6 Apple Rumors: What is Apple Planning for Its Next Macs?

An exciting assortment of Apple rumors surfaces each week and offers a glimpse into the current state of speculation about upcoming iPhones, new iPads, and the next updates for Apple’s operating systems. Though you might think that the Apple rumor mill would have slowed down after the launch of this year’s iPhone 7, that hasn’t been the case so far. So this week, plenty of exciting rumors about next year’iPhone 8, this year’s new Macs, and other future Apple products made their rounds online. Read on to catch up on the week’s most exciting Apple rumors.

1. Apple will likely introduce new MacBook Pros on October 27

13.3-inch MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro with Retina display | Apple.com

AppleInsider reports that Apple has issued invitations to a press event where it’s expected to introduce a thinner MacBook Pro with an OLED touch bar and reversible USB-C ports. The presentation is expected to be headlined by updated 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro models. The 13-inch MacBook Air is also expected to be refreshed, but changes to that model aren’t expected to be as significant, since Apple is more focused on marketing the 12-inch MacBook, which is now the company’s flagship “thin and light” Mac.

The biggest change that Apple is expected to make to the MacBook Pro is the addition of a dynamic OLED touch bar, which would replace the top row of function keys. The feature would enable adjustable input options based on the current task or app. Apple is also expected to bring Touch ID to the Mac for the first time, which would enable secure user logins and let users authorize Apple Pay transactions in apps and in Safari. The MacBook Pro is also expected to feature reversible USB-C ports and jettison legacy input methods like USB-A, HDMI, and the SD card reader. Rumors have indicated that USB-C could be used for charging, which would also enable Apple to ditch MagSafe.

The publication reports that the OLED touch bar could be called the “Magic Toolbar.” That branding would fit in with other products related to the Mac, including the Magic Trackpad, the Magic Mouse, and the Magic Keyboard. AppleInsider also reports that the invitation recalls the introductions of the original Macintosh and iMac. The invitation reveals that Apple might offer color options beyond white, black, and gray in its Mac product line.

2. Apple could discontinue the 11-inch MacBook Air

Macbook Air

You might not be seeing the 11-inch MacBook Air around for too much longer | Apple.com

9to5Mac reports that Apple may be planning to discontinue the 11-inch MacBook Air. A recent report indicates that Apple is planning to discontinue the 11-inch model but keep the 13-inch model on the market. Chance Miller notes that there has been some doubt “surrounding the fate of the MacBook Air lineup since the introduction of the 12-inch MacBook.” But rumor has it that Apple simply wants to direct its attention to the 13-inch MacBook Air, not to the 11-inch model. The 11-inch model is expected to be discontinued when the new MacBook Pros are announced at Apple’s October 27 event.

3. Future Macs might enable you to customize the feel of your keyboard

A Macbook Air on display with people texting in the background.

Future Macs are rumored to come with more customization opportunities | Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

AppleInsider reports that a recent patent application describes a method of decoupling a keyboard’s mechanical feel from its electrical functionality with the help of proximity sensors, which would allow the user to customize key feedback. Mikey Campbell reports that contemporary keyboards use electromechanical actuators to transmit key press signals to a central processing unit. The components typically use multiple structures under a single keycap, including a key travel mechanism, tactile feedback structure, and electrical contacts or electrodes. The tactile feedback component is often nested within the key travel mechanism, which inhibits independent component modification.

Apple’s patent application for “Depressible keys with decoupled electrical and mechanical functionality” proposes a method for decoupling the mechanical and tactile functionality of a key from its electrical functionality. The detailed keyboard replaces electrical contacts and traces with non-contact proximity sensors. The design features a light emitter aimed at the reflective bottom surface of a keycap, plus an accompanying light detector that generates an electrical signal in response to the received light. Campbell notes that the resulting data set is much wider than that generated by traditional keyboards, and the invention could detect errant key presses or support force-sensitive input.

The document also calls for installing structures formed from materials that are capable of elastic deformation, which would enable users to adjust the feel of those components. As Campbell notes, users “have divergent tastes when it comes to a tactile feedback, as some prefer a silent, low travel key press, while others like loud ‘clackity clack’ keys with long throws. Keyboard ‘feel’ is hotly debated when Apple launches a new MacBook, for example.”

4. Apple has reportedly scaled back Project Titan to focus on self-driving technology

Apple employees greet customers as they arrive to buy the new Apple iPhone 7

An Apple-designed vehicle is not likely to come out anytime soon | Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

Bloomberg reports that Apple has scaled back its Apple car project to focus the effort on creating self-driving technology. Mark Gurman and Alex Webb report that Cupertino has “drastically scaled back its automotive ambitions, leading to hundreds of job cuts and a new direction that, for now, no longer includes building its own car.” New leadership of the effort, called Project Titan, has refocused the remaining staff on developing an autonomous driving system, which would give Apple the flexibility to either partner with existing car manufacturers or return to its plans to design its own vehicle in the future.

Apple’s executives have reportedly given the Project Titan team a deadline of late 2017 “to prove the feasibility of the self-driving system and decide on a final direction” for the project. The shift in strategy and the new headline reportedly came after months of “strategy disagreements, leadership flux and supply chain challenges” in the labs dedicated to Project Titan in Sunnyvale, California.

5. It’s looking more likely that Apple will create its own GPUs for the iPhone and iPad

Apple unveiled two upgraded versions of its iPhone

Apple is rumored to be working on its own GPU designs | Josh Edelson/Getty Images

Cult of Mac reports that Apple has poached top talent from the iPhone 7 GPU’s chipmaker. Buster Hein reports that Apple has long been rumored to be working on its own GPU designs for the iPhone and iPad. The iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus are powered by A10 processors created by Apple, and the company seems to be building a GPU team in London. Such a team would enable Apple to stop relying on third-party chips like the PowerVR GT7600 chip used in the iPhone 7.

Apple has hired talent from key partner Imagination Technologies, the company that makes the graphics chip for the iPhone 7. The British chipmaker was rumored to be in acquisition talks with Apple earlier in 2016. While Apple told the press that it wasn’t buying the company, Cupertino has hired several of Imagination’s senior employees and engineering talent. One of the most notable recent hires is former Imagination COO John Metcalfe, who has been working as an Apple senior director since July.

6. Apple may — or may not — really be teaming up with an e-ink keyboard maker

man visits the Apple Store

Apple may be collaborating with an e-ink keyboard manufacturer | Kena Betancur/Getty Images

AppleInsider reports that rumors of an Apple collaboration with the manufacturer of e-ink keyboards spring from a single source, and therefore may not be as certain as some reports maintain. AppleInsider was informed in September that Sonder had demonstrated a keyboard with individual keys composed of e-ink displays. A Reddit thread reported on what AppleInsider determined is a pre-production prototype of an upcoming standalone cross-platform keyboard, not an Apple prototype — which contradicts other media outlets’ coverage pointing to the Reddit thread as evidence of an Apple product.

Sonder denied that the company has met with Apple, and neither Apple nor Foxconn has offered comments on the matter. However, AppleInsider maintains that a technology similar to what Sonder is shipping in its own product “will likely come to pass in an Apple device.” Additionally, Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac that Apple may or may not buy Sonder, but he thinks that dynamic hardware keyboards are the future.