iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending Jan. 25

Expect one, two and three Apple iPhones -- to be announced whenever

The combination of intense cold gripping much of the U.S. and feverish iPhone speculation is creating extreme rumoring conditions, threatening to drive the iOSphere into epistemological collapse.

Apple is planning to announce one, two, three (or more?) iPhones, none of which may be "iPhone 6" unless they are, with screen sizes between 4 and 6 inches, and an equally wide, or weird, range of prices, sometime between now and the end of 2014.

You read it here second.

__________

"We've been hearing rumors of the next iPhone for weeks now, with all kinds of different specs and models rumored for the device. One of these rumors pegged the next iPhone with a 5-inch screen and seemed at least relatively easy to believe. That rumor came from DigiTimes, but today the site is going back on what it previously said - according to the most recent word from sources, there won't be a 5-inch iPhone in 2013."

— Eric Abent, SlashGear, sounding almost plaintive that you just can't count on rumors like you used to be able to, and clarifying the iOSphere criteria for rumor credibility: ease of belief.

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iPhone 6 will be one of two (2!!) iPhones released in 2013

Loquacious "industry sources" tell DigiTimes that Apple will release two 4-inch iPhones in 2013, both with in-cell display technology (introduced in iPhone 5, helping to create a thinner and lighter phone).

[ MORE RUMORS: iPad5 rumor rollup for the week of Jan. 21 ]

This is an improved rumor, because "Previously it was said that Apple would release a lower-cost version of its iPhone with a bigger screen in 2013. But the sources claimed that Apple is indeed developing an iPhone with a bigger [apparently meaning 'bigger than 4 inches'] screen, but that will not be among the models to be launched this year."

One of the two will be aimed at the "midrange market segment" otherwise known as the cost-conscious or economical or frugal or stingy segment.

Bliss is two new iPhone models. But. There may not be many of them around because "the sources noted it is still yet to be determined if Apple will have adequate supply of in-cell touch panels in 2013 for a lower-cost version of the iPhone due to mass production issues from the technology in 2012."

At this past week's earning call, Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledged that supplies of the iPhone 5 fell short of demand until very recently, but he didn't say why. The iOSphere Consensus Rumor, copy/pasted by DigiTimes, is that the reason was "poor yields for in-cell technology."

So Apple might announce two iPhones and release them. But you won't be able to actually buy one.

iPhone 6 will be one of three (3!!!) new iPhones released in 2014

Business Insider's Jay Yarrow industriously tracked this rumor from its source, Commercial Times, Taiwan, to its proliferation in the iOSphere, such as AppleInsider

"So, yeah," Yarrow wrote. "Treat this one lightly for now. Though, a lot of accurate information has come from Asian supply chain sources in the last few years." We think we'll treat THAT assertion lightly. Because a lot more inaccurate information has come from the Asian supply chain sources in the last few years.

But let's not quibble.

"According to the reports, Apple will release a 4-inch iPhone 5S and a 4.8-inch iPhone before the end of June," Yarrow reveals. "The report calls the 4.8-inch phone, the 'iPhone Math,' which is, um, odd."

So take that lightly, too, we guess. Repeatedly calling a rumor a "report" lends baseless speculation an air of authority.

AppleInsider also picked up on these rumors. First it dutifully cautioned readers that "It should be noted that AppleInsider cannot vouch for the veracity of the sources' claims and offers the following information for purposes of discussion only." And then it repeated every scrap of veracity-challenged "information" it could glean: "at least" a 4.8-inch screen, 8 megapixel camera with lenses from Largan Precision, and component shipments starting in March for production lines swinging into action in April.

But there's something interesting about this report, something apparently only Yarrow perceived.

"What's interesting about this report is that it comes one week after The Wall Street Journal and the Nikkei reported Apple was cutting iPhone screen orders," he points out.

Think about that. One week. Just one.

"When those reports rolled out Apple's stock was hit hard," he explains. "So were the stocks of Apple's suppliers. ... We could be over thinking it, but it sure sounds like suppliers started leaking Apple's plans to let the market know that they are not totally hosed."

Thank heavens for the iOSphere and its dedications to rumors. How else would the stock market know what's happening?

"Whether that makes this report more or less trustworthy is up to you," Yarrow concludes, not very helpfully. "However, this is not the first time we've heard about Apple reportedly developing a much larger iPhone. So, we wouldn't just cast the report aside."

