Here’s how the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual cameras could work

Apple’s 2016 iPhone launch event may be just days away, but that isn’t stemming the tide of leaks and rumors. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (who is frequently, though not always, on the mark with Apple launches) has published a last-minute report claiming very detailed knowledge of Apple’s handset plans, including a few tidbits that have remained unclear. He now says he understands how the larger 5.5-inch model’s (for sake of reference, the iPhone 7 Plus) long-reported dual rear cameras would work. The two 12-megapixel sensors would reportedly be used for both zoom and “light field camera applications” — typically, that means after-shot refocusing. This would be at least somewhat similar to the dual-camera setup on the Huawei P9, where you can play with focal points and simulate different apertures. Huawei doesn’t offer an enhanced zoom, though.

On top of that, Apple would purportedly include higher-quality lenses (with more elements) and extra LED flashes to produce more natural color in low-light photos.

If the report is accurate, you also wouldn’t have to worry quite so much about Apple ditching the headphone jack. Much like Motorola, Apple is supposedly bundling a headphone adapter (in this case, Lightning to 3.5mm) in every iPhone 7 and 7 Plus box on top of native Lightning earbuds. It still wouldn’t be as elegant as a native 3.5mm port (you’d likely have to go wireless to listen to music while you charge), but you wouldn’t have to buy a dongle to keep using your pricey wired headphones.

There’s more. Kuo also hears that the A10 chip powering the new iPhones will run at a much higher 2.4GHz clock speed (the A9 in the iPhone 6s and SE tops out at 1.85GHz). And if you’re the sort who has to get a new color to prove that you have the latest iPhone, it might be your lucky day. The analyst elaborates on a previous rumor by claiming that Apple will replace its seemingly ubiquitous space gray color with “dark black,” and there would even be a glossy “piano black” if you’re feeling ostentatious. Oh, and the purported second speaker grille? That would hold a new sensor to improve Force Touch, though it’s not certain how that would work.

To top it all off, the report also supports a few existing stories. The new iPhones would indeed be water-resistant, surviving depths of 3.3 feet for 30 minutes. And Apple would not only double the base storage, but the mid-tier’s storage as well. You’d be shopping between 32GB, 128GB and 256GB models, much like you do with the iPad Pro. The display resolution won’t be going up, Kuo says (boo!), but you would get the smaller iPad Pro’s wider color range. All told, Apple would be counting on a ton of iterative improvements to get you to upgrade. Even if this isn’t the big redesign you’d hope for, it’d be more than just a modest tune-up.

Source: 9to5Mac

Engadget RSS Feed

What we expect from Apple’s big iPhone event

Apple is holding a big press event next week, and it’s a pretty safe assumption at this point that we’re getting a new iPhone. We’re not expecting a radical reimagining of the device, but there might be a few surprises here (like no headphone jack!) to keep people on their toes. Will we see a new Apple Watch? Maybe. New MacBook Pros? Probably not. A play to repay $ 14.5 billion in back taxes? Keep dreaming. Watch the video above for all the latest on the Apple rumor mill.

Engadget RSS Feed

What to expect from Apple’s ‘See You’ iPhone event

It’s that time of year again. It’s the end of summer, and Apple is once again on the cusp of introducing a new iPhone. Only this year, there’s a different buzz. There’s been talk of Cupertino playing it relatively safe with a new smartphone for the second year in a row or even taking away the time-honored headphone jack. What’s the deal with that? And of course, this is likely just the tip of the iceberg. The Apple Watch is getting long in the tooth, new versions of iOS and macOS are nearly ready… and as many will tell you, large swaths of Apple’s iPad and Mac lineups are gathering dust. But just what are you going to see when Tim Cook and company take the stage? We’ve rounded up some of the more plausible leaks, rumors and educated guesses to help set expectations for Apple’s September 7th media extravaganza.

The next iPhone: Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away

Rendering of the rumored “iPhone 7 Plus” by Martin Hajek.

