Apple put many long-running rumors to rest this week when it held its Apple Watch-focused “Spring Forward” media event on March 9. Apple revealed many previously unknown details about the wearable at the event, including its release date and the prices of the more expensive Watch and Watch Edition models. The company also unveiled a new 12-inch MacBook model and a software framework for medical study apps called ResearchKit. Although the Cupertino-based company’s official announcements put an end to a few older rumors, it didn’t take long before the Apple rumor mill generated several new ones. From a well-respected analyst’s predictions about upcoming Watch casings to the latest leaks about the next-generation iPhone models, here are six of the biggest Apple rumors making the rounds this week.
1. New Apple Watch casings on the way
Although none of the known models of the wearable have even become available yet, there are already rumors about new casing materials that Apple may be planning to introduce to the lineup later this year. According to a recent research note from KGI Research’s Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple may debut several Watch models made with new casing materials in time for the 2015 holiday shopping season. “Aside from current casing materials of aluminium, stainless steel and 18k gold, we believe 1-3 new versions of Apple Watch featuring new casing materials are likely to go into mass production in 4Q15,” wrote Kuo, according to research note that was obtained by 9to5Mac. Kuo has previously made accurate predictions about other Apple products and is widely regarded as one of the most reliable analysts when it comes to details about the company’s future product plans.
Although Kuo didn’t offer any information on what materials might be used, a separate report from The Wall Street Journal cited insider sources who claimed that Apple has investigated platinum watch casings. There has also been speculation that Apple could introduce a lower-cost plastic version of the Watch, similar to the iPhone 5C. Some commentators have also speculated that Apple could create a casing made of a super strong alloy known as Liquidmetal. As previously reported by Tech Cheat Sheet, Apple has an agreement with Liquidmetal Technologies that gives it exclusive rights to manufacture consumer electronics products made from this material.
2. Record labels not budging on music licensing price for Beats Music
In 2014, Apple acquired the subscription music streaming service Beats Music along with the Beats Electronics premium headphone business. Since then, there have been rumors that the company is working on integrating the Beats Music service into iTunes, iOS, and the Apple TV, as reported by 9to5Mac. Per 9to5Mac’s insider sources, Apple has also been pressuring the record labels for a reduced music licensing rate that would allow the company to offer its music streaming service for a monthly fee of $7.99, instead of the $9.99 fee that most rival services charge.
However, according to music industry sources cited by Billboard, Apple has abandoned its efforts to get a reduced rate from the record labels after the labels refused to budge on pricing. While Apple may still offer its rebooted Beats Music service for a $7.99 monthly subscription fee, the iPhone maker will still have to pay the standard industry music licensing price to the record labels.
As previously reported by Tech Cheat Sheet, there have also been rumors that Beats Music co-founder Jimmy Iovine was working on obtaining more exclusive album release deals similar to the one Apple made with Beyoncé in 2013. While this may still be a goal, one unnamed music industry source cited by Billboard suggested that Apple would not be getting any price breaks for exclusive release deals either. “Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world,” said the source. “If they want exclusive content, they’re going to have to get out the checkbook.”
3. Apple’s secret electric car facility uncovered
Earlier this year, rumors about a secret electric vehicle development project at Apple were reported by multiple media outlets, including Tech Cheat Sheet. Sources that spoke with the Financial Times claimed that the project had been initiated by Tim Cook late last year and was being researched at a confidential lab located away from the main Apple campus. Another source cited by The Wall Street Journal claimed that the project was codenamed “Titan.”
Now, AppleInsider’s Neil Hughes and Mikey Campbell believe they have uncovered the possible location of Apple’s rumored electric car development facility. In their report, the authors make a compelling case that a mysterious company named SixtyEight Research is actually a shell company that Apple is using to hide its automotive research facility in Sunnyvale, CA. While the report doesn’t offer any new details about the rumored electric vehicle, it appears to add to the growing body of evidence that Apple is doing some type of auto-related research beyond its CarPlay device integration system. AppleInsider noted that the facility it linked to Apple includes an “auto work area” and a “repair garage.”
4. Latest iPhone supply chain rumors
Two new rumors about which companies may be supplying components for Apple’s future iPhone models have emerged this week. According to a research note from Daiwa Securities analysts Rick Hsu and Olivia Hsu that was seen by Barron’s, the long-running supplier relationship that Apple has with Samsung may be in jeopardy. The analysts predicted that chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has secured most of Apple’s orders for the next-generation mobile device processors.
“We believe TSMC will earn most of the A9 orders thanks to its superior yield ramp and manufacturing excellence in mass-production,” wrote the analysts. “We expect TSMC to earn all of Apple’s A9X orders (for the next generation iPad) and most of the A9 (for the next generation of iPhone), aggregating to an allocation of over 70%.”
If true, this would be a serious blow to Samsung, the Korea-based company that has historically handled the majority of the production for Apple’s A-series chips. However, it should be noted that rumors of Apple decreasing its reliance on Samsung have been proven wrong multiple times in the past. The Daiwa Securities analysts’ information also contradicts a recent report from Re/code that claimed Apple would actually be increasing its reliance on Samsung for production of the A9 chip.
A similar rumor about an upcoming supplier change for Apple’s iPhone 7 also emerged this week. According to insider sources cited by VentureBeat, Apple’s iPhone 7 will use Intel’s new 7360 LTE modem. Apple has long relied solely on Qualcomm for this iPhone component, including with the latest iPhone 6 model which features a Qualcomm MDM9625M LTE modem, according to researchers at repair firm iFixit. Per VentureBeat’s sources, the Intel-made modem is intended for a special version of the iPhone 7 that will be offered in certain emerging markets. It should be noted that this change would not occur until 2016, when the so-called iPhone 7 is expected to be released.
5. Microsoft’s Cortana coming to iOS
Microsoft’s voice-activated personal assistant Cortana may soon become available to Apple users, according to insider sources that spoke with Reuters. The sources noted that Cortana will debut on desktop PCs as part of Windows 10 this fall before being released as a standalone app for both Android and iOS-powered tablets and phones.
As Tech Cheat Sheet reported last year, Microsoft has previously hinted that it wanted to bring Cortana to multiple platforms. However, this is the first time that a source has confirmed Microsoft’s plans to make Cortana a direct competitor to Apple’s own voice-activated personal assistant, Siri. In the past, Microsoft has unfavorably compared Siri to Cortana in commercials that tout the personal assistant’s ability to perform contextually-aware tasks in anticipation of a user’s needs. In contrast, Siri is primarily designed to respond to users’ requests.
“We’re defining the competitive landscape … of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done,” managing director of Microsoft Research Eric Horvitz told Reuters.
6. Force Touch feature and pink color option coming to the next iPhone models
During the recent “Spring Forward” media event, Apple revealed that it had implemented the Force Touch technology it introduced on the Watch in its new MacBook model and refreshed 13-inch MacBook Pro. Force Touch technology enables a device to detect how hard a user is pressing, which provides a new method for users to interact with displayed content.
Now there are rumors that Apple may be bringing this pressure-sensitive input method to the iPhone. According to insider sources cited by The Wall Street Journal, Apple has plans to implement Force Touch technology in the next-generation iPhone models, tentatively known as the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S Plus. Check out Tech Cheat Sheet’s full report on all the possible applications for Force Touch technology here. Finally, the Journal’s sources also claimed that Apple might introduce a new pink casing color alongside the currently available space gray, silver, and gold options.
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