iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending Feb. 7

Among Apple iPhone 6 rumors: 10 big ones, 2 bigger ones, and iOS 8 as DIY doctoring

iPhone 6

A "new rumor" in the iOSphere is almost a contradiction in terms. More typically, a current rumor regurgitates an earlier rumor and, paradoxically, gets additional not less credibility for doing so.

Hence a “report” that iPhone 6 will feature a 10-megapixel camera was greeted with huzzas…just as it has been every time previously. And ditto for the two-phone iPhone 6 rumor, both with bigger-than-four-inch displays.

Also this week: speculation that Apple will go big into health and fitness with iOS 8, encompassing iPhone 6 and the mythical iWatch.

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD iPhoneys: Apple iPhone 6 concepts +

The iDoctor is in.

You read it here second.

KDB’s recent note on the [big-screened] iPhone 6 and phablet-sized iPhone are mostly in line with a number of earlier reports….

— Zach Epstein, BGR, giving credence to a new rumor because it’s mostly in line with earlier rumors.

iPhone 6 will have a 10-megapixel cam with a wider aperture

Every iPhone is rumored to have a better camera, though that almost always means that the rumorer expects it to support more megapixels.

The website GForGames “unearthed” and “discovered” what it terms “some rather interesting rumors” that iPhone 6 will have a 10-megapixel camera with an f/1.8 aperture. Currently the iPhone 5S has an eight-megapixel cam with a narrower f/2.2 aperture. A wider aperture lets in more light and lets you work with a narrower depth of field.

How was this rather interesting rumor unearthed? By translating, via Google Translate, a post on the Chinese website it168.com, which according to Alexa.com, describes itself (also via Google Translate) as “The station is the main provider of computer hardware and digital products market, solutions, market analysis, shopping guide guide and driver software download.”

At GForGames, this becomes “the Chinese media,” which are “citing Taiwanese supply chain insiders.” In other words, they’re citing completely anonymous, and quite vague, sources.

GForGames also asserts that the it168 post reveals that the Next iPhone will have interchangeable resin lenses manufactured by a Japanese firm, JSR. Yet that isn’t quite what the Google Translate version says: “…the filter of the camera will change. Another camera filters iPhone 6 will be made of resin material, which is provided by the renowned Japanese developer of transparent resin JSR, this change will probably improve in the light of imaging capabilities.”

GForGames seems to understand “filter” to mean “lens” and “will change” to mean “interchangeable.” But it more likely means that the iPhone 6 camera filter will simply be different from the filter in the iPhone 5S camera.

Kelly Hodgkins at MacRumors, makes much better sense of the it168 post and of the potential benefits of JSR’s plastic lens.

“The report also claims Apple will change the filter used on the iPhone 6 camera, replacing the hybrid IR [infrared] filter used on the iPhone 5s with a resin lens filter manufactured by Japanese company JSR,” Hodgkins writes. “JSR is known for its ARTON Resins, which are used in digital and video cameras with CMOS image sensors. JSR claims its ARTON filters are lighter and thinner than comparable IR filters and take clearer images due to the resin's ability to minimize the color shifts of CMOS image sensors.”

Back in October 2011, with the release of the iPhone 4S, ArsTechnica’s Chris Foresman evaluated the camera improvements. One was the addition of the hybrid IR filter. “CMOS [camera] sensors are very sensitive to infrared (IR) light, but this light — which isn't visible to humans — focuses at different distances than visible light and can affect color accuracy and sharpness,” Foresman explained. The IR filter minimizes those effects. (It’s a good post for understanding the relationship of sensor, lens, and software-based improvements in camera modules.)

Hodgkins, who seems to consider every post on the Internet to be a “report” or “story” instead of a rumor or speculation, says “The IT168 story contradicts an earlier report from the The China Post that claims Apple will continue to use a 8-megapixel sensor in its next iPhone.”

