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Apple has consistently worked at making the iPhone ever slimmer, and has been willing to make compromises to achieve that, most notably in battery-life. But with the iPhone 6 and 6s, it is close to the limit on how slim an iPhone can be – and the reason for that is the oldest piece of tech in the phone. The iPhone 6/6s is not very much thicker than the diameter of the 3.5mm headphone jack.

The latest iPod touch shows that Apple has a little more room for manoeuvre (above photo Anandtech, below iFixit).

But really not much. If Apple wants to continue the iPhone’s diet, at some point very soon it’s going to have to ditch the 3.5mm headphone socket in favor of an alternative. There are four possible options open to it … 

First, it could replace the standard 3.5mm audio socket with a 2.5mm one. While 3.5mm has been the standard audio socket for mobile devices for a long time, it’s not the only option out there.

Audio kit originally used a quarter-inch socket (6.3mm) – and high-end home kit often still does. That size was too large for mobile devices, so the 3.5mm system was devised to solve the problem, but some manufacturers went further and opted for 2.5mm instead.

The 2.5mm system never really took off, as 3.5mm was small enough for all the mobile devices that existed at the time, but it’s still out there and Apple could adopt it, shaving off a millimeter by doing so.

But all this is old tech. If Apple is going to do anything as radical as drop an industry-standard socket, it’s likely to replace it with something hi-tech.

Which brings us to the second option: drop the audio socket altogether, and co-opt the Lightning socket into performing audio duties as well as power and data. A recent report claimed that Apple plans to do that for the iPhone 7.

That’s possible right now, of course. The Lightning socket can already deliver audio signals, and already does so with a range of audio docks. You can also already buy headphones with Lightning plugs instead of 3.5mm ones (though admittedly the selection available today is rather small).

There are both pros and cons to this approach. On the plus side, Lightning delivers a lossless digital audio signal. This means that headphone manufacturers can include their own digital-to-analog converters, some of which would be of a higher quality than the one built into the iPhone.

Apple’s Digital Audio Module standard also allows headphones to draw power from the iPhone, negating the need to charge the headphones – though at further cost to battery life. Conversely, though, the headphones could supply power to the iPhone, and the protocol supports pass-through power, allowing you to listen to music while the phone is charging.

The big downside, of course, is that you can’t use existing headphones. Because the signal provided by the Lightning port is digital, a simple converter won’t do the trick: the headphones need an on-board DAC to convert to analog sound.

This would normally be a killer argument against the change. Many of us have expensive headphones we love, and we wouldn’t be amused by a new iPhone effectively rendering them obsolete for mobile use.

But there is a potential get-out clause here. It should be technically possible for a DAC in the iPhone to handle the conversion to analog signals, at which point a simple snap-on 3.5mm to Lightning adapter would be all that would be needed. If Apple took that route, existing headphones would continue to work just as they do now.

The third option, and one a sketchy rumor suggests Apple is playing with, is to replace the Lightning socket with a USB-C one.

You could see an argument for this. The USB-C is an extremely powerful standard that could do everything an iOS device needs and more. Audio is just one of its many capabilities, and it wouldn’t be a problem for manufacturers to create USB-C headphones.

Apple has already adopted USB-C for the 12-inch MacBook, and will almost certainly do so for the complete MacBook range next year. There is something to be said for Apple standardizing on a single port across all devices.

But there are three reasons I think it won’t. First, there was enormous controversy when Apple abandoned the old 30-pin connector in favor of Lightning. Many people were vocal in their objection to Apple making old docks and audio kit effectively obsolete – or at least both fiddly and ugly by the time you added an adapter. It was a change that had to be made eventually, but Apple certainly won’t be in a hurry to make a second change so relatively soon after the first.

Second, while USB-C is incredibly powerful, an iPhone doesn’t need most of those capabilities. No-one is going to be hooking up an iPhone to a Thunderbolt display, and an iPhone doesn’t have the computing power to do half of it anyway.

But the third reason is the real convincer. If creating ever slimmer iPhones is Apple’s reason to abandon the 3.5mm socket, switching to USB-C wouldn’t help much. Product designer Josh Flowers helpfully created this graphic to show the problem: the USB-C socket is pretty much the same height as the 3.5mm socket.

