Techworld

iPhone 6 rumor rollup for week ending Nov. 30

Cyber Monday, by Friday, is just a dim memory, and a dull ache caused by the absence of the Next iPhone.

The iOSphere grasped at patents, concept art, a June release date, and the towering genius of Saint Jonathan Ive to keep hope afloat for iPhone 6. Or 5S. Whatevah.

You read it here second.

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"The source of the rumors [about a summer 2013 release for the Next iPhone], Digitimes, has an extremely mixed track record when it comes to Apple news, so the iPhone 5S release date at this point is still firmly entrenched in the shadows. However, as we pointed out, that doesn't mean that the iPhone 5S won't be released in the summer."     -- Adam Mills, GottaBeMobile, as in most iOSphere rumors, covering all the bases, going around in circles, and ending up where one started, none the wiser.

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iPhone 6 will use cool Apple patents we've seen before

If you haven't seen a good rumor lately, invent your own. And that's what "Invention Girl" did at InventHelp.com, a Pittsburgh company that bills itself as "America's largest inventor service firm."

The blog post, "What Will a Future iPhone Look Like?" draws its inspiration from the cheerleading posts about Apple patent applications and awards at PatentlyApple.com, which has rarely met an Apple patent it didn't love. Invention Girl took a handful of the inventions highlighted at Patently Apple and then created photorealistic illustrations to show what a future iPhone will look like.

"Apple will either have to add something truly innovative to the iPhone or accept a slowly shrinking market, courtesy of Android," she writes. "We've combed through Patently Apple and have come up with 4 ways Apple may regain the iPhone magic by illustrating some of the more innovative iPhone patents. Whether or not the patents make it into an iPhone is anybody's guess. Regardless, it's fun to see what the iPhone may look like based on filed patents rather than tech pundit speculation ..."

Who could argue with "fun"? But it's an idea that sounds better than it actually plays out.

The first illustrated invention is the "projector phone." It shows a foreground closeup of an otherwise unremarkable iPhone lying on a wood surface, emitting rays of light from a built-in mini-projector to create a humongous projected image on a living room wall. It may not actually be fun but it certainly looks odd: as if the iPhone had been inflated to the size of a coffee table; and the image it projects actually seems smaller than the phone's apparent size.

Doubtless it's picking a nit to grouse that Invention Girl is "showing" a feature of a future iPhone, not the future iPhone itself. But that's what we do here.

She partly redeems herself with the rendering of the "smart bezel" invention, which Patently Apple covered in 2011. To make a long post short, the invention calls for using the front "bezel" -- the part of the phone's front surface that borders the actual display -- and making this active, so it can respond to touch. Moving these touches and gestures off the main display leaves more space there for showing Web pages, videos, etc.

In the illustration, a large-screen iPhone, with very thin side bezels, shows a text from an HTML Web page: the actual browser controls are shown to the left and right of the home button, as part of the smart or active bezel.

The two other inventions are a "smart hybrid display that could switch between a standard LCD and an e-Paper display"; and a "transparent" phone, meaning that part or all of the display could become, you know, transparent.

For the iOSphere's rumoristas, this probably does count as fun. Given the archive of Patently Apple Apple patent posts, Invention Girl could keep this going for the next couple of years.

iPhone 6 better be ... better. Or else

Storm clouds are gathering in the iOSphere as witnessed in this recent forum thread, which became increasing bitter and vituperative at MacRumors.com.

A forum member named Ramius kicked it off on Tuesday, Nov. 27, by asking the apparently straight-forward question, "Is [iPhone 6] coming next October? Judging by the release history of the previous iPhones, this seems to be quite true."

But he couldn't leave it at that. "I still use my 3GS, and was planning on updating to iPhone 5. But the design struck me as very boring and too similiar [sic] to the 4S. I also hear people can scrape it up quite easy. And with the red flare problem on the camera, it is less and less tempting to buy. The biggest problem for me, is that it just did not provide a big enough change. It just seemed "a little bit better in some ways", but not really going the full distance of proving itself a new champion."

Some commenters stuck with the original question. Jessica noted, "No one knows but based on historic data, October 2013 sounds about right." The "historic data" refers to the fact that the last two iPhones were announced in the fall, rather than early summer.

Tyler struck a confident note, predicting not only the time frame, but the level of innovation in the next iPhone. "There will most likely be an iPhone 5S next October, which will improve the internal specs of the phone, but the look is likely to be the exact same or nearly the same as the 5," he posted. "If you are waiting for a re-designed iPhone, you'll likely be waiting at least two years, and that's assuming the 6 deviates from the form factor of the 5."

Another, maflynn, made what proved to be a vain plea: "At this point lets not get into the 5s vs 6 in the naming of the iPhone. The next update (regardless of what it may be called) is probably due out next fall."

Ramius upped the ante: "They are increasingly failing to generate hype," he wrote. "And if they don't break their pattern, they will not be impressive anymore. So for Apple to succeed, they must show new innovation, and stop milking their old designs and ideas. Apple should know this. And if they are taking that seriously, then that should be a reason for releasing a brand new iPhone. Perhaps as soon as June."

It was an almost perfect example of the iOSphere agent provocateur: sweeping generalities wedded to faux business expertise, laced with smug assurance.

"You sound like you're not really interested in a release date but you just want to moan about the 5," charged MonkeySee. "[T]hat's typical armchair expert industry analysis ...," analyzed takeshi74. "We'll see what happens but their track record doesn't support your assertion which is based solely on your own preferences. Keep the day job and leave the analysis to the pros."

