6 Apple Rumors: From iPhone 8 to a New Magic Keyboard

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. A full-screen, bezel-less iPhone is looking more possible

Customers shop at the new Apple Store

Customers shop at the new Apple Store | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

AppleInsider reports that Apple has been granted a patent for embedding light sensors directly onto device displays, which is reportedly an important step in creating an iPhone without bezels. Mikey Campbell writes that the patent for “electronic devices with display-integrated light sensors,” proposes forming sensors on display layers that feature the conductive traces needed for power. The key to the invention is the design, in which the sensor or sensors are placed within the display itself, not above it as with current iPhone, iPad, and Mac models. Campbell notes that this design tweak alone would “save precious millimeters off final design specifications and could pave the way to a true full-screen display.”

Apple would accomplish this by overlaying the sensor on top of a display layer in a screen stack (whether that screen is an OLED or an LCD). Some embodiments described in the patent would position the sensor at the periphery of the display, “beyond the edge of touch sensitive traces to avoid touch sensitivity issues.” Others would place an ALS or proximity sensor at the very edge of an OLED display, or would use a dedicated TFT layer onto which a variety of sensors would be embedded. Campbell notes that in each case, all display and sensor circuitry would be protected by a transparent encapsulation layer made from glass or plastic.

It’s been rumored that Apple is working on an iPhone design with a “full-screen face” or an edge-to-edge display, which means that the rumored OLED display would stretch across the device’s entire front. The company has recently patented technology that would facilitate that goal, including a fingerprint sensor that works through the display. Campbell notes that the ear speaker remains a problem, though it’s possible that Apple could use a different form of audio technology and hide that component under the display.

2. The iPhone 8 could get a “super resolution” camera

Apple unveiled two upgraded versions of its iPhone

Apple’s next iPhone might be getting a multi-sensor camera | Josh Edelson/Getty Images

AppleInsider reports that Apple has patented a “super resolution” multi-sensor camera, which may make its way onto next year’s iPhone 8. A pair of patents describe a multi-sensor camera assembly that’s able to achieve maximum image quality while taking up a minimal amount of space. The system would split incoming light into at least three wavelengths using a series of prisms. It would then direct and capture the rays of light with independent light sensors, and combine the resulting data into a “super resolution” image via specialized software. One of the filings notes that the use of color splitters allows for higher image resolution as compared to single-sensor systems, since a lower portion of the light would be absorbed by filters.

Traditional single-sensor cameras typically apply a Bayer pattern filter to derive color from CCD or CMOS sensor data. Three-sensor cameras, on the other hand, gather and apply nearly all incoming light, in some cases three times the amount as a single-sensor array, and pass it through the beam splitter to a final output image. In addition to enhanced light-gathering capabilities, three-sensor arrays offer better performance in situations that call for polarization imaging, since polarizing filters typically shed 50% of incident light in order to increase the visibility of specific targets. The same results can be achieved with the splitting cube.

The patents describe a folded design that would minimize depth, as well as enable optical image stabilization and extended zoom capabilities. Whether Apple plans to implement the system in a shipping device is unclear, as is the case with most patents and patent filings. However, the iPhone 8 is rumored to bring a major redesign, which could include an overhauled camera system.

3. You may be able to control a future Apple Watch or iPhone with wrist gestures

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

Apple may be creating a wristband mechanism unlike anything seen before | Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

AppleInsider reports that a recent patent application details Apple’s invention of a wristband mechanism that can detect wrist gestures and translate them into system commands. The patent application, for “wristband device input using wrist movement,” describes a method by which wrist gestures are detected and interpreted. Those gestures could either control a wrist-worn device, like the Apple Watch, or even a separate, wirelessly connected device, like an iPhone. The filing describes a wristband that incorporates one or more sensors that can detect changes in the position of the user’s wrist.

Signals that are generated by those sensors would be analyzed to identify a specific wrist gesture. That gesture would then be compared against a library of stored gestures, each of which is associated with a specific system command. The wristband would be able to measure specific levels of flexion and extension. The system could recognize whether a user is moving their hand to make a “telephone” gesture, for instance, which could trigger a command to answer a phone call, or to open the phone app on the iPhone. Additional gestures, like a clenched fist, or forearm and hand movements, could control music volume, change tracks, enable the user to navigate through a device’s UI, return to a device’s home screen, or complete other tasks.

