8 Apple Rumors: From Beats Music to Camera-Equipped Minivans

Once again, it’s time to sift through all the Apple-related rumors and speculation from this week. While it’s always wise to take any unconfirmed information about the Cupertino-based tech company with a grain of salt, many of this week’s rumors emerged from reputable media sources with known connections to Apple insiders. From the company’s ultimate plans for the Beats Music streaming service to the appearance of mysterious of camera-equipped Apple minivans, here are eight of the biggest Apple rumors making the rounds this week.

Source: BeatsMusic.com

Source: BeatsMusic.com

1. Beats Music service is getting an Apple makeover

The Beats Music streaming service that Apple acquired along with its purchase of premium headphone maker Beats Electronics last year, is being integrated into iTunes, iOS, and the Apple TV, according to insider sources contacted by 9to5Mac. Although the service will feature a completely redesigned user interface, Apple will retain Beats Music’s technologies and music content. The sources claimed that the service is still unnamed, so it’s unclear if Apple will keep the Beats brand.

Per 9to5Mac’s sources, Apple is trying to secure a $7.99 per month subscription fee for the reworked music streaming service. This would make Apple’s music streaming service slightly cheaper than competing services such as Rhapsody and Spotify, that each charge $10 per month for a premium subscription. Surprisingly, Apple will offer an Android version of the reworked service, marking the first time that the company has ever developed an Android app in-house.

On the other hand, Apple will not be developing a Windows Phone app due to the platform’s relatively small market share. According to the sources, Apple had originally planned to debut the new service in March, but project delays have made it more likely that it will be unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June.

Photo credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

Photo credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

2. Apple’s iOS 8.2 may arrive earlier than expected

The next update for Apple’s iOS 8 mobile operating system may be arriving in March, according to an insider source cited by BGR. Since the most significant change being implemented in the iOS 8.2 update is support for the Apple Watch, it was widely believed that the update would be launched alongside the wearable that will arrive in April, as recently confirmed by CEO Tim Cook during the company’s last earnings call. While it’s unclear why Apple would debut the software update before the Apple Watch, it may be related to the company’s request that some Watch app developers have their apps ready by mid-February, per MacRumors’ sources. Apple has seeded several iOS 8.2 betas already, including one earlier this week.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently predicted that Apple would reveal additional details about the Apple Watch ahead of the device’s release, according to a research note seen by MacRumors. Assuming both of these rumors are true, this may indicate that Apple is launching the iOS 8.2 update a little early in order to make sure it is running smoothly for an early Apple Watch demonstration. Although Kuo incorrectly predicted that the Apple Watch would launch in March, the analyst has a fairly accurate track record when it comes to Apple products.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch

Source: Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images

3. Apple may hold a media event in February

Rumors of a pre-release Apple Watch demonstration event gained additional credence later in the week when Apple-focused French tech website iGen.fr reported that the company might hold a media event toward the end of February, possibly on the last Tuesday of the month. According to unnamed “members of Apple” cited by iGen.fr, Apple would demonstrate the Apple Watch at the event as well as unveil a new 12-inch MacBook Air model.

Rumors of new, thinner MacBook Air model have been circulating since at least 2013, when analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple would release an “ultra-slim clamshell form factor” 12-inch MacBook Air, as reported by AppleInsider. Last month the rumors were reignited when photos supposedly showing the device were posted on Chinese news site ifanr.

Despite the multiple rumors pointing to an Apple media event in February, another reputable source for Apple rumors recently threw some cold water on this report. According to 9to5Mac’s sources, Apple will not be holding a media event to talk about the Apple watch or any other new products this month.

Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images

Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images

4. More big changes may be coming to the Apple Store

As Tech Cheat Sheet reported earlier this week, there are several changes rumored to be coming to the Apple Store in preparation for the upcoming release of the Apple Watch. Per sources cited by 9to5Mac, Apple Stores are currently being outfitted with safes for securing the gold Watch Edition models of the wearable product. Scales for ensuring that returned devices have not had any gold removed are also rumored to be coming to the Apple Store.

While the changes that 9to5Mac reported were directly related to the debut of the Apple Watch, insiders who spoke with ifo Apple Store claim that other changes unrelated to the Apple Watch are also in the works. Ifo Apple Store is a website that focuses exclusively on news about Apple’s retail business. According to ifo Apple Store’s sources, the changes are being pushed by Angela Ahrendts, the former Burberry CEO who Apple hired last year as the company’s new head of retail.

