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iPhone 5 rumor rollup for the week ending April 6

o John Cox
06.04.2012 kl 18:22 | Network World (US)

The iOSsphere is nothing if not democratic. It accepts unfounded speculation, comments, convictions and assertions from the lowest of the low and the highest of the high.

 

The iOSsphere is nothing if not democratic. It accepts unfounded speculation, comments, convictions and assertions from the lowest of the low and the highest of the high.

This week some guy who recruits workers for a Chinese assembly plant reveals the release date of iPhone 5 and sends the iOSsphere into paroxysms of bliss. A big screen is a certainty if you're certain. Apple stands revealed as unseemly, gauche and oh yes greedy, though we consumers may be helping with that. And at the end of the rainbow, is an OLED touchscreen.

You read it here second.

__________

"Next Generation iPhone June Debut Plausible, But October Still The Likeliest Bet."     -- headline for Charles Moore's post at the iPhone 5 News Blog, showing how iOSsphere rumoring has the same guiding principle as Las Vegas

__________

iPhone 5 will be announced in June. Unless it's October.

The iOSphere was thrown into a tizzy when a Japanese blogger linked to a Japanese TV video clip, which featured a labor recruiter, working at a Foxconn factory in China, saying that the manufacturer was hiring a zillion worker bees to assemble iPhone 5, which will go on sale in June.

Macworld at least labeled this as a "rumor."

There's some confusion about what the recruiter actually said. One website had him saying explicitly that iPhone 5 will go on sale in June. AppleInsider apparently used Google Translate on, presumably, a Japanese transcript of the interview and had this exchange: 

"We're looking for 18,000 employees ... for the fifth-generation phone," he said.

"Is that because demand is high for the 'iPhone 5?'" [the interviewer] asked.

"That's right. It will come out in June."

So how much does a low-level labor recruiter know about Apple's release schedule, and what does he mean by "come out in June"?

At the iPhone 5 News Blog, the implications were summed up by Charles Moore with the decisively authoritative headline, "Next Generation iPhone June Debut Plausible, But October Still The Likeliest Bet."

At The Motley Fool, Rick Munarriz seems to accept that the Foxconn employee revealed a secret -- the real release date of the iPhone 5 -- and yet points out a good reason why he might not have: "Even if the first iPhone 5 handsets begin rolling off the Foxconn assembly line in June, it could still be weeks or months before the retail release takes place."

Just so.

Munarriz gives four reasons why a June release for the Next iPhone "makes sense." One is that Apple wants to get back to its original midyear release schedule for iPhone, instead of the October date for the iPhone 4S. As far as Rollup can tell, there's been no authoritative explanation of why the 4S was "delayed" or whether in fact it was delayed. Munarriz claims that a "popular theory," a.k.a. rumor, is that Apple put off the announcement as it waited in vain for the U.S. carriers to have a big enough 4G footprint to support an LTE iPhone. (Other theories included manufacturing problems, overheating, lagging development of iOS 5, etc.)

His second reason for a June release follows from this: that now there are plenty of 4G base stations so apparently there's no need to wait until October for an LTE iPhone. Except that all kinds of data indicate that 1) most iOS device users in the United States opt for Wi-Fi connectivity when available (see this week's study by Comscore) and 2) only a fraction of new iPad users bought the LTE model and many of those who did were dismayed at how quickly they ran into their data plan limit. LTE's biggest impact may be to spur better Wi-Fi services.

Munarriz's third reason is that Nokia is now releasing the Lumia 900 smartphone, running Microsoft's Windows Phone firmware, in the U.S. "It's cheap. It's rich with features. Early demand has been strong by some accounts," he writes. "[I]f the phone gains any kind of traction, Apple is going to want to make sure that its iPhone 5 hits the market as soon as possible."

Let's follow this. Apple is worried or concerned or panicked or desperate that two companies whose U.S. smartphone market share combined is little more than a rounding error have created a miracle phone that will threaten Apple's dominance. So Apple will rush the iPhone 5 into release. The only problem with this fantasy is that there's no evidence that Apple pays much, if any, attention to what its putative rivals do, and then changes its product design or manufacturing or marketing in response.

The fourth and last reason for a June iPhone 5 is "CEO Tim Cook doesn't want to let investors down." Munarriz claims that "Apple probably wants to get its annual iPhone cycle back on historical track [with a June date]." He says that Apple's stock price "fell between late July to late September last year." Which is true, but he has no explanation for why. He simply says that returning to an early summer release would "overcome ... concerns" of investors.

Tim Cook would have to announce an iPhone 5 made out of lead with a rotary dialer to "let down investors." The company's stock has risen from $396.75 on Aug. 1, 2011 (the month that Cook was named CEO) to $633.68 at the close of trading Thursday, April 5, 2012. And most of that gain has taken place since Dec. 1, 2011.