4. In the future, the Apple Watch may use its heart rate sensor to identify its owner

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 07: Apple COO Jeff Williams announces Apple Watch Series 2 during a launch event on September 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. Apple Inc. is expected to unveil latest iterations of its smart phone, forecasted to be the iPhone 7. The tech giant is also rumored to be planning to announce an update to its Apple Watch wearable device.

The heart rate sensor in the Apple Watch may help identify its owner in the future | Stephen Lam/Getty Images

AppleInsider reports that, according to a recent patent application, future Apple Watches may be able to use their heart rate sensors to identify their owners. Mikey Campbell reports that if the technology is implemented, that would represent a major step forward in freeing the Apple Watch from a paired iPhone. The patent, for a “user identification system based on plethysmography,” describes a method of using the pulse oximeter to determine and identify biometric characteristics of a user’s vasculature.

Just like Touch ID on the iPhone and iPad, the system would be used to verify a user’s identity and allow access to a previously locked device. And as with Touch ID, identifying users with vascular biometrics could be a seamless process. The device could monitor motion sensors, like accelerometers, gyroscopes, and GPS radios, to determine user motion. A gesture like raising the Apple Watch from waist height to head height could trigger the authentication process. Once identified, a user would have full access to device functions. Campbell notes that in theory, the system could be used in place of Touch ID for initial authentication and Apple Pay payments, which would further reduce the Apple Watch’s reliance on the iPhone.

AppleInsider also noted that Cleveland Clinic researchers recently found the Apple Watch to be the most accurate wrist-worn heart rate tracker on the market. The study pitted the Apple Watch against the Fitbit Charge HR, Mio Alpha, and Basis Peak, and found significant discrepancies between the results offered by the devices. The research involve d50 subjects, who were hooked up to an electrocardiogram while walking, running, and resting. The results of the electrocardiogram were compared to heart rate data from the consumer devices, and the Apple Watch showed a 90% accuracy rate in most scenarios. The other devices had accuracy rates in the “low 80s.” But an unnamed consumer-level chest strap monitor was also tested, and was found to be 99% accurate.

5. Apple may be working on a Magic Keyboard with e-ink display keys

man visits the Apple Store

Apple’s keyboard may be in for an upgrade, too | Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Buster Hein reports for Cult of Mac that Apple may be working on a keyboard with e-ink displays on its keys. Apple is reportedly in talks to acquire Australian startup Sonder, which specializes in making keyboards with individual e-ink displays on each key. The acquisition is reportedly part of Apple’s plan to update its Magic Keyboard in 2018. The new model is expected to feature a smart keyboard module and color e-ink keys, which allow programs to quickly swap characters for shortcuts or to change to a different language as the user’s needs dictate.

An anonymous Reddit user, who allegedly works at Tsinghua University, claims that Apple’s keyboard for the new MacBook Pro with an OLED touchpad was on display at a recent event hosted by Foxconn. The user claims that what Apple is planning for 2018 is more impressive. An early prototype of the upcoming Magic Keyboard was reportedly on display at Foxconn’s demo. According to Hein, the idea is to make dynamic keyboards the new standard for computers, just as the iPhone made virtual keyboards the standard for smartphones.

Test models shown by Foxconn reportedly felt the same to type on as a regular keyboard. The e-ink keyboard would use magnets and a mechanical structure instead of the butterfly keys that Apple invented to make the MacBook thinner. The demo keyboards were shown in two finishes, both black and sliver, and featured a timing controller that enables the keys to update as quickly as a normal display. The Magic Keyboard would reportedly be accompanied by an SDK, which would enable third-party apps to take full advantage of the e-ink keys.

6. You may be able to use Apple Pay on your city’s public transit system

Apple Pay may be accessible to use on public transit in the future | Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Bloomberg reports that Apple Pay, now two years old, is looking “for ways to be more useful.” Olga Kharif reports that Apple has spent much of the past two years raising awareness of its mobile payments app and getting consumers to use it in stores, in apps, and online. But the service still has a long way to go to gain mass adoption. Apple wants to get more people to use it, and to think that it’s superior to a credit card.

To convince users that Apple Pay is more convenient to use than existing options, Apple is reportedly looking to serve more transit systems in cities like New York and Boston, as those cities move toward tap-based mobile payments as an option. Some commuter rail lines in both cities currently enable their customers to buy tickets from within an app, which could pave the way for Apple Pay usage in such scenarios.