Historically, Apple has introduced a major redesign of the iPhone every two years, with a milder “S” update in between. However, this year is something special: The Wall Street Journal and other sources expect the next iPhones (unofficially known as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus) to play it safe. While there will reportedly be more substantial outward changes than you saw in the iPhone 6s, the Cupertino crew isn’t poised to reinvent the wheel either. It would largely share the same aesthetic that you’ve seen since 2014’s iPhone 6, complete with that curved but mostly featureless aluminum frame. The cleaner antenna lines and possible new colors (rumors have swirled of dark black and blue options) may be the only conspicuous ways to show that you have a new phone.

That’s not to say that the changes would be purely cosmetic — far from it. The standard-size iPhone is expected to get a larger camera that will offer improved light sensitivity while the larger Plus variant may tout dual cameras that offer better focusing and low-light photography, much like what you find on the Huawei P9. There’s also talk of a Force Touch-style home button, a speedier A10 chip, an increased 32GB of baseline storage (with a 256GB option) and even possible dual-SIM support for countries like China and India. One rumor has claims we’ll see higher-resolution displays, but the jury’s still out on that report.

There’s one big thing you probably won’t get this year, though: a headphone jack. As with the Moto Z and LeEco’s latest phones, you’ll have to either plug into the data port (in this case, the Lightning port) or go wireless to listen to your tunes. This doesn’t mean that your favorite wired headphones will instantly become obsolete, mind you. Some leaks have suggested that Apple may offer a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter to accommodate the legions of headphones on the market today. There’s no guarantee that this connector will come in the box, but you’ll probably have some kind of fallback if you’re not quite ready to embrace Bluetooth.

There’s one last, looming question about this iPhone: When will it arrive? An AT&T retail leak hints that the carrier may be bracing itself for an in-store launch on September 23rd, but that’s an unusually long wait for Apple. It typically prefers a release on the second Friday following the event, which would be the 16th. Well-known leaker Evan Blass has heard that the retail launch is slated for the 16th, so it seems like the more probable date.

The first Apple Watch refresh

Unless you count new bands and case colors as hardware upgrades, the Apple Watch has gone untouched since it arrived almost a year and a half ago, in April 2015. That makes it ripe for an upgrade… and many suspect that it’ll get its first big revision at the September event. From a logical standpoint, that makes sense. WatchOS 3 has been in testing all through the summer, existing supplies are running low, and Apple likes to showcase major platform revisions with new hardware. Besides, rumors originally had the new wristwear showing up in March. If it wasn’t quite ready then, it may well be ready now.

So what will you get if it does show up? Much like the iPhone 3G, this second model may be more about addressing the first model’s glaring issues than a complete revolution. Early rumors of a camera have died, and cellular data isn’t expected to make the cut due to battery-life concerns. Instead, the big deal may be GPS: You could get accurate navigation and run tracking without relying on your iPhone.

After that, it may be a matter of refinements. KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is often on the ball about Apple plans, believes that the next Apple Watch will have a barometer for altitude tracking, stronger water resistance, a larger-capacity battery and a faster processor. That last part is particularly important. While WatchOS 3 will speed up many tasks all by itself, a CPU upgrade could further reduce those annoying wait times that plague the Apple Watch today.

The real mystery is when you’ll see the second-generation smartwatch. There haven’t been any credible leaks, and there’s no extensive history to rely on. The six-week gap between the March 2015 Apple Watch introduction and launch day isn’t typical for the company. If the hardware is ready to go, though, we could imagine it arriving side-by-side with new iPhones in mid-September.

Software upgrade release dates: iOS 10 and more

iOS 10 on an iPhone 6s

Software usually plays as big a role in Apple’s September events, and this year is likely no exception. Given that Apple always ties new iPhone hardware to new iOS releases, we’d expect to see a date for the iOS 10 upgrade at the event. The firm tends to ship those updates at least days before the new iPhones arrive.