So there you have it: two anonymously-sourced rumors that outline entirely different futures for the iPhone camera. Just flip a coin….

iPhone 6 will come in two models, with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens

The rumor that Apple is preparing two larger-than-four-inch-screen iPhones is not new, of course. Few rumors these days are. But details count in the iOSphere and a new note to investors from Korea’s KDB Daewoo Securities provides lots of them.

Some of the details were thrilling and some were “bizarre,” according to BGR’s Zach Epstein, who didn’t let bizarreness stand in the way of posting about it. 

Epstein assures his readers that KDB Daewoo “is known for having inside sources that have accurately foretold companies’ plans on numerous occasions in the past.” Yet his main assurance seems to be based on the fact that “KDB’s recent note on the iPhone 6 and phablet-sized iPhone are mostly in line with a number of earlier reports….”

KDB predicts or claims or asserts or “reports” that one iPhone 6 will have a 4.7- or 4.8-inch screen, with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution; and one, which Epstein calls the “phablet,” will have 5.5-inch display, with 2,272 x 1,280 pixels. Also claimed: storage options of 16G, 32G, 64G, and 128GB, 2GB of RAM, 8-megapixel rear camera, a 3.2-megapixel front-facing camera and a 1,800 mAh battery.

But KDB’s software predictions, Epstein calls, at different points, “bizarre” and “very odd.” The analysts say that iPhone 6 will not run a major upgrade to iOS, presumed to be iOS 8, but an iterative release of the current version, to be called iOS 7.2.

So for Epstein this is a reliable report that has some very odd claims. MacRumors’ Eric Slivka takes the view that the very odd claims are so odd that the whole report is hogwash.

“A sketchy new report from analysts at KDB Daewoo Securities Research shared by OLED-Display.net (via BGR) claims to have full details on Apple's iPhone 6, but there are several issues with the claims that call the entire report into question.”

Via OLED-Display.net, Slivka helpfully provides a link to a PDF of the actual KDB Note To Investors (which is a first in the Rollup’s experience). But it’s in Korean, of course, so in the end it’s not so helpful after all.

Slivka picks out several problematic details. One is KDB’s claim that the new iPhone displays will use indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) technology (long-rumored) instead of the low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) technology in current iPhones.

“IGZO is starting to gain popularity in larger devices such as tablets due to technical limitations with creating LTPS displays at those sizes, but LTPS remains the preferred technology for many high-end smartphones,” Slivka writes.

He, too, casts doubt on the prospect of iOS 7.2, calling it a “questionable claim” in light of the fact that “iOS 8 has been observed in web logs and other sources, but there has been no evidence yet of Apple working on an iOS 7.2.”

iPhone 6 will have special health/fitness feature via iOS 8

This is, admittedly, a bit of stretch for The Rollup, since it hinges at least in part on the mythical iWatch.  

9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman reported recently that “Apple currently plans to release a new version of the iPhone operating system this year with health and fitness tracking integration as its headline feature, according to sources briefed on the plans.”

According to Gurman, “Apple’s work on such an operating system likely indicates that Apple is nearing the introduction of its long-awaited, sensor-laden ‘iWatch’….”

It’s somewhat unclear from Gurman’s post whether he considers “iOS 8” to be something specific to the so-called iWatch or whether it’s the next release of the phone/tablet firmware, of which a subset will be loaded into iWatch.

“Apple plans for iOS 8 to include an application codenamed ‘Healthbook.’ The software will be capable of monitoring and storing fitness statistics such as steps taken, calories burned, and miles walked. Furthermore, the app will have the ability to manage and track weight loss.”

A pre-installed Healthbook capability would be, as Gurman notes, analogous to Apple’s Passbook, which can store a variety of digital documents such as loyalty cards, tickets, receipts and the like. Such an app would suggest that it’s part of the phone/tablet operating system, receiving data via Bluetooth from the iWatch (or other third-party Bluetooth devices focused on health and fitness applications), which would have either a subset of iOS or a software layer for connecting to an iPhone and sending compatible data into Healthbook.

