5 Apple Rumors: From Streaming TV to Augmented Reality

Apple TV

Source: Apple.com

Here are five of the biggest Apple rumors making headlines this week.

1. Apple streaming TV service in the works

Apple is planning on launching an online streaming television service this fall, according to insider sources that spoke with The Wall Street Journal. The pay- television service would be available through the Apple TV, as well as the company’s iOS-powered devices. The service would consist of around 25 channels, including content from CBS, Fox, ESPN, and Disney. Sources cited by the Journal believe that the service will cost between $25 and $35 per month.

This rumor emerged a week after Apple revealed that it would be the exclusive provider of the new HBO Now standalone streaming app for the first three months of its availability. The HBO Now app will allow people to subscribe to HBO without having a cable or satellite subscription. Now it appears that the HBO Now deal was Apple’s first step toward introducing a wider lineup of channels later this year. Like existing online streaming services such as Dish’s Sling TV, Apple’s rumored television service has the potential to further disrupt the longstanding business models of traditional cable and satellite television providers.

As Tech Cheat Sheet reported last year, Apple previously tried to launch a similar service in collaboration with Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and DirecTV. However, those talks appeared to stall after Comcast announced its merger plans with Time Warner Cable. Per the WSJ, Comcast was reluctant to enter a partnership with Apple due to its interest in launching its own Internet-based streaming service.

While it remains to be seen if Apple’s attempt to break into the burgeoning streaming television market will be successful this time, a separate rumor suggested that the company may have found a way to entice programmers to get on board. According to insider sources cited by the New York Post, Apple has offered to share user data from its proposed television service with programmers. Most cable, satellite, and Internet-based service providers refuse to share this marketing data with programmers, so this stipulation could make Apple’s streaming service more valuable for advertisers. On the other hand, Apple could also risk alienating some users if it shares this data, since the company has historically emphasized its protection of customers’ privacy. Check out this Tech Cheat Sheet report for a full rundown of the latest Apple streaming television service rumors.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

2. Apple preparing trade-in program for rival smartphone brands

Switching from a BlackBerry or Android-based smartphone to an iPhone may soon become a lot easier. According to insider sources that spoke with 9to5Mac, Apple is planning on rolling out a new trade-in program within the next few weeks that will allow customers to trade in non-Apple smartphones at the Apple Store. Just like the existing iPhone Reuse and Recycle trade-in program, the new program will provide customers with gift cards that can be used for the purchase of a new iPhone in exchange for their old devices.

Per 9to5Mac’s sources, Apple Store employees will soon undergo training in preparation for the program’s debut in the coming weeks. Although Apple retail employees will be able to help customers transfer their contacts from their old smartphones to their new iPhones, customers will be responsible for other types of data transfers. The expanded trade-in program is expected to roll out in several countries besides the U.S.

While it’s unknown how competitive Apple’s trade-in program for rival devices will be, it should be noted that Apple Stores usually offer less money for iPhones than many third-party resellers. Third-party resellers also offer cash, rather than just Apple Store credit toward the purchase of a new iPhone. Despite this, the convenience of being able to exchange a non-Apple smartphone for an iPhone in one transaction may entice more consumers to try out the company’s products.

Source: Apple.com

Source: Apple.com

3. New Apple TV will debut at WWDC

On the heels of The Wall Street Journal’s report that claimed Apple was planning on launching a streaming television service this fall came a possibly related rumor about the Apple TV. According to insider sources that spoke with BuzzFeed’s John Paczkowski, Apple is planning on unveiling a new version of its Apple TV product at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June. The revamped set-top box would feature improved hardware and offer expanded capabilities.

Per the sources, the new Apple TV would include the latest A8 processor, more storage, and an improved operating system. While some of the upgrades may be related to the rumored upcoming streaming television service, other changes will enable voice control via Siri and possibly even new home automation features related to Apple’s HomeKit framework. A report from 9to5Mac earlier this month also suggested that the new set-top box would feature a slimmer design, a “tactile remote control,” and integration with an App Store.

The rumor of a new Apple TV follows Apple’s recent announcement of a $30 price cut for the current model. At the recent Watch-focused media event, Apple announced that it was lowering the price of the Apple TV from $99 to $69. While this is no guarantee that new hardware is on the way, Apple often lowers the price of a product ahead of a refresh. It should also be noted that Apple has not updated the hardware for the Apple TV since 2012.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

4. Apple Store’s sales strategy for Watch leaked

One of the Apple Watch-related details that the company revealed at its media event earlier this month was the appointment process that it would use for customers interested in trying on the device. Starting April 10, customers will be able to schedule appointments to try on the device in the Apple Store. Now, more details about the process for trying on and purchasing the Apple Watch have been leaked by insider sources that spoke with 9to5Mac.

Per the sources, Apple plans to have 10 or more in-store “try-on stations” where customers will have 15 minutes to get some hands-on experience with the device under the guidance of an Apple Store employee. However, appointments aren’t necessarily required and the stores will accommodate walk-ins as much as possible. The sales approach will focus on the wearable’s uses (timekeeping, communication, and health-/fitness-tracking) and band options. Employees are also being trained to encourage Watch buyers to upgrade to the latest iPhone. Customers that make up their mind about which Watch model they want can reserve it for pick up on April 24.

After the Watch becomes available on April 24, the Apple Store will have separate lines for undecided customers and customers that already know which model they want, in order to minimize waiting times. Additionally, there will be specially trained employees who will handle sales for the premium Watch Edition models. The Apple Watch Edition models start at $10,000 and go as high as $17,000.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

5. Apple’s augmented reality project

While many of the recent rumors about Apple’s upcoming products have focused on the electric car and streaming television markets, at least one analyst believes that the company may also be planning an augmented reality product. According to unnamed industry sources cited by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, Apple is exploring augmented reality technologies.

Per a research note obtained by MacRumors:

While it is limited, we believe Apple has a small team of engineers exploring augmented reality applications. We believe that at the core, the group is likely trying to understand a wearable interface that design would ultimately make fashionable/socially acceptable. At this point, we believe it is difficult to determine if or when these experiments might yield a product.

Earlier this month, 9to5Mac spotted several job listings that suggested Apple might be exploring virtual reality hardware and software, possibly for a product similar to the Gear VR headset that Samsung created in a partnership with Oculus. Unlike virtual reality products that immerse users in a fully computer-generated world, augmented reality products overlay computer-generated elements over a real-world environment.

However, don’t expect to see an Apple-branded augmented reality device anytime soon. Munster believes that widespread consumer acceptance of augmented reality products is at least 10 years away. His assessment appears to be supported by the public’s generally negative reaction to Google Glass, one of the best-known augmented reality wearables to come to market. On the other hand, Apple has an impressive track record when it comes to entering new product categories, so the iPhone maker may have better luck at creating an augmented reality product that people actually want to wear. Check out this Tech Cheat Sheet report for a detailed examination of Apple’s potential entry into this cutting-edge market.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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