As for other software? That’s harder to determine. WatchOS 3 seems like a shoo-in for a release date announcement (it’s been in developer testing as long as iOS), especially if there’s a new Apple Watch unveiled at the same time. A tvOS software update is less certain when there’s no word of a matching Apple TV hardware upgrade, although it could happen when Apple TV software updates have sometimes arrived alongside new versions of iOS. And a macOS Sierra launch? Well, that’s up in the air. Although Apple delivered El Capitan in late September last year, there’s no certainty that Sierra will be ready in a similar timeframe. It may have to wait until there’s new Mac hardware. On that note…

Wild cards: new Macs and iPads

Martin Hajek's concept for a MacBook Pro with OLED strip

Conceptual rendering of a MacBook Pro with an OLED touch strip.

If you ask devotees about what Apple needs to upgrade next, many of them will shout “Macs.” It’s for good reason, too. Outside of the 12-inch MacBook and iMac, the majority of the Mac lineup hasn’t been updated in more than a year. Some of this is due to Intel’s slowing refresh cycle and diminishing performance returns, but it’s still true that Apple’s computer line could stand an overhaul.

But will it get that overhaul in September? It doesn’t seem likely. A recent Bloomberg leak claims that a MacBook Pro with a fingerprint reader, an OLED control strip and USB-C is in the works for the fall but won’t show up on September 7th. And mum’s the word on other Mac revamps. Apple did recently stop selling the Thunderbolt Display and is rumored to be building a stand-alone 5K screen that would go well with new Macs, but the mill has been silent on its fate in recent weeks.

You might see new iPads. The iPad Air 2 is nearly two years old, and AppleInsider tipsters have hinted that at least the 12.9-inch iPad Pro may get an upgrade. Like the Mac, though, there’s nothing strongly suggesting that replacements for either will show up in September. Any updates might end up waiting until a separate October event, if not next year. Just keep an open mind — few would have expected the iPad Pro to be introduced alongside the new iPhone last year, and Apple may be content to introduce modestly improved tablets in September rather than save them for later.

Images: Martin Hajek (iPhone render); Reuters / Andrew Kelly (Apple Watch); Martin Hajek (MacBook Pro)

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple patenting a way to collect iPhone thieves’ fingerprints

Apple’s done a lot to curb iPhone theft via the “Find my iPhone” feature and encryption that locks out users if an incorrect code or fingerprint is used too often. However, it’s thinking about getting more proactive, judging by a recent patent application. It claims a method of “capturing biometric information for identifying unauthorized users,” including fingerprints, video or audio. The information could be stored or send to a server, where police could presumably use it to figure out who nabbed your device.

The system is pretty simple. The Touch ID sensor, front camera and microphone are already there, they simply need to be switched on without alerting the bad guy. In one scheme, the system could capture biometric data after a single failed passcode attempt; in another, it would only store it after a pre-determined number of failed attempts. On top of storing video, audio and fingerprint data, it could save and transmit “forensic” info like a GPS location. (The patent doesn’t specifically mention the iPhone or iPad, but those are Apple’s only devices with fingerprint sensors.)

Such a feature might be on shaky legal ground, however. Apple, maybe more than any company, understands the downsides of storing data without notifying users. And while it’s fun to speculate about patents, the tech rarely makes it into actual products, and this one has yet to be approved by the USPTO. Still, Apple can already track thieves, and such a scheme would let you nab them without having to traipse around the world.

Via: Apple Insider

Source: USPTO

Engadget RSS Feed

Microsoft Office iPhone users can doodle with their fingers

If you want to sketch or perhaps add your signature to a Word, Excel or PowerPoint document on iOS, the only option has been to use the iPad Pro’s Pencil. Now, with the latest version of Office for the iPhone, you can draw directly on a document with no need for the stylus. Once you launch the app, you can “use your finger to write, draw and highlight with the tools in the new Draw tab,” Microsoft says.

