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Apple Loop: New iPhone Leaks, iPad Air’s Future, MacOS Faces Awkward Future

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Taking a look back at another week of news and headlines from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes new iPhone 12 design leaks, folding the iPhone camera, your mostly dead MacBook and MacOS’ future, fun with Apple charts, new iPad Air pricing, the success of the iPhone SE, Apple’s carbon-free aluminium, and recreating the Big Sur wallpaper…

Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days (and you can read my weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).

New iPhone 12 Design Leaks

Tucked away in the latest beta of iOS 14’s accessibility tools is the latest leak around the iPhone 12 family. It’s not an obvious leak in the same way as having a graphic of the phone show up, but it’s a leak nonetheless, because of how the code is implemented.

“Thanks to some superb detective work by 9to5Mac, Apple’s plan to release its smallest ever, bezel-less iPhone has just been uncovered in its new iOS 14 beta release. And it is the evolution of a six year old software feature in iOS 14 which gives the game away.

“The culprit is ‘Display Zoom’, an accessibility tool which allows users to enlarge the user interface to make text, icons and buttons easier to see. How Apple achieves this is actually a hack: each iPhone simply displays the interface of the next smallest model with the same aspect ratio.”

Which, in its own way, confirms the smaller 5.4 inch iPhone 12. More here on Forbes.

Apple Unveils iPhone 11 And iPhone 11 Pro At Its Cupertino Headquarters
CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 10: Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during an … [+] VCG VIA GETTY IMAGES

New iPhone 12 Design Leaks (cont.)

July 27 update: Over the weekend a closer look at the iPhone 12 screens was posted on Weibo. The pictures, presumably from the manufacturing lines, show the pre-packed screens ahead of the iPhone assembly process. The assumption is that these screens are the 5.4 inch variety. Tim Hardwick reports:

“At first blush, the panels seem to have the same notch size as the iPhone 11, but an improved screen to bezel ratio, although it’s possible this could just be down to their pre-assembly appearance.

“That said, despite the hand in the image, it’s not immediately obvious from the photos which size of ‌iPhone 12‌ that the panels are supposed to be destined for. Weibo blogger Digital Chat Station claims they are for the 5.4-inch model, which could suggest we’re looking at a smaller notch than the one on the 5.8-inch ‌iPhone 11‌.”

Although the broad specs of the screen have been leaked and discussed, there’s still some question over the position and size of the notch on the flat-screened iPhone 12 models. The question now is which data point is represented by the leaked images.

Folding The iPhone Camera

Apple’s designers are naturally looking further down the line than this September’s iPhone 12. And naturally the camera is going to be used to show Apple’s technological prowess. The latest report from noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo highlights the potential use of a ‘periscope’ zoom lens in 2021’s iPhone:

“Periscope cameras (sometimes called folded optics) are already in a number of high-end smartphones, such as Huawei’s P30 Pro launched last year. Through the use of mirrors, the path of the incoming light can be bent, allowing the periscope lens to be both longer and orientated in a different direction – the obvious benefit here is to have the sensor beside the lens, rather than directly behind the lens.

“… a longer lens will demand more internal space, if you are looking for larger levels of optical zoom something else is going to need to be sacrificed, such as battery volume.”

More here on Forbes.

The Lifespan Of An Intel MacBook

With the transition of the MacOS platform to Apple’s own chips using the ARM architecture, what happens to the massive user-base of Intel powered machines. The switch to ARM will not be instantaneous, so your hardware is not dead. Even with Apple’s best intentions, the Intel MacBook is just mostly dead:

“MacOS on ARM has not appeared out of nowhere. Apple’s engineering team will have been working internally on this for many years, and some of the key third-party software will have been working with the the new architecture. The lack of ‘new’ features in MacOS over the last few years has left the MacBook range especially looking like Apple’s secondary team behind the iPhone and iPad families.

“…But ARM is the future of the Mac platform. Apple will not want to top the ball on this one, in fact it will want not only to push the development heavily, it will want to be seen publicly to be pushing the development.”

July 25 update: Lurking inside the latest MacOS beta is another illustration of where the Mac platform is heading, and how the Intel machines will be left behind. Biometric security is available on some Mac machines with the inclusion of Touch ID on a number of MacBook Pro machines. The latest beta of MacOS has code for the inclusion of FaceID, Apple’s 3D facial recognition system. Fossbytes’ Anmol Sachdeva reports:

“When Apple introduced FaceID biometric authentication technology in iPhone X, a code snippet with the project’s internal name as “PearlCamera” was found in the iOS update and now developers have found references to “PearlCamera” in macOS Big Sur Developer Beta 3…

“However, the project is in its early stage of implementation and Apple might take some time before adding FaceID in MacBooks.”

Thanks to the use of the True Depth camera to capture the face, this is not going to be available on any of the current Intel machines. Given the two-year window to move to ARM, there’s every chance that FaceID on MacOS will only be available on ARM machines. 

