iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending April 26

Apple iPhone 6 scuttlebutt: Magic plastic, don’t listen to Tim Cook, location perils, color failure

The iPlasticPhone rears its glossy head and the iOSphere shivers.

Also this week, don’t listen to Tim Cook about display size; the unanticipated consequences of iPhone 6 Wi-Fi location tracking; colorful correction and balance; the Secret of SIM.

You read it here second.

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“If Apple were to have indoor GPS tracking on the iPhone 6, there could be some concerns over privacy. Users would have to choose whether they want their friends to know they are in the bathroom and how long they have been in there.”

~ Rick Berke, Auto-oMobile, highlighting a heretofore unanticipated consequence of Apple’s mobile location mania.__________

iPhone 6 will have a plastic body, and here’s the photo that proves it

In another rumor coup, the blog at Tactus, a mobile accessory maker, presented a photo that purports to be of an iPhone with a plastic case.

“Well, it looks like it features an all uniform plastic polycarbonate shell – very different to the iPhone 5′s sleek aluminum look, but still modern and covetable,” according to the blogpost.

[IPHONEYS: The iPhone 6 and iPhone 5S edition]

Here’s the published photograph. And it’s a bit underwhelming to be sure. To the Rollup, it looks dated somehow. Perhaps because the glossy plastic body in the Tactus image is a throwback to the iPhone 3GS, which was announced in June 2009.

According to Tactus, the phone using this plastic shell measures 0.35 inches thick, 4.72 inches long and 2.44 inches wide. That’s slightly thicker and wider than the iPhone 5; slightly thinner, longer and wider than the iPhone 4.

“I’ve also heard on the grapevine that the alleged budget iPhone will have an A5 processor like the iPad Mini with a 32nm diecast,” according to the post. “It’s also rumoured it will have a 3.5-inch retina screen, much like the 4S, but not as big as the iPhone 5 – a few more pennies saved with that compromise! It’s also likely to have a handy 5MP camera, again like the iPhone 4!”

Finally, the blog predicts the iPlasticphone will go on sale Oct. 15…for $300.

Essentially, you’d be paying $300 to get an iPhone 3GS exterior, released in 2009, with an iPhone 4S interior, released in 2011. The main differences would be the 4S processor shifted to a 32 nm process from 45 nm, to boost performance and draw less power, and the Lightning docking port, though there could be a bunch of other changes internally, if Apple took this direction. There’s no indication in the blogpost whether this phone would support LTE.

In the U.S., the iPhone 4S is currently offered with a two-year contract for $99, though it’s priced at $549 with no contract; the older iPhone 4 is still $450 with no contract, but $0 with a contract. It’s difficult to know whether shifting to plastic from milled aluminum for the case would actually slash the retail price of the iPlasticphone by $350.

There’s been speculation that Apple is or should be creating the cheaper phone to compete with the flood of cheap Android phones in markets like India and China. How would consumers view an iPhone that offers what is, in large part, a 2-year-old hardware platform? Would the 32 nm A5 fully support the next OS version, iOS 7, or would users be unable to make use of features like Apple Maps Flyover?  Would Apple decline to support LTE in order to save costs?

None of those sound like attractive tradeoffs.

iPhone 6 could still be a larger-screened phone no matter what Tim Cook says

The following three statements are all from the same blogpost, by GadgetInsider’s Adam Majewsk, in the order of their appearance:

-1 “Apple Still May Release Large-Screened iPhone 6 in the Future” (the headline)

-2 “Apple CEO Tim Cook was coy with regards to the possibility of an iPhone 6 with a 4.5-inch screen or larger…”

-3 “Cook simply said that Apple isn’t ready at this point to release such a device.”

If you read them in a different order – 2, 3, 1 – you get a clearer idea of how completely unclear the blogpost is.

In fact, Cook did not say what Majewsk says he said. Cook’s actual words were: “My view continues to be that iPhone 5 has the absolute best display in the industry....Our competitors have made some significant trade-offs in many of these areas in order to ship a larger display. We would not ship a larger-display iPhone while these tradeoffs exist.” [for complete details see “Apple's Cook resets 3 popular, and wrong, Apple rumors”] 

Majewsk eventually paraphrases Cook’s comment, but he can’t just leave it there. “Despite Cook gravitating towards the possibility of a foreseeable future without a large-screened ‘iPhone 6’, all is not lost for such a device…,” Majewsk concludes. “Who knows, maybe that could happen as early as next year, but as far as this year is concerned, chances look slim of Apple releasing a jumbo-sized iPhone to compete with other big names and their similarly big devices.”

So depending on when you think “iPhone 6” will be announced, it could have a big screen. Just not in the foreseeable future. So it would be in the unforeseeable future. Which Majewsk has foreseen. Like he says, who knows?

“iPhone 6 May Let Your Friends Know You’re On The Can!”

Our subhead for this section is taken directly from the headline to a blogpost by Rick Berke, at Auto-oMobile. It almost speaks for itself.

