The ever-fecund Apple supply chain this week fed the iOSphere with rumours of times and features. Imagination did the rest.
This week: the September launch, why iPhone 5 will be an instant hit, the wondrous Liquidmetal slips out of reach except maybe for hinges, domain name conspiracies, and 5 is the magic number screenwise.
You read it here second.
"[N]ow that we are seeing a trend toward 5-inch screens in smartphones, the prospect of a 5-inch iPhone 5 is no longer completely impossible."
~ Michael Nace, iPhone5NewsBlog, using the iOSphere hallmark style of double-negatives and qualifying adverbs to say in effect "I have no clue."
iPhone 5 will "launch" in September
That's the claim by rumorsite Digitimes, which cites the ever-elusive but unquenchably talkative "Taiwan-based supply chain makers."
According to the post, Pegatron Technology "reportedly" now has orders for the Next iPhone "to be launched in September" as well as orders for a 10-inch iPad - apparently meaning an iPad with a diagonal screen size that is 0.3 inches bigger than the existing models - which will launch in the fourth quarter.
But this is a Digitimes story so one expects confusion. In this case, the Next iPhones order is not really the news, because Pegatron must have won the Apple deal much earlier: the manufacturer "has already finished expanding its equipment and labor force for Apple's orders," according to Digitimes.
The rest of the brief post is padded out with pseudo-facts about Pegatron's decision to downsize its SI motherboard business to devote more resources to Apple products and about the company's finances.
Asian supply chain sources are endlessly productive of Apple rumors. Last February MacRumors repeated a rumor repeated by Digitimes from a Taiwanese newspaper that Apple had pressured Pegatron to stop building Asus' Zenbook laptop because Cupertino was "displeased with the similarity in appearance between ASUS's Zenbook and the MacBook Air."
Whenever the iPhone 5 appears, it will be an "immediate hit"
This stunning conclusion is the fruit of a PCWorld/Macworld survey of readers of both publications combined with a group of smartphone users that read neither site.
Also not surprisingly, 70% of Macworld readers say they will buy the new device, apparently based on nothing more than the expectation that iPhone 5 will have an LTE/4G cellular radio. And others in the survey feel the same way. "Large numbers of people plan to buy or upgrade to the first 4G iPhone, many of them citing the new LTE wireless technology as a main reason," according to the PCWorld post.
The survey also found, according to PCWorld, that a "surprisingly large number of smartphone owners who don't read those publications -- about 30% -- say they are likely to switch" carriers when they buy the Next iPhone.
"The carriers refer to those people as 'churn,' and they spend a lot of money each year trying to capture them from competitors. That's why it's crucial to the carriers to offer the latest version of the hugely popular iPhone, and to outfit it with very fast LTE service."
Rollup isn't sure that this logic holds up. It seems more likely that carriers are trying to reduce churn, not increase it, and to induce their existing, low-end feature phone subscribers to buy smartphones and data plans. The iPhone can certainly help with that. But the iPhone 4S, widely derided by the techno-glitterati for its lack of LTE, offered improved 3G support and has been by a wide margin Apple's most successful iPhone model so far.
According to PCWorld, the most important reason for switching carriers was "saving money" followed by "network service." PCWorld draws what seems a confused or at least confusing conclusion from these two facts: "so the battle for data speed among the carriers may indeed affect who grabs the most iPhone-using subscribers." But raw data speed is a separate variable from "network service." And users may be more leery of LTE: After the LTE-equipped new iPad went on sale, several news stories about "bill-shock" revealed that at least some users were surprised by how quickly they blew through their monthly data limit.
The Liquidmetal iPhone 5 is down the drain
The iOSsphere has been aflutter over the prospects of an iPhone, and other Apple products, created with the wondrous alloy, Liquidmetal, since Apple acquired an exclusive license to it in mid-2010.
There have been glowing posts about what Liquidmetal is, and what it does, and what it looks like and feels like, but all of them with that unmistakably hollow core that reveals the writer actually has no idea what he's talking about.
"But what exactly is Liquidmetal? What makes it so special that Apple decided to license the rights to use it in its products?" asks Steven Kovach, in a recent post at Business Insider. "Better yet, why hasn't Apple used it in gadgets yet, even though it's had the rights to the alloy since 2010?"
"We decided to get those answers straight from the source. Atakan Peker is one of the inventors of the Liquidmetal alloy and we had a chance to talk to him about its future in mobile gadgets."
Imagine that: instead of rumor and inept speculation, talking to someone who has direct knowledge of the topic. This is what the Lamestream Media used to call a "source."
Peker lays it all out with admirable clarity and simplicity.
So, what is it?
"Liquidmetal is super strong, scratch and corrosion resistant, resilient and can be precision cast into complex shapes. The benefits will be in the form of strong and aesthetic structural components, such as casing and frames."
"At first look, it looks like a typical metal, more like stainless steel. It's silvery grey metallic color has a bit different tone and hue than stainless steel. Depending on the specific alloy formulation, its hue may vary slightly. Its surface can be prepared in various cosmetic finishes, such as bright shiny, satin or brush metallic."
In response to Kovach's question "How long did it take to perfect Liquidmetal?" Peker lays out the difference between creating an invention and creating a product that uses it.
"I would not say Liquidmetal was perfected," Peker replies. "This is a technology that has yet to be matured and perfected both in manufacturing process and application development. I should note that this is a completely new and different metal technology. Therefore, there is no suitable manufacturing infrastructure yet to take full advantage of this alloy technology. For example, I estimate that Apple will likely spend on the order of $300 million to $500 million -- and three to five years -- to mature the technology before it can be used in large scale."