An Apple Chart With A Message

What does Apple’s shiny chart from WWDC mean? It’s quietly contrasting Intel and AMD chips with Apple’s upcoming chips for the Mac platform, but is there a unique message in here? Jason Snell has some “Fun With Charts”:

“On one level, it’s a meaningless bit of marketing fluff. There are no labels. The vast breadth of notebooks and desktop PCs is represented by two perfect rounded rectangles. “Macs with Apple Silicon” are represented by a fuzzy gradient of squares. What does it mean?

“It’s a question that won’t be answered until after the Betas of Summer have gone. It’ll be a while before we get a clear picture of what the first Macs of this new era will look like. We don’t have a lot to go on… but there is this chart.”

More at Six Colors.

Macs With Apple Silicon (Apple WWDC / via SixColors)
Macs With Apple Silicon (Apple WWDC / via SixColors) APPLE WWDC

Your Next iPad Will Be Cheaper

More news from the supply chain, this time on the upcoming refresh to the iPad Air lineup. It’s the welcome combination of more power for less dollars. Alex Alderson reports:

“The next iPad Air may not only have a larger display and a more powerful chipset than the current model, but it may be cheaper too. The iPad Air 2020 is believed to feature a 10.8-inch or 11-inch display and an A13 Bionic SoC, which would both be improvements over the 10.5-inch display an A12 Bionic in the current model.” 

More at NotebookCheck.

The Success Of The iPhone SE

Apple, like many manufacturers, is facing lower sales due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. With sales down 23 percent according to Coutnerpoint Research, the new iPhone SE is standing out. Launched in April, the mid-range iOS smartphone is performing ahead of expectations. Juli Clover reports:

“Priced starting at $399, the ‌iPhone SE‌ has been selling well in both postpaid and prepaid channels. More than 30 percent of ‌iPhone SE‌ buyers were upgrading from an ‌iPhone‌ 6s or older, and more than 26 percent of ‌iPhone SE‌ users came from an Android device, which Counterpoint says is a higher than normal Android to iOS switch rate.”

More at MacRumors.

Apple’s Environmental Progress

With a commitment to making the whole company carbon-netural by 2030, Apple continues to use its scale to promote environmental issues and its own impact. Alex Hern reports:

“The majority of the progress, Apple says in its 2020 environmental progress report, will be made by cutting its carbon emissions directly. But the last 25% will come from “carbon removal solutions” such as forest planting and mangrove swamp restoration.

“The company is investing some of a recently announced $100m (£78.5m) fund for a racial equity and justice initiative on minority-owned businesses that can help clean up its supply chain. “Systemic racism and climate change are not separate issues and they will not abide separate solutions,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s environmental lead.”

More at The Guardian. As part of the commitment, Apple confirmed that it will start using low-carbon aluminum as an intermediate step towards a carbon-red smelting process. The first consumer hardware to benefit from this will be the 16-inch MacBook Pro:

“For the moment, this MacBook Pro will be unique, but it will be joined in time by the rest of the MacBook range, then the Mac family, before the new aluminium will be found in every Apple product. It’s not an immediate switch over and it may not have a cut-of date of ‘before and after’, so there’s no way or a consumer to specify that it wants the newer materials. Instead they need to be content with the knowledge of Apple’s march forward.”

More on that, here on Forbes.

And Finally…

With the move to MacOS 11 Big Sur, Apple has a new default wallpaper. How easy would it be for Andrew Levitt and his friends to capture the same image in under seven days. One thing is or sure, it’s clear that Craig Federighi is camping out in Levitt’s head.

Apple Loop brings you seven days worth of highlights every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future. Last week’s Apple Loop can be read here, or this week’s edition of Loop’s sister column, Android Circuit, is also available on Forbes.

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The Future

The sequel to Sony’s PlayStation Phone apparently leaks, eight years too late

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Cast your mind back, if you can, to the tender world of gadgets circa 2011. Apple had just launched Siri on the iPhone, Google was making its biggest push into social networking with Google Plus, and Sony had decided it was time to release a true gaming smartphone: the much-anticipated “PlayStation Phone,” officially dubbed the Xperia Play.

It was not, by any means, a great success. A 2011 Engadget review praised the phone’s sliding mechanism and gamepad but bemoaned its dim screen and lack of playable titles. The device had its fans, though, many of whom were excited in 2012 by whispers of an Xperia Play 2. This promised sequel never emerged, but eight years after the PlayStation Phone 2 was first rumored, images purportedly showing the device have appeared online.

Pictures of the phone were shared on the Xperia subreddit by a user who found a listing for the device on Idle Fish, a Chinese secondhand goods store operated by Alibaba. The seller says the phone is only a prototype and there’s no way to verify its authenticity. The seller’s shop, though, suggests they have some sources in the world of obsolete tech, with other listings including a PS3 devkit and classic keyboards like the venerated IBM Model F.

