6 Apple Rumors: From a Black iPhone 7 to 3D Mapping

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. The Apple rumor mill is kicking into high gear as we get closer and closer to the launch of this year’s iPhone 7. So this week, plenty of exciting rumors about the next iPhone, future Apple Watches, and other Apple inventions made their rounds online. Read on to catch up on the week’s most exciting Apple rumors.

1. The iPhone 7 may get a Force Touch home button

Touch ID sensor on an iPhone 6 Plus

Touch ID | George Frey/Getty Images

As Kif Leswing reports for Business Insider, analysts at Cowen and Company claim that Apple plans to jettison the traditional Touch ID button in favor of a “Force Touch home button.” That means that instead of featuring the current Touch ID home button, the iPhone 7’s home button might sit flush with the rest of the phone.

The analysts cite “field checks” to support their claims, and expect that instead of a physical mechanism, the Force Touch home button would integrate Force Touch technology and a motor that would simulate the sensation that a button is being pressed. Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac that according to his own source — an anonymous one with no track record, but an IP address near Apple HQ — the home button could use haptic feedback to simulate a click.

Mikey Campbell reports for Apple Insider that even though the investment firm isn’t known to have sources inside Apple’s supply chain, previous but questionable rumors and leaks have suggested the same about the iPhone 7’s home button. Campbell notes that it’s unclear exactly how Apple would integrate a capacitive home button into the iPhone, though it could use the iPhone’s Taptic Engine haptic feedback system. Alternately, the company is investigating a kind of solid state Force Touch ID module that would sense finger pressure and integrate fingerprint authentication.

2. Apple may introduce a darker space gray for the iPhone 7

Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

iPhone presentation | Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

Apple Insider reports that the iPhone 7 may be offered in a darker color than the current space gray. According to Macotakara, the company plans to offer the iPhone 7 in a “much darker color” than what’s currently available, and word has it that the new color would be close to black. Apple offered the iPhone 5 in a black and slate color that was much darker than the current space gray, a color that was first introduced with the iPhone 5s.

Interestingly enough, the shades of space gray that Apple uses across its product lineup are inconsistent. By introducing a darker gray color, Apple may avoid the problem of trying to match them. Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac that a “space black” color may be on its way, and could be similar to one of the shades seen on the Apple Watch.

3. It’s probably time for Apple to ditch the headphone jack

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple earbuds | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Many iPhone fans think it would be a radical move for Apple to drop the traditional headphone jack and replace it with the Lightning port. But such a possibility might not be as far-fetched as you might assume. Nilay Patel and Frank Bi report for The Verge that Apple supports the average port for 15 years, while it’s been supporting the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack for 32 years, ever since the introduction of the very first Mac.

One of the most common arguments about Apple’s potential choice to remove the headphone jack has centered around Apple’s historical tendency to be among the first to drop a legacy technology, “sometimes even before the rest of the industry is ready,” The Verge reports. Apple is able to push for big changes, and has used that to remove tech like the floppy drive, SCSI, optical drives, and VGA from its products years before they vanished from competitors’ products.

4. Future Apple Watches may have micro-LED displays

Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Apple watches | Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Roger Fingas reports for Apple Insider that a new Apple patent seems to support rumors that the company is working on a microLED display for a future version of the Apple Watch. The patent filing describes a method of stabilizing LEDs and microchips on a carrier substrate in order to transfer them to another substrate. The document also makes direct references to LuxVue, an Apple acquisition that specialized in microLED technology. It’s been rumored that Apple may be looking to introduce a microLED display for an Apple Watch shipping as soon as the second half of 2017, even though microLED screens have yet to be featured in any consumer products, and it’s difficult to manufacture such panels at any size.

Luke Dormehl reports for Cult of Mac that it’s been no secret that Apple is working on microLED technology. In addition to acquiring LuxVue, Apple has also established a laboratory in northern Taiwan to research new display technologies. The major advantage of microLED screens are that they’re more energy-efficient, show greater contrast, have a longer lifespan, and are up to 30 times brighter than the current Apple Watch displays. Implementing the technology could also help Apple to make future Apple Watches smaller.

5. Apple may be working on 3D maps for a self-driving car

The Apple logo is displayed on a screen at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference presentation at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California, on June 13, 2016. / AFP / GABRIELLE LURIE (Photo credit should read GABRIELLE LURIE/AFP/Getty Images)

Apple | Gabrielle Lurie/AFP/Getty Images

Leander Kahney reports for Cult of Mac that data-gathering vehicles spotted on the streets of San Francisco are likely generating 3D maps for self-driving cars. The vans are reportedly mapping vehicles that can capture VR-style, 360-degree street-view photos, and they use Lidar to create precise “point clouds.” Those two datasets combined would lay the groundwork for the navigation system of a self-driving car.

Unlike Apple’s typical mapping vehicles, these vans feature a different configuration of sensors. Kahney characterizes it as an “open secret” in Silicon Valley that Apple is working on a car, and notes that it’s likely to be electric like Tesla’s, and may be autonomous. The company’s Project Titan initiative reportedly employs 600 people and has moved beyond the prototype stage into the earliest phases of production.

6. Apple may solve the problem of people taking iPhone photos at concerts

People take their seats ahead of Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference presentation at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California, on June 13, 2016. / AFP / GABRIELLE LURIE (Photo credit should read GABRIELLE LURIE/AFP/Getty Images)

Apple logo | Gabrielle Lurie/AFP/Getty Images

If you’ve ever been annoyed by fellow concert-goers blocking your view of the band to take poorly-framed iPhone photos, then you may appreciate an invention for which Apple was recently granted a patent. Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac that the patent describes an infrared emitter that can generate signals with encoded commands to disable the recording functions of an iPhone. The camera on your iPhone (or the iPhone of the guy standing in front of you) would detect the signal and interpret the data, and one signal could be used to disable still photography and video recording.

The technology could be used to block photography in sensitive locations or prevent recording in movie theaters. But Lovejoy notes that the patent also describes some positive implementations of the technology. In a museum, for instance, the same system could be used to display information about the object you’re viewing or photographing. Lovejoy notes that it’s possible that the kind of tech described in the patent has been superseded by things like iBeacons, which could offer the same kind of functionality more reliably, but it’s an interesting area of exploration nonetheless.

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