Charles Moore, at iPhone 5 News Blog, seems to agree with the International Business Times that for some reason Apple's Q2 financial results, being announced April 24, "provide a better clue as to whether the iPhone 5 will be released in October or in June." Apparently, the unspoken belief is that if those results showed collapsing iPhone 4S sales, Apple would announce iPhone 5 sooner rather than later.

The one data point that relates to this is Apple's Q4 fiscal 2011 results, which set company records, but were somewhat less than Wall Street expected. Apple CEO Tim Cook said that revenue and profit numbers were dragged down in the last half of the quarter (late summer/early fall) as rumors of the next iPhone reached fever pitch, and consumers held off on buying the current models. But Cook said this fall-off was much less than Apple had expected.

So, as with nearly every obsessive iOSsphere discussion of The Date, we end up where we started: Nobody knows when the darn thing will be announced.

~~

iPhone 5 will have a bigger display

At the aptly named Planet Insane, "Delaon" offers three insane reasons why iPhone 5 "will have," as the headline says, or "is highly possible ... to have," as the text body says, a bigger screen. 

Reason No. 1: "competition with Android." Much was made of the fact that Android's global market share is now higher in smartphones than that of iOS. Yet none of Apple's handset competitors have been able to come up with an Android phone model that sells anywhere near as well as the iPhone. And many of the active Android phones don't and won't have the latest version of the Android firmware.

"Although Apple is performing well, a larger display is one area where Apple can still overtake Android further," Delaon writes, in typically murky prose. "Apple was able to do this with its iOS notifications that is why it would not be surprising if they follow Android's display screen sizes for the sake of competition."

But as noted above, Apple doesn't base its product decisions on the product decisions of other companies. That's because Apple has a highly disciplined design process that works iteratively to assess and decide on the optimal features, such as screen size. Apple looks within for design inspiration and execution; not without.

"Change is the second reason for a bigger display for the iPhone 5," Delaon assures us. "Although the late CEO Steve Jobs opposed it, Tim Cook seems to be willing to introduce something that Steve Jobs did not approve such as the design of the Apple TV." Tim must be thinking, "I need to do something different from Steve."

"Moreover, having a bigger display is a good way to revamp and reinvent the device because the only change witnessed in the current versions of the iPhone is its shape and thickness," Delaon continues. People are just sick and tired of looking at a 3.5-inch screen for five years, damnit!

Reason No. 3: "because of the customers." Delaon says that "Apple is known to be a company who listens to its consumers and does something about it by giving them what they are requesting for. For this reason, it will not be surprising if Apple will finally grant the wish of several customers to have a larger screen display for the soon to be released iPhone."

Maybe what's he saying is "Apple should listen to me!"

iPhone 5 shows Apple is unseemly, gauche, and greedy

It's one of those blog posts that conspiracy theorists will seize on as evidence of trolling for page views, but really it's nothing more than an idle thought transformed into something he's likely to regret for the rest of his life.

"Is Apple greedy?" asks blogger Richard Keggans, in an April 4 post at Technorati.

"After having just learned that the iPhone 5 may be heading our way this Summer, it seems to me that Apple is really shoving products down our throat at a rate that is bordering on unseemly," Keggans writes.

Apart from the fact that a Technorati blogger has "just learned" that iPhone 5 may arrive this summer (perhaps Keggans has been vacationing in West Africa's Namib Desert), Rollup knows exactly what he means.

Rollup was recently part of a Neighborhood Gauche Watch, formed to forestall exactly this kind of product-shoving activity by Apple as the new iPad was released. The first couple of nights were grim: In one case we found three hoodlums in black turtlenecks, blue jeans and white cross-trainers trying to force a new iPad down the throat of a grandmother with Alzheimer's disease. Their defense? "We didn't know she had Alzheimer's!" In another case, a pair of similarly garbed men were stalking a 14-year-old boy. They left when five of us emerged from a black SUV wearing "Gauche you, Apple!" T-shirts.

Keggans tries to put his concern into context. "Notwithstanding the dictionary definition of 'greedy', of course there is no business model formula I'm aware of that reads if A+B>X = greedy," Keggans writes. He's apparently not a Roman Catholic. "Nor I am not coming at this from an anti-capitalist standpoint; I realize it is the engine that has driven the American economy these many years, and it is a company's responsibility to maximize profits for it's [sic] investors."

But. Or however.

"However, launching a new premium smart phone model every year - or less - whether we need it or not (I'm looking at you, iPhone 4s) seems a bit, well, gauche," he says.

Exactly. What's Apple trying to do? We expect Honda and Ford and BMW to come up with a 2011 model and then a 2012 model but those are cars for crying out loud. Or flat panel TV sets. Or cross-trainers. Or wine.

