On New Year’s Eve, it will be 40 years since Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the blues band, Fleetwood Mac… which not only proves that can you wangle an anniversary out of pretty much anything if you just try hard enough, but is also the reason for this week’s round-up being brought to you by that epoch-defining squillion-selling album, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (which was, of course, released three years later in 1977). Look it had to happen at some point, didn’t it? May as well get it over with.
So without further ado, let’s treat ourselves to a big ol’ dollop of…
Just to be different, we’re going to start today with the latest iPhone 6 rumours. No, really. And this one’s a goodie. Technology Tell reckons it’s the camera that’s going to get a bit of loving in the next iPhone. Up to 10 megapixels no less.
And over in John Cox’s world (Network World, that is) he has something to add on that score. Well, quite a bit to add actually, seeing as he regularly provides an iPhone 6 rumour rollup. But as far as the camera is concerned, he’s talking about interchangeable lenses. Referring to Apple Insider‘s Mikey Campbell (which actually makes this para ‘Third Hand News’, doesn’t it?), Cox says, “Campbell also posted on two other recently published Apple patents that show a way to snap on an array of advanced lenses and other components to the iPhone’s existing optical system. This is somewhat analogous to using interchangeable lenses on a digital single-lens reflex camera.”
Cox has other rumours, some of which we’ve heard before – iPhone 6 will have sapphire glass screen and a pressure-sensitive touchscreen – and at least one that even in print we can hear him snorting rather than saying, “iPhone 6 will be affected by Lenovo’s purchase of Motorola”. Yes, we think that’s a bit of a natural for the venerable veteran pricker of bombastic bubbles, the Macalope, too.
Regular rumour watchers may have noticed the phenomenon we referred to in last’s week’s column – you know that one that if something has already been posted about previously (no matter how flimsy a rumour it was in the first place), by the time it rears its cheeky little head again, it’s a stone cold hard fact?
MacRumors knows what we’re talking about, because this week it caught no less than the The New York Times in the act, when talking about the much rumoured iWatch. “The report also reiterates the newspaper’s claim from last year that the iWatch will feature a curved glass display.”
Now, of course the Times may be completely right, only time will tell. And the majority of the article is an interesting read about research and development in the world of batteries. But it also sprinkles in a little speculation about this forthcoming curved glass wonder.
Power source is the first topic of discussion. “The next breakthrough smartphone, or maybe the one after that, might not have a traditional battery as its sole source of power. Instead, it could pull energy from the air or power itself through television, cellular or Wi-Fi signals,” says the Times, careful to slip one of our favourite safety words in there – ‘could’.
Brian X Chen and Nick Bilton’s article goes on to quote Tony Fadell (ex-Apple, founder of Nest, ex-Twitter chum of Phil Schiller), who talks about the race to improve batteries, or invent a whole different technology altogether. “Apple tried for many years to build a smarter battery by adding solar charging to iPhones and iPods. But the method never proved practical, [Fadell] said, because mobile devices often stay inside pockets when people are outdoors, and indoor artificial light generates only a tiny amount of energy.”
But that wouldn’t be the case with a watch and, besides, Apple has some other ideas up its, er, sleeve. “For its wristwatch, Apple has been testing a method to charge the battery wirelessly with magnetic induction, according to a person briefed on the product. A similar technology is already used in some Nokia smartphones — when a phone is placed on a charging plate, an electrical current creates a magnetic field, which creates voltage that powers the phone.”
And: “The watch is expected to have a curved glass screen [see?], and one idea is to add a solar-charging layer to that screen, which would give power to the device in daylight.”
Our favourite though is this one: “Another experiment at Apple has involved charging the battery through movement, a method that is already used in many modern watches. A person’s arm swinging could operate a tiny charging station that generates and pushes power to the device while walking.” We can just picture the black eyes and bloody noses as iWatch wearers everywhere stride down future streets swinging their arms like gibbons on speed, knocking out their fellow citizens right, left and centre.
And there are more rumours about the apparent health components of the iWatch. MacRumors (via 9to5Mac) notes, “Apple is developing a new app expected to be released alongside iOS 8 that collects and organises information and data points related to the user’s health, including fitness statistics from the new M7 processor in the iPhone 5s, and possibly other data collected from a new wearable product… the iWatch will include the ability to measure statistics that the Healthbook app can measure – including glucose levels and heart rate – though nothing concrete is known… sources suggest Apple has been able to combine several different health sensors into one chipset in order to make them all smaller.”
Ars Technica has something to add on the topic, noting that in mid-December there was a meeting between Apple employees and FDA officials about ‘mobile medical applications’, and goes on to muse what Apple’s entry into this sector could mean for current fitness gadgets, such as Nike’s Fuelband, Fitbit’s Flex and the Jawbone Up.
Oh, and MacRumors also notes that Apple is developing new features for its Maps app too, including transit directions.
And just before we leave the wonderful world of the iWatch, MacRumors has this report about Michael O’Reilly, MD – the former chief medical officer and executive vice president of Medical Affairs at Masimo Corporation, leading analysts to wonder whether his engagement relates to this rumoured health focus of the forthcoming time (but-oh-so-much-more) piece.
