Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bloomberg: Apple switching Macs from Intel to ARM in 2020 →

Ian King and Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is planning to use its own chips in Mac computers beginning as early as 2020, replacing processors from Intel Corp., according to people familiar with the plans.

The initiative, code named Kalamata, is still in the early developmental stages, but comes as part of a larger strategy to make all of Apple’s devices — including Macs, iPhones, and iPads — work more similarly and seamlessly together, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The project, which executives have approved, will likely result in a multi-step transition.

On the benefits:

By using its own chips, Apple would be able to more tightly integrate new hardware and software, potentially resulting in systems with better battery life — similar to iPads, which use Apple chips.

And:

As part of the larger initiative to make Macs work more like iPhones, Apple is working on a new software platform, internally dubbed Marzipan, for release as early as this year that would allow users to run iPhone and iPad apps on Macs, Bloomberg News reported last year.

What It Means

This is huge news if true! Us Apple diehards and developers have been speculating for a long time as to the likelihood of this switch. In fact, it has been assumed that Apple has been testing ARM-based Macs for years now, evaluating their feasibility.

It makes sense, since Apple has increasingly been designing and making their own ARM-based silicon much to our benefit. To name the chips to date:

  • A-Series System On A Chip for iOS devices (mainly CPU, GPU, Secure Enclave, Neural Engine)
  • M-Series Motion Co-Processor for iOS devices
  • S-Series System In A Package for Apple Watch (CPU, GPU, Motion)
  • T-Series Co-Processor for Touch Bar Macs
  • W-Series Processor for wireless devices (AirPods, BeatsX, also Apple Watch)

As you can see, Apple has become quite the expert with ARM-based chipsets. Also supposedly in the works is a chip to handle AI tasks — something Siri can only stand to benefit from.

There are many pros to using ARM, as noted in the article. Better battery life and a shared code base for development are huge ones. Plus, Apple would no longer be beholden to Intel’s timeline and delays for new chips, which has caused Apple major pain points. If you’re worried what kind of headache we’re in for if and when the day comes, I’d look at Apple’s track record. They have handled similarly large transitions with relative grace, like when they switched from PowerPC to Intel.

No Easy Task

Make no mistake. Switching to ARM will be no easy task. There will be a multitude of items to address.

Boot Camp, for instance, which allows for dual-booting Windows and macOS, will need to be adjusted. The only reason it works now is because of Apple’s switch to Intel and the x86-64 architecture. Microsoft does have a version of Windows for ARM coming out, but it’s seriously lacking. Unless Apple has some crazy emulation magic up their sleeves, Windows fans may be forced to use this version for now.

Same goes for applications. Apps will need to be adjusted and compiled for ARM, but I’m sure Apple will do everything in their power to make it as seamless as possible for developers.

This news comes at a time where Apple’s software quality is largely being questioned, due to bug-ridden releases in 2017. In fact, Apple is expected to announce new versions of iOS and macOS at WWDC this year focusing on quality and performance in lieu of major new features. This can only be a good thing if they have a massive transition planned down the line.

Friday, March 23, 2018

BOFA: Apple to release ‘foldable’ phone in 2020 →

Tae Kim for CNBC:

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said the smartphone maker is working with its Asian partners on a foldable phone.

“We expect the iPhones this fall to be largely unchanged for the OLED versions although size changes have proved to be a catalyst in the past,” analyst Wamsi Mohan wrote in a note to clients Friday. “Our checks also suggest that Apple is working with suppliers on a foldable phone (that potentially could double up as a tablet) for launch in 2020.”

Yeah, okay Bank of America. Two years seems way too soon for this kind of product. Although, I think this could be where we are headed. Instead of reverting back to the old flip phone days, imagine a perfectly normal iPhone that could transform into an iPad mini whenever needed, with negligible bulk. And people harp on Apple’s obsession for thinness … just wait until we reap the rewards.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

KGI: Apple to release over-the-ear headphones later this year →

Benjamin Mayo for 9to5Mac:

KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo today reports that Apple will release ‘high-end over-ear’ headphones in late fall ‘at the earliest’. Apparently featuring an all new design, it sounds like this is not a successor to the Beats Studio 3, but it will be Apple’s AirPods equivalent for premium over-ear headphones.

Very interesting. It’s looking like Apple will continue to make their presence known in this market alongside Beats. While I love over-the-ears, I’d be more interested in an in-ear variant of AirPods. Think BeatsX, but without the wire. I purchased BeatsX for use while drumming, and while they are pretty impressive, I could do without the wire. In-ear AirPods would be perfect for this, as the current ones don’t provide a seal in the ear canal needed for drumming. Not to mention, they fall out with ease from all the movement, but I digress.

The main question for Apple-branded over-the-ears is: how will these differentiate from the Beats Studio line? I can think of a few things:

  1. The sound profile will be different and less bassy than Beats are known for. Apple would go for a more neutral sound like AirPods and HomePod.
  2. Another way that would be in line with AirPods would be a unique charging mechanism. Perhaps Apple would include a headphone stand that also charges the headphones wirelessly (read: induction charging) when simply placed on the stand.
  3. Touch sensitivity for controlling music playback (i.e. volume, track skipping, etc.) since there is ample surface area available, unlike AirPods. [Parrot Zik headphones](https://www.parrot.com/us/audio/parrot-zik-3# parrot-zik-3) have this kind of functionality.

As for what they would call it? I don’t know, ‘HeadPod’ sounds strange. Maybe AirPods Plus? Definitely has to be somethingPod.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Apple reportedly plans AirPods upgrades →

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:

Like with its mobile devices — the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch — Apple intends to frequently update the AirPods with new hardware features. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on a new version for release as soon as this year with an upgraded wireless chip, the people said. A subsequent model for as early as next year is planned to be water resistant, they added, asking not to be identified discussing private product plans.

The model coming as early as this year will let people summon Apple’s Siri digital assistant without physically tapping the headphones by saying “Hey Siri.” The function will work similarly to how a user activates Siri on an iPhone or a HomePod speaker hands-free. The headphones, internally known as B288, will include an upgraded Apple-designed wireless chip for managing Bluetooth connections. The first AirPods include a chip known as the W1, and Apple released the W2 with the Apple Watch last year.

A new W-series chip and “Hey Siri” are part of my wishlist for new AirPods, so I’m happy to see these features in the report.

Sounds like water resistance is still an additional product cycle out, but I’ve never had any issues with light rain or sweat while using the current AirPods.

There’s no hard launch date here from Gurman, but my guess is this fall to meet the holiday shopping season. On a related note, we’re still awaiting the release of Apple’s AirPower mat and standalone wireless charging case for AirPods. I really hope we see these sooner than fall, as I’m itching to ditch the rat’s nest of cables on my nightstand.