~~

"I realize this may be a personal thing of mine," Keggans acknowledges, too late to cancel his blog post, alas. "I acknowledge that it's cool to go buy a new gadget, and it's nice to see improvements that give you the feeling that you are really getting some extra benefits for your money." The sense here is that it's cool ... but juvenile; and that the improvements you're getting are illusionary. "In some instances though, a software update could also bring some nice new features, and doesn't frequently releasing slightly improved hardware dilute the impact - or are we consumers just as greedy?"

Now there is a question, actually two questions. The historical evidence of iPhone sales make it clear that the yearly, which to Keggans apparently is "frequently," releasing of new iPhone models actually amplifies the impact. The iPhone 4S, the "unneeded" product in Keggans' view, was apparently "needed" by a record number of consumers.

The second question -- are "we" consumers just as greedy -- actually undermines his starting question. Corporations can be as greedy as they want to be. But they can only realize their greed not by taking or even desiring more than what they deserve or is seemly; but by persuading customers to buy their products. And buying a product isn't proof of greed.

"I wonder if Apple is taking their loyal customers (and they are a loyal bunch) for granted - and if so, do they run the risk of an eventual backlash somewhere down the road?" Keggans wonders. "Are we now officially on a 'rapid release cycle' for hardware as well?"

If anything, rapid hardware and software innovation is evidence that Apple is NOT taking their customers for granted.

iPhone 5 will have an OLED display and it will be totally awesome

Some comments by an unnamed Samsung Electronics executive are being interpreted as evidence that the next iPhone will have an OLED display, a technology which promises a much thinner, brighter and less power-hungry screen.

The quotes came in a Korea Times story about Samsung Electronics' launch of a new business unit, Samsung Display, that will create next-generation displays based on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, as well as continuing the company's existing LCD display business.

Because of the company's potential volumes of OLED units, "chances have been raised to ship Samsung's OLEDs for Apple's iPads and even iPhones, said unnamed Samsung executives on the condition of anonymity," according to Korea Times. The story goes on to quote the executive: "So far, Apple has questions over an output commitment and product volume as Samsung's OLED business isn't on full track. But chances have risen to break the wall."

That's a comment that raises more questions than it answers.

A Samsung blog outlines the benefits of OLED. A key difference from LCDs, is that OLED pixels are "self illuminating," which dispenses with the additional components and power demands of backlighting LCD pixels. The resulting displays have a range of benefits, including vivid color, higher contrast and luminescence, better visibility in sunlight, wider viewing angle.

Jim Tanous at The Mac Observer notes that several Apple rivals -- HTC, Nokia and Samsung itself -- already offer Active Matrix OLED (AMOLED) screens. "While these phones generally receive high marks for their display quality, the technology has been difficult to manufacture in volume and more expensive than traditional LCD displays, like the kind the iPhone currently uses," Tanous writes. He adds that the TV industry's push to create large-format OLED displays is starting to pay off in better quality and cheaper OLED products.

International Business Times wrongly sums up the original story this way: "The Korea Times recently reported that Samsung has increased the production of the OLED screen for the new iPhone, according to the Christian Post." IBT apparently actually read neither story.

Michael Nace at iPhone 5 News Blog took the IBT story about the Christian Post story about the Korea Times story and concluded that "a report is coming out of Korea that Samsung is producing OLED displays for the iPhone 5."

Nace is correct in pointing out that OLED rumors for the iPhone first surfaced last year and this is simply, as is so often the case, a recycling. He does some recycling himself, noting last year's completely unrelated rumor -- except that both involve the phone's screen -- that Apple had made a huge investment in "expensive glass-cutting machines, ostensibly to craft complex, curved displays (and perhaps other body components) for the iPhone 5." Rollup noted the rumor in May 2011

As we know, that didn't pan out. "Obviously, those glass cutting machines were not utilized in the iPhone 4S's production. ... But if the glass-cutting machine rumors are true -- together with these late-breaking rumors of Samsung producing OLED screens for the iPhone 5 -- we very well may see a curvier iPhone this year." And if not this year, then it would not be surprising to see it next year or the year after that.

"Amazingly," says the easily amazed Nace, "iPhone 5 News Blog columnist Charles Moore prognosticated the possibility of a curved glass display back on May 24th [2011], predicting that the AMOLED technology debut on an iPhone in 2012. Charles' predictions continue to be impressively accurate."

Amazingly, Moore actually did no such thing. Moore's post, to which Nace links after a lengthy discussion of the revolutionary curved glass windshield on the 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle, concludes with a regurgitation of the glass-cutting investment rumor then current and makes not a single mention of OLED or AMOLED.

And it's hard for one's predictions to be accurate before what one is predicting has come to pass.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Email: john_cox@nww.com Blog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

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Keywords: Networking  Consumer Electronics  
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