Apple's 2017 Roadmap Leaked by 'Foxconn Insiders'; Includes Siri Speaker and AR Glasses

HIGHLIGHTS
iPhone 8 has been tipped to come with 3GB of RAM
iPhone 7s is expected to come with aluminium body
MacBook Air has been tipped to be discontinued
It is not a new thing for an Apple product to be leaked ahead of launch but if a newly surfaced leak turns out to be legitimate, we might already have information about several upcoming products from the Cupertino-based company. Alleged Foxconn insiders have reportedly leaked information about company’s plans about augmented reality, upcoming smartphones, laptops, and a voice-activated speaker.

In a Reddit thread, ‘foxconninsider’ has revealed that a 32GB RAM variant will be introduced to the 15-inch MacBook Pro lineup and that MacBook Air laptop will be discontinued by the company, as pointed out in a report by AppleInsider. However, the source didn’t respond to a query seeking the timeline for the addition of the new RAM variant.

Interestingly, earlier reports have suggested that Apple will be introducing the 32GB RAM variant of the 15-inch MacBook Pro on Monday at its WWDC 2017 event. Further, the leaks have suggested that Apple will be refreshing its MacBook Air laptop at its event, contradicting the new information.

While foxconninsider says that new designs have been tested including “more glass and dark black body,” the glowing Apple logo is also expected to be reintroduced to the lineup. A MacBook with dynamic E-Ink keyboard, rumoured since last year, is apparently in the pipeline for 2018 as well.

Moving to the iPad, the alleged insiders have suggested that a new size variant is expected to be launched but said that they don’t have access to the tablet, as pointed out in a report by The Verge. Apple is currently expected to launch two iPad Pro tablets – one with a 10.5-inch display and the other with a 12.9-inch display.

Apple is already expected to announce its Siri-powered speaker at WWDC 2017, and foxconninsider says that Foxconn lost out to another contract manufacturer for its production. Calling it the Apple home speaker, the tipsters added that its availability will be delayed until late-2017. The tipsters also said the speaker has a similar shape to Mac Pro, adding that it hadn’t been seen in a while. The Siri-powered speaker has been tipped to come with a modified A9 chip, as pointed out by The Verge.

Apple's 2017 Roadmap Leaked by 'Foxconn Insiders'; Includes Siri Speaker and AR Glasses

Coming to the information leaked regarding iPhone 8 aka iPhone X, the design of the smartphone has been described as “more like an iPhone 7 with glass and without the AuthenTec’s capacitive touch module.” The design on the smartphone has been described by foxconninsider as closest to a leaked image that shows a vertical dual camera setup with glass back.

The source said that some units with glass back and fingerprint sensor beneath the glass were tested as well but the yields were not found to be “not good”. The iPhone X has been said to feature facial detection as well as a retina scanner that will be “included in the front facing camera modules,” as pointed out by The Verge. The foxconninsider says that the iPhone X will pack 3GB of RAM. The glass has been said to be included to enable wireless charging and USB Type-C has been tipped to be removed from the phone altogether. As a result, the iPhone X is also expected to be water resistant as well. On the other hand, iPhone 7s, the rumoured refresh for the iPhone 7 has been tipped to come with aluminium unibody and not feature wireless charging.

Notably, the augmented reality glasses from the company, which have been in leaks, were also discussed in the Reddit session. As per foxconninsider, the project for augmented reality glasses has been termed Project Mirrorshades and is being designed to bring AR to a larger audience, as pointed out by The Verge.

The Apple AR glasses, termed Apple Smart Glasses, have been tipped to come with “Kopin NED Acetate frame, Polarisized or prescription lens with Zeiss smart optics, Bone induction modules Microphones (noise cancellation), Light sensor Accelerometer for step tracking and head movement, app navigation Magnetometer for navigation, Capacitive Pavel Ceramic battery, Apple chipset, Charging circuit BL5 Induction module.”

The cost of the materials used for these glasses have been estimated to be around $150 (roughly Rs.), and would eventually place the retail price around $600, as per the information made available by foxconninsider. However, the entire project can even be cancelled with the source claiming that there is 65 percent chance of cancellation.

While some of the information might be proved correct or be disproved at company’s WWDC event, we might have to wait a little longer for information on other products. Till that time, we would advise you to keep grain of salt by your side.

What you need to know about Apple’s new podcast analytics

The world’s biggest platform for podcasts is going to shed new light on the state of advertising in the space. On Friday, Apple announced it would soon begin offering podcast creators some rudimentary audience analytics.

Here is what you need to know about Apple’s announcement.

The state of podcasting:
• Podcasting started as an Apple-dominated medium, and it remains one. Nearly 80 percent of all podcast consumption happened on Apple devices in 2015, according to research by Clammr, though Google Play and Amazon’s Echo devices, among others, are eating away at that market share.

• Apple remains a dominant hosting platform for podcasts, hosting about 70 percent of all available podcasts, according to Adopter Media. Because of this, the analytics features teased last week won’t affect everybody in the industry, but it will affect the lion’s share.

• Measurement has been a persistent problem for podcasting as a medium. Podtrac, which compiles monthly statistics on show streams and downloads for creators including “This American Life” and HowStuffWorks, is limited to data creators offer voluntarily. This means some prominent podcast publishers, including The Ringer, aren’t counted.

• Podcasting has steadily marched into the mainstream. By the end of this year, more than a third of all Americans will listen to podcasts on a monthly basis, up from 20 percent in 2016, according to forecasts from Bridge Ratings Media Research.

• Because podcasts are a niche product and because of measurement limitations, podcasting remains a small market, about $200 million in the U.S. It is projected to grow to nearly $500 million by 2020, according to Bridge Ratings.

