iPhone 6 rumour rollup for the week

John Cox
19 December, 2012
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The iOSphere is the only virtual place where reality imitates fantasy.

The great thing about iOSphere rumours: The less you know, the more freedom you have to elaborate rumours.

iPhone 6 will have a flexible screen, or maybe a bendy body

There’s something infectious about David Price’s enthusiasm for Apple patents. In a post at Macworld UK, he looked at “the clues pointing to a bendy iPhone 6 – or iPad mini 2.”

“Apple’s iPhone 6 may have a bendy, flexible display and body, if recent tech innovations and patent activity are any indicator,” he declares. “Imagine that: You’d be able to fold it up and pop it in your pocket, and dropping it would be far less of a worry.”

Imagine that. And we mean … really imagine it. Imagine your iPhone 4 or 4S — and all of its internal componentry — as something you can “fold up” apparently like a piece of paper that’s made of plastic (to mix technologies) and pop it in your pocket.

Price seems a tad confused or at least confusing in his post. Almost everything he references is about flexible-display technology — a screen made of flexible plastic polymers instead of layers of glass. The example he, and everyone else, cites is the year-ago demonstration by Samsung of a prototype flexible screen, now confusingly dubbed “Galaxy Skin” by pundits, making it sound like a forthcoming smartphone or tablet. According to one story that Price links with, the flex-screen technology may appear in production by mid-2013, though for what products is unclear. Price also recycles a reference to a bendable battery.

But even if we grant both of those advances, that doesn’t get us very far. What about all the other components, like the body, the radios, the antennas, the CPU and memory chips, the logic board– to mention just a few — for which no one has demonstrated bendy prototypes, or even hinted that they’re in development?

The chief advantages of the Samsung prototype — assuming it can achieve comparable resolution as current displays — are its extreme thinness and its ability to withstand hammer blows, as the video link above shows. Those are substantial gains. But the belief that an iPhone as foldable as paper or as bendable as a plastic report cover is just around the corner is pure fairy dust.

“These legal manoeuvrings [an apparent reference to Apple patent applications] make it clear that flexible displays are on Apple’s radar somewhere, but who knows where they’ll turn up – if at all,” Price says.

So what’s the “final verdict” by Price? “We’re not going to lie to you: it’s a long shot,” he says, which understates the odds against it by several orders of magnitude. Having spent nearly all of his post on flexible displays, Price now substitutes “flexible body” apparently hoping no one will notice the change up: “a flexible body would be a wildly unpredictable step.”

Which makes it perfect for iOSphere rumouring.

iPhone 6 will actually be iPhone 5S, which will be followed by iPhone 6

Thank heavens for Jefferies stock analyst Peter Misek. He laid it all out in an investors note this week, and provided endless fodder for rumours about both the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 6.

The Next iPhone will be iPhone 5S, and it will be announced in June 2013. And it will be a Phone of Many Colors, according to Misek.

“Misek is predicting the iPhone 5S has a new ‘super HD camera/screen, a better battery, and NFC,’ and ‘possible updates include an IGZO screen for Retina+, 128GB storage,’” according to the initial post on this by Business Insider’s Jay Yarow, on Dec. 10 at 10:25 a.m. “He’s also predicting it comes in 6-8 colors, presumably similar to the iPod Touch which comes in a bunch of colors.”

IGZO, for the uninformed, is indium gallium zinc oxide, a display technology that is supposed to greatly reduce power consumption, while boosting pixel densities and improving the signal-to-noise ratio for touch input. It’s been reported recently that Sharp will have IZGO screens for smartphone and tablet makers to release in their products around mid-2013. No word on whether they’ll be bendable.

But, somewhat confusingly, in a separate post on this same Misek note, Yarow actually quotes Misek in full about the separate iPhone 6: “Several iPhone 6 prototypes appear to be floating around. The model with a 4.8″ screen is the most interesting. It has a Retina+ IGZO screen, a new A7 quad-core processor variant, and a new form factor with no home button. Full gesture control is also possibly included.”

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s more complete post clarifies that Misek’s note is essentially a report on his recent visit to some of Apple’s Asian suppliers.

