This week, rumours of the start of iPhone production were cruelly dashed by new rumours that it hadn’t: Apple is only testing phones, not building them. Also, could mini-SIMs mean the death of the Liquidmetal SIM extractor? Say it isn’t so. Informed speculation explores Apple’s battery challenges for iPhone 5. And US telecomm Verizon hints with vague references that are interpreted as a not-very-surprising Q4 launch for the Next iPhone.
And the Chicoms really, really want iPhone 5. And Apple really, really wants them to have it.
You heard it here second.
iPhone 5 is being tested, but not yet manufactured
Relying on a “trusted source,” and hoping we will, too, Jonathan Geller at Boy Genius Report says the “several reports suggesting that Apple has begun final production” of iPhone 5 are, actually, wrong.
Although Geller’s phrasing is that “this suggestion isn’t quite true.” Which to us sounds a bit like saying “she isn’t quite pregnant.”
One of the several not-quite-true reports is by the Japanese website Macotakara, which posted, “My reliable Chinese sources told that, new iPhone has started manufacture phase …” And it adds this delightfully provocative detail: “back faceplate of this new iPhone has naked aluminium surface and partially glass covered part.”
Geller isn’t buying it. The rumour, not the phone.
“Apple goes through multiple stages before a product is manufactured and two of these include the “engineering verification test” stage and the “design verification test” phase,” Geller writes authoritatively, paving the way for yet more of those cool insider acronyms so beloved of the iOSphere: EVT and DVT.
“Apple’s sixth-generation iPhone [i.e., iPhone 5] is currently in the EVT3 stage, the third revision of the engineering test stage and has not yet entered the DVT stage,” Geller assures us. The trusted source assures Geller that, by comparison, the iPhone 4 was in EVT2 in mid-February 2010 and the phone lost in a San Francisco beer house in March of that year was in the DVT stage. By themselves, those “facts” tell us less than either Geller or his source seems to think. Apple announced iPhone 4 in early June 2010.
“It’s certainly possible Apple is producing engineering samples of new iPhones and has started manufacturing device enclosures to iron out any problems with the manufacturing line before real production starts, but that’s all that is happening at this point in time,” Geller announces, though his only basis for this seems to be his lone trusted source. (We have yet to see anything like a thorough analysis or even an accurate description, of Apple’s actual engineering and production process with its Asian partners.)
“The final version of Apple’s next iPhone — the one that you will buy — has not started production yet,” Geller assures his readers, trusting the trusted source.
We like the late US President Ronald Reagan’s understanding of trust: “Trust, but verify.” Geller’s version is: “Trust.”
iPhone 5 faces battery life challenges
This is a fascinating bit of informed speculation at Forbes.com, by Noam Kedem, vice president of marketing for Leyden Energy, a California-based battery maker for consumer electronics, electric vehicles and storage applications.
In his post, Kedem notes the range of rumoured features — larger Retina display, 4G LTE wireless, a more powerful CPU — that, together, “can end up drawing more power and generating more heat. Both of those are challenges for Li-ion [battery] technology.” Li-ion, short for lithium-ion, is the type of battery used in the iPhone and many other devices.
“From my perspective, a fundamental problem is that while Apple can count on ever-increasing performance in the silicon involved, the lithium-ion batteries that power virtually all mobile devices are practically standing still: they use the same chemistry platform as they did 20 years ago,” Kedem writes. “Absent a change in battery chemistry, Li-ion is going to impose some limitations on where Apple can go with the iPhone 5′s design and spec sheet.”
Facing the same challenges with the latest iPad, Apple made the new tablet’s battery “some 70 percent bigger and heavier than its predecessor yet [it] still offers somewhat shorter battery life.”
That option is more limited in the phone. “The iPhone 5 battery is going to have to be notably bigger than its predecessor,” Kedem writes. “Even with the increase in battery’s X and Y dimensions made possible by a larger screen, the result could still be shorter battery life — in terms of run-time per charge, cycle life and calendar life.”
The whole post is worth reading for its accessible technical explanation. Essentially, Kedem thinks Apple will continue in iPhone 5 the same approach to the battery as it uses in iPhone 4S, but trying to be as efficient as possible and exploiting whatever advantages it can wring out with a slightly longer case and possibly more internal room due to further component miniaturization.
“This is a necessity if Apple is to at least maintain [in iPhone 5] the same run-time per charge as the iPhone 4S, as I think they must,” Kedem writes.
In the future, Apple may be able to exploit one patent for ways to pack more battery material into new spaces, such as the phone’s bezel. And new advances in battery chemistry are emerging. One is Li-imide, “which doesn’t generate hydrofluoric acid [a standard occurrence in Li-ion batteries] and thus delivers a dramatic improvement in thermal stability and battery life,” Kedem writes. “It also permits effectively thinner batteries by eliminating most of the swelling in thickness characteristic of current Li-ion pouch cells over their useful life, which forces designers to sacrifice cavity space to accommodate the swelling.”
iPhone 5 will have new miniature SIM card
The Financial Times reported this week that European mobile carriers are stockpiling a new miniature SIM card that will be used in iPhone 5. (The story, “Nano-Sims stockpiled ahead of iPhone 5,” is behind a free-registration wall, but accessible through a Google search or FT’s link to the copyrighted story.)
