What products or services is Apple planning to surprise us with next? Here’s a rundown of all the latest Apple rumors that are making the rounds this week.
1. Touch ID may be coming to Macs
Apple’s biometric authentication system may soon be expanded to its laptop and desktop computers. According to sources cited by Taiwanese Apple news site AppleClub.tw, the company’s rumored 12-inch MacBook Air and a refreshed MacBook Pro will come equipped with a Touch ID module that is embedded above each device’s trackpad. As reported by Tech Cheat Sheet last week, the latest rumors suggest that a minor MacBook Air refresh will be unveiled before the redesigned 12-inch MacBook Air makes its debut later this year.
Touch ID will also be embedded in an upgraded Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad that will enable old or new desktop Macs to gain access to the fingerprint sensor. Per AppleClub.tw, the expansion of Touch ID to Macs is part of Apple’s effort to “aggressively promote” its Apple Pay mobile payments service. The inclusion of Touch ID in Apple’s Macs will allow users to authorize Apple Pay transactions by simply using their fingerprint. As noted by MacRumors, AppleClub.tw has previously provided accurate information about the iPhone 6 and the iPad Air before those products were released. On the other hand, the sources provided no real evidence to back up their Touch ID claims.
2. More iPad Pro evidence?
While scattered rumors of a larger-screen iPad have circulated for about two years now, the number of supply chain leaks about the device has greatly increased over the past several months. For example, an image of a purported manufacturing mold for the larger-screen iPad was posted on China’s Weibo microblogging site in early January. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo – who has a fairly impressive track record when it comes to details about Apple’s future products – has also repeatedly predicted a larger-screen iPad. In a recent research note obtained by MacRumors, Kuo forecast that the oversized tablet would be paired with a stylus.
Now even more evidence for the upcoming release of a larger-screen iPad — which is alternately referred to as the iPad Pro or the iPad Air Plus – has surfaced on NoWhereElse.fr. The French tech site recently obtained images of a protective case made for the device. Although the case was made by a third party, it should be noted that many Apple accessory manufacturers maintain insider connections to the company’s supply chain in order to get a head start on the competition.
Unfortunately, while the leaked iPad Pro case images appear to align with earlier rumors about the device, NoWhereElse.fr’s source did not provide the exact measurements for the tablet. Various rumors have pegged the device’s size anywhere from 12.2 inches to 12.9 inches. Whatever its exact size may be, most industry watchers believe the device will launch sometime this year. Last October, the Wall Street Journal cited sources who claimed that the production of the larger-screen iPad had been pushed into early 2015 due to the unexpectedly high demand for the latest iPhone models. Assuming that rumor was correct, this would mean that the iPad Pro could debut as early as the second quarter of 2015.
3. Apple Pay roll out in China may be delayed
Apple’s plan to roll out its NFC-based mobile payments system in China appears to have been delayed. Per MarketWatch’s insider sources, negotiations that involve bankcard association China UnionPay, e-commerce company Alibaba, and China’s central bank are holding up the introduction of Apple Pay into the country. As reported by 9to5Mac earlier this month, code in the upcoming iOS 8.3 update indicates that Apple Pay will be implemented in China through the UnionPay network.
MarketWatch’s sources believe that the holdup is due to China UnionPay’s unwillingness to surrender control of its NFC-based payment network. Meanwhile, Chinese regulators are also concerned about the type of iPhone chips that Apple uses for its mobile payment system. According to MarketWatch’s sources, the chips do not meet a certain technical standard that the country’s central bank requires for all mobile payment systems.
Other sources cited by MarketWatch claimed that talks with China’s banks have stalled over the division of profit. Apple Pay’s 0.15% fee is seen as too high by many of the Chinese banks. While it’s unclear when Apple was hoping to have Apple Pay up and running in China, MarketWatch’s sources claimed that the company was hoping to have an agreement with China UnionPay finalized by March 2015.
4. Apple’s rumored preparations for Watch launch
As the scheduled Apple Watch launch in April gets closer, more details about the various preparations that Apple is making continue to emerge. Earlier this week, sources that spoke with the Wall Street Journal claimed that Apple originally intended the device to include multiple health-monitoring features that had to be abandoned due to technical issues and concerns over regulatory oversight from agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You can read more about the evolution of the Apple Watch’s development here. Per the Journal’s sources, Apple’s suppliers have produced an initial run of five to six million units. While most of the first batch of devices consists of the entry-level and mid-tier Watch models, approximately 15% of the initial production run will consist of the gold Watch Edition model of the device that is estimated to cost more than $4,000.
Apple is also making preparations to have multiple third-party apps ready for the Apple Watch. According to insider sources that spoke with 9to5Mac, Apple has been holding workshops and meeting with dozens of developers in an effort to finish up as many Watch apps as possible. According to 9to5Mac, the urgency surrounding the Watch app preparations suggests that Apple is intending to hold a media event ahead of the device’s launch in April in order to demonstrate its capabilities. As previously reported by Tech Cheat Sheet, sources cited by MacRumors claimed that Apple had asked some developers to have their Watch apps ready by as early as mid-February.
Finally, French websites Mac4Ever and FashionMag recently reported that Apple is secretly building a boutique solely for the Apple Watch at high-end department store Galeries Lafayette in Paris. According to Mac4Ever, the boutique is being built under the direction of Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts. While Apple hasn’t confirmed its existence, the debut of an Apple Watch boutique in an exclusive Paris department store aligns with the company’s other efforts to position the wearable tech device as a luxury fashion accessory. For example, soon after the Apple Watch was first unveiled last year, the company set up a temporary display of Apple Watches at trendy Parisian boutique Colette and later featured the device on the cover of Vogue China.
5. More evidence for Apple car project surfaces
Not surprisingly, a large number of the Apple rumors making the rounds this week were related to the company’s purported plan to build an electric vehicle. As Tech Cheat Sheet reported earlier this month, the initial rumors about an Apple car development project emerged after several camera-equipped minivans were linked to the Cupertino-based company. While the minivans may have simply been shooting footage for an Apple Maps upgrade, the appearance of the vehicles led to a flood of leaks about a secret electric vehicle project that has supposedly been underway since late last year.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal last week, the rumored project is codenamed “Titan” and involves hundreds of employees under the leadership of product design VP Steve Zadesky. This week, even more evidence for Apple’s vehicle project has emerged from several other sources. As reported by Tech Cheat Sheet, electric/hybrid vehicle battery manufacturer A123 Systems filed a lawsuit against Apple this week that accuses the iPhone maker of poaching several of its key employees for similar work at Cupertino.
Meanwhile, 9to5Mac uncovered even more automotive experts that have been hired by Apple since last year, including workers from Ford, Tesla, and Mercedes-Benz. One of the latest Apple car-related rumors comes courtesy of Bloomberg’s insider sources. According to Bloomberg’s sources, Apple is aiming to begin production of the electric vehicle as early as 2020. While there appears to be a growing amount of evidence that Apple is developing a vehicle, as recently noted by Tech Cheat Sheet, there are also industry watchers that have alternate theories about what the company may be working toward.
That’s it for this week’s batch of Apple rumors! Be sure to check back regularly with the Tech Cheat Sheet to get all the latest Apple news.
Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS