5 Apple Rumors: From the Watch Launch to the iPod Shuffle Shortage

Source: Apple.com

Source: Apple.com

Although 2015 has just begun, a new batch of Apple-related rumors has already surfaced from the company’s overseas supply chain, as well as from various insider sources in the U.S. From new information regarding the launch of the Apple Watch, to media speculation about the fate of the iPod shuffle, here are five of the biggest Apple rumors making the rounds this week.

Four-inch “iPhone 6S mini” rumors debunked

In early December, Chinese supply chain sources cited by Wei Feng and highlighted by GforGames claimed that Apple was planning on launching a 4-inch iPhone model this year that would be aimed at “female users” who may find it too difficult to operate the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus with just one hand. The unconfirmed rumor was bolstered a few weeks later when Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri predicted that Apple might release a 4-inch ““iPhone 6s mini” with a curved screen edge design similar to the latest iPhone models, according to a research note seen by AppleInsider. A similar claim was also made by a Zacks Equity Research analyst, who noted that the “iPhone 6 mini” would allow Apple to target users who still prefer a smaller form factor smartphone.

However, the latest information from Wei Feng’s supply chain sources that was recently spotted by GforGames calls into question the earlier report. According to the sources, Apple has not yet issued any production tasks to its suppliers that would indicate a 4-inch iPhone model is in the works. While it’s still possible that Apple could initiate production later this year, for now it appears that fans of smaller iPhones will have to be satisfied with owning an older-generation model in 2015.

Apple Watch faces are customizable

Source: Apple.com

Apple Watch may launch before the end of March 2015

Although Apple unveiled the Apple Watch at a media event in September last year, the wearable tech device will not be available for purchase until “early 2015.” Since then, multiple rumors about the device’s specific launch date have emerged from various sources. In November, IGen.fr predicted a release date of Valentine’s Day (February 14) based on information from an insider source. Around the same time, a video message from Apple’s Angela Ahrendts to retail employees appeared to imply a launch date sometime after Chinese New Year (February 19), according to 9to5Mac.

This week, a new report from 9to5Mac offers yet another launch date prediction, as well as other details about the device. According to “sources familiar with the product’s development” cited by 9to5Mac, the Apple Watch will ship before the end of March. The sources also claimed that a few employees from each of Apple’s retail stores will be enrolled in a training program in order to get some hands on experience with the Apple Watch. In the meantime, Apple is working to perfect the device’s inductive charging mechanism and unique operating system, reports 9to5Mac.

In a related story, the Taiwan-based DigiTimes recently cited industry sources that claimed Samsung has obtained orders to build the S1 system-in-package (SiP) that will power the Apple Watch. DigiTimes’ sources also claimed that the Apple Watch is scheduled to launch in March 2015.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

More details about 12-inch MacBook Air

Rumors about a new type of MacBook Air model have been around since 2013, when KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple would release an “ultra-slim clamshell form factor” 12-inch MacBook Air, reports AppleInsider. According to an anonymous leaker cited by MacRumors in March 2014, the ultrathin profile would be achieved by eliminating the cooling fan assembly. MacRumors’ source also predicted the 12-inch MacBook Air would feature a Retina display and a new type of trackpad without a mechanical button.

Now, insider sources cited by 9to5Mac this week appear to have confirmed many of the earlier rumors about this upcoming addition to Apple’s MacBook product line. According to 9to5Mac’s sources, Apple employees have described a prototype version of a 12-inch MacBook Air that features 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. Apple had to make multiple changes to the MacBook Air in order to make the ultrathin design possible, such as eliminating the SD card slot and the MagSafe connector, and replacing the standard USB ports with the new USB Type-C ports. The 12-inch MacBook Air may make its debut by mid-2015, reports 9to5Mac.

Source: Weibo.com

Source: Weibo.com

Image of purported “iPad Pro” mold leaked

An Apple-focused Czech blog recently posted an image of what may be a manufacturing mold for Apple’s long-rumored larger-screen iPad. The image originally surfaced on Weibo, China’s popular microblogging site. The so-called “iPad Pro,” or “iPad Air Plus,” is rumored to have a screen size over 12 inches. While rumors of the larger-screen iPad have been around since 2013, the number of leaks about this device has increased in the last several months.

Last November, Japan’s Mac Fan magazine published purported schematics for the iPad Pro that were highlighted by Japanese tech blog Mac Otakara. More recently, French tech site NoWhereElse.fr claimed to have obtained a photo of the iPad Pro from an employee at one of Apple supplier Foxconn’s factories. While it’s impossible to confirm the authenticity of this low-quality image, multiple media outlets – including The Wall Street Journal – have predicted that the larger-screen iPad will enter production sometime this year.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The iPod shuffle will live on…for now

Earlier this week, 9to5Mac noted that inventory levels for the iPod shuffle were mysteriously depleted at Apple’s online and brick-and-mortar retail stores. The stock shortage sparked speculation among the media that Apple might be discontinuing the iPod shuffle like it did the iPod classic last year.

However, according to sources cited in a new report from Billboard, fans of screen-less iPods can rest easy. While the iPod shuffle is not being discontinued, inventory is running low due to changes in the supply chain. As a result, some Apple Stores may be temporarily out of stock, while online orders for the iPod shuffle may be delayed up to 7 to 10 business days.

On the other hand, the supply chain disruption may herald future product cancellation plans. Apple CEO Tim Cook cited supply chain issues as the primary reason behind the discontinuation of the iPod classic at the WSJD Live conference in 2014. “We couldn’t get the parts anymore,” said Cook, according to Engadget.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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