6 Apple Rumors: From the iPhone 6S Camera to the iCar

Once again, it’s time to peruse all the Apple-related rumors and speculation from this week. From an analyst’s prediction about the camera on the next-generation iPhone to new information regarding Apple’s automotive ambitions, here are six of this week’s biggest Apple rumors.

iPhone 6 iSight camera

Source: Apple.com

1. Next-generation iPhone will keep 8MP camera sensor

Apple’s upcoming iPhone model (presumably called the iPhone 6S) will keep the 8MP camera sensor that has been used in every model since the iPhone 4S, reports the Taipei Times. In the report that was first spotted by GforGames, Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting analyst Jeff Pu noted that the iPhone 6S will maintain the same camera sensor specifications that were used in last year’s models. Pu believes that high-end smartphone makers like Apple will instead concentrate on other specification upgrades, such as improved optical image stabilization and autofocus.

While this may sound like disappointing news for iPhone photography buffs, it should be noted that Apple has managed to improve the quality of its smartphone camera each year despite using a sensor with a lower pixel count than many of its competitors. For example, an insider source cited by Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber last November claimed that Apple was developing a “weird two-lens system” that will give this year’s model a huge boost in image quality.

Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

2. Apple Store may lose iconic Genius Bar logo

Last week, Tech Cheat Sheet reported on several rumored changes that may soon be implemented in the Apple Store. A few of the changes – such as the installation of safes and the use of scales — are directly related to the upcoming release of the Apple Watch. Other changes appear to be part of an overall makeover plan being implemented by Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts.

According to ifo Apple Store, it appears that the well-known “atom” logo that is used to designate the Genius Bar area in Apple Stores is now being phased out as part of the makeover effort. The logos are being replaced with various types of wall graphics. As noted by ifo Apple Store, the need to identify the Genius Bar location in stores with a large logo has become less necessary over the past several years as the layout of the stores has evolved. Many Genius Bars that used to be located at the back of a store or against a side wall have been shifted to standalone tables.

Perhaps the most important question about this change is who will get to keep the old Genius Bar logo signs. Last year, two iconic Apple Computer rainbow logo signs were sold through Bonhams auction house for $35,000.

Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images

3. Minor MacBook Air upgrade coming in February

As Tech Cheat Sheet reported last week, unnamed “members of Apple” cited by French Apple news website iGen.fr claimed that Apple would be holding a media event on Tuesday, February 24. According to the sources, Apple will use the event to give a detailed demonstration of the Apple Watch and launch a new MacBook Air model. At the time, it was assumed that this meant that Apple would be unveiling its long-rumored ultrathin 12-inch MacBook Air. The 12-inch MacBook Air supposedly features a Retina display, a fan-less interior, and a width that is about a quarter inch thinner than the current 11-inch MacBook Air, according to 9to5Mac’s insider sources.

Unfortunately, the latest rumors suggest that Apple will debut a less dramatic incremental upgrade of its laptop at the unconfirmed media event. According to reseller sources cited by Czech language blog LetemSvetemApplem.eu, Apple will simply update the current 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Airs with a minor processing power bump, rather than unveil a completely new Retina display-equipped model. The sources noted that the refreshed MacBook Airs would likely use Intel’s latest Broadwell series chips. Assuming this report is accurate, the 12-inch MacBook Air launch will likely be pushed into June, when Apple holds its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

Source: Apple.com

Source: Apple.com

4. Several big iOS updates on the way

Earlier this week, Tech Cheat Sheet highlighted several new features that users can expect to see in the next several iOS updates, including iOS 8.2 and iOS 8.3. Although Apple has yet to publicly release the iOS 8.2 update, the company seeded the first pre-release build of iOS 8.3 on February 9. We also noted claims about the development of iOS 9 made by 9to5Mac’s insider sources. Per the sources, Apple’s iOS 9 update will fix many of the stability and performance issues that have accumulated in iOS due to the addition of so many new features over the years.

Now 9to5Mac’s sources have leaked a few details about yet another iOS 8 update: iOS 8.4. According to the sources, work on iOS 8.4 is already well underway. The most important aspect of the iOS 8.4 update may be the introduction of the revamped Beats Music streaming service. As 9to5Mac reported last week, Beats Music is expected to be fully subsumed into a native Apple music streaming app.

