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The most delicious Apple rumors of 2016

We researched rumors and patent filings to predict the innovative Apple products and services that are coming next.

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Topic: Innovation
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1 of 19 Jon Hicks/Corbis

In which ZDNet reads Apple's collective minds

To many, the name Apple is synonymous with innovation. The company has revolutionized the smartphone market, created the tablet market, and jumped head-first into wearables with the Apple Watch.

What's next? The company is notoriously secretive, but we pored over comments from the company's many part suppliers; official filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; and the more plausible rumors, all to get a pretty good inkling.

None of the products listed in this gallery is 100 percent for sure going to be released to the public. Many have yet to enter the manufacturing phase. Still, we sure hope Apple follows through on all these ideas; some are groundbreaking, some are bizarre, and some are just downright cool.

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2 of 19 Mallory Morrison, © Mallory Morrison/Corbis

Waterproof gadgets

Android devices are increasingly becoming waterproof -- the Sony Xperia Z3, Samsung Galaxy S6 Active, HTC Desire Eye and Kyocera Hydro Elite are all able to withstand a drop in the toilet.

Delivering a waterproofing feature hasn't been a priority at Apple, but that may soon change. Already, there are rumors that the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus phones can withstand brief drops in clean water.

And just last year, Apple filed for at least three new patents to waterproof their devices -- one to coat internal components with a thin hydrophobic shield, one to protect ports with shutters, and one to cover ports with a self-healing material. Such tech would be a welcome addition to any Apple portable gadget, from tablets to laptops and beyond.

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3 of 19 Google

Apple's self-driving car

Sure, you've heard about Google's self-driving car (shown). But did you know that Apple is also rumored to be working on it's own version via a secretive program known as "Project Titan?"

The Guardian reported last year that Apple has had meetings with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to discuss autonomous car regulations. The company was also reportedly looking into secluded test locations for vetting its car in the state.

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4 of 19 Karl Mondon/ZUMA Press/Corbis

The Apple car: An open secret

California law requires full disclosure of autonomous car testing, so we know there's no Apple car on the road yet. Still, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has all but confirmed for us that one is coming.

"It's pretty hard to hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it," he said, further calling the iCar an "open secret."

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5 of 19 Apple via U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

An Apple ring

Would you wear an Apple computer on your finger? It could happen; documents obtained from the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office confirm that Apple is devoting resources to creating a smart ring.

In Apple's vision for the device, you'd receive notifications about incoming calls and texts on the ring's tiny touchscreen display. The ring would also contain a mic for access to Siri, an NFC chip that could enable finger-based payments, motion sensors to recognize gestures, and biometric sensors for activity tracking.

Pretty cool, right? Yep. But bear in mind: Apple patents a lot of things that never make it into production.

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6 of 19 Apple

iPhone 7

Here's what we know -- or think we know -- about the Apple iPhone 7:

  • If past history is any judge, it will arrive in late Fall 2016.
  • It will lack a 3.5-inch headphone port. Purchasers will be encouraged to use Bluetooth-enabled headphones (a set of wireless earbuds is rumored come with the phone) or a special adapter that connects to your phone's lightning port.
  • It will feature better, space-saving speakers.

But that's not all ...

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7 of 19 Patrik Giardino/Corbis

iPhone 7: Better pictures

Notably, Apple's new iPhone 7 will likely feature an extra rear-facing camera, which will allow for better optical zoom and better photos.
The new phone is also rumored to support wireless charging (finally!) and in-display fingerprint recognition. Future iPhones may then opt for a solid body construction, eliminating the home button entirely.

Remember, this is all sourced from rumor and comments from Apple's manufacturing partners. Much could change between now and when the phone is actually released.

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8 of 19 Apple, Science Picture Co./Corbis, Photo Illustration by Fox Van Allen

DNA testing

According to the MIT Technology Review, Apple is partnering with a number of labs and researchers to bring DNA testing to the iPhone via its ResearchKit platform.

As the reported plan goes, iPhone owners would provide DNA samples by spitting into a tiny cup and sending it to an Apple-approved academic lab for analysis. That lab would perform limited tests on the DNA to identify the presence of roughly 100 genes associated with known diseases.

This data would be maintained in a special research cloud that Apple itself can't touch. But one day soon, your device could provide you access to this information -- or allow you to share it with researchers with the tap of a finger.

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9 of 19 Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Corbis

Augmented-reality glasses

Google Glass may be off to a rocky start, but that isn't stopping Apple from working on its own brand of augmented reality (AR) technology.

Augmented reality is a computer-assisted way of viewing the real world. Apple's specific version, revealed through patent filings, would require you to wear a physical headset. That headset would then overlay extra bits of information over your real-world view.

Imagine walking through the streets of Paris with an AR headset. The tech would be capable of instantly translating all street signs, so that all you see is English. An AR view of a childrens' story book, meanwhile, might have the characters popping out of the page to perform a dance animation.

If the concept sounds a little blue-sky, we're with you on that. Then again, when you consider Apple's 2015 purchase of AR firm Metaio, it's pretty clear that the company is betting big on AR technology.