"I am a pro. Stop trying to devalue my opinion, just because you don't like it," snapped Ramius.

"I cant see how anyone can say that the 5 isnt a huge change from the 4S, or the 3GS in that manner," wrote kre62. "I think this proves that there is nothing that Apple can do that wont be looked at as a minor upgrade."

"The [iPhone] 6 is going to be a marked departure from previous re-designs and they are going to take a gamble with it in some form or another," promised syd430. "The screen will definitely stay at 4", but we're going to see some major new kind of functionality not seen in other phones. In 2 years time, they won't be able to afford to play it safe anymore. They need to protect their cash cow, and the board [of directors] understands this."

From which we can take two lessons. No one has the faintest idea what the Next iPhone will be. And every one has definite ideas on what the Next iPhone will be.

iPhone 6 or 5S or whatevah will be released in summer or fall of 2013

The best iOSphere rumors cover all the bases, which means you end up back where you started and none the wiser, even though you feel wiser.

"The latest [rumor] has Apple potentially starting production of the [next] iPhone in March or April [2013], sooner than expected, with a release possibly coming in the middle part of next year," recounts Adam Mills at GottaBeMobile. "If true, it would be vastly different than the last two iPhone launches which took place later in the year in September (iPhone 5) and October (iPhone 4S) respectively."

Vastly different. Hugely. Immensely. Because it would be like four or five months earlier than the last two models.

But Mills isn't buying this. Though he can't rule it out. So he is buying it, kind of. But not completely. "While we remain skeptical, a summer release remains a possibility given Apple's earlier releases," he says. Just ask the folks at Mac Rumors about "history."

Why is he skeptical? "The source of the rumors, Digitimes, has an extremely mixed track record when it comes to Apple news, so the iPhone 5S release date at this point is still firmly entrenched in the shadows," he reminds his readers. And yet.

"However, as we pointed out, that doesn't mean that the iPhone 5S won't be released in the summer," he also reminds them. Just because Digitimes may not know anything doesn't mean that it's not wrong about the Next iPhone not being released in fall 2013 ... or not not being released.

As Mills notes, Apple makes decisions. And nobody knows the trouble we've seen trying to figure out what they've decided. "Apple has changed its release months and windows before," he says, drawing on his deep knowledge of history. "Apple makes these changes as it sees fit and that means that the summer window is still open alongside the fall iPhone 5S release window."

It's simple really. iPhone 6 or 5S or whatevah will be released in the fall. Unless it's the summer.

But. "Don't expect the iPhone 5S to arrive in any other release windows besides those though," cautions Mills. "That's because the new iPhone always comes with the new version of iOS and iOS 7 likely won't be announced until WWDC."

Unless, you know, Apple makes a change as it sees fit and throws wide open yet another release window. One that's somewhere between Jan. 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2013.

iPhone 6 will be rescued by "design supremo" Jonathan Ive ... and not a moment too soon

Over at the U.K.'s "The Gadget Show," Jason Bradbury and the "gorgeous and obsessed with tech" Pollyanna Woodward are just thrilled that Apple's veteran "design supremo" Jonathan Ive has been placed in charge of all "human interface" stuff at Apple, which includes as they point out both hardware and software.

In the nick of time. Bradbury and Woodward offer him their advice on "Six ways Jony Ive can make iPhone 6 the ultimate phone" and "king of the mobile jungle."

Their recommendations are only slightly marred by the fact that Ive has no responsibility for at least four of them.

The Ultimate Phone needs to have "icons that come alive," like the "love tiles" of Microsoft Windows Phone 8. Apple has only been making them incrementally livelier.

And Apple needs a "more forward looking design." This apparently means dumping the "skeumorphic" design philosophy evident in some applications, such as adding the appearance of leather and paper to Apple's iCalendar app. "It's meant to make technophobes more comfortable using the device, and not alienate them by looking too 'techy,'" is B&W's rather simplistic summary of skeumorphs. "Which is all well and good. But it's getting a little long in the tooth nowadays and could do with a refresh."

This sounds like, "make it different." Which doesn't quite rise to the level of design insight let alone philosophy.

Both the icons and the look-and-feel of the iOS UI appear to fall into Ive's recently expanded domain. But that's not true of the other recommendations put forth by B&W: "sorting out" the Apple Maps "disaster" (something explicitly assigned to Apple SVP Eddy Cue), wireless charging as Nokia introduced in its Lumia smartphones, near-field communications, and a still-bigger screen.

B&W are baffled by the depth of Apple's dumbness. Instead of "looking to the future" with wireless charging, Apple instead "went the other route with the iPhone 5, introducing a new Lightning connection that renders old accessories and chargers redundant without an adapter," they write. "Apple, it's these kinds of decisions that turn people off," they admonish.

Likewise with NFC: Instead of boldly adding an NFC chip, "Apple has stuck with its own technology, using its Passbook app to let you call up a boarding pass, discount voucher, or loyalty card," they write. "But it's a lot more limited than NFC, which everyone else has adopted." Well, not quite everyone: NFC based payments are projected to be still only a fraction of plastic and cash payments for years to come.

And iPhone 5's 4-inch screen is welcome but another of those too little too late decisions. "If the iPhone 6 isn't larger than 4-inches, it's going to look pretty puny compared to the big boys [from Samsung and other rivals]," B&W declare.

Snap to it, Mr. Ive.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Email: john_cox@nww.com

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More about: Apple, inventor, Microsoft, NFC, Nokia, Samsung, Smart
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