iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending Oct. 11

Phabulous phablet, slightly arched, launch date(s)

Unsubstantiated opinions about the size of iPhone 6 were transmogrified into “solid reports” by iOSpherians who think rumors are information.

Several analysts this week offered their opinion that iPhone 6 will have a bigger-than-4-inch screen, with three or four or more estimates of what “bigger” would mean. Predictably, the iOSphere seized on the opinions as proof that this is indeed what Apple plans to do.

Also this week, expectations of slightly arched iPhone 6 screens, and apparently, matching batteries; and definite agreement on when iPhone 6 will be announced: in March 2014, or by June, or next September. Sometime.

[LOOK BACK: 5 years ago they said the iPhone would flop]

You read it here second.

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“[I]t’s hard to ignore the fact that just about every iPhone 6 rumor has pointed to a larger display.”

~ Adam Mills, at GottaBeMobile, who himself blithely ignores 1) all the previous rumors that the iPhone 5S also would have a larger screen and 2) the basis of the current rumors, which at present is almost non-existent.

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iPhone 6 will have a phabulous phablet fat display

Supply chain gossip is the basis for a new and, to some, convincing spate of rumors that Apple finally at last hallelujah will introduce one or two new iPhone models with bigger-than-4-inch displays in 2014, and BGR’s Zach Epstein is all in.

In a post on Monday, Epstein referenced a research note, also known as an “opinion,” by Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co.

Here’s what Epstein quoted: “Despite still seeing risk to CQ4 and FY13 revs, we now believe better [gross margins] will allow Apple to skate by until iPhone 6 launches with its 4.8″ screen. We est ~50% of smartphone shipments have >4″ screens and that iPhone 6 will catalyze a large upgrade cycle.”

In other words, “I think Apple will announce a 4.8-inch iPhone and sell a ton of ‘em.” According to Epstein, Misek’s latest opinion “adds fuel to earlier reports from The Wall Street Journal and plugged-in KGI Securities analyst Ming-chi Kuo” about the bigger-screened iPhone.

But there’s more. “Now, just one day later, another solid report suggests Apple’s next flagship iPhone will indeed feature a bigger display,” Epstein rather breathlessly reveals in a second post.

The solid report is actually a rather sketchy blog post by David Hsieh, an analyst with DisplaySearch, a firm that tracks display vendors and technology.

Hsieh’s basic point is that Apple once led in mobile displays, but today rivals offer phones and tablets that have more advanced display technology. Here’s what he says: “…rapid developments in technology and manufacturing of LCD and OLED displays have challenged Apple’s leadership in display adoption. Apple is no longer able to offer unique features in its displays as a long-term differentiator….. Introduction of the iPhone 5S and 5C was the latest example that Apple has been slow in adopting the latest display technologies. While 5-6” FHD [full HD, at 1920 x 1080] resolution displays are rapidly growing in the smart phone market, the iPhone has stayed with the 4” 1136×640 screen for over a year and a half.”

Another way of phrasing that might be: some iPhone rivals have better display specifications. But a lack of “unique features” doesn’t mean that the iPhone 5S is inferior display-wise. In his review of the iPhone 5S and 5C, AnandTech’s Anand Lal Shimpi compared a clutch of display benchmarks.  “The 5s’ display remains excellent and well calibrated from the factory,” he writes. “In an unusual turn of events, my iPhone 5c sample came with an even better calibrated display than my 5s sample.”

So according to Shimpi, the 18-month old display technology that Hseih and Epstein find problematic “remains excellent.” A smartphone’s touchscreen is a mass of trade-offs. Apple has emphasized balancing power efficiency, its Retina Display, and a variety of steps – most of them invisible to end users -- to optimize, manage, and sustain color accuracy, clear text, and crisp images … regardless of the raw specifications. Apple still isn’t using quad-core processors in its mobile devices, yet there’s no tidal wave of criticism that because Apple has been “slow in adopting” a quad-core architecture that it can’t differentiate itself from Samsung and others.

Hsieh’s post is being widely misinterpreted as a “report” based on supply chain interviews. Here’s what he actually says: “Based on supply chain research, we believe Apple is planning to revamp nearly all of the displays in its products over the next year.” That means Apple will introduce in 2014 display innovations that is has been working on for the past two to four years.

One of the innovations might be a larger display, but Hsieh presents that as “speculation” not as information from the supply chain. “This would indicate that Apple, once again, intends to count on display technology for new product innovation,” Hsieh continues. “We can speculate about Apple’s new products as follows…”

What follows is a table that spells out Hsieh’s speculation. The table lists “iPhone 6” under “New product” and has this: 4.7” 1280×720; 5.7” 1920×1080. Apparently, Hsieh’s further speculation is that these models will be released by June 2014, or six to eight months after the 5S and 5C releases. Hsieh’s table raises more questions than it answers, such as “is it possible to even imagine an iPhone with a 5.7-inch display?”

