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iPhone 5 rumor rollup for the week ending April 6

Latest Apple iPhone scuttlebutt: June dreams, big screen hopes, gauche Apple, OLED

By , Network World
April 06, 2012 01:20 PM ET
iPhone rumors

Network World - The iOSsphere is nothing if not democratic. It accepts unfounded speculation, comments, convictions and assertions from the lowest of the low and the highest of the high.

This week some guy who recruits workers for a Chinese assembly plant reveals the release date of iPhone 5 and sends the iOSsphere into paroxysms of bliss. A big screen is a certainty if you're certain. Apple stands revealed as unseemly, gauche and oh yes greedy, though we consumers may be helping with that. And at the end of the rainbow, is an OLED touchscreen.

You read it here second.

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"Next Generation iPhone June Debut Plausible, But October Still The Likeliest Bet." 
    -- headline for Charles Moore's post at the iPhone 5 News Blog, showing how iOSsphere rumoring has the same guiding principle as Las Vegas

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iPhone 5 will be announced in June. Unless it's October.

The iOSphere was thrown into a tizzy when a Japanese blogger linked to a Japanese TV video clip, which featured a labor recruiter, working at a Foxconn factory in China, saying that the manufacturer was hiring a zillion worker bees to assemble iPhone 5, which will go on sale in June.

Macworld at least labeled this as a "rumor."

There's some confusion about what the recruiter actually said. One website had him saying explicitly that iPhone 5 will go on sale in June. AppleInsider apparently used Google Translate on, presumably, a Japanese transcript of the interview and had this exchange: 

"We're looking for 18,000 employees ... for the fifth-generation phone," he said.

"Is that because demand is high for the 'iPhone 5?'" [the interviewer] asked.

"That's right. It will come out in June."

So how much does a low-level labor recruiter know about Apple's release schedule, and what does he mean by "come out in June"?

At the iPhone 5 News Blog, the implications were summed up by Charles Moore with the decisively authoritative headline, "Next Generation iPhone June Debut Plausible, But October Still The Likeliest Bet."

At The Motley Fool, Rick Munarriz seems to accept that the Foxconn employee revealed a secret -- the real release date of the iPhone 5 -- and yet points out a good reason why he might not have: "Even if the first iPhone 5 handsets begin rolling off the Foxconn assembly line in June, it could still be weeks or months before the retail release takes place."

Just so.

Munarriz gives four reasons why a June release for the Next iPhone "makes sense." One is that Apple wants to get back to its original midyear release schedule for iPhone, instead of the October date for the iPhone 4S. As far as Rollup can tell, there's been no authoritative explanation of why the 4S was "delayed" or whether in fact it was delayed. Munarriz claims that a "popular theory," a.k.a. rumor, is that Apple put off the announcement as it waited in vain for the U.S. carriers to have a big enough 4G footprint to support an LTE iPhone. (Other theories included manufacturing problems, overheating, lagging development of iOS 5, etc.)

His second reason for a June release follows from this: that now there are plenty of 4G base stations so apparently there's no need to wait until October for an LTE iPhone. Except that all kinds of data indicate that 1) most iOS device users in the United States opt for Wi-Fi connectivity when available (see this week's study by Comscore) and 2) only a fraction of new iPad users bought the LTE model and many of those who did were dismayed at how quickly they ran into their data plan limit. LTE's biggest impact may be to spur better Wi-Fi services.

Munarriz's third reason is that Nokia is now releasing the Lumia 900 smartphone, running Microsoft's Windows Phone firmware, in the U.S. "It's cheap. It's rich with features. Early demand has been strong by some accounts," he writes. "[I]f the phone gains any kind of traction, Apple is going to want to make sure that its iPhone 5 hits the market as soon as possible."

Let's follow this. Apple is worried or concerned or panicked or desperate that two companies whose U.S. smartphone market share combined is little more than a rounding error have created a miracle phone that will threaten Apple's dominance. So Apple will rush the iPhone 5 into release. The only problem with this fantasy is that there's no evidence that Apple pays much, if any, attention to what its putative rivals do, and then changes its product design or manufacturing or marketing in response.

The fourth and last reason for a June iPhone 5 is "CEO Tim Cook doesn't want to let investors down." Munarriz claims that "Apple probably wants to get its annual iPhone cycle back on historical track [with a June date]." He says that Apple's stock price "fell between late July to late September last year." Which is true, but he has no explanation for why. He simply says that returning to an early summer release would "overcome ... concerns" of investors.

Tim Cook would have to announce an iPhone 5 made out of lead with a rotary dialer to "let down investors." The company's stock has risen from $396.75 on Aug. 1, 2011 (the month that Cook was named CEO) to $633.68 at the close of trading Thursday, April 5, 2012. And most of that gain has taken place since Dec. 1, 2011.

Charles Moore, at iPhone 5 News Blog, seems to agree with the International Business Times that for some reason Apple's Q2 financial results, being announced April 24, "provide a better clue as to whether the iPhone 5 will be released in October or in June." Apparently, the unspoken belief is that if those results showed collapsing iPhone 4S sales, Apple would announce iPhone 5 sooner rather than later.

The one data point that relates to this is Apple's Q4 fiscal 2011 results, which set company records, but were somewhat less than Wall Street expected. Apple CEO Tim Cook said that revenue and profit numbers were dragged down in the last half of the quarter (late summer/early fall) as rumors of the next iPhone reached fever pitch, and consumers held off on buying the current models. But Cook said this fall-off was much less than Apple had expected.

So, as with nearly every obsessive iOSsphere discussion of The Date, we end up where we started: Nobody knows when the darn thing will be announced.

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