So for all these reasons, I think we can rule this one out.

Which leaves one final possibility: simply remove the headphone socket and point people to wireless headphones as the future.

This would, of course, bring us right back to the ‘existing headphones’ objection. If someone has spent $400-500 and up on a pair of expensive headphones, they are not going to be impressed by Apple providing no means to connect them to an iPhone. You could continue to use them with a Bluetooth headphone adapter, but that’s a very clunky solution.

I’ve often observed that Apple has no problem making ruthless decisions when it comes to what it considers legacy technology. Floppy drives. Optical drives. Upgradable laptops. Most ports, in the case of the 12-inch MacBook. Apple consistently does this earlier than almost everyone else.

But while I’m sure wired headphones will, within a few years, seem as quaint as loading a DVD into a laptop to watch a movie, I don’t think we’re there yet – even for Apple.

So, what will Apple do? My money’s on the Lightning route, with an on-board DAC to maintain compatibility with existing headphones. I think that could realistically happen by the iPhone 7, and I’d put good money on it happening no later than the iPhone 8.

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Apple Fifth Avenue: When Will The Cube Reopen?

New York City’s Fifth Avenue Apple store is a landmark attraction in Manhattan. Its iconic glass cube entrance has drawn tourists from all over the world since opening in 2006. It was even ranked among the most photographed attractions in the city.

Yet the subterranean store and its popular plaza have been closed to the public for almost two years as a new and improved space is prepared. The high-profile location will certainly benefit from an expansion and redesign, but the extended duration of the closure has left excited residents and readers wondering when we can expect to see the highly anticipated store finally reopen.

Discussion of a redesign for Apple Fifth Avenue began at latest in June 2023, when retail SVP Angela Ahrendts told the Associated Press that Apple had plans to redesign 20 existing stores. In May 2023, the New York Post reported that Apple was negotiating terms of a lease to temporarily operate in the former FAO Schwarz toy store located directly behind the glass cube. Apple made its move official in early January 2023 when it announced that its flagship store would temporarily relocate next door to the General Motors Building on January 20th.

In February 2023, Boston Properties, co-owner of the General Motors Building and Apple’s plaza indicated that the store would more than double its underground footprint to 77,000 square feet. A possible architectural model of the space detailed changes in line with Apple’s modern retail strategy and Today at Apple-first design.

After the glass cube was dismantled, our next official status report came in September 2023, when Angela Ahrendts gave an update on Apple’s retail plans during the first keynote held at Steve Jobs Theater:

We’re going to continue to open Apple town squares in the top cities around the world. We’re going to invest in online, and we’re also going to continue to reinvest in our 400 classic locations, including Apple Fifth Avenue in New York City, where we’re opening up the plaza to allow natural sunlight to come in to a greatly expanded space below. And you can see, the glass cube will return when reopened late next year.

Ahrendts’ words onstage lined up with signage at the Fifth Avenue construction site listing October 31st, 2023 as an anticipated competition date. The glass cube did return this past spring, but as October and November passed without an announcement, it became clear that the project had likely fallen behind schedule. At this point, it’s essentially impossible for Apple to reopen the store before the end of the year.

Construction delays are not unprecedented, but for eager Apple fans, the reason for the delay is likely much less interesting than the actual reopening date. As of December 14th, New York City residents passing by the construction site report that much work remains to be done on the plaza surrounding the store. The cube’s Apple logo has not yet been reinstalled and Apple’s temporary store is still in service.

Apple Fifth Avenue on December 14, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Parker Ortolani)

In October, Apple opened a new Beats 1 broadcasting studio in New York City. The studio is located less than three miles from Apple Fifth Avenue at Manhattan’s Union Square. A report published in April 2023 suggested that the redesigned flagship store would be home to its own Beats 1 broadcasting booth. If credible, it’s unclear if the new Manhattan studio represents a change in plans or reflects delays in construction.