Masimo is known (admittedly not by us, but we’re always willing to learn) for developing “several cutting edge pulse oximetry devices, including the iSpO2 Pulse Oximeter that connects to the iPhone and gives readings via an accompanying app. The iSpO2, which takes its readings from a finger, is designed to measure both oxygen saturation in the blood and pulse rate, with technology that allows it to take readings during movement and with low blood flow,” says MacRumors.
So either Apple is pushing ahead with the medical and wellness applications of its purported wearable device, or is just becoming really, really conscientious about WHS regulations.
And in a little snippet that will be sweet music to the ears of children everywhere (whose parents haven’t let them have a phone yet) 9to5 Mac has something to say about the iPod this week. We all read the figures released during the first fiscal quarter of 2014 earnings call and learned that the little music/gaming device that could had dropped 52 percent, year on year, and now makes up just two percent of Apple’s revenue.
Naturally the doomsayers have been out in force. 9to5 Mac has gleaned a bunch of them for your delectation – ‘The iPod is Dead’ (Huffington Post), ‘The Age of the iPod is Over’ (The Verge), ‘Rest in Peace’ (Mashable), ’5 Dead Apple Products’ (Investorplace.com) and ‘Apple’s iPod Business Collapses’ (Techday NZ).
Blimey, if I were the iPod I’d be feeling a bit like the Queen Mother must have done in 1993 when that Sky News employee misunderstood an internal obituary rehearsal, leading to her death being announced in the Australian media (nine years before she departed this world for real).
Surely, someone will speak up for the beleaguered one? Come now, a little respect. Look, she stayed in London throughout the Blitz for goodness sake. Oh, sorry… where were we? Oh yes, the iPod. Well, all is not lost, according to 9to5 Mac. In fact, a makeover could be in the works. Yes, Apple sold about half the number of iPods during this last holiday season as it did the year before, but that’s still six million-plus iPods. And Apple seems to be working on at least one new version.
“Several listings for New Product Introduction Operations Program Managers are seeking individuals to oversee and manage an iPod product launch by working with OEMs, the product teams, and suppliers,” says 9to5 Mac.
And now for something completely different. ‘Apple may be building its own content delivery network’, says MacRumors. “With iTunes and iCloud, Apple controls the data and the service, but must outsource the less visible but still incredibly important job of reliably delivering data packets to users. With hundreds of millions of users downloading apps, music, TV shows and movies – with many of those being streamed in real-time to the Apple TV – ensuring quality of service for all users will be essential.”
To elaborate, MacRumors directs to analyst Dan Rayburn of Frost and Sullivan, who has clearly given the subject a lot of thought. ”Part of Apple’s reasoning for building their own CDN is because of performance issues with iCloud, with Apple wanting to have more control over the QoS of content going to their devices. Apple already controls the hardware, the OS (iOS/OS X) as well as the iTunes/App store platforms,” says Rayburn. “Right now they control the entire customer experience, except for the way content is delivered to their devices. Since Apple does not own the last mile they won’t be able to have complete control, but having their own CDN would give them more control and security than they have now.”
But can we take this to the bank, Dan?
“Apple didn’t respond to my request to comment on this story.” Oh, we see. Probably not, then.
Back in the ‘we’ve mentioned it once, so it now absolutely exists’ department, is MacDailyNews and an article with this opening zinger: “Wow, what a week it’s been for Apple’s future iPen”… Wait, what? What future iPen? Do we know about this? Is this a thing?
Apparently. And if we only kept sharper eyes on the USPTO we’d know all about it. Thank goodness, Patently Apple is there to pick up after us. No less than three patent applications have all been lodged this week. ”The main patent filing is a spectacular overview of a modular iPen design that would allow users to choose different modules for different tasks. One feature, for example, would allow a student or business user giving a presentation to use this iPen as an advanced laser pointer.” Oooh, nice, but keep them away from those aeroplanes, kids…
We started today with a big dollop of second hand news, so we’ll finish up with a big old bucket of water. You thought a 12.9in iPad was in the offing? And about to land on Planet Apple any moment now? Well, you may want to throw a lasso around those hopes and wrestle them to the ground, says MacRumors.
Because IHS analyst Rhoda Alexander is sceptical, telling CNET, “Some manufacturers over the last six months have received sample quantities of a larger panel. They’re playing around with a product that could possibly be an iPad-related product. Various sizes are being reported with 12.85in being one of the sizes,” she said. “We have not seen volume shipments yet of any panels. We have to get a lot further down the line in terms of seeing really strong indicators from Apple that such a product exists, and we’re just not at that point.”
Oh, spoilsport! If there’s one thing we can’t abide at the Rumour Mill, it’s people who resolutely use common sense and don’t talk out of their hats just because someone asked them a question. Really, where’s the fun in that?
And that’s the Rumour Mill for the week ending 7 February 2014. And remember when it comes to gossip and gas bagging, if it ain’t about Apple, I Don’t Want to Know…