Top Stories: Apple Event in March With iPhone 9, iPad Pro With 3D Sensing, and More?
With a number of products apparently just about ready to launch, we're starting to hear our first specific rumors about the possibility of an Apple media event near the end of next month, although continued impacts from the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic are leading to some uncertainty about Apple's plans.
Other news and rumors this week included more mentions of "AirPods Pro Lite" earphones, "AirTags" item trackers, the "CarKey" NFC functionality appearing in iOS 13.4 betas, and some of our first rumors about iOS 14.
Read on for all the details, and make sure to watch our video covering some of these stories and more.
Apple Event Rumored for March 31: iPhone 9, iPad Pro With 3D Sensing, More?
Apple often holds its first media event of the year in March, and that trend might continue in 2020.
A report this week claimed that Apple is aiming to host a special event on Tuesday, March 31, with rumors suggesting that the company may introduce a new lower-cost "iPhone 9" and refreshed iPad Pro models sporting a triple-lens rear camera system with 3D sensing.
Keep in mind that Apple's plans may change due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in China. Apple already announced that it does not expect to meet its revenue guidance that it provided for the March quarter due to the outbreak.
'AirPods Pro Lite' Production Reportedly Delayed Due to Coronavirus Outbreak
A report from hit-or-miss Taiwanese publication DigiTimes this week claimed that Apple suppliers have delayed production of so-called "AirPods Pro Lite" until at least the end of the second quarter of 2020 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in China.
The publication describes the "AirPods Pro Lite" as an "entry-level version" of the existing AirPods Pro, but no features or specifications have been outlined.
All in all, details are slim right now. "AirPods Pro Lite" is somewhat of an oxymoron, as "Pro Lite" just sounds like regular AirPods, but it has been speculated that perhaps Apple will release a less expensive version of the AirPods Pro with the same design and sound quality but without noise cancellation.
Supply Chain to Ramp Up for Apple's Item Tracking Tags in Second to Third Quarter of 2020
Shanghai-based Universal Scientific Industrial will begin supplying the system-in-package for Apple's rumored Ultra Wideband item tracking tags in the second to third quarter of 2020, with shipments to reach tens of millions of units by the end of the year, according to reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
Last month, Kuo said the Ultra Wideband tag would be one of Apple's major new hardware products in the first half of 2020, but he has yet to provide a more specific release date for the accessory.
MacRumors uncovered evidence of Apple working on item trackers in iOS 13 code last year, including an unreleased "Items" tab in the Find My app and a potential "AirTag" name for the tags, which would attach to everyday belongings like keys and backpacks for tracking purposes. Ultra Wideband support would allow for more precise location accuracy than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth LE.
Apple's Upcoming 'CarKey' Feature Will Let You Send Digital Keys Using Messages App
As discovered in the first beta of iOS 13.4, Apple is working on a new "CarKey" feature that will allow an iPhone or an Apple Watch to unlock, lock, and start NFC-compatible vehicles.
Now, in the second beta of iOS 13.4, MacRumors has discovered that "CarKeys" will be able to be sent to people using the Messages app.
It appears that Apple will be partnering with vehicle manufacturers for "CarKey," indicating that it may be a factory installed option like CarPlay. It remains unclear when Apple plans to announce this feature.
We've also put together a roundup of everything else added in the second beta of iOS 13.4 and iPadOS 13.4.
iOS 14 May Allow Users to Set Third-Party Web Browser and Mail Apps as Default
Apple is considering allowing iPhone and iPad users to set third-party mail and browser apps as defaults instead of its own Safari and Mail apps starting in iOS 14, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.
The report adds that Apple is working to allow third-party music services like Spotify and Pandora to be streamed directly on the HomePod with Siri in a future software update, as is possible with Apple Music. Spotify currently can only be streamed on the HomePod via AirPlay.
Latest Foldable Smartphones Experiencing Failures and Durability Issues
Foldable smartphones are the latest device trend, with companies such as Motorola and Samsung having released new foldable smartphones over the course of the last few weeks.
The first foldable smartphone from Samsung, the Galaxy Fold, had major durability issues that caused its launch to be delayed. Samsung's newest foldable device, the Galaxy Z Flip, seems to be faring a bit better so far, but there are still some complaints about its build quality and problems with the display. The same is true of Motorola's latest smartphone, the RAZR.
On our YouTube channel this week, we shared our impressions of the Galaxy Z Flip and its durability after 48 hours of usage.
Each week, we publish an email newsletter like this highlighting the top Apple stories, making it a great way to get a bite-sized recap of the week hitting all of the major topics we've covered and tying together related stories for a big-picture view.