Tools include a pen with adjustable line thicknesses and color, a highlighter and an eraser, and you can draw directly on cells, documents or slides. The new tools should come in particularly handy in conjunction with Office’s new collaboration tools, letting users easily mark up and share changes. The updated apps are now available on the App Store.

Via: The Verge

Source: Microsoft (iTunes)

Engadget RSS Feed

Bloomberg: iPhone 7 gets new home button, drops headphone port

Another report has suggested that Apple is taking a different tack with this year’s iPhone. Bloomberg reporter and renowned Apple scooper Mark Gurman has published a story claiming that the new handset will have a design “similar to the 6 and 6s.” We’ve heard this before — it suggests that Apple is holding back on a big aesthetic change until next year, when the iPhone celebrates its 10th birthday. Gurman is also reporting that the next iPhone will ditch the headphone jack — again, something that’s been rumored for some time — switching instead to “connectivity via Bluetooth and the charging port.” (Get ready for lots of Lightning headphones.)

The iPhone is known for its sublime photo-taking capabilities, however recently Android manufacturers — particularly Samsung — have managed to close the gap, if not create leads of their own. Apple is reportedly working on a dual-camera setup for this year’s model which will produce “brighter photos with more detail” by merging separate images shot with each sensor. The configuration will also help to sharpen photos captured in dark conditions, as well as retain image quality as the user zooms in.

Finally, Bloomberg is reporting that the new iPhone will have an updated home button similar to the MacBook’s Force Touch trackpad. Instead of a physical click, the new button will trigger a series of vibrations under the surface. The reasons for this are a little unclear — it could provide new functionality, or simply serve to save some space under the hood.

We’ve heard these rumors before, but Gurman’s story gives them greater weight. If they prove accurate, this year’s iPhone launch will be quite unusual. We’re used to a “tick-tock” release cycle — a numbered iPhone, followed by an iterative “s” model — which would make this year the iPhone 7. A largely unchanged design, similar to an “s” phone, would buck this trend, raising expectations for a more dramatic handset in 2017.

Source: Bloomberg

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple has finally sold its billionth iPhone

Apple has managed to pull in some extremely impressive numbers when it comes to its flagship mobile phone. While iPhone sales overall had begun to decline over the last quarter, that didn’t stop the company from selling its one billionth iPhone last week.

Apple’s CEO announced the milestone today during a special employee meeting in Cupertino this morning. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, thanked employees for “helping change the world every day,” noting that Apple has “always set out to make the best products that make a difference.”

The billionth iPhone was sold about two years after Apple sold its 500 millionth iPhone. That’s a lot of units, and with the impending launch of additional phones to its line, it’s likely to sell a whole lot more in the future.

Via: TechCrunch

Engadget RSS Feed

Microsoft’s new camera app brings AI to your iPhone

Microsoft sure loves it when research projects beget actual products, and it just released another for the masses to play with. Pix is a replacement camera app (what?) available for iPhones and iPads (what?), and in short, it promises better photos of the people around you without any extra work on your part. It’ll run on just about every iOS device from the iPhone 5S on, and an Android version is in the works too. (Microsoft didn’t have a firm answer when I asked if these features would make their way into the Windows 10 Mobile camera.) And you know what? In some ways, I wish this was the camera app that Apple built in the first place.

First, the basics. The most important thing you need to know about Pix is that it’s been tuned to make your pictures of people look better.

“There are things the Apple camera does that we don’t do and might not ever do,” said Josh Weisberg, GM of computational photography at Microsoft. “The goal was around people photos — can we make better people photos than the stock camera? And we succeeded.”

From the moment you start Pix, it’s capturing what your camera is pointed at -– you can never tell when something’s about to happen, after all. Once you press the shutter button, Pix snaps 10 frames, and Weisberg says that’s where the magic really kicks in. Algorithms evaluate those ten frames for obvious things like sharpness or exposure, but also underlying characteristics like whether a person in the shot seems happy or sad. When that near-instantaneous process is done, you’ll be given up to three “Best Images.” The image data from the leftover photos is used to enhance those winners before being deleted. All of this happens on the fly and without any extra fiddling, so you don’t need to be a photo buff to snap some great shots.

