iPad 5 rumor rollup for the week ending June 6

Apple iPad rumors: The politics of postponement, fake photos reveal truth, don''t listen to Tim

This week, the iOSphere created a June blizzard of iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 rumors out of one six-paragraph post from a website that, in the words of one blogger, nobody trusts. But it makes for great copy, as the Lame Stream Media used to say.

This week the news was about how sources are agreeing with Apple CEO Tim Cook -- that new products will be announced starting in the fall of 2013 -- and how the iPad mini 2 is being postponed in order to save the full-sized iPad.

Finally, the CEO of a third-party maker of mobile accessories believes that Cook was fibbing when he said that new products would roll out this fall: He wants you to believe that Apple will announced iPad 5 next week at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Good luck with that.

You read it here second.

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"As for the second-generation iPad mini, some market watchers believe the delay [of large-scale iPad mini 2 manufacturing] is because 9.7-inch iPad sales were seriously impacted by iPad mini in 2012, and so to avoid the situation from happening again, Apple has turned its product focus for 2013 to the new 9.7-inch iPad."

— Siu Han, Joseph Tsai, DigiTimes, describing with a straight face the idea that to bolster sales of the big iPad, Apple has decided to postpone production and availability of its small iPad, so that frustrated consumers will give up and buy the iPad they don't really want.

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iPad 5 to be "completely redesigned," and iPad mini 2 "postponed"

A typical six-paragraph post at DigiTimes on June 3 ignited almost the entire iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 rumor output of the iOSphere. [The post is now available only to DigiTimes subscribers, though the link from BGR's post, below, is still working.]

And that happened despite the fact that the post is based on anonymous sources and is from a site that "nobody trusts," according to one blogger. Imagine what could have happened if real news was actually reported.

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

Bloggers and tech "news" sites went gaga. They were able to shuffle headlines like a deck of cards as they mined the claims made by DigiTimes' unknown sources.

Here's a sampling of the headlines:

  • iPad 5 could release several months before iPad mini 2
  • iPad Mini Update to Trail Next Full-Size iPad Launch by Several Months?
  • Rumor: Apple to start next-gen iPad production in July, iPad mini in November
  • Redesigned 9.7-inch iPad to ship in Q3 with new iPad mini to follow by holiday season
  • Apple iPad 5 & mini 2 rumours suggest phased release
  • Next-Gen iPad To Begin Production In July, iPad Mini In November [Rumor]
  • iPad Mini 2 delayed, claims report
  • iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 launch scheduled for separate dates?
  • New iPad To Launch In Q3, But You'll Have To Wait Longer For New iPad Mini

BGR's Zach Epstein coverage is just one example. In his one-paragraph summary, he assures his readers that a "new report" reveals, as his headline puts it, "Completely redesigned iPad to launch in Q3, Retina iPad mini reportedly postponed." 

"Apple's fifth-generation iPad will by all accounts feature a major design overhaul and according to a new report, it will launch in the third quarter after production ramps up in the next couple of months," Epstein writes.

Epstein doesn't define what he means by "major design overhaul" but one can infer that, whatever it is, it's ... major.

By "new report," Epstein means the June 3 post at DigiTimes. For the uninitiated, or uninterested, DigiTimes is the Taiwan-based IT newspaper, founded in 1998, and websites that cover the semiconductor, electronics and computing industries in Taiwan and mainland China. We'll have more on its reliability later in this section.

With the help of sites like BGR, the DigiTimes rumors blossomed throughout the iOSphere, who had no qualms about repeating claims made by anonymous "Taiwan-based supply chain makers." DigiTimes doesn't even suggest that these component makers are actually suppliers to Apple, though many of those repeating the rumors inferred that.

Taking a moment to think about the "new report" makes it clear that there is much less to it than initially meets the uncritical eye.

