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Apple’s MacOS Sierra documentation hints at Touch ID support, OLED touch bar in MacBooks

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Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup is getting a bit long in the tooth. The Cupertino company’s ostensibly top-tier laptops haven’t seen an update since 2015, and many still sport Intel’s aging Haswell chips — two generations behind the company’s latest silicon. But rumor has it the MacBook series is due for its most ambitious upgrade yet sometime this year, and developer references in Apple’s latest MacOS release, Sierra, lend credence to those rumblings.

Specifically, recently published API references on macOS Sierra’s developer website hint at new hardware in the rumored MacBook Pros. One with the colorfully descriptive “kHIDUsage_LED_DoNotDisturb” would seem to point to the presence of a physical “Dot Not Disturb” button on the upcoming laptops (on current-generation Macbook Pros, Do Not Disturb can only be toggled in software, within the macOS notifications pane. The conspicuous “kHIDUsage_LED,” meanwhile, appears to provide a means to display capacitive media playback buttons — i.e., rewind, play, pause, and fast forward — on a secondary screen.

Yet another, “kHIDUsage_LED_NightMode,” points to a hardware toggle for a color-shifting software mode — one perhaps like iOS’s Night Shift, which automatically adjusts screen tone to minimize eye strain at night. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg: Apple’s pages list hooks for screen-based message notifications (“kHIDUsage_LED_MessageWaiting”), microphone status (“kHIDUsage_LED_Microphone”), and even audio equalizer toggles (“kHIDUsage_LED_EqualizerEnable”).

That’s not all that the new macOS Sierra dev pages reference. A handful of related APIs — “kIOHIDBiometricDoubleTapTimeoutKey,” “kIOHIDBiometricTapTrackingEnabledKey,” and “kIOHIDBiometricTripleTapTimeoutKey” — indicate new biometric hardware of some sort, perhaps a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. And a resource for “USB Super Speed+,” the market-friendly name for USB 3.1, all but confirms the presence of upgraded ports. (The current Macbook Pro packs USB 3.0.)

In May, well-respected KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo corroborated reports by 9to5Mac and others that refreshed MacBook Pro hardware was due out before the end of this year. The new laptops would be thinner and lighter, he said, and feature Touch ID sensors, several USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports, and an OLED touch bar in place of the current models’ function keys. A hinge crafted by metal injection molding, a specialized process used to achieve a design thinner than otherwise possible, could be in tow, too, Kuo said.

Sales of Apple’s stagnating Mac lineup continue to fall ahead of the rumored new models’ unveiling. In April, the company reported a dip of 12 percent in unit shipments and a 9 percent decline in revenue. But Apple, too, faces a broader industry environment of downward-trending shipments: worldwide sales of PCs dipped 9.6 percent from the first quarter of 2015, according to market analytics firm Gartner — the sixth consecutive period of declines.

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