multitouch tech for a fix, Apple’s patent proposes using iOS devices’ motion sensors. The patent envisions a user being able to move an onscreen object left or right with extreme precision by lightly tapping on the side of an iPhone. Tap gestures on non-touchscreen areas would be detected by an accelerometer or gyroscope, and would be represented onscreen in an equal and opposite direction. (A tap on the right side of an iPhone would move an object to the left.) Stronger taps could move objects greater distances.
The idea could be extended to any selection or object manipulation operations, and Apple also has ideas for taps on the top and bottom of a device, input involving more than one finger, and other user interface variations. As with all Apple patents, it’s unclear if Apple plans to integrate the invention into its devices anytime soon, or at all. However, the company is continuing to extend usability with new forms of input like Force Touch, which was introduced with the Apple Watch and is expected to be integrated into the iPhone 6s.
6. Apple TV might get a remote with a fingerprint sensor
A set of Apple patent applications offers a clue as to what Apple has in store for Apple TV and its remote control. Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider that each of a trio of patent applications mentions a device capable of collecting biometric information from a user, associating that data with an existing profile, and remotely configuring a second device based on that information. Campbell notes that while Apple has filed many applications on inventions that integrate biometric-based user profiles, these applications are among the first to intertwine such tech with a remotely controlled device.
A television or set-top box is cited as a specific example of an application in all three patent applications. Campbell notes that “while Apple is quick to note the TV metaphor is meant only to illustrate its invention, the idea of a fingerprint reading remote control capable of seamlessly switching user preferences is perhaps the filings’ most enticing application.” The device has biometric sensing capabilities sensitive enough to positively identify a user or multiple users with fingerprint scanners, cameras for facial recognition, retinal scanners, or algorithms for deciphering “voice prints.”
The biometric device could be a dedicated remote control, or could be the iPhone. Imagining the technology applied to a remote control for the Apple TV, Campbell envisions that a user could pick up the remote to turn on the TV and load a preset configuration, with settings like his or her favorite channels, brightness and contrast, volume controls, and more. The system also supports multi-user access to different functions, so that, for instance, a husband and wife could have different app and channel settings, plus files that are stored locally but accessed separately. By implementing fingerprint sensing, the system could also provide for restrictions on content watched by the children in the household.
7. iAd might serve advertising during podcast episodes
At 9to5Mac reported, a report this week revealed that 82% of mobile podcast listening happens on iPhone. And 78% of podcast listening on iOS occurs in Apple’s default app. Apple may be looking to capitalize on that trend, with a patent application spotted by Apple Insider proposing a way for iAd to insert advertisements into podcast episodes.
The patent application describes an automated advertising system for podcasters. But Apple Insider notes that “The key difference for advertisers used to live reads or spots served up by content owners is potential access to Apple’s iAd platform, which provides analytics and backend support for comprehensive user targeting.” Content creators or ad services would be able to mark one or more insertion points within a given podcast episode with a metadata tag. A podcast app would track playback on a user’s device, and when the tag is reached, pause the episode and dynamically insert a targeted ad. After the ad plays, the app would automatically resume playing the podcast episode.
The ad targeting mechanism is, as Apple Insider points out, a basic description of Apple’s existing iAd platform, which takes into account iTunes account information, anonymized user metric, device type, rough location, time of day, and other factors. The ads served could take a variety of forms, including audio, video, and interactive content.