Apple also held its October 2023 Special Event in New York City at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The event began with a video expressing Apple’s fondness for New York City and later included an in-depth update on Apple retail during which Angela Ahrendts announced 60 new Today at Apple sessions and previewed new stores in Bangkok and Paris. It’s easy to imagine that Apple originally intended to announce the reopening of its Fifth Avenue store at this event.

Space in the General Motors building has also been shifting hands. On December 24th, luxury goods company Cartier is moving out of its own temporary store adjacent to Apple’s plaza. A real estate brochure for the space at 767 Fifth Avenue noting availability beginning January 1st, 2023 includes renderings of Apple’s future outdoor space and is worded to imply that the project is already complete.

Opposite Cartier, apparel brand Under Armour has negotiated a deal to open a flagship store after Apple vacates its temporary space. As recently as this past August, the project was still on track to open in 2023. But on December 13th, the Baltimore Business Journal reported that Under Armour’s plans were pushed back to 2023, presumably because Apple is still occupying the space. The company now expects to initially take possession of the storefront during the first half of 2023.

767 Fifth Avenue (via Cushman & Wakefield / Colliers International)

We expect them [Apple] to vacate that premises sometime [in the] first quarter, early second quarter of next year and move into the new premises. But because the project has taken a little bit longer, we had revisions in the lease where we got increases in rent as the redevelopment of the existing store took longer.

Boston Properties’ timeline still provides a few months to finish construction and would allow Apple to avoid messy and cold winter weather spoiling its grand reopening and the debut of a redesigned plaza. Until then, we’ll have to wait patiently. In the meantime, you can check out our handpicked gallery of Apple’s retail holiday displays through the years, including a few scenes from Fifth Avenue. Is anyone in line yet?

Follow along with 9to5Mac‘s retail guide for all Apple store news.

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What Will Android M Bring?

Voice controls

Will we see greater integration of Google Now into Android? There’s a chance that voice controls are going to be rolled out across the platform, so you’ll be able to use them to navigate around your device with voice alone. The speculation about this was based on another session that also seems to have been removed from the schedule. From the sounds of it, this could be focused on improving the Android Auto experience, but we really can’t say for sure at this point.

Expanding Android

There’s no doubt we’ll be seeing more moves to help Android expand beyond smartphones and tablets. Android M has three areas to cover – cars, wearables, and TV.

Android Auto – One rumor has suggested that cars will start to roll out with Android M installed. A full version of Android M in a car without the need for your smartphone to hook up could be a very interesting prospect. In either case, Android M will surely come with some more features that have drivers in mind.

Android Wear – Google has to continue to improve Android Wear as the smartwatch category starts to really take off. Killer apps would drive adoption, but that’s largely going to be down to developers.

Android TV – Google Cast and Android TV could offer new ways to find content, play games, and more on the big screen in your living room. How is it going to work with multiple accounts and devices? There are lots of questions to be answered here.

What we want to see

That’s about it for clues, but how about what we would really like to see in Android M? Here are a few ideas:

Split screen or floating apps

It’s almost a year now since we suggested split screen should come to stock Android. As screens get bigger, it makes sense to be able to open a couple of apps at once. It’s especially handy on a tablet. Manufacturers have led the way here with split screen options and floating apps. It’s about time Google baked it into the platform.

Other ideas

There are a few other areas that could be improved. How about more customization for the keyboard? A lot of manufacturers have introduced gestures as shortcuts, could they make an appearance in Android M? Maybe it’s time for another dig at smart home options? Perhaps we’ll see further integration of Chrome OS and Android. There’s room to improve the backup options to make it easier and faster to restore a backup. It may also be a good idea to change the volume controls back, so you can tweak the volume before the clip plays, as anyone who has woken their sleeping partner with a surprisingly loud video clip can attest.

Release date

It may seem like Android M is premature, when you consider Lollipop has only hit around 10% penetration, but we think Google is already moving towards an annual release cycle for Android. That means Android M will get a developer preview first, ahead of a consumer launch towards the end of the year. November is our best guess for a release date.

What Will The Apple Watch Edition Cost? Jewelry And Watch People Weigh In

When we first started talking about the Apple Watch, some predicted that the highest-end model—the 18k gold Edition—could retail for more than $1,000. Now that seems almost quaint. Apple-focused blogs such as Daring Fireball now regularly bandy about numbers like $10,000—and sometimes far more.

