iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending June 13

Genuine metal, genuine pop star, high anticipation, sapphire dreams

The current state of iPhone 6 rumors in the iOSphere is like looking at the laundry detergent shelf in your grocery store and being overwhelmed by all the different choices. Until you realize that, at bottom, all the different detergents use pretty much the same ingredients and yield pretty much the same results.

A new rear metal housing, purportedly for the iPhone 6, surfaced in online photos and is considered genuine for no good reason. A photo posted on the blog of a Taiwanese former pop start is considered genuine because in the past he’s posted pictures of previous iPhone models. And a genuine source “close to the situation” reveals that iPhone 6 will have such “highly anticipated” features as…NFC and wireless charging?

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You read it here second.

Mark Sullivan, VentureBeat, citing a “source close to the situation” who apparently isn’t close enough to see the underwhelming demand for NFC among iOS users, and the complete lack of any evidence, including anything in the current beta release of iOS 8, that shows Apple has any interest in NFC as a technology when it already has Bluetooth LE and iBeacon.

iPhone 6 revealed in “genuine” metal shell

The French techsite NoWhereElse.fr posted photos of a rear metal shell or case purporting to be a “genuine” iPhone 6 but giving no indication whatever as to why they, or we, should believe that.

The original post in French is here. “In short, the shell that you are about to examine is likely to be a genuine shell iPhone 6,” says site founder Steve Hemmerstoffer, according to our Google Translate version.

Upon examination, here’s the image that shows the interior of the case, where all the electronic goodies would be nestled. “The most interesting of these four pictures shows the inside of this case, the design is in all respects identical to that of smartphones California,” Hemmerstoffer claims. Setting aside the question of how much one can actually tell from looking at this specific photo, the assertion is a bit baffling. If the interior shown in the new photo really is identical to that of “smartphones California” (presumably meaning “smartphones made by Apple, a California-based company”), then it would suggest there are NO changes to the iPhone 6.

Although Hemmerstoffer insists that the current “leak” is “much more informative than the previous leak of the day [in May],” these images in fact don’t offer much more in the way of information: presumably this is the long-rumored 4.7-inch iPhone 6 model, and it shows the long-rumored, iPad mini-like rounded sides instead of the characteristic flat sides of the last several iPhone models.

Jay McGregor, a UK-based freelance journalist who also has an occasional “contributor” blog at Forbes.com, detects in the photos what he says is a “new unspecified button on the side, which is rumored to be the new home of the power button.”

The addition Hemmerstoffer singles out is visible on the exterior back of the case: the Apple logo is cut completely through the metal. For Hemmerstoffer, this is an “aesthetic detail unique to the iPhone family that naturally boosts the rumor that wants the famous apple can be used as signal light notifications.”

iPhone 6 revealed by Taiwanese former pop star

Jimmy Lin strikes again. Lin is a Taiwanese singer and actor or a former Taiwanese or a former singer and actor or former pop star. But somehow he’s been able, periodically, to get photos of upcoming Apple iPhones or iPads.

This week, on his Chinese language Weibo blog (“dreamerjimmy”), Lin posted two photos of what he says is an iPhone 6, alongside of an existing 5s.

Former or not, he was and his photos were enthusiastically embraced by the iOSphere. At CNET, Lance Whitney assured readers that “Lin has a history of leaking Apple images. He accurately leaked the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini ahead of those two releases, according to tech site Pocket-Lint. He also had an early shot of the iPhone 5C.” But Whitney did use the “allegedly” to describe Lin’s latest find.

“Lin spills a few alleged details, namely that the iPhone 6 sports a 4.7-inch screen, that the power button has shifted to the right, and that the coating for the built-in antenna is no longer on the outside. Lin adds that the phone offers a good grip,” Whitney writes.

iPhone 6 will have “highly anticipated” features like…NFC and wireless charging

If this claim is true, The Rollup thinks it’s just odd that Lin didn’t mention it.

This claim comes via a post by VentureBeat’s Mark Sullivan, who has “a source close to the situation.” Of course, the Discerning Reader wants at once to know what particular “situation” VentureBeat has in mind. The situation in Apple’s design lab, or the situation in marketing, or the Asian supply chain, or a dinner guest who knows someone whose wife carpools the kids with a friend who lives down the street from someone whose brother-in-law is a janitor at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters?

“The iPhone 6, which will launch this fall, will contain several highly-anticipated features, including near field communication (NFC), wireless charging, a better 4G antenna, and a much bigger screen,” Sullivan declares, authoritatively.

It would, perhaps, be more accurate to say that each of these is a feature that is highly anticipated by certain subgroups of potential buyers. And none of them are likely, alone or in combination, to draw flocks of brand new users to the Next iPhone.

