iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending Oct. 28

Summer hopes, bigness, 16-megapixels, gaze detection and 8G

iPhone 6

As the weather cools, the iOSphere's hopes are kindled by rumors that the summer of '14 will bring the iPhone 6.

And with it, a bigger-than-four-inch screen, though how big remains as big a question mark today as it has been for the past three years or more.

Also this week, mega-excitement over an iPhone 6 with a 16-megapixel camera; the resurrection of “gaze detection” as the Next Frontier in smartphone interfaces; and the magic of “8G” glass … whatever that is.

You read it here second.

Given that Samsung has similar [gaze detection] technology in its Galaxy S4 smartphone, we'd say there's a high chance that Apple will follow suit and implement its own version [in iPhone 6].

— David Ludlow, ExpertReviews, relying on the widely used iOSpherian analytical technique – if Samsung has it, Apple will follow – to reach the conclusion that we are mere months away from having the breakthrough Gaze Detection Technology on the iPhone 6.

iPhone 6 scheduled for summer 2014 release with a “bigger” screen

It takes just weeks, sometimes days, for rumors to reach the status of Conventional Wisdom. The latest express is by stock analyst Gene Munster, and by BusinessInsider’s Jay Yarrow, who reported on a Munster preview of Apple’s earnings report on Oct. 28. 

Munster, in short, predicts or “expects,” as Yarrow has it, that the iPhone 6 will be released in summer 2014, it will have a “bigger” screen, and it will be a “blockbuster.”

Neither Munster nor Yarrow defines what “blockbuster” means, apart from “big sales.” But then, every iPhone has had big sales, both in its opening weekend (see this chart by GigaOM) and more generally over the course of an Apple fiscal year. (See this Wikipedia chart and table based on quarterly units sold, which covers all iPhone models available during each period.) Perhaps Munster means a “bigger than usual blockbuster.”

Apparently, people are concerned about the inevitable slowing of 5S sales, according to Yarrow. “Enthusiasm about the iPhone 6 should more than offset any concern about 5S sales inevitably slowing, says Munster.” As far as we can tell, sales of every specific consumer electronics product -- in fact, almost every product -- inevitably slow. Perhaps this concern would carry more weight if we hadn’t had to endure the long-standing cycle of “the sky is falling” predictions that warn of iPhone or iPad sales shrinking or slowing, of Apple’s (but strangely never Samsung’s or the industry’s) smartphone market shrinking, saturating, or collapsing, or all three.

“The general framework of Munster’s thesis makes sense to us,” says Yarrow. “We expect Apple to release a bigger iPhone….However, we’re not so sure about Munster’s timeline. We will be stunned if Apple can get a big iPhone out before September 2014. It has settled into a release schedule for the iPhone in the fall, and we doubt that changes.”

The “general framework” of the thesis is simply the belief that Apple will create an iPhone with a screen bigger than 4-inches. Yarrow is assuming that a bigger-screen iPhone is a replacement for iPhone 5S, so the summer of 2014 is too soon. But, if Apple is introducing a larger model, will it also introduce it as a separate model alongside the 5S instead of replacing the 5S?

If iPhone 6 becomes an addition to the iPhone portfolio, rather than the replacement for iPhone 5S, then nothing prevents Apple from announcing it before fall 2014, even well before. That’s because the phone will have been in development, including manufacturing planning and deployment, for about three years.

iPhone 6 will have a 16-megapixel camera, based on Sony image sensor

PatentlyApple’s Jack Purcher turned not to government-published patents but to rumors to declare “Apple may use Sony's 16MP Sensor for iPhone 6 Camera.”

He followed up that headline with an even more confident opening sentence: “If the iFixit iPhone 5S teardown information in step 10 is correct concerning the iSight camera using an 8 MP CMOS image sensor from Sony, then there's a good chance that the iPhone 6 will likewise adopt Sony's next generation 16 MP in 2014.”

And why, you ask? Because a “new report” by South Korea’s ETNews says that “Samsung Electronics' System LSI Division and Sony will compete in the 16 million pixel complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor market for smartphones.”

According to Purcher, the Samsung Galaxy S5, due out in January-June 2014 “will be adopting a 16 MP camera,” one obviously based on Samsung’s own product. Therefore, that leaves Sony as “likely to supply” Apple with the sensor for the 16-megapixel camera that will appear in iPhone 6.