The jewelry and watch sources I spoke with all think a price tag of $6,000 or more is reasonable, maybe even probable. “If it’s under $5,000, it will shock me,” says Michael Pucci, founder of the Los Angeles–based Abbiamo Group, marketing and sales consultants for jewelry and watches. He thinks the price tag will fall between $6,000 and $10,000, but not likely much more than that.

The 18k gold is, of course, the watch’s most valuable component. While it’s difficult to judge gold content from photos—given questions about thickness, etc.—industry experts believe the watch and accompanying case will use about 1 ounce of gold (currently trading for around $1,200).

The Apple Watch Edition.

Yet, you can’t just value the gold by weight, argues Torry Hoover, president of Hoover & Strong, the metals refiner.

“These can’t be mass-produced,” he says. “You can machine parts of it, but it will take a fair amount to make a case. There is still a lot of handwork that has to be done with it.”

That’s because gold’s properties sometimes make the metal ill-suited for assembly lines, says Jason Wilbur, a Los Angeles–based watch designer.

“We all know how soft gold is. It’s tricky. It moves around a little more than other metals. You have a lot of sharp edges and soft materials and little connection points, so you can’t just use manufacturing tools. The lugs may end up snapping off. One little pockmark on this thing will show up. You can’t just use the same tools as the other models and throw some gold in there, and there is your watch.”

Apple claims it’s using a company-developed metal that’s “up to twice as hard as standard gold.” Of course, saying “up to” gives it a lot of leeway, and no one I spoke to thinks it will introduce anything truly radical.

“There are always different alloys, but I think that’s more marketing than anything else,” says Morris Chabbott, managing director of New York City–based Morét Time. “I’ve been in the gold business, and there are many different things you can do with it. Apple is about making the best technology, so if they are making gold they may want a little edge to it.”

Given all the extras involved—including promotion costs and Apple’s traditional 40 percent margin—most guessed the watch will likely wholesale for around $3,000–$4,000. Then comes the thornier question of how much it will retail for.

Apple’s hiring of Patrick Pruniaux, former sales director at TAG Heuer, signals it wants to sell the high-end watch sold at the standard places that sell high-end watches—perhaps department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.

But the company is known for offering retailers (including its own) meager margins. Stores make a scant 3 percent on each iPad, according to ZDNet. High-end retailers may like the Apple Watch as a traffic builder. But they may draw the line at 3 percent.

“This could bring a new consumer to department stores,” says Pucci. “But I think they will also tell them: ‘Look we love you guys, but we have to make at least 35 to 40 percent.’ ”

So what category does this fall into? Apple being Apple, retailers may give it some leeway—to a point.

“Apple’s brand is formidable,” says Block. “But so is Rolex’s, so is Patek Philippe’s. Some of the other brands are just as formidable in this category. It hasn’t established its value yet in gold.” (He believes the Apple Watch will be bigger in overseas markets such China and South America than it will be in the United States.)

Apple could sell the watch at its own high-end boutiques—it is reportedly opening a store on Madison Avenue in New York City, on a retail strip surrounded by jewelry stores. In addition, according to The New Yorker, Apple design head Jonathan Ive and store chief Angela Ahrendts—who formerly ran Burberry—are remodeling the standard stores so they “become a more natural setting for vitrines filled with gold.” (Among the rumored changes: Salespeople will wear shirts with collars.) Ive talks about overhearing one conversation: “I’m not going to buy a watch if I can’t stand on carpet.”

So it’s safe to say Apple stores will now feature nice carpets. That costs money. So does the extra security needed for high-end items. Carrying a gold watch is “totally antithetical to their current retail model,” says John Kennedy, president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance. “You can’t have people touching it. You can’t have it out on counters. You have the same problems that retail jewelers have, in terms of distraction thefts, in terms of switching, in terms of grab and runs.”

Then there are the X factors. Wilbur believes that Apple will leverage the “psychology of luxury brands.”

“No one wants an Hublot for $3,000. They want it for $20,000 or $30,000. A lot of people will only want this if it’s $10,000 or more.”

