Apple's New iPad Is a Lot Like a Self-Driving Car – Popular Mechanics
- Rumors have been circling over Apple’s next iPhone and iPad designs, which the company appears to have accidentally leaked in the beta code for iOS 14.
- Among the new devices are a budget iPhone, new over-ear Beats headphones, and an iPad with an advanced camera array.
- One of the most significant additions, confirmed by Apple yesterday, is a lidar scanner embedded in the latest iPad.
Confirming rumors that Apple would soon release its most powerful iPad yet, the company unveiled a new iPad Pro model this week that takes a leaf out of the autonomous vehicle industry’s handbook.
The new iPad Pro not only features a triple-lens camera array like last year’s iPhone 11 Pro, plus an A12Z Bionic chip—which should make computationally demanding tasks like editing 4K video or designing 3D models a breeze—but its most surprising feature is the addition of an ultra-tiny lidar scanner that provides depth-sensing capabilities.
You can now order the new iPad Pro on Apple’s website, starting at $799 for the 11-inch model and $999 for the 12.9-inch version.
Lidar, which stands for light detection and ranging, is a technology that the self-driving industry has embraced to augment its sensor arrays, including cameras and radar. These sensors provide a 360-degree view of the car’s surroundings by sending out thousands of laser pulses every second.
Similar to the concept of echolocation (used by bats), these pulses interact with surrounding objects and bounce back as light reflections, which are then used to create a 3D point cloud. An onboard computer stitches these points together to create a 3D model.
The sensors are significant to Apple’s strategy moving forward. Not only do they show Apple is serious about depth-sensing in its photos and videos, but they also prove the company is wading into more augmented reality functionality—something that has long been on CEO Tim Cook’s shortlist of future pervasive technologies.
Apple admits as much in a March 18 press release, calling the new iPad Pro “the world’s best device for augmented reality.” There’s even a forthcoming Hot Lava AR mode that will transform your living room floor into a the-floor-is-lava style obstacle course.
Other rumors about Apple devices are still circulating, though the company hasn’t yet confirmed any of these details. In the past, Apple has held a new product event in March, but reports suggest the company has canceled this year’s event due to supply chain issues following the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, plus bans on large gatherings in Santa Clara County, where Apple is headquartered.
In the meantime, we’ve rounded up the most solid leaks to give you a hint about what might be in Apple’s pipeline.
Since the first version arrived in 2008, the Air has been our default recommendation for anyone buying a Mac laptop. The previous update had mostly welcome features (fingerprint scanner, a sharp Retina display), but also included Apple’s butterfly keyboard, which was so prone to breaking that it resulted in a lawsuit. This new Air has the same keyboard as the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Which is to say, it’s a big improvement, making the Air and appreciably better to type on than last-gen MacBooks. Plus, it gets huge performance bumps. You can order it with up to 2 terabytes of storage. We’re still testing, but at a starting price of $999, it looks like it will remain the best candidate for most Apple laptop customers.
iPhone 9/9 Plus
Through iOS 14 code, 9to5Mac reports new details about Apple’s new budget iPhone, the iPhone 9, and its larger companion, the iPhone 9 Plus. (Some tech websites speculate the new phones will be called the iPhone 9 SE 2.) These handsets will reportedly replace the existing iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.
The entry-level phone will supposedly include a 4.7-inch LCD display; a solid-state home button that simulate clicks, just as in the iPhone 7, with a return to Touch ID; and an A13 Bionic chip—the same processor included in both the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models. The faster performance is likely to be the key element that could convince iPhone 6, 7, and 8 owners to upgrade.
iPhone 12/12 Pro
Apple’s next-gen smartphone, which will surpass the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, is expected to come with 5G support this September, according to a report in Business Insider. That’s in addition to 3D cameras that will supposedly use lasers, just as in the new iPad Pro model.
Interestingly, it looks like the phones will come in new sizes that don’t match the current lineup of iPhones, according to Korean news outlet ET News. This year’s models are expected to come in 5.4-inch, 6.1-inch, and 6.7-inch screen sizes, while the current family of iPhones includes the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro, the 6.1-inch iPhone 11, and the 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max.
A Sleep-Tracking Apple Watch
Despite all the latest advances to Apple’s line of Apple Watches—which even collect data to support health studies—their fatal flaw has been a lack of sleep tracking, which competitor wearables like the Fitbit have been embracing for years, even in the lowest-tier models.
Apple has been reportedly testing sleep monitoring functionality for the Apple Watch this year, according to Bloomberg. Given that Apple tends to release its new Apple Watch models alongside its flagship iPhone debuts, there’s a good chance we won’t see this guy until September.
Apple’s Answer to Tile
Apple already has its “Find My” app, which lets you use your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to hunt down lost devices, like your AirPods or Apple Watch. But the company is also reportedly working on a physical accessory that would augment this feature: its own Bluetooth tracker, similar to Tile.
According to MacRumors, which apparently found references to the new devices in Apple’s iPhone software, the trackers would be functionally similar to Tile and consist of a small tag that can be placed on items that are commonly lost and misplaced—like keys and wallets. Users could find their missing items through the existing “Find My” app. If these trackers do launch, they’re expected to come in the first half of 2020.
Full disclosure: We totally just made this name up. But based on a report in Bloomberg, Apple may be releasing its own version of Google Glass (never mind the fact that AR glasses have been a major flop thus far). Originally, the outlet reported that Apple was targeting a 2020 release date, but has since walked that back and now expects an AR/VR headset to come out sometime in 2021, with glasses to follow in 2023.
Apple has seen explosive demand for its line of AirPods, and last year introduced the improved AirPods Pro earbuds, but reports in Kuo, Bloomberg, MacRumors and 9to5Mac all suggest these earphones will soon have a new family member. The over-ear headphones are expected to be a high-end alternative to the Apple-owned Beats line. Their release date will supposedly be sometime in the first half of 2020.
Newly Improved Apple TV
Last month, 9to5Mac discovered evidence of new hardware in the developer beta version of tvOS 13.4. The code referenced an Apple TV with a chip that matches the architecture of Apple’s A12 Bionic and A30 Bionic processors, which could mean an Apple TV with far better performance.