So that would be, at the earliest, the iPhone 8 in 2015. And Apple may be spending another half-billion, not to mention working with suppliers to create a "suitable manufacturing infrastructure," to bring Liquidmetal to the point of large-scale use.
In the near term, Liquidmetal will probably be used by Apple to replace small components "such as a hinge or bracket," Peker says. The first known use is the SIM card ejector pin, which Peker himself figured out only after he bought his own iPhone 3G.
He then speculates, and it's clearly no more than speculation: "I expect Apple to use this technology in a breakthrough product. Such product will likely bring an innovative user interface and industrial design together, and will also be very difficult to copy or duplicate with other material technologies."
Real sources. Real information. Like discovering fresh water after two days in the vast and trackless desert of iPhone rumors.
Apple stakes a claim on the iPhone 5 domain name
Whatever else it may or may not have, iPhone 5 almost certainly will have its own domain. The Website Fusible apparently first reported that Apple filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a U.N. group that handles such disputes, over "iPhone5.com," charging the use of this domain infringes on its trademarks.
Of course, the filing has fueled a new round of rumors about how the Next iPhone will not be called the "new iPhone" (following the "new iPad") but instead, you know, "iPhone 5."
Computerworld's Greg Keizer has a comprehensive review of the complaint.
"Apple has gone to the WIPO well numerous times to gain control of domains it believes infringe its trademarks," Keizer reports. "In November 2011, the company filed a claim -- ultimately successful -- to acquire iphone4s.com and seven other URLs, all with the "iphone" name, and several of which included phrases such as "porn," "sex" and "xxx."
The URLs acquired by Apple redirect to the company's respective product pages on its own Apple.com Website.
Sam Gibbs, at Gizmodo's UK site, is able to see what ordinary mortals fail to see - a "desperate" but paradoxically "so proactive" bid to "get its mitts on iPhone 5-related domains."
Ignoring the long historical record to the contrary, Gibbs glibly declares: "Normally Apple's just not that bothered about this kind of thing." So it makes you wonder.
"[S]o it makes us wonder: does that mean we're going to see the iPhone 5 sooner rather than later, and will it be the revolutionary redesign that we've been hoping for?" Gibbs asks.
When you put it that way, it's so clear. It's a very proactive but somehow desperate domain "land grab" that reveals Apple's plan to release an iPhone 5 with a revolutionary design sooner rather than later.
There you have it. More evidence of...something.
The 5 in iPhone 5 stands for 5-inch screen
Over at iPhone5NewsBlog.com, Michael Nace is pondering all those maddening persistent rumors about the big, 5-inch iPhone 5 display.
With the new Samsung Galaxy S III (GS3), "is the 5-inch display becoming a new smartphone benchmark that Apple could look to imitate?" he wonders, even though the GS3 display is actually 4.8 inches. Eventually one realizes that his conclusion is "no, unless it's yes."
"[N]ow that we are seeing a trend toward 5-inch screens in smartphones, the prospect of a 5-inch iPhone 5 is no longer completely impossible," Nace somberly concludes. The use of double-negatives coupled with qualifying adverbs is a hallmark of iOSsphere rumoring. It's a long way of saying "I have no clue."
The latest 5-inch rumor cited by Nace is one posted at KnowYourMobile: "[W]e're hearing reports that Apple's up-coming iPhone 5 will feature a 5-inch Retina Display. The news comes via a source based in China. According to the source, they are familiar with Apple's production process and have access to pre-production models of the iPhone 5."
Wow. A source in China. You can't get better than that, at least for Nace who considers this an "inside source." Because the source is inside China, along with more than 1,338,299,512 other Chinese (as of the 2010 World Bank data). But he's baffled at the indignities KnowYourMobile heaps on its own story. "I cannot understand why Know Your Mobile would break a story from a supposed inside source, and then completely discredit it, but that's just what they do; they go on to poo-poo the entire rumor since, to them, a 5-inch screen just doesn't make any sense," Nace writes.
But just because it doesn't make any sense and Nace agrees with the poo-poo, it doesn't stop him from discrediting the discrediting, so that he can ultimately discredit it again without completely discrediting it in case at some point it turns out to be true.
"I'm inclined to agree with their skepticism, only because 1) the rumor is extremely thin, and 2) the tech site that is breaking the story doesn't even believe it," Nace writes, apparently unaware of how this summarizes the entire speculative driving force of iOSsphere rumors. "However, I think it is worth taking the opportunity to discuss the concept of the 5-inch iPhone 5 display, particularly in light of the Samsung Galaxy S 3 announcement, along with its large 4.8-inch screen."
So despite the facts that 1) the rumor is thin, and 2) its poo-poo according to the rumor site that "broke" the rumor, and 3) "Apple need not fear the GS3 or the [Samsung Galaxy] Note — or both of them combined," and 4) "does not have to keep a worried eye on a single smartphone competitor," it's worth talking about a 5-inch iPhone 5.
And why? Because Apple does "have to look at the smartphone trends as a whole." So what's the question? "The question here is: are smartphone displays that measure around the 5-inch mark becoming a new standard? And if so, is Apple going to adopt that standard with the iPhone 5?"
"And if they see the entirety of the top-tier smartphone market moving in the direction of 5-inch-ish displays, they may in fact have to think about those dimensions, if not for the iPhone 5, perhaps the iPhone 6," Nace concludes.
If everyone else in the top-tier moves to 5-inch smartphone displays, those folks at Apple may in fact have to think about doing the same thing. Or they may not. Even if they only think about it. As Nace writes, "the prospect of a 5-inch iPhone 5 is no longer completely impossible."
Repeat after me: "I have no clue."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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