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Apple Roundup: New Release Rumors, India, Wearables, Diversity

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Fresh rumors about Apple’s (AAPL - Free Report) next iPhone and iPad Pro and HomePod, its Video Streaming Service, a truce with India’s TRAI and a return to leadership in wearables were the top Apple headlines last week.

Talk About Apple’s Next iPhones

Reliable and respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has put out a report saying that Apple will launch three new iPhone models next year. The first two will be upgrades from this year’s flagship iPhone X, one featuring a 5.85-inch OLED full screen and the other, a 6.46-inch version, both with TrueDepth technology for facial recognition.

The third and cheaper version (a mid-range model, most likely an upgrade of this year’s iPhone 8) won’t have the OLED but instead a full screen TFT-LCD. While the 6.1-inch device will also have the TrueDepth camera system, it will have different hardware and design specs. Kuo sees this leading to an iPhone super cycle as Apple assembles between 100 million and 120 million iPhones in the back half of 2018. Loup Ventures' Gene Munster thinks this unlikely because it’s a departure from Apple strategy of the last five years. "We think they will [instead] continue to reduce the price of existing phones to target the emerging markets," he says.

Separately, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the plan that the company is working on a rear-facing 3D sensor system for the iPhone that won’t launch until 2019 at the earliest. It differs from the existing system that measures distortion of a projected pattern of laser light (structured light system) to form an image that can be used to unlock iPhones, make payments, send Animoji, etc.

On the back side, the technology instead measures the time taken for the laser light to bounce off surrounding objects (time-of-flight) with the goal of creating a 3D map of the surroundings. Time-of-flight sensors are currently offered by Infineon, STMicroelectronics, Sony and Panasonic. The implications of AR applications are obvious.

A11X Bionic Chip May Power 2018 iPad Pro

Rumors aren’t just stopping at the iPhone. There was also another one about the iPad from Chinese website MyDrivers, a source with relatively less success at predictions. The website has said that Apple’s A11X Bionic chip will be an octa-core CPU with 3 high-performance and 5 high-efficiency cores as well as an M11 co-processor and NPU.

Moreover, it will be manufactured using TSMC’s new 7nm process instead of the 10nm process used for the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone 8. Best of all, it will be in the next iPad Pro some time in the first half of 2018.

Apple HomePod with Face ID

Media houses on both sides of the Pacific started speculating about the second version of the HomePod with Face ID on the basis of this comment from Apple supplier Inventec’s David Ho: "We see trends that engineers are designing smart speakers that will not only come with voice recognition but also incorporate features such as facial and image recognition…Such AI-related features are set to make people's lives more convenient and to make the product easier to use."

The first version of the HomePod was only announced at the WWDC this June and wont ship until December. While the rumor may appear to be nothing more than premature musings, it isn’t exactly far-fetched because Apple is bringing Face ID to iPads in 2018.

Apple Video Streaming Service

CCS Insight said at its annual year-ahead predictions event in London that Apple would launch a video-on-demand (VoD) subscription service next year to take on market leader Netflix (NFLX - Free Report) , Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) , CBS, Hulu, HBO, and soon, Walt Disney (DIS - Free Report) . While Netflix has a head start, Apple has a loyal customer base. Paolo Pescatore, VP of multiplay and media at CCS, thinks that original content will be the main battleground in the subscription video market where Apple is well positioned to make an impact.  

Apple Will Allow India Authority Access to Limited Data

Apple has been at loggerheads with the Telecom Authority of India (TRAI) over its refusal to allow users to share call logs and grant other permissions required by a crowd-sourced, government-developed app called ‘Do Not Disturb”, or DND. The app enables users to block marketing messages and calls by sending the details to the telecom concerned.

Apple has in the past said that the app violates its privacy policy. TRAI has said that Apple is exercising ownership over user data by not allowing them the choice and working against their interest because the app could remove harassment. Some people have said that businesses have devised workarounds to continue sending people the marketing messages.

But Apple’s refusal stands in stark contrast to Alphabet’s (GOOGL - Free Report) Google, which has left it to users to grant permissions or otherwise, so the DND app has been in the Play Store for roughly a year. Apple on the other hand has been talking all this time but it finally looks like they have partially agreed to the government request.

U.S. ITC May Investigate Apple

Aqua Connect Inc. and Strategic Technology Partners LLC have applied for a temporary exclusion order against Apple. This is an action usually taken in the case of patent infringement claims and if warranted, the ITC can block the import of "certain Apple Mac computers, iPhones, iPads, iPods and Apple TVs." Further details are unknown at this point.

But just the previous week, Tel Aviv-based Corephotonics, which has raised $50 million from several high-profile venture capital firms and other investors, filed a patent infringement case against Apple. The company claimed that Apple had used its patented dual camera technology in its Phone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus without authorization.

According to the filed complaint, "Apple’s lead negotiator expressed contempt for Corephotonics’ patents, telling [CEO] Dr. Mendlovic and others that even if Apple infringed, it would take years and millions of dollars in litigation before Apple might have to pay something." Samsung Ventures, Apple supplier Foxconn and chipmaker MediaTek are investors in Corephotonics through its latest funding round in January. Other investors include Magma VC, Amiti Ventures, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing and Solina Chau’s Horizon Ventures, flash storage maker SanDisk and Chinese telephone services provider CK Telecom.

Apple Watch Leads Wearables Market

A Canalys report for the third quarter states that Apple regained the number one position in the third quarter, after slipping a spot in the second. The company’s 3.9 million unit shipments resulted in its strongest wearables quarter this year.

Fitbit (FIT - Free Report) , on the other hand, continued to suffer from the secular decline in basic bands as consumers continued to shift to smarter varieties. Apple’s own sales were helped by the LTE-enabled Watch 3. The research firm estimates that 800,000 Apple Watch units shipped in Q3 were cellular-enabled. Overall market share was as follows: Apple 23%, Xiaomi 21%, Fitbit 20%, Huawei 6%, Samsung 5% and others 25%.

Apple Diversity Chief Departs

Denise Young Smith who had got on the wrong side of some Apple employees for her comment that There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they're going to be diverse too because they're going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation" is now stepping down. Although she apologized thereafter, saying that her comments "were not representative of how I think about diversity or how Apple sees it," she is being replaced by Christie Smith, a longtime Deloitte human resources executive. Unlike Denise, Christie will report not to Tim Cook  but to HR head Deirdre O'Brien.


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