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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Rumor Roundup: iPad Air 3 specs, dual cameras for the iPhone 7?

Rumor Roundup: iPad Air 3 specs, dual cameras for the iPhone 7?
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Jan 28, 2016, 05:59 PM
Over the last few weeks we've been documenting the evolution of the rumors involving Apple's plans for spring and the period leading up to the Worldwide Developers Conference, not because they are silly -- though a few have given us a good office chuckle -- but because people tend to remember only the bits of guessing or insider info that people got right, rather than how much was flat-out wrong. This week, the focus of Rumortown is about the alleged iPad Air 3 coming in March ... or April ... and the iPhone 5se? That's so last week.

While it's been speculated for a while that Apple could release an iPad Air 3 sometime this spring -- as it failed to do so during the traditional September event that saw the debut of the iPad mini 4 and iPad Pro -- we're now seeing some guessing on what the specs of the new machine could look like. Alongside previous predictions that it would utilize a variation on the A9 chip (the A9X) for even more performance, could offer the quad-speaker arrangement of the iPad Pro, and would have either Apple Pencil compatibility (which is certain conceivable) or 3D Touch like the iPhone 6s (unlikely), there is a new report from the often-unreliable DigiTimes site that claims the tablet will sport a 4K-capable display, and 4GB of onboard RAM.

Simply put, we're skeptical. These specs would undermine the iPad Pro, since the RAM amount is the same as found in Apple's new premier tablet, and a 4K display would actually be superior to what the larger and more capable Pro can offer; its display is 2048x2732. The report also names the likely suppliers as GIS (for the LCD backlighting) and TPK Holding (for the touch panels), and says the iPad line generally will not add 3D Touch, suggesting that the 9.7-inch iPad Air 3 could be made compatible with the Apple Pencil, bringing a more affordable option to those who want to use the combo for a drawing tablet along with its other functions.

There are also reports that the "iPhone 6c" (the same rumored new iPhone model also known as the "iPhone 5e" or "iPhone 5se;" the name changes depending on what day it is, and what site is reporting on it) is also said to be already in production, despite the lack of legitimate videos or parts leaks of the device. A new story about the alleged four-inch device from Japanese business newspaper Nikkei now says that the device was actually ready to be produced early last year, but has been delayed awaiting an ideal introduction time. The paper believes the new device will actually be aimed and marketed at consumers in developing markets like India -- which has become a rising star in terms of Apple sales, with iPhone sales there growing 38 percent year-over-year (would have been 48 percent if not for currency-exchange headwinds).

Still unknown due to the aforementioned lack of genuine parts or prototype leaks is what the device, should it actually exist, will look like. Some have claimed it will resemble a small iPhone 6 with a plastic back; other reports have suggested it will re-use the iPhone 5s design, but with the iPhone 6's "2.5D" curved glass; a few believe it will sport a shrunk-down iPhone 6/6s type look. According to rumors, it have either an A8 or A9 chip, may have 1GB or 2GB of RAM, and will likely support Apple Pay and possibly some other iPhone 6 and later technologies, like Voice Over LTE and 802.11ac.

Rather than being the focus of the March (or April) event as a new iPhone model naturally would be, the rumor mill has shifted to making the supposed new iPad Air 3 debut the star, with the revamped iPhone 5e/5se/6c hybrid has been relegated to "might tag along" status for the event, according to a story on iMore. New Apple Watch bands and potential partnerships will take the Miss Congeniality role at the alleged event.

Ah, we remember way back to three weeks ago, when the major hardware revision "Apple Watch 2" was the focus of this event. Whatever happened to that? Apparently that's now coming this fall, which certainly makes more sense (presuming Apple will revise the hardware at all this year) alongside the iPhone 7. Speaking of the iPhone 7 -- a new model featuring a new design that is much more assuredly coming in the fall -- analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has sent out a memo to clients claiming that at least one version of the 5.5-inch "iPhone 7 Plus" will have dual cameras on the rear of the device.

The claim comes from the fact that Apple acquired an Israel-based camera technology company called LinX that developed post-processing technology for two, three, or four cameras. Ming-Chi claims that a dual-camera setup could allow Apple to both improve the camera's post-processing capabilities and eliminate the currently-protruding (by 1mm) lens of the existing camera. While the claims about what the dual-camera technology could accomplish -- including better light sensitivity, particularly in low-light situations -- are theoretically true, there is no evidence that Apple sees the tiny protrusion of its current lens as an issue, especially given that nearly all users put a case on their iPhone, which eliminates the "bump" of the lens when it is placed on a flat surface screen-up.

Ming-Chi also claims that Apple will find a way to add 2x-3x optical zoom into the iPhone 7 Plus camera, but that supply constraints will likely limit the dual-camera option to a limited-availability version of the iPhone 7 Plus. It's unclear if he's referring to improved LinX technology that would make "simulated" optical zoom (also known as "digital zoom") good enough that it would be difficult to distinguish the difference, or a way for the built-in rear camera to do actual optical zooming, which normally requires the lens to physically move forward to increase the barrel length. Also unclear is how Ming-Chi knows about a supply constraint at least seven months before the part will go into mass production.

That said, camera improvements are part and parcel of every iPhone iteration, so in the broad sense that the "iPhone 7" will sport better camera quality than the iPhone 6s is something of a given. Apple did make optical image stabilization -- where the lens is suspended so as to cancel out user vibration or shakiness while taking pictures -- a feature that was exclusive to the Plus models, since it requires more room to accomplish than is available on smaller models. Apple made significant improvements to the camera on the non-Plus iPhone 6s, including an upgrade to 12 megapixels, 4K video, Live Photos, and Retina Flash, among other changes.
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Jan 29, 2016, 09:30 AM
I would think the greatest benefit of a dual-camera scheme would be enhanced HDR. Instead of taking two images in quick succession to accomplish HDR as at present (requiring that the phone be kept very still), two images could be taken simultaneously - at appropriately different exposure settings - and then merged into a final blur-free HDR image.
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Jan 29, 2016, 01:47 PM
I'm hoping at least some of the March event is about an update to the MacBook Air, which was last updated in March of 2015.
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