Last week, the iOSphere went slightly gaga when an ‘exclusive’ Reuters story claimed that Apple had only recently discovered a problem with its display technology and had to redesign part of the assembly. Causing, you know, delays.
Some folks are busy predicting iPhone 6 sales; and other folks are busy posting about them. Lots of variability, which is to say “everyone is just guessing.”
The sapphire screen, which may or may not even appear in 2014, is now reported to cost US$100; more non-evidence that iPhone 6 will include NFC; and the amount of iPhone RAM is still being hotly, if fruitlessly debated. And Apple may be on the verge of eliminating one of Life’s Maddening Little Annoyances: figuring out which end of that USB cable is up.
You read it here second.
iPhone 6 may be delayed due to ‘screen snag’
Trumpeting an ‘exclusive’ via “supply chain sources,” Reuters reports that “Suppliers to Apple Inc. are scrambling to get enough screens ready for the new iPhone 6 smartphone as the need to redesign a key component disrupted panel production ahead of next month’s expected launch….”
Reporter Reiji Murai says two supply chain sources said that “display panel production suffered a setback after the backlight that helps illuminate the screen had to be revised.” Apple allegedly eliminated one of backlight films, aiming to create the thinnest assembly possible. When the new design went into production for the 4.7in screen it was discovered that “the new configuration was not bright enough and the backlight was sent back to the drawing board.”
“Output is now back on track and suppliers are working flat-out to make up for lost time, the supply chain sources added,” according to Murai.
This sounds bogus. The idea of removing one film is plausible; and it indeed could have led to brightness problems. But the contention that this was only discovered sometime in June, barely three months ahead of a September announcement is not very plausible.
Eliminating a film, and determining its impact on screen brightness, seems like the kind of thing that could be easily tested in a lab, with various prototypes, at various stages; in other words, long before finished panel assemblies start rolling off the production line. It’s just hard to imagine engineers from Apple, and from multiple, experienced screen partners in the supply chain, overlooking something this basic for two years.
In July, there were more rumours that Apple was running into problems with the in-cell display technology for the rumoured 5.5in iPhone 6, causing…yes!…delays. These rumours were widely “reported” by sites like Patently Apple.
iPhone 6 will sell gazillions of units in just the first quarter
In that same Patently Apple post, Jack Purcher writes “The amount of pending IC inventories is based on the latest market speculation indicating that sales of the next-generation iPhone are expected to surpass 100 million units in 2014, higher than the previous projection of 80 million units, said the sources.”
Richard Padilla, MacRumors, who takes an unsubstantiated claim that Apple will barely produce 2 million sapphire covers for the Really Big iPhone 6 in 2014 and assumes, without knowing anything about Apple’s actual product plans or schedule, that there must be either delays or limited quantities.
The 100 million figure somehow passed Purcher’s “laugh test” for rumours. If released in mid-September, the bulk of iPhone 6 (“next-generation iPhone”) sales will fall in the Oct-Dec quarter. The highest iPhone unit sales ever were in Oct-Dec 2013, following the release of iPhone 5c and 5s: 51 million phones, including older models, according to Statista.
By contrast, Citigroup recently estimated iPhone 6 sales, for all of Apple’s fiscal 2015, at 140 million, which means Apple would sell fewer iPhones than it likely will sell in fiscal 2014 (the three-quarter FY 2014 total is already at 130 million, though again that includes all models, which makes accurate comparisons difficult).
The earlier, and lower, prediction is from a market research firm that forecasts a Oct-Dec iPhone 6 total of 80 million, based on reports or rumours or claims that Apple is demanding from assemblers Pegatron and Foxconn 70-80 million iPhone 6 units (covering both 4.7 and 5.5in models) for that period.
Based on the historical trends in the Statista chart, first full-quarter sales of new iPhones (starting with the Q4 2010 iPhone 4) increased over the previous quarter by: 68 percent, 117 percent (the 4s, shifting release dates from early winter to early spring), 78 percent (iPhone 5), and 51 percent (5s, 5c). Eliminating the 117 percent as an outlier, the average increase is 66 percent.
A 66 percent increase over the 51 million units sold Oct-Dec 2013 would come to just under 85 million for the Oct-Dec 2014 quarter. But the Next iPhone enters a global market with lots of competitors and where lots of buyers already have a smartphone, including an iPhone.
iPhone 6 will have US$100 sapphire screen but not until 2015 or something
The closer we get to 9 September, the more confused are the rumours about Apple’s 2014 plan for sapphire.
