Fans of Apple-branded wearable tech will soon have more information to mull after the company holds its Apple Watch-focused “Spring Forward” media event on Monday. March 9. Although the media event is just around corner, that hasn’t stopped additional rumors from emerging this week about the highly anticipated device’s features, pricing, and other details. Meanwhile, multiple rumors about several other unreleased products also surfaced this week. From last-minute leaks about the Apple Watch’s capabilities, to the latest hearsay about the next-generation iPad mini model, here are eight of the biggest Apple rumors making the rounds this week.
1. Apple Watch: Battery life, apps, and more
Battery life could be one of the most crucial factors for determining the success of the Apple Watch. Since the Apple Watch’s battery size is limited by the relatively small size of the device, there have been concerns over how often the battery would need to be charged. Although CEO Tim Cook has previously made statements that suggested the Watch would only need to be recharged once a day, it’s unclear how much daily usage Apple expects the average user to derive from the device.
Obviously, a Watch user who continuously accesses apps throughout the day would use more battery life than a user who only occasionally checks the time on their device. According to insider sources that spoke with The New York Times, Apple has developed a special low-energy mode geared toward the latter type of user. Per the sources, the Apple Watch will offer a so-called “Power Reserve” mode that will only display the time. This mode could allow users to extend the Watch’s battery life even further. This feature is similar to the “Ultra Power Saving Mode” that Samsung offers for its Galaxy S5 smartphone. Like the Apple Watch’s Power Reserve mode, Samsung’s low-energy mode shuts down most of the phone’s features in order to extend battery life.
Select third-party developers have been granted early access to the Apple Watch in order to fine-tune their apps ahead of the March 9 event, according to insider sources cited by Bloomberg. Companies that have been permitted early access include BMW, Facebook, and United Continental Holdings. Per the sources, the apps developed by these companies will debut alongside the Watch when it is released in April. While some of these developers discussed the difficulties of creating apps for a particularly small screen, others noted lag problems with the Bluetooth connection between the Watch and the iPhone.
Finally, a recent report from TechCrunch noted the existence of a “6-dot brass contact array” inside the lower band attachment slot on the Watch. The similarity of the array’s layout to a Lightning port connection led the publication to speculate that the port may be intended for “smart bands” that could provide additional features or even extra battery power for the Apple Watch. However, according to insider sources that spoke with 9to5Mac, the ports were only installed on non-production Apple Watch models for development purposes and will not be found on devices sold to the public.
2. IPhone 6S may get RAM upgrade, Apple SIM
Apple’s next-generation iPhone models could include two significant changes that have already been implemented in last year’s iPad, according to an unnamed source cited by Apple Insider. Per the source, the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S Plus will be upgraded with 2GB of RAM. This would bring the iPhone’s RAM specifications closer to what is already offered by most other smartphones on the market. It would also match the specifications of the latest iPad Air model, which was upgraded to 2GB of RAM last year. Although it’s not always a direct correlation, an increased amount of RAM usually improves how well a device can perform multitasking functions.
The source also claimed that Apple is considering outfitting the next-generation iPhone models with the multi-carrier Apple SIM card that it introduced on the iPad Air 2. The Apple SIM card simplifies the process for changing carriers and eliminates the need for long-term contracts. As reported by The Telegraph, Apple tried to introduce this technology for the iPhone in 2010, but had to back down after facing resistance from carriers that prefer to lock users into long-term contracts. However, following Apple’s record-setting iPhone sales during the last holiday quarter, the Cupertino-based company may now have enough influence to implement this disruptive feature with or without the consent of the carriers.
3. New iPad Pro details
New details about Apple’s rumored larger-screen iPad emerged this week from several media outlets. Sources that spoke with The Wall Street Journal claimed that production of the so-called “iPad Pro” would begin sometime in the second half of 2015 and that the 12.9-inch tablet would be aimed at the enterprise market. The sources also claimed that Apple was considering outfitting the device with a new type of faster charging system, USB ports, and dedicated keyboard and mouse connection ports.
Meanwhile, supply chain sources cited by DigiTimes predicted that the iPad Pro would feature an oxide LCD (also known as IGZO) display. Indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) displays are more energy efficient, have less noise interference, and can achieve higher resolutions than conventional LCD panels. For a full rundown of all the latest iPad Pro rumors, see this Tech Cheat Sheet report.
4. MacBook Air: New 12-inch model and 13-inch refresh in the works
Besides providing new details about the iPad Pro, WSJ’s sources also claimed that Apple’s suppliers were preparing to ship a new 12-inch MacBook Air model in the second quarter. As previously reported by Tech Cheat Sheet, the long-rumored 12-inch MacBook Air supposedly features a new ultrathin design, a fan-less interior, and a Retina display. According to Apple Insider, the second-quarter launch timeline contradicts analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s prediction that the device would hit store shelves this quarter. On the other hand, a second-quarter launch appears to align with rumors reported by LetemSvetemApplem.eu last month. According to the Czech language blog’s sources, Apple is planning on introducing refreshed 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air models with minor processor upgrades before it unveils the new 12-inch model.
