Apple’s WWDC Keynote is a little over a week away, and the rumors and stories regarding upcoming devices are coming fast and furious. Apple is also actively hiring and working on some exciting new technologies that we will see in future devices. Let’s jump right into some of the best news of the last week.
Nokia and Apple Settle Up, Become Partners
Despite plenty of saber rattling by Apple in regards to this case early on, they have now settled with Nokia after being sued over several patents. Apple is now licensing these patents, and the two companies will work together on some key technologies going forward. Apple will resume offering Nokia-owned Withings health devices in their brick-and-mortar Apple Stores, which had been removed during the lawsuit. According to an article from PCMag, Nokia’s Chief Legal Officer Maria Varsellona referred to the settlement as a “meaningful agreement.” The two companies are also planning “future collaboration in digital health initiatives.” With legal and FTC issues with Qualcomm still looming, it was a smart move on Apple’s part to get this situation with Nokia cleared up.
Apple Already Testing 5G Cellular Technology
The FCC has approved an Apple permit application to start testing next-generation “millimeter wave” wireless technology. This is the same technology that wireless carriers will start rolling out over the next few years, so we won’t be seeing this in a production iPhone for a while. This is likely just Apple getting out ahead of the game, but that alone is significant. Apple has typically slow-played new wireless technologies, as they were later than the competition to roll out both 3G and LTE. Maybe we will see 5G come to the iPhone a little sooner thanks to this early testing. And while we’re on the subject of testing newer technologies….
Apple is Reportedly Testing New microLED Screen Technology
According to Digitimes, Apple has made a small test batch order of microLED displays. This is presumably for testing in different devices as a follow-up screen technology to OLED. Apple currently uses OLED screens on the Apple Watch, and is rumored to be replacing its current LCD screens with them on this year’s iPhones. However, Digitimes has already reported a rumor that Apple will be switching the Apple Watch to a microLED screen late this year or next year, which makes sense considering that they already debuted OLED on the smaller device two years ago. If these reports are true, we may get our eager hands on this new technology sooner, rather than later.
Apple’s iPhone SE Tops ACSI Smartphone Satisfaction Survey
Apple broke with industry norms a year ago when they released a smaller form-factor phone with the same specs as their premium devices. The trend among Android competitors has always been toward larger flagship phones, with all smaller offerings having more mid-range specs. Even Apple used to be content with simply lowering the price of the previous year’s model (with the previous year’s specs). The only time they deviated from this course was with the iPhone 5C, which had a different form factor, but year-old specs upon release. The 5C didn’t work out as Apple had hoped, but it seems that they learned from that experience and used that to make the SE the success that it is.
Overall, Apple and Samsung absolutely dominate the ACSI survey, with 21 out of 23 spots going to the pair. Motorola and LG were the only others to place, and they come in at 21 and 22, respectively. Ouch.
Apple Has a New Ad Campaign Targeted at Android Users
Apple execs always make a big deal about getting Android users to switch to the iPhone and iOS. Now Apple has a new online ad campaign focused on telling potential switchers how “Life is Easier on the iPhone.” As an Apple fan and longtime iOS user, I certainly won’t disagree. While such ads won’t have any impact on hardcore Google and Android fans, It could influence passive users, who buy phones based on price or whatever is being pushed by their carrier. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these ads make their way over to television and streaming services as we get closer to the release of new iPhones to more easily reach these potential buyers.
Apple Develops App Development Curriculum Geared Toward High School and Community College Students
Apple released a new app development curriculum covering the Swift programming language this week. The class materials are available for free in Apple’s iBooks, and cover an entire year of directed coursework. The class covers learning to code in Swift and design fully-functional apps and is meant to be a comprehensive start into the world of iOS app development.
Rather than just releasing this out into the world, Apple is actually working with six community college systems, including both California and Alabama, to offer this class to their students. According to Apple, there will be mentoring and internships available for students as some campuses. The course will also be offered by some select high schools, as well.
Apple Watch is Tops at Measuring Heart Rate, Calorie Counting….Not So Much
A study from Stanford University looked at the accuracy of several health and activity trackers in tracking heart rate and calorie counting. The study included the Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, PulseOn, and Samsung Gear S2. The Apple Watch came out on top in measuring heart rate and energy expenditure. However, none of the devices had better than a 20% error rate in tracking calories, which demonstrates how difficult it is for a device to take all factors such as age, sex, size, and individual metabolism into account. The Apple Watch scored in the middle of the pack with an error rate of 40%. I have been using my Watch to track daily activity and work toward losing some weight, so this came as a wake-up call to take those calorie readings with a grain of salt.