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10 of 19 Milton Brown/Westend61/Corbis

Biometric headphones

Apple's $3 billion purchase of Beats suggests that it wants to become a big player in the headphones business. So, then, it shouldn't come as any surprise to learn that Apple's designers are researching and filing patents related to biometric-tracking headphones.

Apple's apparent plans call for earbuds that track your heart rate, with built-in perspiration and temperature monitors. Embedded motion sensors would enable gesture-based controls. Finally, speculation is rampant that the device could include a new type of "psychological sensor," able to track your mood while you wear the earbuds, perhaps to provide music that matches your mental state.

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11 of 19 Randy Faris/Corbis, Photo Illustration by Fox Van Allen

An actual Apple TV set

The Apple television -- that is, an actual Apple-branded TV set -- is one product rumor that simply won't die.

For years, Wall Street analysts had been expecting Apple to enter the ultra-high-definition television market with an innovative flourish. In 2015, Apple confirmed that it looked into building its own TV, but ultimately decided against entering the industry.

Still, there are a handful of us out there who still have hope. Billionaire investor-slash-Apple-dreamer Carl Icahn continues to believe that Apple will enter the $575 billion television market with its own branded set later this year.

That sounds ridiculously optimistic, but we certainly wouldn't be surprised if Apple revisits its TV idea in the near future.

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12 of 19 Frank Duenzl/dpa/Corbis

Multi-color LED keyboards

Backlit keyboards are a hallmark of luxury laptops such as the MacBook. And soon, they may be getting a lot more colorful.

Patently Apple recently reported that Apple has filed for a patent to build multiple LEDs into its keyboards. Games and apps would be able to communicate with this new type of keyboard, allowing them to highlight certain keys with different colors.

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13 of 19 Nano Calvo/Corbis

Battery and power consumption improvements

Smartphone batteries keep getting better, but none seem to be able to offer enough power for a full day's use. Yet.

Apple has put some effort into extending the life of your battery without sacrificing form or other features. The new, smaller, non-rectangular, terraced cell battery in the MacBook, for example, has 35 percent higher capacity than those previously used. And iOS 9 contains a number of features that intelligently reduce power consumption, such as the new "Low Power Mode."

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14 of 19 Apple

All-day battery life

That said, all-day battery life for the iPhone doesn't seem to be a top priority at Apple (as proven by Apple's bulky iPhone 6S Smart Battery Case, above). The company believes that you'd rather have powerful features and a slim design over a bulkier, less-powerful device that needs charging less often.

Still, battery tech is rapidly advancing to fit more charge into a smaller footprint, suggesting that an all-day smartphone battery is an inevitability over the next few years.

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15 of 19 Apple

Full smart home controls

Currently, Apple's HomeKit platform can talk to a small handful of smart home devices, including Philips Hue lights, ecobee3 smart thermostats, Rachio smart watering systems, and First Alert smart smoke detectors.

But many popular smart home devices are not currently supported by HomeKit, such as the Nest thermostat (now made by Apple competitor Google), Kwikset Kevo, and Belkin WeMo switches.

There's no unified smart home format, and there may never be. But Apple, according to CNET, remains the industry's best bet for unifying all these devices under a single standard.

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16 of 19 Apple

CarPlay

The U.S. auto industry may be great at making car hardware, but so far it's been terrible at making software. The current state of in-dash infotainment systems is a mess -- giving Apple the perfect opportunity to dominate the space with its Apple CarPlay phone sync platform.

Currently, every major car manufacturer offers (or plans to offer) a vehicle with an in-dash infotainment system compatible with Apple CarPlay. As demand increases (and the cost of touchscreen components decreases), the number of vehicles that support CarPlay is expected to increase as well.

Don't be surprised if you see huge growth in both Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto in the coming years.

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17 of 19 Apple

Person-to-person payments

For the truly plugged in, Venmo is everything. It's how smart folks settle up lunch tabs, pay their share of the rent, and split the cost of Uber rides.

Aside from these person-to-person transactions taking place on an iPhone, Apple has no direct involvement in these mobile payments, nor does it profit from them. Doubtless, that's something Apple wants to change.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is in talks with major banks to launch its own person-to-person payment app sometime in 2016. Full details are thin, but its widely believed that the payment system will be compatible with Apple Pay.

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18 of 19 Satchan/Corbis

All-glass appliances

Smartphones and tablets built from aluminum? That's so last decade. The next big thing in tech is going to be gadgets made entirely from glass -- at least, apparently, if Apple's imagineers have their way.

Filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveal that Apple is mulling "fused glass device housings," a way to sandwich electronics between pieces of solid glass. This tech could easily be applied to the iPhone or the iPad.

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19 of 19 Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters/Corbis

Television streaming service

Apple has made impressive inroads in the TV industry by offering apps (and subscriptions) to HBO, Showtime, and even CBS livestreams via the Apple TV box.

But that's only the beginning. Apple is pushing cable content providers to let it sell its own Internet-delivered cable TV service.

There have definitely been some false starts with the effort -- Apple was hoping to have the cable streaming service live before the end of 2015. That never happened, but analysts at J.P. Morgan remain confident that a $40-per-month cable subscription service is still forthcoming from Apple ... if it can get a deal done.

(Note: CBS is the parent company of ZDNET.)

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