In a related story, screenshots that purport to show the system information for an updated 13-inch MacBook Air recently appeared on Chinese website Feng.com, according to MacRumors. According to the original posting, the refreshed MacBook Air model features a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-5250U processor and Intel HD Graphics 6000. These specifications align with the previously cited information from LetemSvetemApplem.eu that predicted a minor processor upgrade. This leak also raises the possibility that Apple may unveil its refreshed MacBook Air models at the upcoming March 9 media event.
5. Apple wants to be an early ‘HBO Now’ partner
Apple wants to ensure that HBO’s upcoming standalone streaming service is immediately available for Apple TV customers when it debuts next month, according to insider sources that spoke with International Business Times. Unlike the the HBO Go app that is currently available on Apple TV, the HBO Now service will allow consumers to access HBO content without having a subscription from a traditional cable or satellite TV provider. HBO Go should become available before the premiere of the fifth season of the highly popular Game of Thrones program.
Beyond expanding the amount of content available to Apple TV customers, Apple’s interest in this app may be another sign that the company is continuing to explore ways to make its digital streaming device a viable option for so-called “cord-cutters.” As previously reported by Tech Cheat Sheet, Apple has long been rumored to be working on an Internet-based television streaming service that could compete with cable and satellite TV providers.
6. Redesigned Beats Music to debut at WWDC
Last month, insider sources that spoke with 9to5Mac claimed that Apple was working on integrating the Beats Music service into iTunes, iOS, and the Apple TV. However, don’t expect to see the rebranded service unveiled at the upcoming media event on March 9. According to unnamed music industry sources cited by 9to5Mac, the new music streaming service will be launched at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that takes place in June.
Per the sources, Apple initially planned to launch the redesigned service earlier, but issues related to the development of the Android app — as well as other general integration problems — have delayed the project. Although the new subscription service will retain many of Beats Music’s technologies, it will feature a design that more closely aligns with Apple’s other services and products. In a related story, insider sources that spoke with Re/code confirmed that Apple will keep its iTunes Radio service free, while the redesigned Beats Music will remain a subscription service.
7. Health app-focused iOS 8.2 update may be released on March 9
Apple aficionados may have more to look forward to next week than just a closer look at the Apple Watch. According to BGR, the next iOS update will also launch on March 9. Per the release notes obtained by BGR, the iOS 8.2 update will focus mostly on various Health app improvements, including the ability to select different units of measurements for blood glucose. Apple disabled the blood glucose feature in the Health app after it was discovered that it was incorrectly displaying glucose values for users in countries with alternate measurement systems.
Here is a list of all Health app improvements being implemented in iOS 8.2, courtesy of BGR:
- Adds the ability to select the unit of measurement for body temperature, weight, height, distance, and blood glucose
- Improves stability when dealing with large amounts of data
- Includes the ability to add and visualise workout sessions from 3rd-party apps
- Addresses an issue that may have prevented users from adding a photo in Medical ID
- Fixes units for vitamins and minerals
- Fixes an issue where Health data wouldn’t refresh after changes data source order
- Fixes an issue where some graphics showed no data values
- Adds a privacy setting that enables turning off tracking of steps, distance, and flights climbed
The iOS 8.2 update also includes the usual bug fixes and stability enhancements for Mail, Calendar, Maps, and other features.
8. IPad mini 4 may arrive sooner than expected
The next iteration of Apple’s 7.9-inch tablet may arrive long before the usual refresh period in the fall, according to a new report out of Japan. According to “reliable information sources” cited by Japanese blog Mac Otakara, the Cupertino-based company may soon release a new iPad mini model that will feature the latest A8 processor and 802.11ac Wi-Fi compatibility. Although last year’s refresh updated the small form tablet with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, the device was otherwise nearly identical to the previous year’s model with the same screen resolution and A7 processor.
While the report did not offer a specific release date, the timing of the rumor raises the possibility that Apple may surprise fans with the iPad mini 4 at the upcoming “Spring Forward” event. Assuming this rumor is true, it would not be the first time that Apple has bucked the usual iPad refresh cycle. In 2012, Apple launched the fourth-generation iPad less than seven months after the debut of the previous model.
Mac Otakara also noted that Apple’s delivery time guidance for resellers of MacBooks and iPads suggests that both product lineups may be due for a refresh. On the other hand, MacRumors claimed that it spoke with Mac Otakara representatives who privately expressed doubts about the accuracy of the iPad mini 4 rumor.
That’s it for this week’s batch of Apple rumors! Be sure to check back regularly with Tech Cheat Sheet to get all the latest Apple news.
Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS