Apple could be secretly working on an ARM-based, touchscreen computer

Apple is reportedly at work on an entirely new line of computers under the code name “Star.” Distinct from products like the MacBook or the iPad Pro, Project Star was originally said to be a “brand new device family.” It will be a hybrid touchscreen computer that “runs a derivative of iOS,” according to 9to5 Mac, but recent reports suggest that this could just be a new iPhone model in Apple’s lineup.

The report doesn’t have a lot of details, nor does it claim a specific source, but it does offer a few interesting snippets of information that hint at what kind of device this will be. Apparently, this Project Star computer will include a touchscreen, a SIM card slot, GPS, and compass. It will also be water resistant. All of those things sound like a mobile device akin to an iPad, but 9to5 Mac also notes that it runs a specification called Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI). If it really does use EFI, that could mean we’re looking at something more akin to an ARM-based notebook. An ARM-based MacBook would give it capabilities such as LTE — a feature that new Qualcomm-powered laptops like the HP Envy X2 have.

Although we should take the report with a grain of salt until we hear more, we have been waiting for Apple to reveal its plans for a new entry-level MacBook all year. While all the rumors surrounding a new laptop have hinted it was a new MacBook or MacBook Air, some kind of a hybrid device would be more interesting. There are claims that prototypes have already been created and are currently being tested by Apple employees in Cupertino. Even more surprisingly, the ship date could be as soon as 2020.

Pegatron is expected to be the manufacturer for Apple’s ARM-based computing device, which will have a model number beginning with N84, DigiTimes reported citing industry sources. Another possibility that’s being floated for N84 is a low-cost iPhone. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman tweeted that his sources told him that N84 could be a low-cost variant of an iPhone X with an LCD instead of an AMOLED screen.

The division between Mac and iOS has been a hurdle Apple has been trying to leap for years now. Features like the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro or the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard are all examples of ways to bring the functionality of the two product lines together. There were even rumors earlier this year that Apple was planning to find a way to bring iOS apps to the Mac, which would make a lot of sense on a device like the one mentioned in the report.

On the other hand, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently stated that Apple customers weren’t interested in a device that merges MacOS and iOS and that it would only water down both of them.

We may learn more about Apple’s plans for future MacBooks at its upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference.

Updated on May 29: Added information about Pegatron and LCD iPhone.

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