Let's start with the 9.7-inch iPad. Epstein says the Next iPad is "completely redesigned" and is a "major design overhaul." Yet, the June 3 DigiTimes post is far less assertive: It merely repeats some long-standing rumors or expectations. From DigiTimes: "The next-generation 9.7-inch iPad is expected to adopt a thin-film-type touch panel solution to reduce its weight by 20-30% and will adopt a slim bezel design to increase the display area. The new iPad's industrial design reportedly will also be modified, the sources said."

(Just in passing, consider the phrase "reportedly will also be modified, the sources said." In this context, the sources are not even claiming that the design will in fact be modified. This phrasing means they are simply telling DigiTimes that "we've read 'reports' that the iPad design will change and that's what we're repeating to you.")

The post continues: "Volume production of a new-generation 9.7-inch iPad will begin in July-August with shipments in the third quarter estimated at five million units."

But nearly all of this information appeared two weeks ago in another six-paragraph post at DigiTimes, on May 20. From that post: "Trial production of Apple's 5th-generation 9.7-inch iPad will begin soon and volume production will begin in July, with monthly shipments ramping up to 2-3 million units in September, according to sources with Taiwan's supply chain." Is it reasonable to estimate that the trial production phase, plus the initial ramp-up in July and August, could add between 2 million and 3 million more units, giving the 5 million total?

It's difficult to know what to make of these shipment numbers. In the context of the Taiwanese supply chain, they presumably are estimates of tablet shipments from the assembly plants to Apple and its retail partners. So they don't represent sales to consumers; and they apparently don't take into account whatever number of fourth-generation iPads have shipped and are in inventory.

Just for comparison purposes: For the July-September quarter a year ago, in 2012, Apple reported selling 14 million 9.7-inch iPads; in the following October-December 2012 quarter, it sold 22.8 million units, counting both full-size iPads and the then-new iPad mini. The last time Apple sold less than 8 million 9.7-inch iPads was the January-March 2011 quarter.

On the iPad mini 2, the June 3 DigiTimes post raises the specter of delay. "Meanwhile, a second-generation iPad mini may see its volume production postponed from September to November, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers." Note that in this post the "supply chain makers" are saying only that iPad mini 2 "may" experience a postponement in volume production.

What's the reason for postponing? DigiTimes proposes two, both without any evidence to support them.

First, it's a marketing ploy. DigiTimes: "As for the second-generation iPad mini, some market watchers believe the delay is because 9.7-inch iPad sales were seriously impacted by iPad mini in 2012, and so to avoid the situation from happening again, Apple has turned its product focus for 2013 to the new 9.7-inch iPad."

From what The Rollup can tell, these unnamed "market watchers" are saying that the iPad mini was so popular, and so many consumers who would have bought the larger tablet opted instead for the smaller one, that Apple -- in a desperate move to bolster 9.7-inch iPad sales -- has decided to delay selling the next version of the more popular mini so that frustrated consumers will buy instead what they don't want -- the next version of the full-size iPad.

There is no space-time dimension in which this reasoning makes any sense.

Second, the postponement is due to a production problem. DigiTimes: "However, some market watchers believe the delay is due to the supply chain being unable to meet the mass-production schedule." DigiTimes is, in effect, acknowledging that no one knows the cause of the "delay-that-may-not-actually-happen." While a supply chain production or scheduling issue is at least plausible, DigiTimes' vaunted supply chain sources offer not a shred of evidence that there is any truth to it.

Business Insider's Jay Yarrow wrote about DigiTimes' track record this week in a post headlined, "This Tiny Newspaper From Taiwan Breaks More Tech News Than Anyone -- But Nobody Trusts It."

Yarrow must have a pretty flexible definition of not only what "news" means but also what it means to "break" tech news. He lists what he claims are "scoops" by DigiTimes. "It appears to be getting better, and if it wanted, it could establish itself as a legitimate news source," he claims.