But there’s more. “Besides fitness tracking, a marquee feature of ‘Healthbook’ will be the ability to monitor a user’s vital signs,” Gurman writes. “The application will be able to track a person’s blood pressure, hydration levels, heart rate, and potentially several other blood-related data points, such as glucose levels, according to our sources.”

It is highly unlikely that either Healthbook or the iWatch will be able to do even a fraction of these tasks, especially if Healthbook, like Passbook, is mainly a centralized location for easily accessing a specific type of information. And many of the “vital signs” Gurman names are cumbersome if not invasive.

Home blood pressure monitors, for example, require a wrap-around cuff of some kind. Here is Walmart’s selection of home kits. One can make a reasonable argument that the iWatch band could also function as a monitor cuff, but that moves Apple more into the medical device manufacturing space than, frankly, seems advisable.

Monitoring glucose levels is a fancy way of saying “blood test.” Current products all include some kind of “lancet” which is a fancy way of saying “very sharp, skin puncturing device to make you bleed.” Typically the blood is then smeared on a test strip which turns one of several colors. The image of a continually stabbing iWatch probably won’t feature in Apple’s ad campaign.

(Google’s recent announcement of its science project to create a contact lens that can measure glucose levels via tears – which is not a new idea - generated lots of worshipful blog posts but also plenty of skepticism.) 

Finally, and this is our favorite, “hydration levels.” According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, in post titled “Monitoring Hydration Levels,” “Body weight and urine specific gravity (USG) are two common methods by which euhydration (maintaining normal total body water content) can be monitored.” TopEndSports.com details the urine specific gravity method, step one of which is “Collecting the urine.” Instantly, unbidden images come to mind of how one would use one’s iWatch to do that.

To bolster his story, Gurman refers to a patent awarded to Apple for what he calls “technology for smartphones to track blood pressure.” But if you search the patent’s text, via Google Patent, the word “pressure” doesn’t appear. Instead the patent is clearly identified as being for a “Seamlessly embedded heart rate monitor,” a quite different purpose.

Gurman also links to a recent “New York Times” story about a December 2013 meeting between a group of Apple executives and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). According to the Times: “Among the participants from Apple were Jeff Williams, senior vice president of operations; Bud Tribble, vice president of software technology at Apple; Michael O’Reilly, who joined Apple last year; and an employee from Apple’s government affairs department. On the F.D.A. side of the table were Jeff Shuren, the director of the agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, and Bakul Patel, who drafted the F.D.A.’s mobile medical app guidance and is a staunch advocate for patient safety when it comes to apps and medical gadgets.”

The “medical app guidance” document is online. It says that “the FDA intends to apply its regulatory oversight to only those mobile apps that are medical devices and whose functionality could pose a risk to a patient’s safety if the mobile app were to not function as intended.” A number of the tasks identified by Gurman as being part of Apple’s Healthbook fall under the tasks that FDA says it will regulate, with glucose monitoring specifically named in the document as an example. The agency will exercise only “discretion” regarding a range of simple apps, such as “simple tools to organize and track health information” or “help[ing] patients (i.e., users) self-manage their disease or conditions without providing specific treatment or treatment suggestions.”

None of the parties disclosed the topics discussed at the meeting. The Times also noted that Google executives also met with FDA officials that same month.

Gurman and others are undoubtedly correct that Apple has interests and substantial investments in both the fitness and healthcare markets. But those are two very different markets. Apple may be more interested in accessories, user interfaces, and operating system features that make it simpler and easier for iOS users to work with more specialized mobile health and fitness devices. Via Bluetooth Low Energy, an iWatch could become a convenient summarization and display for selected health and fitness data from apps on the iPhone or from iCloud storage or from third-party devices.

In Passbook, Apple doesn’t provide the loyalty cards, tickets, or other digital documents: it creates a consistent user experience and centralized “place” for such documents. Healthbook may do the same for fitness and health data.

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

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