From leaks about the launch date of the upcoming Apple Watch, to whispers of new recruitment efforts related to the so-called iCar, here are fiveof the biggest Apple rumors that emerged this week.
1. Apple Watch may hit store shelves in early April
When Apple first unveiled the Apple Watch last September, the company noted that the device would be made available in “early 2015.” The release timeline for this highly anticipated product was further refined during the company’s last earnings call in January, when CEO Tim Cook revealed that the Apple Watch would begin shipping in April. Now an even more specific release date for the device may have been uncovered by MacRumors.
According to a “reliable source” that spoke with MacRumors, Apple has plans to start shipping the Apple Watch to major distribution hubs during the first few days of April in preparation of a release that will occur between April 6 and April 10. As noted by MacRumors, this would put the Apple Watch’s release date approximately one month after the recently announced media event on March 9.
While Apple has not announced what it will discuss at the March 9 media event, the “Spring forward” teaser featured on the invitation for the event suggests that it will be focused on the Apple Watch. Apple is widely expected to reveal additional details about the wearable at the event, including its release date, battery life, various model prices, and more. There is also a possibility that Apple might unveil one of the new products that the company is rumored to be developing, such as the larger-screen “iPad Pro” or the 12-inch MacBook Air.
2. Apple Store’s Genius Bar appointment process to be improved
As reported by Tech Cheat Sheet earlier this month, Apple is preparing to implement several changes in the Apple Store, from new security measures related to the Apple Watch, to more general design changes. The latest rumored change is related to the process for making Genius Bar appointments and appears to fall into the latter category.
According to 9to5Mac’s insider sources, U.S. Apple Stores will launch a new Genius Bar initiative called “The new Concierge” during the week of March 9. The program — which is the brainchild Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts – will replace the current Genius Bar appointment method that serves walk-in customers on a first come, first served basis. Under the new program, a special algorithm will be used to set an appointment time for walk-in customers based on the urgency of their issue. For example, a customer with a cracked iPhone screen might be given priority over someone seeking help with a less crucial software issue.
While customers will still be provided with a set appointment time, the new system will send a series of text messages to remind customers when to return to the Apple Store. Per 9to5Mac’s sources, the Genius Bar will send three text messages to customers waiting for their appointments. The first text will provide confirmation of the service issue and the appointment time. The second text will remind the customer to start heading back toward the Apple Store. The final text will inform the customer that it is time for their appointment and tell them where to find the Genius Bar technician in the store.
3. Next-generation iPhone may feature Samsung DRAM chips
Despite long running rumors that Apple is trying to reduce its reliance on Samsung for components, a new report out of Korea suggests that the next-generation iPhone may include even more Samsung tech. As previously reported by Tech Cheat Sheet, Samsung is already rumored to be providing the A9 chip for the next-generation iPhone models, due to its superior 14-nanometer fabrication process. Now, sources cited by The Korea Times claim that Samsung will also be a major supplier of the DRAM chips for this year’s iPhones.
“Samsung will handle at least half of the amount that Apple needs for its new iPhone ― tentatively named iPhone 6S,” an unnamed industry official told The Korea Times. The newspaper noted that the rumored deal comes a few months after Samsung started production of a new mobile DRAM chip that offers twice the performance as the previous generation. According to The Korea Times’ sources, the deal is estimated to be worth billions of dollars.
The deal further complicates the relationship between these two companies that are rivals in both the smartphone market and in the courtroom. Samsung is the largest vendor of smartphones that are powered by Android, the open source mobile operating system found on over 80% of the world’s smartphones, according to IDC. Although both companies have repeatedly sued each other over patent infringement, Apple has chalked up the most victories, including an unprecedented $1 billion-plus damages award against Samsung in 2012.
4. Apple may have improved the Watch’s water resistance
One of the many unanswered questions that people have about the upcoming Apple Watch is how well the device will resist water. Since smartwatches are worn on a user’s wrist, the devices tend to be more exposed to the elements than other mobile gadgets, such as smartphones. The increased likelihood that smartwatches will be exposed to the elements has led many smartwatch manufacturers to make their devices water resistant. For example, Samsung’s Gear S smartwatch is IP67-certified, which means that it can remain fully immersed in up to one meter of water for thirty minutes.
On the other hand, Apple has yet to reveal any water resistance rating for its Apple Watch. Yahoo Tech journalist David Pogue reported that an Apple representative told him that the Watch would have some resistance to water, but would not be completely waterproof. “Sweating, wearing it in the rain, washing your hands, or cooking with it are fine,” wrote Pogue. “Take it off before you swim or get in the shower, though.”
Since an IP67-certified device can handle full immersion in water, this statement seemed to imply that the Apple Watch would not be as water resistant as many other smartwatches. However, according to French tech site iGen.fr, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently told a group of German Apple Store employees that he regularly wore his Apple Watch in the shower. Cook’s statement suggests that Apple may have improved the Watch’s ability to resist water in the months since its initial unveiling last year. On the other hand, the representative that spoke with Pogue may have simply miscommunicated the device’s level of water resistance.
Either way, fans of Apple-branded wearable tech may not have long before they find out how waterproof the Watch is. As previously noted, Apple recently announced that it will hold a “special event” on March 9 that is widely believed to be primarily focused on the Apple Watch.
5. Apple may be poaching Samsung workers for electric car project
In a recruitment effort that may be related to the development of its rumored electric car, Apple has hired experts in next-generation technology from one of its biggest rivals. According to insider sources at Samsung cited by The Korea Times, Apple has poached “experienced technicians and engineers engaged in signal- and visual-processing management.”
The source also hinted that Apple was attempting to lure battery experts away from the Korea-based company for work on the iPhone maker’s rumored electric car project. “As the electric vehicle business is a new one, Apple needs patents and experts in battery technology,” said the unnamed Samsung official. “Top human resources firms have been approaching Samsung’s battery experts, individually, and I think such human exchange moves are a win-win for both.” As noted by The Korea Times, Samsung is a major electric vehicle battery supplier for carmakers such as BMW.
As reported by Tech Cheat Sheet last week, battery manufacturer A123 Systems recently filed a lawsuit against Apple that claimed that the company is using several employees it poached from A123 to establish a large scale battery division in violation of those workers’ contracts. While it’s unknown how many workers Apple has successfully lured away from Samsung, both reports appear to bolster the recent rumors that Apple is developing an electric car. For a full rundown of all the rumors about the Apple car, see this Tech Cheat Sheet report.
Apple’s effort to poach Samsung’s battery experts is not the only potential electric car project connection between these two rivals. Samsung SDI recently announced that it would acquire the battery pack business of Magna Steyr, a unit of Canadian automobile parts manufacturer Magna International. According to sources that spoke with The Wall Street Journal, Magna Steyr is one of the contract carmakers that Apple executives have visited.
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