If the app detects a bunch of similar pictures, it’ll stitch them into a Live Image, but only when it thinks what’s going on in the photos is interesting. Oh, and the Hyperlapse feature that Microsoft has been working on for years is here too. This time, though, you can turn existing photos into time-lapses, or just use it to stabilize video you just shot.

Using Pix is very much a learning process, and I don’t just mean for you, the user. According to Weisberg, the app sends anonymized bits of “telemetry” — settings data and what Best Images people fave’d or deleted — back to the mothership, where human judges will examine them and adjust the image processing algorithms accordingly. Basically, the more you use Pix, the more insight it gains into what makes a photo good. All told, Weinberg was right: The app really is helpful for improving your photos of people. Usually, anyway.

In no time at all, I was snapping photos using Pix that came out punchier and with a greater emphasis on the people in the shot. When the testing period inevitably overlapped with post-work drinks at a local dive, Pix shined even brighter. I mean that literally too. Smartphone camera sensors often flounder in dim, dank conditions, leaving software to do the heavy lifting required to make a passable photo. Microsoft’s photo processing was both super-fast and mostly great at brightening up pictures of my colleagues and removing grain without making things look unnatural. I was utterly impressed… until I wasn’t.

Left: Microsoft Pix; Right: Apple’s camera app.

My biggest issue with Pix in its current form is that it’s inconsistent. Sometimes my shots were clear improvements over what Apple’s camera app was capable of. Other times, though, Apple’s softwaer had a clear edge. Take landscape photos, for instance: Even before Microsoft’s instantaneous image processing did its thing, the app had trouble exposing shots with bright backgrounds. Pix’s outdoor shots tended to be a little blown out, while Apple’s camera software was generally better at balancing exposure levels.

And for all the work that went into teaching Pix to enhance photos of people, it still struggles at times. A “Best Image” it suggested of a colleague in the dimly lit dive mentioned earlier was noticeably less crisp than the image the camera actually captured. In the app’s zeal to brighten up her face, it smoothed out her features a little too much. Long story short, the version of Pix I played with was still fairly hit or miss.

Left: Microsoft Pix; Right: Apple’s camera app.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. In fact, I’d strongly recommend giving this a download, even if you’re not the sort of person who already juggles multiple camera apps. The benefits of better image processing can be seen from the get-go, but the weightier, far more fascinating goal is to see how much Microsoft’s system can learn about good photographs. In a way, it’s almost as though we’re collectively training it to better understand art. The very nature of Microsoft’s algorithmic processing means these early issues will probably get ironed out over time, and I’m fascinated to see how long it takes before Pix becomes great in every situation.

Engadget RSS Feed

Edward Snowden designed an iPhone case to prevent wireless snooping

Edward Snowden is still trying to combat smartphone radio surveillance three years after spilling the NSA’s secrets. With help from hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, Snowden presented on Thursday designs at the MIT Media Lab for a case-like add-on device that monitors electrical signals sent to an iPhone’s internal antennas.

It looks like an external battery case with a small mono-color screen and is being described as an “introspection engine.” The device’s tiny probe wires have to attach to test points on the iPhone’s circuit board, which are accessible through the SIM card slot. The phone has two antennas that give off electrical signals and they’re used by its radios, including GPS and Bluetooth.

The probe wires read the radio’s electric signals, and by doing so the modified phone warns you when these signals transmit information when they’re meant to be off. You’ll instantly receive alert messages or even an audible alarm, and the phone can even shut off automatically. The intention here is to allow reporters to carry their phones into hostile foreign countries without revealing their locations to government-funded adversaries. They’ll still be able to record video and audio while their iPhone’s radio signals are disabled.

However, the device is still nothing more than a design for now. Snowden and Huang are hoping to build a prototype over the next year, and eventually start offering these modified iPhones to journalists.

Via: Wired

Engadget RSS Feed