We may be overthinking it, but it sure sounds like Yarrow is saying that you can believe the "report" and that you can't, or like whatever. But it's not the first time we've heard this kind of analysis. So we wouldn't just cast it aside.

iPhone 6 will be one of four (4!!!!) new iPhones to be released in 2013

According to midstream sources in the Asian supply chain, Apple will be releasing four iPhone models in 2013. It should be noted that the Rollup cannot vouch for the veracity of the sources' claims and offers the following information for purposes of discussion only. But if Apple can be rumored to be planning two or three iPhones, it's not much of a stretch to think, "Hey. Heck. Why not four?"

According to the sources, one will be a 4-inch phone, one will be a low-cost 4-inch phone, one will be 4.8-inch phone, a third will be 5.3 inches.

OK: we made that up.

But iMore.com's editor in chief, Rene Ritchie, has an intriguing, lengthy and nearly exhaustive post ("Imagining a 5-inch iPhone," complete with illustrative examples) that speculates in depth on "what steps could they take to get to 5-inches" for the iPhone.

The most likely option, he writes, is increasing the number of pixels by some multiple: by 2, 3 or 4. He even considers a 5-inch model that uses the iPad mini display with a 4:3 aspect ratio, and 4.5 and 4.8 inch models.

But there are a range of tradeoffs. Bigger displays with more pixels will require even more graphics processing power, more light, and more battery to be effective, Ritchie notes. And depending on how the larger screen size is actually implemented, it can make life especially difficult for software developers.

During Apple's Q1 earnings report, Apple CEO Cook was asked if there was a case to be made for a larger screen size or larger variety of screen sizes. His reply suggests that Apple won't be taking that route any time soon. "The iPhone 5 offers a new 4-inch retina display: the most advanced in the industry. ... And it offers a larger screen size without sacrificing the one-handed use that our customers love. We put a lot of thought into screen size and we think we picked the right one."

That statement doesn't preclude a still-larger iPhone, but it does underscore two things Apple takes seriously: the convenience of one-handed phone use and what customers "love."

In his post, Ritchie notes that Apple has addressed one-handed use "in hardware" -- keeping the phone at a physical size that ensures most people can still use it with one hand. But it could be done "in software," he says. That's how RIM -- in its new BlackBerry 10 phones due to be unveiled next week -- is addressing one-handed use: the BlackBerry Flow UI is "using corner gestures to allow for more navigation with less thumb travel."

Finally: speculation worthy of the name.

iPhone 6 or iPhone Something will be released between Jan. 28 and Dec. 31, or in 2014

The blizzard of Next iPhones is creating enough conflicting dates to require a scheduling app (for example, Schedule Planner, from Intersog) to keep track of everything. Even the iOSphere is starting to sound confused.

"So when will the IPhone 6 release date be?" asks TechRadar's Dan Grabham, just before making it clear he has no real idea what the answer is.

"Some analysts and observers are predicting that it could be as early as summer 2013," he writes. "We think it's more likely we'll see a new iPhone release in September."

Then he references "[Technorati] Blogger Ed Valdez [who] cites six reasons why we can expect an iPhone 6 announcement by June 2013 -- a mere nine months after the iPhone 5." So Ed doesn't agree with Dan. "But it's still quite likely there will be an iPhone 5S instead of iPhone 6," Dan adds, making it sound as if even Dan doesn't agree with Dan.

We think Grabham is saying that his belief, conviction, gut feeling, hope, hunch, intuition, and opinion is that it's "quite likely" that the Next iPhone will be the iPhone 5S and it will be announced in September.

Some, actually much, of the confusion depends on how one defines "iPhone 6" and "iPhone 5S." Or even "iPhone Math." DigiTimes this week echoed rumors from "industry sources" that 2013 will see the release of two Next iPhones, only neither of them will be "Phone 6."

SlashGear's Eric Abent sounds almost plaintive commenting on the DigiTimes post. The previous DigiTimes rumor of a 5-inch iPhone "seemed at least relatively easy to believe," he writes, clarifying the iOSphere criteria for rumor credibility. "That rumor came from DigiTimes, but today the site is going back on what it previously said - according to the most recent word from sources, there won't be a 5-inch iPhone in 2013."

Oh, woe. "DigiTimes is now saying that while it's in development, the 5-inch iPhone won't be launching until sometime in 2014," Abent continues. "Apparently, there are some production issues with the new 5-inch panels, meaning that Apple has decided to hold off while those problems get sorted out."

Abent might have sounded even more plaintive if he realized the latest DigiTimes rumor contradicted last week's rumor, launched by Jefferies Group stock analyst Peter Misek in a Note To Investors, wherein he predicted that the 2013 iPhone will be only a "minor iPhone 5 upgrade," and the 2014 iPhone, the "iPhone 6," will have a screen size of 4.8 inches, not 5 inches.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. : @johnwcoxnww john_cox@nww.com

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