Top Stories: AirPods Pro Firmware Changes, Mystery MacBook Filing, 5G iPad Pro?

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It was a busy week of rumors as we hit the middle of January, with reports about updates to Face ID in the iPhone 12 lineup later this year, signs of a new Mac notebook coming soon, and word that Apple is working on an iPad Pro with 5G support.

Other big news this week included an analysis of changes to audio performance made in an AirPods Pro firmware update late last month.

New AirPods Pro Firmware: Worse Noise Canceling, Improved Frequency Response and Bass Accuracy

Last month, Apple released a new firmware update for the AirPods Pro bumping the version number from 2B588 to 2C54. After the update, there were several anecdotal reports that the AirPods Pro noise cancelation may have been adversely affected.

AirPods Pro
Impacted users asked tech review site RTINGS.com to reevaluate its previous testing of the AirPods Pro with the new firmware to confirm if there are any changes, and the website did find a fairly significant drop in isolation performance.

The news is not all bad, however. In other areas of testing, the 2C54 firmware appears to improve performance in frequency response and bass accuracy. Nevertheless, Apple pulled the new version only days after its release, so it is presumably working on the issues described.

iPhone 12 Models Said to Have 'Refreshed' Face ID System, Lightning Connector Could Be Dropped in 2021

iPhone 12 models will feature a "refreshed" front-facing TrueDepth system, according to Barclays analysts, hinting at Face ID improvements.

face id scan
The biggest change of all could come next year, as the analysts see potential for Apple to remove the Lightning connector from at least one iPhone model in 2021, echoing a prediction shared by Ming-Chi Kuo last month. This could result in EarPods being removed from the box, they said.

Earlier this month, Kuo said four 5G-enabled iPhones are on track to launch simultaneously in the fall, including models with sub-6GHz-only and sub-6GHz-plus-mmWave compatibility.

Apple Files Unreleased Mac in Database, Possibly 13-Inch MacBook Pro With Scissor Keyboard

Apple this week filed an unreleased Mac with a model identifier of A2289 in the Eurasian Economic Commission database, as spotted by MacRumors. The computer is described as a portable Mac running macOS Catalina.

16 inch macbook pro scissor switch keyboard
As pure speculation, it is certainly possible that this listing could correspond with the rumored 13-inch MacBook Pro with a scissor keyboard, following in the footsteps of the 16-inch MacBook Pro last October. There is some hope that the 13-inch model will become a 14-inch model, but that remains uncertain.

Eurasian Economic Commission filings like these have foreshadowed the release of new Apple products on numerous occasions. They are legally required for any encrypted devices sold in Russia and a few other countries.

Evidence of a "Pro Mode" that boosts performance and overrides fan speed limits has also been discovered in the macOS Catalina 10.15.3 beta.

Apple Rumored to Be Developing 5G iPad Pro With mmWave Support

A pair of supply chain reports this week claim Apple is developing 5G-enabled iPads with mmWave support for release as early as fall 2020.

ipadprosizecomparison
With an iPad Pro refresh already rumored for March 2020, timing is the biggest question mark. Major new features often come to the iPhone before the iPad, but a notable exception was the third-generation iPad receiving LTE support in March 2012, prior to the iPhone 5 in September 2012.

mmWave or millimeter wave is a set of 5G frequencies that promise ultra-fast speeds at short distances, making it best suited for dense urban areas. By comparison, sub-6GHz 5G is generally slower than mmWave, but the signals travel further, better serving suburban and rural areas.

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