It is difficult to find a gold watch for less than $10,000—many retail for double that. Of course, Swiss manufacturers will argue this is an Apple-to-Rolex comparison, as their products’ intricate craftsmanship justifies that high price tag. “What makes a high-end watch?” asks Hoover. “It’s the Swiss movements, the inner workings. That’s why collectors buy them. This has none of that. It’s inserting a high-end case on a piece of electronics.” (That said, not all consumers will realize that—or care.)

Then there’s the question of value. As the watch industry likes to remind people, its products are built to last generations. The Apple Watch might turn obsolete by next week. The high-end model might allow users to upgrade by making the “guts” removable, which would partly solve the problem, but not totally. “The Watch will become thinner,” says tech site Venture Beat. “It may incorporate a better battery. It might get a camera.… After a couple of years of ownership the first-generation 18-karat gold Apple Watch will be outdated beyond anything a firmware update can fix.”

This is also still pretty new ground for the company, and tech in general. “As far as I’m aware, this is the first technology product that is made out of precious metal besides the Vertu phone,” says Chabbot. “I think it will fit into a price point where it’s accessible luxury.”

I agree, and predict a low price point—possibly $5,999. High margins and low turnover are the luxury store business model. Not Apple’s. If the company makes a thousand dollars or more on each high-end watch, that’s far better than what it takes home on a $700 iPhone.

Plus, it can always go higher. If Apple establishes itself as a luxury brand, it could produce watches sprinkled with diamonds, or introduce limited-edition designs, or do co-ventures with established names.

The company is still dipping its toe in the water here. Whatever number the first Edition retails for, it may not be the ceiling, but the floor.

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How A Warmer Climate Will Change Our Future Forests

Before and After Mountain Pine Beetle Attack

On the left, a healthy lodgepole pine branch and one belonging to a tree that has been killed by mountain pine beetles. On the right is a healthy whitebark pine branch and a dead branch.

For the past decade, mountain slopes throughout North America have gradually been turning a rusty red, as pine trees succumb by the millions to insect attackers made stronger by climate change. Eventually the forest turns a dry, skeletal gray, leaving nothing but vast stockpiles of fuel for wildfire. Today, new satellite data and new ground observations are helping biologists and land-use officials see this trend in new ways. And they’re finding that the insects are winning, changing entire forests for the trees.

The main attacker in question is the mountain pine beetle, a shiny black insect no longer than one-third of an inch. Its diminutive size belies its power to fell entire forests. In late summer, adult beetles fly from the yellow- to red-needled trees they grew up eating, and seek out large-diameter (meaning older) live trees in which to lay their eggs. The beetles tunnel under the bark, often sending chemical signals that attract more beetles. Each pair lays about 60 to 75 eggs, most of which will hatch. When they do, the larvae burrow deeper into the tree to hide for the winter, producing an alcohol that serves as an antifreeze. The larvae feed in the spring and pupate in the early summer, exiting the trees in late July to start the cycle again. They usually have a one-year life cycle, but warmer seasons have stretched it to two in some places, biologists say.

Normally, cold winters kill off large numbers of beetles, explained Phil Townsend, professor of forest ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an author of a new study examining tree response to the beetles’ changing appetites.

“There are no longer the cold nighttime temperatures, of 40 below and lower, that you need to get in the winter to kill off large numbers of overwintering bark beetles,” he said. “The consequence of that is over time, if you have a little bit more survivorship each winter, your population increases.”

That means the beetles may need to look elsewhere for a meal–and they’re starting to invade new species, Townsend said. Entire forests are changing in a matter of a few years.

Four decades of Landsat observations are shedding more light on this phenomenon. A new computer program that can sift through and visualize enormous amounts of satellite data turned up some surprising disturbances in the country’s forests, according to NASA. Starting in the 1980s, tree health declined throughout the Pacific Northwest, and new analysis shows insects were to blame.

In the video below, you’ll see shifting color signals reflecting changing tree cover and plant health. Near the Three Sisters volcanoes, mountain pine beetles ravaged lodgepole pine trees in the 1990s and early 2000s. Near Mount Hood and Mount Rainier, forest cover changes in response to the western spruce budworm, which feeds on conifer needles before pupating into moths in late summer.

