The most interesting rumor in this report has to do with the iPad Pro and the Lightning Port. Kuo echoes previous predictions that Apple would move to a USB-C charging brick and cable for fast charging out of the box. This has been expected for a while, and is a welcome change, if a little late on Apple’s part. However, his wording certainly makes it sound like he believes that Apple is charging the port itself from Lightning to USB-C:
In addition to Face ID support, we expect the new iPad Pro models’ main upgrade to include replacing Lightning with a USB-C interface and bundling with a new unibody design 18W power adapter, which cancels the removable plug design…
Hmmm…Now that would be news. I can’t help but think that either Kuo is wrong, or that maybe this is a translation error or misunderstanding. MacRumors even raised the same possibility in their article. I certainly have difficulty believing that Apple will alter the device’s lone remaining connector after already changing the form factor and removing the headphone jack from both iPad Pro models this year. It is rare that Apple changes this much in one upgrade.
On the other hand, maybe Apple is shaking things up further with the iPad Pro. If Apple adds USB-C and unlocks the ability for people to use dongles (even if they must be Apple MFi approved), that would be huge. This would also be an interesting way for Apple to shift the iPad Pro more in line with their notebooks than the iPhone. Also, by giving users additional expandability options, they would expand the overall flexibility of the device from a productivity standpoint.
Bottom line- I won’t believe that the iPad Pros will get USB-C ports until I hear it come out of Phil Schiller’s mouth. However, it would definitely be a big, unexpected change. If it happens, then hats off to Kuo for the scoop.
Watching your health
While the mainstream focus of the Apple Watch has been on fitness, exercise, and instant notifications, there is also a fast-growing market for the device as a more sophisticated health monitor for finding and tracking chronic conditions, as well. Everyone has heard the rumors about Apple and others investigating things like bloodless glucose monitoring for management of diabetes. However, there are MANY other applications, some of which are already possible with the hardware as it stands today.
While we have seen several leaks about improvements to the screen and resolution of the Apple Watch Series 4 to-date, Kuo has an interesting bit of news about a health-focused addition to the new hardware. He predicts that Apple will be adding on-board EKG support directly to the Watch this year, which is a big deal.
The FDA approved an EKG accessory band for the Apple Watch from AliveCor called the KardiaBand in November of last year. That device is capable of taking a 30 second EKG anytime the wearer initiates one, and then shares the data to the Watch and AliveCor’s app. AliveCor’s app monitors heart activity and notifies the user when things are outside of normal parameters and prompts them to take an EKG. That report can then be sent straight to their doctor, if necessary. This is a much more portable solution that users used to deal with, and is great example of the flexibility of the Apple Watch as a health monitor.
If Kuo’s report is accurate, the major difference between AliveCor’s band and a built-in feature on the Watch will be FDA approval. If Apple ever goes down that road themselves, it is far more likely that it would be with a separate accessory like AliveCor’s KardiaBand, and not the Watch itself. These regulatory approvals take time and money, and would slow down hardware development of the Watch on other fronts.
That said, even if Apple’s built-in EKG isn’t FDA approved as a treatment device, it can still provide valuable information to users that there could be a problem, and that they need to see a doctor. The biggest advantage with Apple building this capability in is that it would always be on, while accessories like the KardiaBand must take a manual reading. I ran a story this Spring going through a few of the stories about the Apple Watch indicating a serious or critical health condition, and literally saving people’s lives. Adding built-in EKG will just enhance the Watch’s ability to do this going forward.
Apple adding this feature does not “Sherlock” the market for other heart monitoring devices. In fact, it could actually grow their potential market. For Watch users who find out they have a heart condition, an FDA approved monitoring band or the AliveCor KardiaBand would be the next logical step. However, having the basic capability built into the Watch would be a big step up for Apple, as it will allow users who don’t know they have a heart problem to potentially catch it when it starts. This keeps them ahead of the pack when it comes to serious health monitoring capability.
Kuo also predicts that all Apple Watch Series 4 devices will have a ceramic back. Currently, only the Edition version has this feature. No word on whether this is necessary for the EKG feature, or not. My only concern here is whether this change combined with Donald Trump’s tariffs will drive the price of the Series 4 up significantly.
Bottom line- I really hope this report on built-in EKG is true. If so, it’s a smart step forward for Apple in health and wellness tracking.
The rest of the predictions are more mundane. There is the possibility that Apple be replacing the current 12″ MacBook with the new laptop model that has been rumored for a while. He also mentions that it might get TouchID without the full Touch Bar. This sounds like a smart compromise to keep costs down, while providing a solid biometric solution before Face ID is ready for a move to macOS. If this is true, then the Air may be completely out of the picture soon, and we may be getting a cheaper MacBook design instead.
Kuo also echoes earlier reports that the 6.1″ LCD iPhone will be “late.” However, it won’t be as much of a wait as we had for the iPhone X last year. He says it should be available in late September or early October.
Last, Kuo says the AirPower will finally arrive before the end of the year. Predictably, a refresh of the AirPods with a wireless charging case will also come around the same time.
Kuo doesn’t say whether these items will all be announced at Apple’s event on Wednesday. I would expect to hear news about the iPhone, iPad, and Watch then, but the AirPower and AirPods may just be a press release right before they go on sale in another month or so.