A new report on Tuesday said Apple is planning to upgrade its wireless music streaming technology known as AirPlay in the coming month.
"The new version will require just speakers or a hifi and an iDevice; the iPhone, iPod or iPad would form its own network to allow a direct connection and music playback," sources familiar with Apple's plans told the (UK) Telegraph.
Word is the announcement will come when the company debuts the new iPhone. At the moment, most sources believe this large media event will occur on Wednesday, Sept. 12.
"iMore has learned that Apple is planning to debut the new iPhone at a special event on Wednesday, September 12, 2012, with the release date to follow 9 days later on Friday, September 21," said iMore's Rene Ritchie, who was the first to report the alleged unveiling and release dates for the new iPhone 5. "This information comes from sources who have proven accurate in the past."
It's possible that the AirPlay upgrade, which was given the working title "AirPlay Direct," will be an exclusive to the new iPhone, but it's more likely that the technology will be a software update intended for all iOS devices. (Apple announced the newest version of its mobile platform, iOS 6, back at WWDC in June, but said it would be "coming this fall." We can only assume that Apple will announce the official release date for iOS 6 when it announces the new iPhone.)
So what's new and significant about this alleged new version of AirPlay? Well first of all, the technology is said to eliminate the need for a Wi-Fi network, which means that iOS devices like iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touchs may soon be able to beam music directly to a speaker system over its own connection.
Currently, AirPlay lets iPhones, iPads and iPods play music to speakers, but the speakers must be built-in with a proprietary chip from Apple in order to be AirPlay-enabled; there's no word if this function will change in the new AirPlay Direct, and if future speakers will still require Apple's chips to be compatible with iOS devices.
This is not the only widespread change rumored to be coming to the iOS family; nearly every major news outlet has reported Apple's plans to slim down its traditional dock connector -- the outlet for connecting the iPhone, iPad and iPod to power sources, devices, utilities and other accessories -- from 30 pins to either 19 pins, or possibly even just eight or nine pins. News outlets like Reuters and The New York Times originally believed the new dock connector would be 19 pins, but in early August, 9 to 5 Mac discovered a reference to a 9-pin dock connector embedded in the code of the iOS 6 Beta 4 build, which Apple had released to developers earlier that week.
By slimming down the dock connector, Apple can make sleeker and skinner iOS devices, but it's possible the dock connector upgrade will come with some added benefits, possibly like a faster connection (Thunderbolt, anyone?) or a more secure connection (Magsafe, anyone?).
These are changes reportedly coming to all iOS devices, but most believe Apple plans to introduce a few new devices to that family on the Sept. 12 event.
The iPhone isn't the only device said to be unveiled next month; reports are saying Apple has plans to introduce a new iPod Nano, a new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, and a brand-new "mini" iPad, which is expected to be unveiled in September but released in October, quite possibly on Oct. 5 - the one year anniversary of Steve Jobs' death.
Here's a brief summary of what you can expect to see from each new device:
iPhone 5: Thanks to batches of images released by insiders within Apple's supply chains and repair shops, we generally know what the iPhone 5 looks like. We expect the iPhone to feature a bigger, thinner front plate that stretches the screen just beyond four inches to achieve a 16:9 resolution ratio to watch 1080p HD videos in a widescreen format.
According to alleged prototypes and images, Apple has also reportedly expanded and redesigned its speaker grills, migrated the FaceTime camera to be directly above the earpiece, moved the earphone jack from the top right corner of the phone to the bottom left corner, and introduced a new camera opening on the backside of the phone between the camera lens and the LED flash, which likely houses a small microphone. Finally, we believe Apple has fixed its iPhone 5 with a unibody metal back instead of an all-glass facade, which could potentially improve call reception, and has also endowed the iPhone with that smaller dock connector.
iPad Mini: On July 10, a photo set of the alleged iPad Mini suggested the mini tablet would be much wider and a little taller than the Nexus 7, Google's recently introduced 7-inch tablet, and it would be slightly thinner than Apple's third-generation "new" iPad. Gotta Be Mobile believes the iPad Mini will measure about 213.36mm tall and 143.67mm wide, which is "approximately two-thirds of the size of the new third-generation iPad." (The new iPad is 185.67mm wide, 241.3mm tall, and 9.39mm thick.)
The iPad Mini will almost definitely feature a Retina Display, front and rear cameras (iSight and FaceTime), and a smaller dock connector (like the iPhone 5). Read here for more information about the iPad Mini's alleged features.
13-inch Retina MacBook Pro: Before Apple shocked the WWDC audience with a completely-redesigned MacBook Pro with Retina Display, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted Apple would unveil such a notebook, and he even correctly forecast most of the features, including a lighter and slimmer form factor than the current MacBook Pros, the lack of a disc drive, and the Retina Display. After the event took place, Kuo followed up on his earlier report by sharing a new note with AppleInsider, in which he described how Apple will follow up the 15-inch model with a smaller, 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, to be released in early October.
Kuo had actually mentioned the 13-inch model in his initial report, adding that the basic computer would sell at $1,199. Apple starts selling the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display at $2,199.
New iPod Touch: On Aug. 25, GizChina posted new photos of what it claimed to be a next-generation iPod Touch, which featured a less tapered design and a wider rear camera whole, which suggests Apple may have added an LED flash to the back of the iPod to be like the iPhone.
As you can see from the photos these cases suggest that the next generation iPod touch will have a new design (at least to the rear) and seem to be have a much less pronounced taper to the edges when compared to the current iPod touch 4. The hole around the camera area to the left for example looks to have been elongated and tapered to fit around a possible LED flash to help with low light photography, and there is also the appearance of a new 'mystery hole' in the lower left hand side of the case.
The report goes on to speculate the "mystery hole" is a speaker or microphone of some kind.
What do you think of the AirPlay Direct news? If Apple unveils this new technology as an exclusive feature to one of its new devices, like the iPhone 5 or the iPad Mini, would you buy the device to use AirPlay Direct? Let us know in the comments section below.