The device has left and right shoulder buttons, as well as the usual D-pad and PlayStation buttons. 
Image: via Idle Fish
Yes it turns on! But it’s not clear if it can do more than that. 
Image: via Idle Fish
The rear of the device shows Sony’s old Xperia branding.
 Image: via Idle Fish

The phone certainly looks the part. It’s got the same slide-out mechanism as the original Xperia Play and the PSP Go, a D-pad, a set of standard PlayStation buttons, left and right shoulder buttons, and Xperia branding on the rear. There’s also a mysterious “3D” button, which was perhaps for features similar to the stereoscopic display on Nintendo’s 3DS.

Notably, the front of the phone has capacitive buttons instead of hardware buttons. That’s consistent with changes to the design of Xperia phones from 2012 onward, and it matches a leaked render of the Xperia Play 2 that did the rounds on gadget blogs back in 2012. In other words: this may well be the real deal, but we have no way of knowing for sure.

It’s certainly interesting to think, though, what might have happened if the Xperia Play had found a market. Would gaming smartphones have become mainstream instead of a niche, if persistent, product category? Despite its limitations, the Xperia Play reportedly handled PlayStation games extremely smoothly (check out this video review of the device from 2019 for an in-depth look) and who wouldn’t want to have the PS1’s back catalog in their pocket?

But Sony apparently thought the hybrid approach just wasn’t worth it. Indeed, in 2011, it also released the PS Vita: the successor to the PSP which handily took care of any Sony fans looking for a reliable and portable gaming experience.

And in 2020, it’s hard to imagine a dedicated gaming phone ever making a comeback. Why bother when you can simply stream most console games to your smartphone of choice? If the Xperia Play 2 has finally surfaced, it’s only as a shipwreck of a long-forgotten age.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/23/21452167/sony-xperia-play-2-playstation-phone-prototype-concept-leaked-images

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The Future

First Apple product with miniLED backlighting will be iPad Pro in Q4 – Kuo

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Following Monday’s miniLED report, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has a follow-up report out today stating that the first Apple product to use the technology will be a new iPad Pro in Q4 of this year.

Today’s report doesn’t get any more specific than that, but Kuo has previously predicted that the first model to get the improved backlighting system would be the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Kuo at the time thought this would be launched in Q1 2021, but better-than-expected progress has accelerated that timescale …

Background

It had been expected that Apple would gradually transition iPads and MacBooks to OLED screens. Apple first debuted OLED in the Apple Watch before adopting it for flagship iPhones. All four of this year’s iPhone 12 models are expected to have OLED screens.

However, Kuo said a year ago that Apple now appeared to be favoring continuing to use IPS-LCD screens for its larger products, but with miniLED backlighting to improve the quality. By using very many more smaller LEDs for backlighting, it provides greater control over small sections of the screen. This offers many of the same benefits as OLED: higher contrast ratio, increased brightness, deeper blacks, and better power efficiency.

But an LCD screen with miniLED backlighting is actually better than OLED in a couple of respects: it’s less prone to burn-in and has a longer life.

MiniLED technology is expensive, but Monday’s report said that Apple was bringing on board a second supplier, and using competition between them to drive down costs. Kuo thus expected miniLED screens to make it into 30-40% of iPads and 20-30% of MacBooks at some point next year.

MiniLED iPad Pro in Q4

Today’s report says that the first miniLED display will likely be in an iPad Pro. In the context of the earlier report, the smart money would be on a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro in Q4, with the 11-inch one lagging somewhat behind. Apple may also see a staggered launch as a way of boosting sales of the more expensive larger model.

Kuo also expands on his earlier prediction of Apple negotiating lower prices. He now expects Apple’s miniLED chip costs to fall by 50% in 2021 and a further 35% in 2022. He says that miniLED has already progressed from the ‘technology development’ stage to ‘economy of scale.’

The analyst says the results of price competition have already been seen in the miniLED television market, with costs falling dramatically as a result. Kuo expects a combination of lower production costs, economies of scale and Chinese government subsidies to continue to drive down the cost to Apple.

Source: https://9to5mac.com/2020/09/23/ipad-pro-in-q4/

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The Future

The first HarmonyOS-powered phone from Huawei to arrive in 2021

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Huawei’s HarmonyOS was unveiled last year during the Huawei Developer Conference and there’s a report claiming that this year’s conference on September 10 will bring the HarmonyOS 2.0. Interestingly, the rumor cites Richard Yu himself, the company’s CEO. And the first phone with the in-house operating system will launch as early as next year.

The first HarmonyOS-powered phone from Huawei to arrive in 2021

A smartphone running the said OS already exists and will likely hit the market next year along with a number of new devices including PCs, tablets, smart wearables and other IoT products. In fact, the first smartwatch running HarmonyOS is expected to make a debut until the end of this year.

Source: https://www.gsmarena.com/the_first_harmonyospowered_phone_from_huawei_to_arrive_in_2021-news-45132.php

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