Hsieh also doesn’t address the question of whether these are intended to replace the newest iPhones or to extend the portfolio – creating at least four iPhone models, distinguished in part by screen size. That would certainly be a huge shift in Apple’s smartphone strategy.

Hsieh also doesn’t deal with some of the technology options that Apple can use, or what the tradeoffs are of using them. He alluded to some of these in a January 2013 post, “Is Apple Changing its Mind on Touch Panel Structures?” although most of that post focused on which vendors Apple might choose, rather than their respective technologies.

“[I]t’s hard to ignore the fact that just about every iPhone 6 rumor has pointed to a larger display,” writes Adam Mills, at GottaBeMobile, himself blithely ignoring 1) the previous rumors that the iPhone 5S would have a larger screen and 2) the basis of the current rumors, which at present is almost non-existent.

It’s worth revisiting this mid-August 2013 blog post, "So where's the 5-inch iPhone?" by Rene Ritchie, editor-in-chief of iMore, who examines and compares pundits’ assumptions about big phones with Apple’s.

iPhone 6 the Phablet will have “slightly arched” display and battery from LG

“That the iPhone 6 is of different form-factor from previous builds takes a more solid form as Apple is reportedly working with South Korea's LG in building the first iOS phablet,” Erik Pineda reveals in a post that’s a minor masterpiece of patchwork rumoring.

In for a penny, in for a pound: Without a shred of evidence other than an equally confused blog post at another website, Pineda assures readers that “The two companies are likely to collaborate in coming up with a radically redesigned iPhone 6 towards its rumoured release date in the first half of 2014, reports said.”

And what does “radically” mean? “Specifically, LG is lending its expertise to Apple in the area of bendable display panel and batteries that are slightly arched - two manufacturing capabilities that the Asian firm has recently unveiled,” Pineda says.

“Slightly arched” display panel and batteries. How awesome is that?

This revelation comes via PatentlyApple where Jack Purcher dispenses with the usual fare of summarizing Apple patent applications and, with no links or references, tells his readers that “Today we learned that Apple has willing partners in both LG Display and LG Chem that are ready to assist them should they decide to revamp their current handset designs and/or introduce a new curvaceous wearable computer in the months or years ahead.”

The original story was by KoreaTimes, posted in English at that news site, explaining that LG is now mass producing flexible batteries in stepped, curved, and an intriguing cable form factor.)

What this really means is that two LG business units have produced different products – flexible or at least curved displays and curved batteries – that they’ll try to sell to a wide variety of other companies, which possibly could maybe perhaps at some point include Apple. An LG spokesman wasn’t very helpful, “refusing to name its potential clients for the batteries.”

So the only thing connecting these two technological “advances” with the iPhone 6 is the fact that these two LG units currently sell some components for Apple.

“LG Display is the primary display supplier for Apple,” Purcher assures readers. “LG Chem is also selling its small-sized batteries for the iPhone as well as leading vendors for smartphones and PCs.”

But it’s not clear that LG Display is the “primary” supplier. In August 2013, CNET summarized an NPD DisplaySearch report that noted “Samsung supplied more 9.7-inch panels to Apple than LG Display (LGD) in April and June.” And the iFixit teardown of a gold and a gray iPhone 5S found batteries from two different makers, neither of which was LG Chem: Desay Battery Co. and Simplo Technology.

 iPhone 6 will be announced in Q1 2014. Or Q2. Or maybe next fall

Peter Misek’s opinion to investors also triggered a wave of posts about the iPhone 6 release date. Misek was pretty specific, according to Forbes’ Connie Guglielmo.

“We think the 85 million iPhones eligible for an upgrade when the iPhone 6 launches (we think Apple is targeting Sept. 2014) could be boosted by another 5 to 10 million from people who skipped the 5s/5c cycle,” Misek reasoned.

That’s reasonable reasoning. The iPhone 5S was announced in September 2013. So, 12 months later would be, indeed, September 2014. Q.E.D.

But it’s never that simple. As previously noted, an NPD DisplaySearch analyst thinks iPhone 6 will be announced either in the January-March 2014 period, or the April-June period.

Angelina Bouc, writing at the Las Vegas Guardian Express, covered a wide swath: "Rumors suggest the release date could be in the fall of 2014, further yet are unnamed sources stating Apple may look to surprise competitors and launch late spring/early summer of 2014."

Paul Shea at ValueWalk is so convinced of the of the June 2014 date – which is nine months from the iPhone 5S/5C release – that he concludes, “If the iPhone 6 release date is that soon consumers should wait” nine months for the Next iPhone to savor it’s improved specifications.

But why rush? If you wait 18 months, you’ll get even more improved specifications with the iPhone 6S. And if you wait two years, just think of the specification bliss of the iPhone 7!

John Coxcovers wireless networking and mobile computing for “Network World.”

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

Email: john_cox@nww.com

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