With an Apple Watch that is expected to be released sometime in the first quarter of 2015 and with several other new products rumored to be in the pipeline, there is definitely no shortage of speculation about Apple’s plans this year. Here are five of the biggest Apple rumors making the rounds this week.
1. Apple’s iPad Pro may include a stylus
In what might have been the biggest Apple rumor to emerge this week, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that a long-rumored 12.9-inch iPad that is expected to debut this year will be likely be released alongside a stylus. While it’s hardly unusual for an analyst to make unconfirmed predictions about Apple, Kuo has a reputation for being one of the most accurate analysts when it comes to the company’s future products. For example, he accurately predicted in 2013 that Apple would introduce a gold-colored iPhone, as reported by 9to5Mac.
While the Taiwan-based analyst presumably has connections in Apple’s Asian supply chain, it’s unclear if his latest prediction was based on insider information, or was simply speculation about two rumored products that would seem to work well together. “Given that it’s more precise than a person’s fingers, a stylus can be more convenient to use than the combination of keyboard and mouse in some cases,” wrote Kuo, according to MacRumors. “Therefore, we believe Apple’s stylus will improve the user experience of 12.9-inch iPad.”
It should be noted that rumors of a larger-screen iPad have been around since at least early 2013, when Korea’s ETNews predicted that Apple would release a 12.9-inch tablet that would be aimed at the education market. Since then, multiple leaks about the so-called “iPad Pro” or “iPad Air Plus” have surfaced, including an image of a purported manufacturing mold for the device earlier this month. While no images of an Apple stylus for the iPad have ever emerged, the company has filed dozens of stylus-related patents over the past several years. In any case, it will likely be a while before this rumor is confirmed. Most industry watchers believe that the larger-screen iPad will not be released until the third quarter of 2015.
2. Rumors of an NSA backdoor in the iPhone revived
In 2013, some of the leaked documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggested that Apple and several other major U.S. tech companies were complicit in the government’s surveillance programs and provided a “backdoor” to access customers’ private information, as reported by The Washington Post. Apple has always strongly denied those claims and CEO Tim Cook even flatly told ABC News reporter David Muir in an interview in early 2014 that “There is no backdoor.”
The rumors of a backdoor in Apple’s products were recently given a second life when Edward Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena noted his client’s aversion to using an iPhone in an interview with Russian news agency Sputnik International (formerly RIA Novosti). “Edward never uses an IPhone, he’s got a simple phone… The iPhone has special software that can activate itself without the owner, having to press a button and gather information about him, that’s why on security grounds he refused to have this phone,” said Kucherena.
While it’s not clear from Kucherena’s comments whether Snowden believes Apple is aware of this rumored backdoor, it should be noted that the company doesn’t appear to be attempting to conceal its products from scrutiny. According to a Beijing News report, Apple recently agreed to have its products assessed by China’s government in order to ensure the “security and privacy of users.” The agreement was apparently reached during Cook’s visit to China last December, when he met with State Internet Information Office director Lu Wei. Per Beijing News, Cook told Lu Wei that “Some time ago there were rumors that we provide backdoors and data to third parties. We did not, and will not provide a back door.”
3. Apple’s latest acquisition may be for a revamped Beats Music
Apple has acquired British startup Semetric, the company behind the Musicmetric analytics tool that tracks music industry data on sales, BitTorrent downloading, and social networking, reports The Guardian. While Apple typically doesn’t confirm acquisitions, it issued its usual boilerplate statement that is widely interpreted as a confirmation. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plan,” said the Cupertino-based company in a statement obtained by The Guardian.
The acquisition of Semetric has reignited rumors about Apple’s plans to overhaul its Beats Music streaming service in order to integrate it with the iTunes brand. As previously reported by Tech Cheat Sheet, Apple is likely planning on using Beats Music to counter its declining digital album and digital track sales through iTunes. While there are already many well-established players in the subscription music streaming market, Beats Music could have an advantage if it is launched as a native iOS app on the next generation of Apple products.
Apple may also be able to leverage its significant market power to obtain a pricing advantage over competitors like Spotify. According to insider sources cited by Re/code last October, Apple is working on securing a cut-rate subscription fee for Beats Music that would be lower than the industry standard of $10 per month.
4. 12-inch MacBook Air rumors bolstered by newly leaked photos
The rumors about a 12-inch MacBook Air gained some additional credence this week after leaked photos of the purported device were posted on technology-focused Chinese news site ifanr. The images – which were first spotted by SlashGear – show the new ultrathin MacBook Air model next to various other Apple products for comparison, including a 13-inch MacBook Air as seen in the photo above. According to ifanr, some portions of the 12-inch MacBook Air were blurred in order to conceal the “project number.”
Earlier this month, 9to5Mac cited unnamed “sources within Apple” who have tested a prototype version of the device. According to 9to5Mac’s sources, the 12-inch MacBook Air will feature a trackpad without a “clicking effect,” a fan-less interior, a Retina display, and a tapered casing that is about a quarter inch thinner than the current 11-inch MacBook Air model. While it’s impossible to confirm the authenticity of this latest leak, several of the 12-inch MacBook Air images appear to align with the dimensions described by 9to5Mac’s sources. On the other hand, the device also appears to be missing the backlit Apple logo that is found on current MacBook Air models.
Apple fans may not have to wait long to see if these rumors are true. Taiwan-based supply chain sources cited by DigiTimes recently claimed that Quanta Computer has already started mass production of the 12-inch MacBook Air for a planned launch date in the first quarter of 2015.
5. Apple Watch may fall short of battery life goals
New details about the Apple Watch have emerged thanks to 9to5Mac’s usually reliable insider sources. Per the insider sources, Apple is struggling to meet the battery performance targets that it set for the wrist worn wearable tech product. As reported by The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern, Apple CEO Tim Cook previously stated that the Apple Watch would likely require daily charging, which suggests that Apple was hoping that the Apple watch battery would provide about 24 hours of usage per charge.
This assumption appeared to be confirmed by 9to5Mac’s sources which claimed that Apple originally wanted the Watch to be capable of around “19 hours of combined active/passive use.” This would enable most people to derive a full day of mixed usage from the Apple Watch before charging the device overnight. However, 9to5mac’s sources report that Apple may not be able to achieve that goal in the first iteration of the device.
Other battery life targets cited by the sources included 2.5 to 4 hours of active application usage per charge, three days of standby power, and four days of sleeping mode power. While 9to5Mac’s report is unclear about how close Apple is to achieving all of those goals, the sources claimed that the Apple Watch will likely only be able to run for about two or three days maximum in either the standby or sleeping mode. Apple is also hoping to enable the device to run its native fitness tracking application for nearly four hours straight.
On a slightly brighter note, one of the reasons that Apple is having difficulty reaching its original battery life goals is due to Apple Watch’s powerful S1 chip and Retina-quality display. According to the sources, the S1 chip nearly matches the performance of the A5 chip when running a stripped-down version of iOS, while the display is capable of generating 60 frames per second. Although Apple has not yet revealed a specific release date for the Apple Watch, the company previously announced that it would become available in “early 2015.”
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