“Apple is now ready to pull the trigger on NFC,” Sullivan declares. “An NFC radio has been designed into the iPhone 6 and will enable mobile payments in the way that Android phones using Google Wallet already do.”

The “at long last Apple is going to give us NFC!” rumor has been around for quite some time. No matter how passionately some bloggers fulminate about Apple being on the wrong side of history by not having been a leader in NFC, there is still no evidence that Apple is actually doing anything to introduce NFC into iOS.

There’s no sign of NFC support in the current beta code for iOS 8. Most of what’s been discovered so far, as Jordan Kahn summarizes for 9to5Mac, is about integrating and interconnecting Apple’s M7 Motion Controller, Wi-Fi position tracking, and the Bluetooth LE radio-based iBeacon technology, all focused on indoor location services. IBeacon creates an “enduser infrastructure” of millions of iOS users already using iBeacon, which can be leveraged for mobile payments as an alternative to NFC, especially when used in conjunction with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity. As a radio technology, NFC doesn’t seem to add anything to what Apple already has with iBeacon.

Wireless charging is another feature that may be highly anticipated by some, but not most. VentureBeat’s Sullivan notes that there are multiple wireless charging standards. His source claims that “Apple is apparently ready to commit to a standard,” but which one is unknown. A wireless charger, in effect, turns the charging plug that attaches to your phone into a pad or surface, with a corresponding surface built into the phone or tablet: you don’t have to manually attach your phone to the charger, just put it on the pad. But the pad itself still has to be plugged into a power source.

Such conductive surfaces “are more often built into preexisting fixtures like countertops and dashboard trays,” Sullivan says. That will likely come as a surprise to most users: built-in wireless charging surfaces are hardly ubiquitous. And unusable if they conform to a different charging standard than your mobile device.

iPhone 6 will have sapphire coverglass on both the big model and the bigger model

Websites like GFoGames are busily misinterpreting an analyst’s estimate of Apple’s sapphire production schedule, and making up a narrative that seems to have no basis in anything like a fact.

The headline at the GForGames post, by Mihai Matei, accepts as fact what were previous rumors about how and when Apple would be able to make use of the raw synthetic sapphire production plant it established in Mesa, Ariz., with partner GT Advanced Technologies. Matei runs through a cycle of unsubstantiated rumors that variously said Apple would only use sapphire for the mythical iWatch, then just for the allegedly super-sized 5.5-inch iPhone 6.

“[B]ut now we’ve come across new reports, indicating that Apple could use sapphire a lot more extensively than initially thought,” he declares. More extensively than he initially thought.

His main source for this is a post by independent analyst and investor Matt Margolis (he has a long position in GTAT stock), who has followed the sapphire deal closely. Margolis’ original post was on his own blog, The Obscure Analyst, and later reposted as a contributor to SeekingAlpha, which is where Matei found it.

Margolis says there has been a “delay” in Apple’s final payment to GTAT, a delay that “is believed to be related to the ramp up of equipment inside the Mesa facility.” It’s not clear if anyone apart from Margolis shares that belief. He says the plant is expected to be completed in June, and that’s when Apple will make the final payment.

Margolis says his own “supply chain check indicated that GT has likely installed slightly more than 2,500 furnaces.” He also thinks the hockey-puck shaped sapphire boules will be in the 200 and 235 kg range.

“As a result of my most recent supply chain check I believe that the Mesa sapphire operations will have an ample supply to cover the iWatch, the 4.7” iPhone and the 5.5” iPhone with full sapphire cover glass in 2014,” Margolis declares. “Additionally, the maximum sapphire screen capacity of the Mesa facility is likely to exceed 200m annual units.”

To be clear, as GForGames is not, the Mesa plant is not creating finished covers. It is producing raw sapphire that has to be shipped to Apple partners in Asia for cutting, polishing and shaping, and then integrated into the display and iPhone assembly processes.

Margolis is clearly correct that sapphire is a strategic material for Apple [see “How Apple's billion dollar sapphire bet will pay off”]; and that the evidence of the number of furnaces being installed in the Mesa plant certainly suggests the intent to use sapphire as the cover glass for a lot of mobile devices.

The unanswered question is when? Margolis apparently bases his 2014 prediction on the number of Mesa furnaces. But the sapphire growth is only one part of the supply chain process that results in a finished glass being sealed on an iPhone: a number of other Apple partners have to upgrade their manufacturing and assembly processes to be able to deal with a material has hard as sapphire. No one seems to have any idea of the status of those upgrades.

Apple may intend that the new iPhone models (if there are, indeed, two models planned) have sapphire; or it may intend only one to have it in 2014, another model to have it 2015. Or some other schedule over the next 12 to 18 months.

The confident narrative that GForGames, and others, have created is based on pure, and largely uninformed, speculation.

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