A couple of things about Apple Rumors:

  1. We're deep, deep into silly season already where every blog and vlog worth its bait is going to try to get us all riled up so it can convert our outrage into attention. I mean, the internet is nothing if not a giant angst engine with a monetization motor barely holding on to the side.

  2. Apple lives in the future. Very literally. Swear to god, it's like talking to Jon Osterman from Watchman sometimes.

From design and prototyping to hardware and software engineering, they're all working on products we won't see for another year or more. For hardware especially, all the big decisions get made well in advance so everything else can all hit the same target at the same time.

What we see in rumors are really echoes of those decisions reverberating around the supply chain and gossip channels, months or more later. So, take them with a grain of salt, sure, but also factor in broken telephone, missing context, misunderstandings, outdated, or sometimes just flat-out wrong information.

We don't know jack

That brings me to the rumor-de-jour from Macotakara, the occasionally somewhat accurate rumor blog that, over the weekend, claimed its supply-chain sources were saying that… Well, here, take a look:

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From Macotakara:

The microphone at the top of the head, and the upper part of the back joins together to create stereo microphone specifications with 2 microphones at the top of the head. The requirement for a 3.5 mm headphone jack disappears.

Face ID is installed - therefore it is impossible to release the lock with the main unit turned sideways, or when the position of the Smart Connector (previously located on the side) has been moved to the lower rear side - close to the Lightning connector.

For this reason, the next iPad Pro Smart Keyboard may be changed to vertical position specifications.

Basically, that the next iPad Pro, which is expected to ship this fall, will delete the headphone jack and move the smart keyboard to a vertical orientation.

Sorry, I'm laughing because it hurts.

Not the bit about the headphone jack. Apple deleted the headphone jack on iPhone, starting with iPhone 7. They did it to:

  1. Create space for new, bigger components like the Taptic Engine and Fusion Camera System,

  2. To improve water resistance (you can seal the connector but having people plug other electrical devices into it while its still wet could prove… problematic),

  3. Push the adoption of new wireless technologies like AirPods.

The biggest downside, and it was a BIG downside, was consumer convenience. The 3.5mm jack had a hundred year history, it was going to get axed eventually, and it was going to be rough whenever it happened so that band-aid got pulled.

Apple wasn't the first — HTC had experimented with deleting the jack going back a decade — but Apple was the most influential and, following iPhone 7, deletion became more and more common.

But iPads — and Macs for that matter — are different. They're both physically more spacious and also more likely to be used for pro audio work, some of which still requires a 3.5mm connector. And that, at least so far, has been enough to keep the jack intact.

If Apple does intend to remove the 3.5 from iPad next, what's changed?

Certainly not the pro audio requirements. They'll have to migrate to Lightning splitters to handle both audio and charging at the same time, and while hashtag dongles are part of the pro life, they're still hashtag annoying as hell.

But it could be space. For years people have been demanding Apple delete any and all bezels with extreme prejudice as well, but without any apparent consideration for the all the components that live ever so snuggly inside them.

When bezels get cut away or screens grow to fill them, you have less space for everything else. That includes fitting a 3.5mm jack under the display assembly.

That keyboard carpet

The vertical keyboard part is harder to understand. It's not unprecedented, of course. The original iPad shipped with a vertical keyboard dock after Steve Jobs had the second, landscape dock removed for simplicity's sake just before the product went into final manufacturing.

But that was then, this is now, and Apple has spent over a decade turning and tuning iPad into a landscape-optimized machine. I mean, just scroll down apple.com/ipad-pro and count the portrait shots. I'm not even sure you'll need your second set of fingers.

Also, maybe it's just me, but sticking the Smart Connector next to the Lightning Connector seems like a great way to prevent people from charging or using other accessories while they type, which, yeah, no.

And what would they do with the quad-speaker system, which is there right now? Move it to the landscape edges? And then make three more smart connectors-look alike covers over the mic arrays just to maintain visual symmetry?

Do you see how through the looking glass this is taking us?

The reason given seems farfetched as well — that Face ID won't work in landscape.

Face ID is based on neural networks, which means it isn't coded like a traditional computer program. Instead, brilliantly or terrifyingly, you be the judged — it's trained, more like a pet.

Your face, not your face, not your face, your face, not your face, hotdog — you get the idea.

For Face ID on iPhone, given it was the first iteration, it was just simpler and more reliable to train it to be great at one orientation. Since most of the time you hold your iPhone in portrait, it wasn't a huge deal.

But, theoretically, it can be trained for both orientations. Apple has already added support for a second appearance, if not face, in iOS 12, so we know the system can and will evolve.

Absolute worst case, if there's some complexity problem or technical, the TrueDepth sensor system and neural engine could certainly be optimized for landscape-only orientation.

At least to me, that seems like a much less annoying compromise than moving the Smart Keyboard vertical.


… Damn.

Nothing unreal exists

Never say never, of course, but last year there were an awful lot of quote-unquote leaks that claimed Touch ID would be on the back of iPhone X and, well, we all know how that turned out…

Or didn't.

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