Michael Briggs, at DesignNTrend.com, bought into that rumor, but his almost fetishistically detailed post seems to repeat every speculative feature ever proposed for the iPhone 6 over the past 18 months if we count the recycled predictions originally intended for the 2012 iPhone 5.

Of course, back in April 2013, an “Official iPhone 6” video predicted a 13-megapixel camera for iPhone 6, not to mention a convex body and screen design; and in May, clickbait sites predicted either a 12- or 16-mp camera, and one of them had both numbers in a single story.

Rumors based on typos. What is the world coming to?

iPhone 6 will have “gaze detection”

Another familiar rumor making, or still making, the rounds is that iPhone 6 will detect when you’re looking at the screen, and when you’re not. And … well, let’s let ExpertReviews’ David Ludlow, explain the magicalness of this since he’s the one bringing it up again.

“If you were to look away, the phone could pause a video playing and turn the screen off,” he writes, explaining that “any technology that can increase battery life has to be good.”

His evidence for this wonder is the May 30 post at PatentlyApple which noted that the new patent application is a subset of an Apple patent application filed in 2008, which in Internet Rumortime is practically the Stone Age.

“Given that Samsung has similar technology in its Galaxy S4 smartphone, we'd say there's a high chance that Apple will follow suit and implement its own version,” Ludlow concludes.

Because Samsung’s similar technology has been so … well, so-so. “[T]he phone knows when you're looking at it, and then lets you tilt it up or down to scroll. Sounds neat!” wrote Brent Rose in his Gizmodo review of the S4. “But unfortunately [it] doesn't work very well. The S IV that we played with seemed to have trouble setting the base angle, so it would scroll up or down even when you didn't want to. When it worked it was fine, but more often than not it was a frustrating mess.”

Since the initial, often fawning coverage of the feature last March, The Rollup found, via a Google search, exactly one application: a marketing promotion by telecom carrier Swisscom. 

iPhone 6 will have IGZO display with 8G glass

Talk about a “wow factor.” The miracle that is 8G glass.

International Business Times is all agog about it, having learned of this marvelous development from PatentlyApple.com, where apparently wearied by summarizing documents publicly posted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, they have turned to breaking news.

PatentlyApple in turn simply cites an unnamed-and-unlinked “foreign report” which, apparently simply quotes a Sharp "spokesman" who claims that "Using 8G glass substrates, Sharp will be the first company in the world to achieve commercial production of high-definition LCD panels for smartphones."

Neither PatentlyApple nor IBT bothered to explain what 8G glass substrate means.

Rumors that Apple was developing a display based on IGZO technology have been with us since late 2011 at least, when the iOSphere began imaging an IGZO-fied iPhone 5. IGZO stands for indium, gallium, zinc, oxygen (or oxide). It’s a thin-film transistor used in flat panel backplanes, and its benefits are improved “operation speed, resolution and size” of flat panel displays, especially for those that are organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, according to the Wikipedia entry. And Sharp has been a leader, announcing the first commercial production of IGZO panels in 2012.

Searching for “8G” on Google turns out to yield some highly technical results. But there is this Aug. 3, 2005 DigiTimes story – eight years ago – which reveals that 8G apparently refers to eighth-generation: "Sharp recently announced that it started constructing an 8G plant and the plant will start producing 8G (2,160 x 2,400mm) TFT LCD panels next October." That would be October 2005.

Another story, this one at DailyTech, from  March 3, 2006, has this: “Since LCD substrate factories are so expensive to manufacturer (usually in excess of a billion dollars), all manufacturers of LCDs typically abide by ‘generation’ standards so that component supplies do not need to constantly change. LG.Philips LCD has declared the 8G standard to be 2160 x 2400mm -- the resulting substrate can be cut into exactly eight 47" LCD screens or exactly six 52" screens.  Samsung LCD has declared the official 8G standard to be 2160 x 2460mm, which can be cut into eight 46" LCDs or six 52" screens.”

Not being an expert on glass substrate, The Rollup is forced to conclude, tentatively, that 8G refers to a size format for manufacturing large glass panels that are then sliced into smaller panels for assemblies that fit into a final monitor, tablet or smartphone.

It’s sort of like saying that the next Toyota Prius will use components fashioned from Advanced High Strength Steel cut from bigger sheets.

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

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