Based on his sources, Misek apparently now thinks an iPhone 5S will be released in June 2013, offering an array of significant improvements but apparently within the existing form factor. He seems to think the iPhone 6 design is not finalised, that the prototypes indicate Apple is experimenting with screens of larger than 4 inches; he offers no prediction on when it might be released.

Business Insider’s Yarow writes that the June release by Apple would be “a break from the pattern it’s established over the last two years.” And we all thought that two-year pattern, an eternity in mobile device time, was set in stone. Except for the different three-year pattern that preceded it, when iPhones were released around mid-year.

The best part of Yarow’s post is a reference and link to a recent article by Horace Dediu, founder of Asymco, who makes a case that Apple may be speeding up its product release cycle. Dediu picks up on a provocative recent comment by former Apple CEO John Sculley, who thinks that Apple is moving to a six-month, instead of 12-month, cycle for releasing products. In his post, Dediu weighs what he readily admits is currently just circumstantial evidence to support that claim.

One intriguing change Dediu notes is Apple’s contract manufacturer, Hon Hai, shifting production facilities closer to sources of labor on mainland China. “Until this shift, Hon Hai’s production has depended on migrant labor which is difficult to manage,” Dediu writes.

“Moving production so that the labor is local means a steadier workforce with better economies from learning curves. However it also requires a more stable order book,” he writes. “Production for Apple has tended to be ‘bursty’ with breakneck round-the-clock crush followed by periods of idle time and re-tooling. This is not only inefficient but it also creates strain and stress and lowers morale.” A shift to twice-a-year product releases would create that needed stability in orders.

iPhone 6 ought to be iPhone 6, not iPhone 5S

Xavier Lanier, publisher of GottaBeMobile.com, didn’t respond well to Misek’s predictions of an iPhone 5S being available next June.

Not well at all.

“The latest Apple rumors suggest the company will launch the iPhone 5S in June, but iPhone users deserve more than a minor hardware update or two,” he complained in a post.

“Apple should introduce an entirely new device, rather than morphing the iPhone 5 into the iPhone 5S,” he declared. “Would it kill Apple to go the extra mile and skip right to the iPhone 6 when it introduces iOS 7 next summer?”

Such rhetorical questions — “a figure of speech in the form of a question that is asked in order to make a point and without the expectation of a reply,” as Wikipedia puts it – are commonly used in the iOSphere as substitutes for more demanding skills … like analysis.

The original iPhone “didn’t just stand out from the competition, it didn’t have any competition” because, among other things, “Android phones weren’t even available back then and normal people carried dumb phones.” An uncharitable person might suspect that Lanier really wanted to write “dumb people carried normal phones” but decided against it.

“Well, guess what? It’s been five years and many would argue that the competition’s caught up or is at least right on Apple’s heels.”

But instead of giving us originality, not to mention magical and insanely great phones, we’ve been getting these “S” things ever since the iPhone 3GS, “a relatively minor upgrade” with “some nice new features … but many iPhone 3G users didn’t see a reason to upgrade.” That could have been because many of them were still in two-year carrier contracts, but that’s a quibble.

“The iPhone 3GS was the first ‘tock’ in what would become Apple’s tick-tock release schedule,” Lanier fulminated. He doesn’t mean “tick-tock” as praise.

“Apple finally introduced the iPhone 5 a full 27 months after the iPhone 4,” he rants. Because the iPhone 4S, which has been by far the biggest-selling phone in the company’s brief smartphone history, doesn’t count, being just a tock.

“The ridiculously long wait between design refreshes may have flown in years past, but Apple’s going to have to do more to keep people from switching to alternatives in 2013,” Lanier continued. “As much as some of us love our iPhones, smartphone users need to look to Android and Windows Phone devices for the latest and greatest hardware features. Features like Near Field Communication (NFC), humongous batteries, big displays and haptic feedback are all missing on the iPhone 5.”

If only these great hardware features were present, Apple clearly could sell way, way more than the 120 million iPhone 5 units projected by, among others, Peter Misek in the product’s first six months of availability.

“Apple needs to go back to the drawing board and announce the iPhone 6 at WWDC 2013,” Lanier concludes.

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