Berke sort of eases into the topic, from somewhere far in left field, beginning his post thusly: “when it comes to leaks and rumours Apple are heading the list. Now details have come out about different patents involving anti-crash mechanisms which would make the ultimate touchscreen.”

But that’s the last time he talks about anti-crash mechanisms and the ultimate touchscreen. Instead he abruptly changes gears to focus on Apple’s March 2013 acquisition of the “indoor GPS company WiFiSlam….so that they could improve their [Apple’s] failed map app.”

Berke notes that WiFiSlam’s website described its app as being able to “Allow your smartphone to pinpoint its location (and the location of your friends) in real-time to 2.5m accuracy using only ambient WiFi signals that are already present in buildings.”

Two-and-half meters is just over eight feet. That’s the radius of the circle around the radio, yielding an area of about 50 square feet. A radio’s location falls into an area of about 50 square feet.

Technically, WiFiSlam is not a GPS company, because it doesn’t primarily make use of signals from satellites in geostationary orbits. Indoors, or even in dense outdoor urban areas, GPS signals can be hard to acquire or hold. WiFiSlam uses data linked to the known locations of thousands of stationary Wi-Fi access points, sometimes supplemented with GPS data, to create a real-time awareness of individual mobile devices with always-on Wi-Fi radios. By linking real-time location with user identity, WiFiSlam creates a platform for software developers to create personalized data services and actions tailored to where you are.

Berke could have gone on to explain or at least talk about the algorithms used to plot the indoor location, or the location data APIs and frameworks, or other technical matters. But instead he cuts right to the chase with a practical example.

“This means that the app could help your friends to keep track of what you were doing down to the last couple of meters,” Berke writes. In case you don’t understand that, he explains further. “This means that they would know what part of a café you were in, even this happened to be the bathroom.”

“If Apple were to have indoor GPS tracking on the iPhone 6, there could be some concerns over privacy,” he warns darkly. “Users would have to choose whether they want their friends to know they are in the bathroom and how long they have been in there.”

This seems a bit obsessive, even by the standards of the iOSphere.

iPhone 6 camera will have advanced color correction and balance

The roots of this achievement are found within four Apple patent applications – not awards – which the US Patent and Trademark Office published this past week, as covered by PatentlyApple.

Reading this lengthy post one forms the general idea that Apple wants to improve some aspects of image capture and processing on iOS devices. But how the new inventions will do that remains a mystery for those of us lacking degrees in the relevant scientific disciplines.

Take for example Patent Number Two, “Alleviating Dominant Color Failure in Automatic White Balance Using Histogram Trimming.” Dominant color failure has not been, to date, the subject of outraged online forum postings, of petitions, of rantings that go viral on YouTube, or of U.S. Senate committee investigations.

So what does it mean? We’ll let PatentlyApple explain: “More specifically, Apple's invention relates to methods, devices and computer readable media for implementing novel dominant color alleviation techniques for color balancing are described. The techniques take advantage of unique properties of 2D image data histograms accumulated in a chromaticity space, along with other factors such as estimated scene lux and knowledge of plausible scene illuminant white point values within the chromaticity space. The accumulated 2D image data histograms may be refined and "trimmed," such that the resultant image data passed to an auto white balance solution has much less influence from the dominant colors in the image, even those that overlap the plausible scene illuminant color region. The described techniques provide for white point estimates that are much less prone to dominant color failures.”

We still don’t know what it actually means, beyond the white point estimates being much less prone to dominant color failures.

Once this breakthrough filtered out into the iOSphere, plenty of bloggers were willing to draw even larger conclusions while knowing even less. KnowYourMobile’s Clare Hopping instantly realized that PatentlyApple had experienced Dominant Rumor Failure by not drawing the obvious conclusion.

“The iPhone 6's camera may be the most advanced white balance yet, colour correction and colour balance,” she wrote, with almost unbalanced enthusiasm.  “More iPhone 6 patents have been leaked, relating to the camera of the device. Patently Apple revealed the iPhone 6 would include a much more advanced camera than its predecessor devices.”

But the patent Website doesn’t mention “iPhone 6” or “iPhone 5S,” no doubt because the patent applications apparently don’t mention them either.

iPhone 5S nano-SIM tray revealed..and it is unchanged from the one in the iPhone 5

Based on new photos posted by Japanese parts shop Moumantai, MacRumors’ Erick Slivka notes astutely that “what is said to be” the nano-SIM tray of the iPhone 5S is “reportedly identical in shape to those used on the iPhone 5.”

No news is good news, apparently.

Slivka slips in a caveat.  Actually, two caveats. The first is that the photos show the Moumantai iPhone 5S SIM trays in gray and bronze-gold colors, although it is possible that the photos may show somewhat inaccurate colors given expectations of slate and silver as seen on the iPhone 5.

Secondly, “It is, however, difficult to place too much stock in these SIM tray photos, given that they are identical to the current design and that third-party versions in various colors are prevalent.”

So no news is, actually, bad news.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwjohn_cox@nww.com

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