Originally, remote sensing specialist Robert Kennedy of Boston University set out to study fire and clear-cutting, which you can also see in the video. He did not expect to also notice the more subtle, yet more widespread, changes that result from insect outbreaks. It works because each Landsat image, which covers an area 115 miles by 112 miles, provides data for wavelengths of light that are reflected or emitted by forests. You can see the forest come under attack, and then you can see it recover–slowly.

On the ground, the story is not much better. Townsend, whose job involves trudging through snow and remote woodland in the northern Rockies and Cascades, said different trees are differently equipped to deal with these attackers. Their favorite target is the lodgepole pine, which has evolved to emit certain pheromones to ward off the beetles, and to spit out the beetles by thickening their phloem (the innermost layer of bark) where the insects have burrowed inside. The beetles have evolved, too, and now use some of the trees’ distress chemicals to synthesize pheromones that attract still more beetles.

Whitebark Pine Stand

“Once it goes into higher elevations where it is all whitebark pine, they are gone. They’re toast,” he said.

Why does all this matter? For one, whitebark pines evolved in inhospitable terrain, with freezing temperatures and a thin atmosphere, meaning they grow slowly. The trees grow for 80 years before they can reproduce–lodgepoles take less than half that time–and they can live 1,000 years. As generations of trees succumb to invading insects, faster-growing species will take their place. “Whitebark fir will not be the type of dominant species it was in the past,” Townsend said.

Whitebark pines are in important food source for many bird species, and they serve as sort of natural snow fences, helping snow melt more slowly to trickle into mountain streams and eventual rivers. Without them, winter snows will melt faster.

In the case of the spruce budworm, trees may not necessarily die from the loss of their new growth in one season–but continued visits by the worms will eventually take them. Eventually, the budworms run out of food and move on, and the forest can start to recover. The only thing that will break the cycle, and maintain current forest species as they evolved, is to get rid of so many insects.

“The management solution is to have cold winters,” Townsend said simply. “We might, by chance, get some double-cold winters in a row, which would help out. But that is sort of on its way out.”

The end result? Forests of the future will contain different trees, with new species carving out new ecological niches. And it will be a direct result of a warming world.

Pine Beetle Destruction, Rocky Mountain National Park

Years after a mountain pine beetle epidemic swept through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, trees are no longer rusty red but instead dry, gray husks–prime fuel for wildfire. This image is from January 2012 in Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado.

What Will September’s New Ios 9

Apple plans to hold one of its annual fall media events on Wednesday, September 9th to introduce the new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus with Force Touch, and after many fits and starts, it appears that the long-awaited next-generation Apple TV will also be unveiled. We’ve been reporting on this upcoming model since 2014, as Apple has been planning to update its set-top-box with support for an App Store for quite some time.

Earlier this year, Apple had locked in a June WWDC debut for both the new Apple TV hardware and software upgrades, but the company ultimately decided to delay the introduction until the fall. While some had speculated that the announcement was pushed back due to a lack of content deals, we are told that the delay was internally attributed to a concern over compromising iOS 9 engineering resources, as the latest OS release is focused at least as much on polish as on new features.

Why would the new Apple TV potentially take away resources from iOS 9? According to sources, this new Apple TV model, codenamed J34, will be the first model to run a full-blown iOS core. Specifically, the new Apple TV operating system will be a TV-optimized version of iOS 9. In addition to the new hardware inside, running iOS 9 will give the new Apple TV a series of benefits over the current model. Below, we explore what users can expect from Apple’s next-generation living room product.

New Device Hardware Design

After living with the same external look for over five years, a new industrial design for the next-generation Apple TV is a lock. We’ve heard that the new model looks like the prior Apple TV, but it is slimmer thicker and slightly wider. As the Apple TV is a product that needs constant connectivity to wireless standards such as Wi-Fi networking and Bluetooth, it is likely that a mostly plastic body will be retained in order for the best compatibility with routers and Bluetooth remotes.