While many of the changes being implemented by Ahrendts are behind-the-scenes organizational moves, she is also rumored to be considering several alterations to the physical layout of the store, such as new seating areas for people waiting for their Genius Bar appointments. While it’s not clear from the report what other changes might be coming, the sources noted that “Ahrendts is looking closely at how the stores are built and how they are organized.”

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

5. Is an Apple search engine in the works?

A job listing titled “Engineering Project Manager, Apple Search” that was first spotted by Cult of Mac on Apple’s website has sparked rumors that the company may be developing a competitor to Google’s search engine. Per the job listing, Apple is seeking “a technical, driven and creative program manager to manage backend operations projects for a search platform supporting hundreds of millions of users.” While the use of the phrase “Apple Search” and a job summary that offers applicants the chance to “Play a part in revolutionizing how people use their computers and mobile devices” suggests that a new service is in the works, it is also possible that Apple is simply looking to bolster its existing Spotlight search feature for its desktop and mobile operating systems.

On the other hand, Google’s default search engine deal with Apple is set to expire soon, as reported by The Information. While it’s most likely that Apple will simply renew its deal with Google or enlist another search engine provider such as Yahoo, this mysterious job listing also raises the possibility that Apple is preparing its own default search engine solution.

Photo credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

Photo credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

6. Apple may increase reliance on Samsung for next-generation iPhone

In what has become an annual ritual of sorts, after each new iPhone release, various conflicting rumors about where Apple will source the next-generation A-series chip emerge from the company’s supply chain. While Samsung has long been the sole provider of Apple’s A-series chips, teardowns of the latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models performed by researchers at IHS revealed that some of the A8 chips had been supplied by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). While Samsung still provided a significant portion of the A8 chips used in the latest devices, many industry watchers believed that this was a sign that Apple was finally decreasing its reliance on one of its primary smartphone rivals.

However, according to “people with knowledge of the situation” who spoke with Re/code, Apple will be turning to Samsung once again for next year’s A9 chip production. Although Apple may have preferred to end its supplier relationship with its primary smartphone market rival, it appears that the need for a higher quality technology trumped the company’s concerns about Samsung using its knowledge of Apple’s products for its advantage. Per Re/code’s sources, Samsung’s cutting-edge 14-nanometer fabrication process produces more powerful and energy efficient chips than TSMC’s 20-nanometer fabrication process. As a result, it appears that Apple will be renewing its supplier relationship with the Korea-based company for the next-generation iPhone.

Apple Maps iOS 8

Source: Apple.com

7. Camera-equipped Apple minivans may signal new mapping effort

Nearly identical camera-equipped minivans have been spotted in various locations around the U.S., from San Francisco to New York, reports The Verge. The mysterious vehicles were first highlighted by California’s Claycord blog and were later confirmed to be leased to Apple by San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX 5. While a technology analyst who spoke with KPIX 5 speculated that the minivans were self-driving test vehicles, it is far more likely that Apple is acquiring footage to improve its native Maps app.

As noted by The Verge, Apple has never acquired a permit to test self-driving cars and it seems unlikely that it would test an autonomous driving system in so many far-flung locations. On the other hand, Apple is known to be working on improving its Maps app after acquiring several mapping-related companies and startups over the past two years, as Tech Cheat Sheet previously reported. For this reason, it is more likely that Apple’s camera-equipped minivans are part of an effort to provide a street-level view in Apple Maps, similar to what Google Maps offers. To get more details on Apple’s mysterious vehicles, check out Tech Cheat Sheet’s full report here

Source: Apple.com

Source: Apple.com

8. Apple TV streaming television service rumors revived

Perhaps the biggest Apple rumor to emerge this week was one involving the company’s set-top digital media player. According to Re/code’s usually reliable sources, the company is currently in talks with content owners about the possibility of creating a pay TV service that would stream a selection of channels directly through the Apple TV device. Although the talks are still in the early stages, the end result could be an Internet-based streaming service similar to Dish’s Sling TV.

So while the service is unlikely to offer as many channels as a traditional cable or satellite television subscription, it could be the first step toward the type of improved television experience that Steve Jobs described to his biographer. To get all the details on this rumored Apple TV service, check out Tech Cheat Sheet’s full report here. 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

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