SIM stands for “subscriber identity module,” and it’s the only phone component owned by the carrier: It’s a unique identifier for GSM networks.
The FT story notes that the new SIM design, over which Apple and Nokia battled earlier this year before the relevant standards body picked Apple’s version, is considerably smaller than the current smartphone SIM standard.
Three days later, Boy Genius Report’s Geller referenced the FT story and “confirmed” the smaller SIM card, dubbed nano-SIM, will be used in the Next iPhone. “Multiple carrier sources have exclusively told BGR that Apple is supplying nano-SIM adapters so its carrier partners can test how nano-SIMs work on their networks in standard test devices before they are widely deployed when the new iPhone is introduced.”
Now what we know is this, not much has changed in the iOSphere. There may be some cachet in being able to casually say to your Android-toting friends that “My SIM is smaller than yours.”
Yet so far no one has addressed the really big question: A smaller SIM presumably will require a smaller SIM extractor, which currently is the only part of the iPhone made with the wondrous Liquidmetal alloy, to which Apple holds exclusive rights in consumer electronics products. And here it is, courtesy of Cult of Mac, in all its high-tech glory.
Will the nano-SIM have a nano-extractor of Liquidmetal? What do you think Apple should do?
iPhone 5′s front-facing video chat camera will be centered
Those Apple design hobbits are smokin’ hot. They centered the camera!
TechCrunch’s Jordan Crook picked up a post by a Chinese site called Apple.pro, which showed photos of what it claims are the case, one in black and one in white, of the Next iPhone. Crook is sceptical but not enough to ignore the post.
Apple.pro says it found the images on Photobucket.
“There are two ‘leaked’ cases here: one white and one black,” writes Crook. “They show that the front-facing camera for video chat has been centered above the speaker grill. This matches up splendidly with [previous] images shown by 9to5mac, especially since this image also shows a taller screen with the same exact width and bezels as the iPhone 4/4S.”
Smaller SIM, centered camera, same width, same bezels. This is shaping up to be the iPhone 4S+.
iPhone 5 could launch in Q4, according to Verizon
Actually, that’s according to CNET’s Roger Cheng. His scoop is headlined, “Verizon drops a hint on a possible Q4 iPhone 5 launch.”
That’s already a bit under-whelming. But wait: It gets worse.
“Apple’s next iteration of the iPhone could drop in the fourth quarter,” Cheng writes.
We wait, breathlessly, for the telling details of this momentous news.
“That’s according to Verizon CFO Fran Shammo, who hinted at the possible timing during the company’s quarterly conference call today with a vague reference to a major phone the carrier expects to launch in the fourth quarter.”
He hinted. With a “vague reference.” So vague apparently that Cheng wasn’t even able to quote Shammo.
The rest of Cheng’s story is padded out with a summary of the expected iPhone 5 features, based on very specific rumours based on very vague-to-the-point-of-vanishing sources.
But the news site didn’t rest there. “CNET has contacted Apple for a response to Verizon’s comments,” Cheng reveals. The email to Apple PR about this must have been interesting: “Verizon CFO Shammo hinted today, with a vague reference to a major phone the carrier expects to launch in the fourth quarter. Any comment?”
“We’ll update the story when [Apple] responds,” Cheng concluded. We are not holding our breath.
iPhone 5 will be big in China because China is big
If you’re concerned about getting iPhone 5, consider moving to China.
Kenn Wagenheim, writing at the Seeking Alpha investor website, makes the not-very-hard-to-make case that China now looms as a critical market for Apple to expand iPhone sales.
“I want to map out and explain my prediction that Apple will move China up to the top tier of its launching schedule for the new iPhone,” he writes.
Wagenheim notes that iOS 6, due out this spring, “adds a slew of features for China” specifically. Apple cites these additions on its own website and “no other country or language is mentioned.”
The iPhone 4S was rolled out over time on two of China’s mobile carriers but not the largest: China Mobile, with 667 million subscribers. Wagenheim says both companies want to make a deal. He thinks the carrier may be holding out for some special consideration and suggests Apple may offer it the right to carry iPhone 5 exclusively, but for a limited period, such as three months. An exclusive deal with a single Chinese carrier would have the added benefit of limiting demand for the phone, he argues, enabling Apple to better manage the initial rollout.
If the China Mobile deal happens, “there’s certain to be many revisions to the coming quarterly estimates,” Wagenheim says.
But his most interesting comment is one that he makes only in passing. “We’re already expecting Tim Cook to orchestrate a modern marvel of engineering and supply chain management with the next iPhone’s release,” he says.
Cook was recruited by the late Steve Jobs specifically to do that. But with the volumes of iPhones and iPads being sold and the continued demand for the products, Apple is moving far beyond supply chain and engineering requirements for a few million Macs. Apart from the phone itself, the most significant part of the iPhone 5 announcement may be the invisible but vital supply chain and production management that Apple exercises with and through its suppliers and manufacturers.