New Dedicated Remote Control

The files indicate that the new remote control will include both Bluetooth technology and an infrared sensor, which suggests superior control responsiveness as well as the potential for backward compatibility with non-Bluetooth home AV equipment. As our Jeremy Horwitz noted earlier this year, the introduction of a new remote control could help open up the door for improved gaming. With an integrated touchpad, in addition to the Apple TV SDK we’ll discuss later in this article, Apple could open up the remote to developers looking to bring gaming to the Apple TV box. Critically, this new remote will likely pack enough technology to deter users from losing the controller, which happens often with the older Apple TV remotes.

The aforementioned El Capitan files also indicate that some sort of audio technology wil be integrated into the new remote control, and we believe that this raises three possibilities. First, it is possible that the new remote integrates a small speaker to augment the sound experience of the new Apple TV, which could be important for gaming. Next, perhaps the new remote will include an audio jack to connect to headphones to enable private listening/viewing, similar to the latest Roku models. Last and most likely, the audio feature could refer to a microphone that enables Siri support.

Siri Support

We’ve been hearing for a while, as also reported by John Paczkowski at BuzzFeed, that this next-generation Apple TV will include support for Siri. Currently, there are two main ways to control an Apple TV: the Remote app on iOS devices, and the small aluminum remote that makes typing characters difficult. Utilizing a microphone in the new physical remote, the Apple TV could make searching for content or beginning playback simpler by using the voice-based Siri system. For example, users will likely be able to search up a James Bond movie by saying “Search for Goldfinger,” or begin playback of an Apple Music playlist by saying “Play my Party Mix.”

Improved Proactive-Based Search

Speaking of search, it sounds like one of the reasons behind making the new Apple TV software directly based on iOS 9 is for its new Proactive search support. In iOS 9, Proactive search brings new, more powerful and accurate system-wide search support. As Jeremy Horwitz also noted in March, one of the biggest omissions from the current Apple TV is system-wide search support. For example, a user cannot search for “James Bond” and see results across the iTunes Store, Netflix, the Crackle app, and the Apple Music library. Apple is said to be planning to fix that with the next-generation Apple TV software, but we are told that the company may wait to integrate the new search features until the Apple TV is populated with third-party applications.

App Store + Developer SDK

Third-party applications support plus a full Software Development Kit for the Apple TV will be two tentpoles of the new device. This means that developers, just like with the iPhone and iPad, will be able to build apps for the Apple TV. These applications will likely be able to be downloaded via a dedicated App Store accessible via the new Apple TV.

We are told that Apple’s focus on Apple TV App Store apps has been video-centric applications, which would allow media companies to release new channels on the Apple TV on their own schedule, and not on Apple’s. Apple has slowly added channels to the current-generation Apple TV on a sporadic basis, ranging from every few weeks at times to every several months. Of course, gaming apps, news applications, and others could make sense on the Apple TV as well, but don’t expect opportunities for content creation akin to the iPhone and iPad.

More Storage + Faster Processor

Refreshed User-Interface

To go with the new iOS 9 core and redesigned hardware, we are told that the new Apple TV will include a refreshed, more iOS-like interface. While the new system is likely to improve the current scrolling list of large icons, we are told that the general aesthetic will be similar to the current look. We’ve received one tip indicating that the new operating system looks somewhat like the mockup above, which is to say it will look more like an iOS Software product. When Apple launched the redesigned Apple TV operating system in 2012, it brought the new look to earlier-generation models, not only to the new 1080P box, so perhaps Apple will port over at least some new features to existing models. We are told that the new Apple TV iOS 9 builds internally run on both the current J33 Apple TV and future J34 model, but internal testing does not always accurately forecast public launch plans.

No Live Cable-Replacement Service (Yet)

Lastly, as we first reported early this year, the new Apple TV will not launch with Apple’s long-in-the-works Cable TV replacement service. Apple’s discussions with TV networks indicate that Apple wants to launch a $40/month plan for Apple TV users that allows customers to get their favorite channels without the need of a cable connection. The content would be streamed from the web and integrated with iTunes on the new Apple TV. Sources say that internal prototypes of the next-generation Apple TV are fully designed to unlock content via cable networks in the same manner as current and past Apple TVs, so it appears that the new TV service won’t launch until at least next year.

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