The latest confusion contributions stem from another haiku-like post at Digitimes, citing Digitimes Research, to the effect that “Apple partner and sapphire glass manufacturer GT Advanced is estimated to produce anywhere from 1.35 to 2.25 million sapphire covers for the 5.5in iPhone 6 by the end of 2014.”
First, GT Advanced Technologies is not producing sapphire ‘covers.’ The Arizona plant where it installed and runs, for Apple, its sapphire growth furnaces is producing fat cylinders of raw synthetic sapphire that get shipped to other Apple suppliers in Asia for cutting and finishing, and presumably assembly.
It’s still unclear how much sapphire the plant is producing. GTAT CEO Tom Gutierrez, in the early August Q2-earnings call said: “The build-out of our Arizona facility, which has involved taking a 1.4 million square foot facility from a shell to a functional structure and the installation of over 1 million square feet of sapphire growth and fabrication equipment, is nearly complete and we are commencing the transition to volume production. We do not expect to reach full operational efficiency in Arizona until early 2015.”
Digitimes Research interprets this to mean that “GTAT started sapphire production in August….[and] these conditions signal that GTAT’s sapphire production will not reach a large scale by the end of 2014.”
Adding to the confusion, MacRumors’ Richard Padilla interprets the Digitimes interpretation as follows: “A yield of only 1.35 to 2.25 million sapphire glass covers for the 5.5in iPhone 6 would likely mean that Apple would delay the launch of the larger device until next year or release it in extremely limited quantities.”
Padilla’s one sentence is a mare’s nest of unfounded assumptions. It’s impossible to determine, with our current lack of knowledge, to know if sapphire production in Arizona is behind schedule; or whether the Asian partners are running into problems creating the finished sapphire sheets; or whether the yield is below plan; or whether the rumoured 5.5in iPhone is actually being delayed, or was previously delayed, or was intended for 2015 release all along.
Digitimes Research also says that the “cost for a 5.5in screen cover made from sapphire is estimated at US$100,” which is more than 10 times the estimated cost of a Corning Gorilla Glass cover and would make the 5.5in iPhone 6 not only a premium brand but a luxury brand.
Bottom line: we still don’t know if the new iPhone, or iPhones, will have sapphire covers in 2014.
iPhone 6 will have NFC chip, again, and probably some RAM
A new “schematic” from a Chinese repair firm, GeekBar, purports to show, yet again, that Apple will incorporate a near field communications (NFC) wireless chip (and let’s not forget: an antenna for it) in iPhone 6.
AppleInsider, bless their little cotton socks, aptly calls the schematic (shown here in all its unintelligible glory) “questionable.”
“Chinese repair firm “GeekBar” shared a picture of the schematic on Monday via the social media site Weibo,” according to the AppleInsider post. “It purports to show that a PN65V near-field communications chip from Semiconductors will be included on the ‘iPhone 6.’”
Another document last week wrongly identified a NAND flash module, for internal storage, as RAM storage, sparking woe and anguish through the iOSphere because Apple’s new A8 processor for the iPhone 6 would have only 1GB of RAM.
GForGames’ Mihai Matei worried that “In a world where flagship Android smartphones come with at least 2 GB of RAM, the iPhone 6 doesn’t sound powerful enough to compete with the most sought-after devices from the opposite camp.”
AppleInsider notes that “Some have speculated that the larger iPhone could be a so-called ‘iPhone Pro,’ [adopting the naming convention for the MacBook Pro] speculating that Apple could add in more advanced features like a superior camera – or even more RAM – for those who want a more powerful handset.”
“But thus far there has been little hard evidence to suggest that either model would be drastically different,” AI concludes.
iPhone 6 will have reversible USB cable
Australia’s only professional Leaker, Sonny Dickson, recently tweeted that the iPhone 6 will have a “reversible USB” connector on the opposite end of Apple’s docking cable. The tweet was picked up by an array of iOSphere sites, such as CNET.
“Apple is trying to make the cable that links its mobile devices to either a computer or power outlet a little easier to use, according to a new alleged leak,” writes CNET’s Don Reisinger.
“Reversible” means you can just stick the cable’s end plug into the port without checking to see if you have it the right way up, as you have to do with USB today. Apple’s Lightning connector is already reversible in this way and remains unchanged.
“Apple’s alleged improvement will feature a USB end with contacts on both sides of the insert, which would allow people to plug in a cable without checking which direction is up,” Reisinger explains, add that a new USB standard, called Type-C, is in the works and will be reversible.
Magic is in the details.