However, before you get too excited about the prospect of a Beats-based Apple music streaming service, it should be noted that 9to5Mac’s sources also claimed that the iOS 8.4 update is not expected to be released until after the Apple Watch is made available in April. There is also the possibility that the music streaming service update could be pushed into iOS 9, which is expected to be released in September, just in time for the next-generation iPhone models.

Source: Apple.com

Source: Apple.com

5. Improved Touch ID coming to the next-generation iPhone

The next-generation iPhone may be outfitted with improved biometric authentication hardware, according to an Apple-focused analyst who has a good track record when it comes to the company’s unreleased products. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has earned a reputation as one of the most accurate prognosticators of Apple’s future plans due to several prescient predictions he has made about previous products, such as the introduction of a gold-colored iPhone in 2013, as reported by 9to5Mac.

In a research note seen by MacRumors, Kuo claimed that the Touch ID module will be upgraded to reduce reading errors and offer a “safer Apple Pay user experience.” While it’s unclear what changes will be made to the hardware to make it more accurate, Kuo noted that the new fingerprint sensor will “require more advanced precision for the module’s laser welding process.” Although Kuo sees an improved Touch ID module in the iPhone’s future, he is less sure about the company’s rumored plans to embed the Touch ID feature into the device’s touchscreen. He believes that the technology required to implement a touchscreen version of Touch ID makes it unlikely that it could be implemented in the near future.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

6. Apple “iCar” rumors revived

Last week, rumors that Apple may be developing a driverless car or some other type of advanced vehicle were revived when it emerged that multiple camera-equipped minivans spotted across the U.S. were leased by the iPhone maker. Although at least one technology analyst cited by San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX 5 thought that the equipment on the roofs of the minivans suggested driverless technology, many other industry watchers believed that the minivans were merely acquiring footage for an upcoming Apple Maps overhaul.

While the possibility of a vehicle is not brought up as often as many other Apple product rumors, Steve Jobs was known to have an interest in this area and even discussed it with The New York Times journalist John Markoff shortly before he passed away. Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller also confirmed Jobs’s interest in making a so-called “iCar” while testifying in the 2012 patent-infringement lawsuit against Samsung, according to The New York Times columnist Nick Bilton. More recently, Apple board member Mickey Drexler said in an interview last year that “Steve Jobs, if he had lived, was gonna design an iCar,” as reported by Business Insider.

So while there is no question that Jobs had an interest in automobiles, the possibility of an Apple car is rarely raised by industry watchers today because there has been almost no evidence for its development since Jobs’s death. However, several insider sources who spoke with two different media outlets this week have reignited rumors of an Apple car.

A Model S by US electric car maker Tesla is displayed on September 25, 2014 during a press presentation in Paris. The Paris Motor Show will open to the press on October 2, 2014 and to the public on October 4. (Photo by Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images

First, Business Insider was contacted by an unnamed Apple employee who claimed Apple had a “vehicle development” project in the works that was attracting employees from Tesla. “Apple’s latest project is too exciting to pass up,” said the source. “I think it will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money.”

A few days later, The Mac Observer’s Bryan Chaffin made his own inquiries through his contacts at Apple. While a recent Bloomberg report highlighted the significant number of workers that Tesla has poached from Apple over the past several years, The Mac Observer’s sources claimed that Apple has been doing its own hiring from Tesla’s ranks. According to the sources, Apple’s poaching has been much more targeted than Tesla’s, and appears to be aimed at acquiring workers who would be well-suited to developing a car.

On the other hand, since there is significant overlap between the computer technologies used in Tesla’s vehicles and the technologies used in many mobile devices, it is quite possible that Apple is simply using Tesla’s former workers to enhance its existing CarPlay system or develop a new type of mobile device integration feature for vehicles. So while it’s doubtful that Apple will unveil a competitor to Tesla’s Model S vehicle in the near future, the latest leaked information obtained by these two media sources shows that Jobs’s dream of an iCar is still alive and well.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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