• The lack of audience data has also profoundly influenced the kind of advertising that supports podcasting. Ninety percent of all podcast ads have a direct-response component, according to Adopter Media.

• These analytics are likely being made available because more people are listening to podcasts immediately (77 percent), rather than downloading the files for later listening (27 percent), per Edison Research.

What it means:
While many podcast creators, including Recode cofounder Peter Kafka and Gimlet president Matt Lieber, see Apple’s announcement as a big deal, it still doesn’t put podcasting on the same plane as most other digital media for advertisers.

“There still won’t be good targeting data available,” said Karl Rosander, the founder and CEO of podcast platform Acast. “To really help publishers, Apple needs to share (i.e., get the data through an application programming interface for all verified shows) data with the hosting provider, not only through the publisher’s platform.”

The data that Apple will provide creators will be anonymized, which means that Apple-hosted shows still won’t be able to target people with the kind of audience data that ad buyers expect when using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

But as creators and advertisers accumulate more data about listens, it could wind up having profound implications for how shows are shaped. “Think of all the new jobs for audience dev folks in audio,” Hot Pod creator Nicholas Quah tweeted on Saturday.

As for whether it unlocks the brand advertising dollars that podcast producers have coveted for years, that remains to be seen.  “We are probably a year out from knowing what sort of meaningful audience data this will yield,” said Glenn Rubenstein, founder of Adopter Media. “It remains to be seen if this listener data will sway any of the larger advertiser holdouts who have supposedly been ‘demanding’ it.”

APPLE'S NEW TRANSPARENCY IS HUGE FOR PODCASTS EVERYWHERE

IN 2017, IT seems like everyone has a podcast. Hillary Clinton. Your utility company. Hypothetical spokespeople for Darth Vader’s utility company. But they all have one thing in common: They have no idea who’s listening. Thanks to Apple’s commitment to user privacy, along with the ubiquity of its Podcasts app, there hasn’t been a way for producers—or advertisers—to track how most listeners interact with an episode.

That’s finally changing. On Friday, after years of requests from producers, Apple announced that starting with iOS 11, changes to the Apple Podcasts app will allow creators to track aggregated data about when users start, stop, and skip within an episode. Podcasters will also be able to choose how listeners encounter their shows: as episodic or serial seasons, and as full, trailer, or bonus episodes. “It’s an inflection point for the industry,” says Matthew Lieber, co-founder of Gimlet Media. “This is the first time that producers and publishers are going to be able to see how audiences are actually responding to their shows.”

This isn’t the first time that a platform has offered data about listeners, but since most people listen to podcasts through Apple, the company’s shift has lasting consequences. Apple has dominated podcast consumption since the beginning, even before mobile apps for podcasting; according to data tracking company RawVoice, in 2007, 96.5 percent of listeners played podcasts on Apple desktops. When podcasts exploded in 2014, it was thanks to a lucky coincidence: The record-shattering Serial premiered two weeks after the iOS 8 update automatically installed the Podcasts app on all Apple devices; suddenly Sarah and Adnan were only four clicks away for anyone with an iPhone. Today, 55.5 percent of listeners still play their podcasts on Apple Podcasts or iTunes. So while other platforms—Stitcher, Art19, Megaphone—already offer tracking analytics beyond simple number of downloads, a move from the behemoth will reshape the industry.

The most immediate shift will likely be economic: Producers will finally be able to tell potential advertisers how many people listen to an ad, rather than simply how many typically download a given podcast. Currently, tentative advertisers often opt for direct response ads—ones that allow you to, say, type in the name of the podcast for 15 percent off your Blue Apron order—because it gives them the ability to track a specific user code as a rough metric. Once Apple begins to surface information about how often users skip through ads, companies will be able to track sales from all ads, not just those that require a host to read out a URL. “Brand advertisers will be a lot more comfortable buying if we know exactly how many people are listening to a given spot,” says Lex Friedman, chief revenue officer at Midroll, which sells ads for 300 podcasts. “You can pay a price per listener, rather than a price per download.” Potential advertisers will know whether listeners skip over ads—and podcast producers will know when an irrelevant or irritating ad makes a listener pause an episode for good.

But the newly available data will impact podcast content beyond the ads. “It gives people room to start playing around with different formats,” says Max Linsky, co-founder of Longform and podcast production house Pineapple Street Media. “It’s an opportunity for what we’re seeing more of anyway: limited-run and series-based shows.” With the new analytics, the producers of S-Town would be able to see how many listeners actually binged the binge-friendly series; a show following This American Life‘s three-segment model could track how many listeners drop off after each third; even something as simple as determining the ideal podcast length is no longer a matter of guesswork. “It’s likely that some widely-held assumptions about how people listen, and whether they listen, are gonna be proven wrong,” says Linsky.

This all raises the specter of homogenization: If you don’t have listeners, advertisers won’t stick around, so podcasts may end up hewing to a limited range of subjects and structures. But hope remains for podcasts that have cultivated a small-but-mighty audience. “A lot of indie podcasts already speak to a highly targeted audience, so having this better data gives them more ways to pursue advertising,” says Gina Delvac, a freelance producer who makes Call Your Girlfriend, among other podcasts. “It’s for people who can’t yet afford the middleman.” Armed with evidence of an enthusiastic listenership, producers of small, specialized podcasts have a better shot at funding from relevant niche companies, liked a pen company for pen addicts, or a freight company for shipping industry enthusiasts.

By releasing analytics, Apple is finally investing in some lasting infrastructure in the podcast ecosystem. The data will affect changes throughout the industry: how advertisers choose where to spend, how producers structure episodes, and most of all, how users hear podcasts. “It’s a big win for listeners,” says Linsky. “The work is gonna get better, so the experience of listeners is gonna get better.” It’ll help producers better understand what lands with their listeners—and that’s a good thing, whether your audience numbers a million or one.