Yarrow links to Harry McCracken's story of a year ago, "Fact-Checking Digitimes, the Taiwanese Apple Rumor Source That Keeps Crying 'Wolf!'" McCracken evaluated 25 Apple rumor stories posted at the site: five posts were "correct or mostly correct," 16 were wrong, and four were future predictions that couldn't be evaluated. Following Yarrow's post, McCracken rechecked the four predictions and concluded: "Updating the tally from last year would give us something like seven Digitimes reports that pretty much panned out and 18 that didn't. Not good, or even in the same zip code as good."

A DigiTimes managing editor actually responded via email to McCracken's original critique and McCracken posted the response in full. Here's the key passage from the DigiTimes editor:

"In fact, Apple have a lot of its R&D projects and ideas tried out at its supply chain partners in Asia. Many of the prototypes created by the supply chain partners will never make it to the market after Apple's assessments. This is one of the major reasons why a lot of the information we have disclosed has been seen by others as inaccurate, but is still valuable to our reader base in the supply chain."

This is also one of the major reasons why such profound confusion perpetually reigns in the iOSphere: News and rumor sites and bloggers are obsessing over what they imagine to be actual Apple products when in fact these are "R&D projects" and "ideas [being] tried out" and "prototypes." And if DigiTimes, and oh, so many others, would simply make that distinction in online postings, life in the iOSphere would begin to attain an approximation of sanity.

iPad 5 will look like iPad mini, even though the photo proving it is a fraud

Even a fraudulent photo tells the truth, in the iOSphere.

There was another thrill this week when a new "leaked" photograph "confirmed" that iPad 5 will have the thinner side bezels seen on the iPad mini.

iClarified.com was one of the sites that ran with the rumor, smugly noting, "As expected the panel features a bezel similar to the iPad mini with narrow sides."

Here's the photo, which is helpfully labeled "iPad5 Front Panel@hiapple."

"We already have a pretty good idea of what the fifth-generation iPad will look like, thanks to the many rumors and leaked parts that we've seen in recent months," a confident Killian Bell assured readers of Cult of Mac. "And the latest, a purported front panel with a new design, reinforces those expectations."

"Apple is expected to follow the iPad mini's gorgeous form factor for the iPad 5, introducing thinner bezels down the sides of the display and a significantly thinner frame," Bell continued. "This leaked front panel fits that description perfectly."

Indeed it does. That's because it turns out, as Bell later updated his post to mention, that the photo looks so much like the iPad mini front panel because it is an iPad mini front panel. The French tech site Nowhere Else was among the first to expose this apparently, and then relinked to its own "true" iPad 5 front panel scoop from earlier this year

So even though the newly "leaked" photo was a fraud, it's actually true because, as Cult of Mac's Bell says, we already have a pretty good idea of what the fifth-generation iPad will look like.

iPad 5 will be announced next week at WWDC no matter what Tim Cook said before

A company that makes protective cases for iPads and other devices is convinced that Apple will announce iPad 5 next week at its WWDC, according to a story by CNET's David Carnoy

Gumdrop Cases is now advertising and promoting a new line of cases specifically for iPad 5. The cases have been designed for a somewhat thinner and smaller-bodied tablet, on the assumption, or belief or hope, that Apple will adopt a casing that uses narrower side bezels, similar to the design of iPad mini. The change means the screen remains the same size, but the body around it is slightly smaller.

"Tim Hickman, founder and CEO of Gumdrop Cases, has made it a tradition to announce cases for major Apple products ahead of their launches," Carnoy writes. "He's currently batting 4 for 5, only whiffing badly in 2011 when another of his companies -- Hard Candy Cases -- released an iPhone 5 case in advance of the iPhone 4S launch and it didn't fit. It wasn't even close."

Hickman was one of those convinced that Apple was creating a tear-drop shaped body for the iPhone 4S, based on information he'd received from contacts among Asian component makers.

In a few days, he, and the entire iOSphere, will know whether he was right. We're not holding our breath.

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

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