6 Apple Rumors: Will Future iPhones Get 3D Displays?

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 iPhones, and other Apple inventions made their rounds online. Read on to catch up on the week’s most exciting Apple rumors.

1. It looks like Apple will ship two 2016 iPhone models, not three

Apple iPhone

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Roger Fingas reports for Apple Insider that according to Evan Blass, Apple is planning to ship two new iPhone models this fall, not the three that other sources have indicated. Blass tweeted that the two iPhone 7 models set to launch in the fall are codenamed “Sonora” and “Dos Palos,” after two towns in California. While he didn’t offer any further details about this year’s iPhone lineup, Blass has argued in the past that it’s “unlikely” that the 2016 iPhone will actually be called the iPhone 7. That could square with rumors that this year’s release will be another interim release as Apple works on more advanced technology for 2017’s iPhone.

As Apple Insider noted, a batch of leaked photos purported to show an iPhone 7, an iPhone 7 Plus, and an iPhone 7 Pro. The units looked largely identical apart from their size, though the iPhone 7 Pro model supposedly featured a dual-lens camera and a Smart Connector (which other sources expect to appear on the iPhone 7 Plus). The authenticity of the photo and the pictured hardware is pretty questionable, on account of the Weibo source and the “S” markings on the back of the phones pictured.

2. Apple may introduce AirPods with the iPhone 7

Earbuds

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Eric Slivka reports for MacRumors that trademark filings seem to have confirmed that Apple is planning to jettison the traditional headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and transition to Lightning headphones or Bluetooth headphones. Last fall, an “AirPods” trademark application was filed by a company named Entertainment in Flight LLC, which Slivka notes “carried many of the hallmarks of being a shell company operated by Apple for the purposes of hiding its true identity.” Apple has used such companies in the past to file the trademarks for products like iPad and CarPlay, and as the AirPods trademark has gone through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review process, the filing of additional documents has indicated that Apple is behind the filing.

The applicant has amended the description of goods covered by the trademark with a filing signed by Jonathan Brown, the same name of an attorney that Apple employs as a “Senior Standards Counsel.” MacRumors even did some digging to compare signatures in order to determine whether the manager at Entertainment in Flight and the attorney at Apple are the same person, and found that “they have enough in common that we believe these Jonathan Browns are the same person and thus Apple is behind the AirPods trademark application.” If Apple really is working on an AirPods product, it’s likely to be a set of wireless headphones for use with the iPhone. However, the iPhone 7 is likely to ship with Lightning-equipped headphones, and the wireless version would be sold separately.

3. The iPhone 7 Plus may have a Smart Connector, but no mute switch

Apple iPhones

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Benjamin Mayo reports for 9to5Mac that the latest leaked photos indicate that the iPhone 7 Plus could add a Smart Connector and drop the mute switch. According to photos posted on Weibo, the iPhone 7 Plus will feature a design similar to that of the iPhone 6s Plus, with the addition of the Smart Connector visible at the bottom of the device on the back side, a tweaked Home button design, and the absence of a mute switch.

Mayo notes that Apple has been slowly removing the mute switches from its iOS devices. Starting with the iPad Air 2, the company’s new iPads have not had the switch. But the mute switch has been an important part of the iPhone, and Mayo writes that “it would be crazy if Apple removed it.” Most Android phones don’t include mute switches and instead rely on software controls to activate or silence the ringer, so Apple might shift responsibility for that functionality to iOS 10’s Control Center.

4. Future iPhones could be equipped with 3D displays

Osen Pilju Kang (C) takes a selfie with the Apple logo, ahead of a Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference presentation at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California, on June 13, 2016.

Gabrielle Lurie/AFP/Getty Images

Roger Fingas reports for Apple Insider that a recent patent filing indicates that Apple is exploring the concept of glasses-free 3D displays on its mobile devices. The technology would pave the way for iPhones and other gadgets with “autosteroscopic” displays. Apple Insider explains that the patent “describes a pixel array featuring a second array of sub pixels and lens structures, the latter emitting light at a number of different angles.” A “beam steerer” would point the correct light at the viewer, and to judge where to aim the light, the system would rely on a camera and accelerometer.

That probably indicates that efforts to integrate the technology into future Apple devices would likely focus on the iPhone, though implementation on the MacBook is also possible. Fingas notes that glasses-free 3D hasn’t yet taken off in consumer electronics. A famously failed attempt at the technology was Amazon’s Fire Phone, which didn’t offer a stereoscopic effect but did integrate a “dynamic perspective” sensor system. Fingas points out that perhaps the most successful device to use a form of the technology has been Nintendo’s 3DS handheld.

5. Apple is getting aggressive about competing with Spotify

Apple event

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Ben Sisario reports for The New York Times that Apple has proposed a simpler royalty scheme that would make it much more expensive for companies like Spotify to offer free tiers of their streaming services. In a proposal made to the Copyright Royalty Board, a panel of federal judges that oversees rates in the United States, the company suggested simplifying the complex way that songwriting royalties are paid by services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal.

It proposed that streaming services should pay 9.1 cents in royalties for every 100 times that a song is played, a formula that would replace extensive passages of rules for streaming rates. Sisario notes that “Apple’s target is clear: Spotify, its archenemy in streaming music.” The proposal would significantly increase the rates that Spotify would pay artists, and Sisario reports that the filing includes lines “that are clearly directed at Spotify and its so-called freemium model.”

6. Apple may not launch its electric car until 2021

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.

Gabrielle Lurie/AFP/Getty Images

Joe Rossignol reports for MacRumors that according to the latest reports, Apple may be pushing the 2020 launch of its Project Titan electric car from 2020 to 2021. The group working on the car has reportedly “run into challenges,” including the departure of its top executive, Steve Zadesky, in January. Additionally, “one person who worked briefly with the Titan team was told during their tenure at Apple that the company had been trying to deliver a vehicle by 2020 but the target slipped to 2021.”

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has said in the past that he considered it unlikely for Apple to have a car ready by 2020. With another three to five years of research and development ahead of it, Apple could change the roadmap for its project. Most of the development for the electric vehicle is reportedly underway in Sunnyvale, California. The project is said to involve hundreds of engineers recruited from A123 Systems, Ford, GM, Nvidia, Samsung, and Tesla.

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