Apple Hires Lauren Kern away from New York Magazine to be Editor-In-Chief of Apple News
Apple News got off to a rocky start when Apple first rolled it out, but they have shown the same kind of commitment to it that we saw as they made Apple Maps usable, and worked through first-year growing pains with Apple Music and watchOS 1 and 2. They have opened the platform up to anyone who wants to use it (per Apple approval), and have streamlined and improved the look and feel of the app to make the experience much better.
Now we see even more evidence that Apple is very serious about making Apple News stronger. Just read the comments of her former employer in his announcement of her departure to take this job. It is clear that Ms Kern was highly respected in her time at New York Magazine, and will bring increased credibility and more focus to Apple News as Editor-In-Chief.
Readdle Releases Split Screen Drag-and-Drop Functionality For its Apps on the iPad Pro
Here is an example of a savvy app developer showing the way, not only for other devs, but for Apple, as well. Now, you can drag and drop content from one Readdle app to another using multi-tasking on the iPad Pro. This is one of those features that power users have been asking Apple for across iOS, and would go a log way toward adding the level of flexibility to the device to make it more of a computer replacement, rather than just a great tablet. Readdle’s own Vice President of Marketing, Denys Zhadanov, is on record saying that he would love to see Apple get inspired by their creation and build split screen drag and drop into iOS. Here’s hoping.
iPhone 8 Screen May Be a Big Improvement Over the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
A Digitimes report claims that the iPhone 8’s screen will be on par with Android competitors from Samsung and LG. It will supposedly have a pixel density of 521 per inch, and an aspect ratio greater than the iPhone’s current 16:9. The LG G6 is 18:9 and the Samsung Galaxy S8 is 18.5:9, so it is likely that the iPhone screen will match one or the other. For comparison, the iPhone 7’s LCD display has a 326 ppi density, with the 7 Plus at 401 ppi. This increased screen resolution could be key as Apple looks to get into the worlds of virtual and augmented reality.
Did TSMC Spill the Beans On Apple’s Success with Screen Embedded Fingerprint Technology?
There has been constant back and forth on whether Apple will or won’t be able to get their fingerprint recognition technology to work effectively embedded in the screen. It’s no secret at this point that they want to get rid of the Home Button in favor of a top-to-bottom, edge-to-edge screen that serves all functions. When Samsung tried and failed to get embedded fingerprint technology to work reliably, they moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the S8. There have been several leaked supposed prototypes of the iPhone 8 that have showed variations of the same. However, conflicting prototype designs are to be expected, as Apple always tests several potential designs before settling on a final version much closer to release.
Employees of TSMC, one of Apple’s chip fabricators, evidently revealed that Apple has gotten their embedded fingerprint technology perfected to the point that it will be included in the iPhone 8. This occurred at TSMC’s 2017 NA Technology Symposium in Taipei. If true, it will be a feature that should help to differentiate the iPhone 8 from the competition, if only until the next Samsung device is released.
Apple is Testing a New Neural Engine Processor dedicated to On-Device AI Processing
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported this week that Apple is working on a new dedicated chip to power on-device AI processing. This falls in line with others in the industry, as Google just announced their new “Tensor Processing Unit” AI processor and Qualcomm included an AI module on their most recent Snapdragon processor. Much like with their M Series Motion Coprocessors, which offload motion and health tracking from the main processor to a lower power device, Apple developing a separate chip for on-device AI will enable both faster and more efficient processing for AI tasks in the future.
There has been a lot said about how behind Apple is in AI and machine learning technology, but if this report is true, it shows that Apple is getting more serious about strengthening Siri and their other offerings. Considering what they have accomplished in creating their own optimized and OS-integrated mobile chip designs, Apple is in position to do something special with such an AI processor. What we don’t know is if this chip is headed for inclusion in the iPhone 8, or a later device. Based on the tone of this rumor, this is probably coming a year or two down the road.
Will the Real iPhone 8 Please Stand Up?
If you missed it earlier this week, Brett Williams from Mashable posted a GREAT article calling out all of the crazy leaks and rumors, and taking a very level-headed approach to them. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a look.
iPhone 9 Rumors????
Seriously? I’m not even dignifying these with a response. Apple phone rumors are completely out of control this year.