iPhone 5 rumor rollup for the week ending March 2

Screen size wisdom, goodbye button, Clearwire's longing, the A5+ chip

With the shadow of the Next iPad looming over all, the iOSsphere looks for new meaning in older rumors for iPhone 5.

Last week, how Steve Jobs was wrong about screen sizes, more speculation on banishing the home button, Clearwire's not-yet built LTE network will get the not-yet LTE-equipped iPhone, and hints that you won't have four cores in the next iPhone's CPU.

You read it here second.


"My thinking at this point is that Apple will probably go with a four-inch display for the iPhone 5, but not very likely much larger, and the existence of a 7.85-inch iPad would make a 4.2-inch, 4.5-inch or 5-inch iPhone an even less realistic possibility than it might have been." 

    -- Charles Moore, iPhone 5 News Blog, who, building one rumor on top of another, concludes that a nonexistent smaller iPad will affect Apple's decision on how big to make the Next iPhone's screen.


iPhone 5 won't get a big screen because Apple will give the next iPad a smaller one

This argument, by Charles Moore at iPhone5 News Blog, rests on another set of rumors -- that Apple plans to unveil a new iPad with a screen that's 7.85 inches instead of the 9.7 inches (both metrics, of course, for the diagonal distance) of the current models.

ANALYSIS: Is smaller better for iPad size? Two gadget repair gurus weigh in

"I think the 7.85-inch iPad is a pretty strong likelihood, notwithstanding that the late Steve Jobs was a vehement critic of the seven-inch screen form factor," Moore declares, apparently oblivious to the fact that he's basically saying "Steve Jobs was just wrong."

He gives Jobs' two main objections to a smaller tablet screen as follows: 1) the smaller tablets from rival companies are "too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad"; and 2) that Apple's "extensive user testing on touch interfaces" showed that "there are limits on how close you can physically place elements on a touchscreen before users can't reliably tap, flick, or pinch them" and that the 9.7-inch size is "the minimum size required to create great tablet apps."

"However, that was then, and this is now," Moore claims. In the interim, he says, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have managed to sell some number of smaller-screened tablets, for considerably less than the iPad's price tag. "And more significantly, formidable new competition is coming with Microsoft's Windows 8 Metro OS user interface for smartphones and tablets later this year," Moore says.

But neither of those points refutes Jobs' objections. The 9.7-inch screen wasn't a guess on Apple's part. It was the result of the company's approach to product development. Amazon's Kindle Fire "success" -- if in fact that's what it is -- may simply mean that those buyers didn't want to spend more for a tablet, and mainly wanted a reader, which is what most Kindle and Nook users seem doing with their devices.

Second, there's very little evidence that Apple makes changes to its product line in response to product changes or introductions by rivals. Apple's historical success has been in creating new classes of products: the Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. The last two especially now account for a vast proportion of Apple's sales and especially its profitability. No other single competing product in either category has come close to the success of either iPhone or iPad.

Moore argues that using a 7.85-inch screen vs. a 7-inch screen "will mitigate some of (these) objections." Like which ones in particular, we wonder? If 9.7 inches is the optimal for great tablet apps, anything less is suboptimal. Apple isn't into suboptimal.

"My thinking at this point is that Apple will probably go with a four-inch display for the iPhone 5, but not very likely much larger, and the existence of a 7.85-inch iPad would make a 4.2-inch, 4.5-inch or 5-inch iPhone an even less realistic possibility than it might have been," Moore concludes.

Apple could expand the screen size, or at least the apparent screen size, of the Next iPhone but keep the same casing dimensions by using a number of tricks like shrinking or even eliminating the bezel areas. iPhone 4S was branded by the iOSsphere technorati as a failed design for, among many other reasons, having the same screen size. Somehow, the millions of subsequent buyers, who made the iPhone 4S the most successful of all the models so far released, were undeterred.

Rollups assessment: Apple will keep two distinct products, iPhone and iPad, each with distinctive and consistent screen sizes.

iPhone 5 will drop the hardware home button

This isn't new in itself, but the reasoning by Michael Nace, also of iPhone 5 News Blog, is.

Nace's starting point, again, is yet another rumor about iPad 3 -- that the photograph in Apple's recent invitation to next week's announcement reveals that iPad 3 doesn't have a home button. If that proves to be true, he argues, then "Apple may plan on including an on-screen home button in iOS 5.1 for both the iPad 3 and [the] eventual iPhone 5."

The rest of what follows is, to Rollup at least, a bit confusing. "What no one seems to be talking about, however, is how Apple will compensate for the lack of a physical hardware home button," Nace argues, which seems to be at odds with this previous speculation that Apple would use an on-screen home (or "soft button") in place of the hardware button. He seems to be suggesting a third option: "it is more plausible that iOS 5.1 will introduce a software-based navigation solution for the iPad 3 [and therefore possibly iPhone 5] having no home button."

At the same time, Nace admits there are "no clues within the beta versions of iOS 5.1 that would indicate a new software-style home button," a phrasing which 1) now suggests that on-screen home button, software-based navigation solution, and software-style home button are all the same thing; and 2) means there isn't a shred of evidence to support this idea.

But. "But the reason for this could simply be that Cupertino has gone out of its way to avoid tipping off analysts pouring over the new code -- or that analysts missed it because they weren't looking for it."

In other words, the software whatchamacallit is in there but everyone else so far has been too dumb to see it, or even to realize it's there despite the fact it can't be seen. It's the kind of logic that can only exist in the iOSsphere: "if not-A, then B."

iPhone 5 will run on Clearwire's LTE network ... whenever the network gets built

"Could the iPhone 5 ride on Clearwire's network?" asks CNET's Roger Cheng.

Clearwire is a wholesale network operator that initially created the first and really only widespread WiMax deployment in the U.S., and the basis for Sprint's "4G" network. Clearwire later decided to switch to LTE as the foundation for its 4G offering, specially a variant called TD-LTe. AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and even Sprint, are adopting the other variant FD-LTE.

"The company's planned move to LTE could make it a lot easier for Apple's next iPhone to run on its network, although Clearwire CEO Eric Prusch was silent on whether that would be the case," Cheng writes, helpfully filling in what Mr. Prusch undoubtedly would have said, if he'd actually said anything.

Prusch did say that chips exist today, for example from Qualcomm, that can support both LTE variants.

There are only two problems with Cheng's opening question. One is that the Clearwire LTE network doesn't actually exist. According to Cheng, the operator will start deploying in March, and according to Prusch will have 5,000 base stations by midyear. Color us "skeptical."

The second problem is that there's very little indication that Apple will support LTE in iPhone 5, despite endless rumoring and appeals to arcane references in the beta code of iOS firmware. And there's little to indicate that Apple needs to support LTE in iPhone 5. LTE adoption is still a fraction of those who are 3G subscribers. And Apple CEO Tim Cook in 2011 was specific on some of the technical issues of packing multi-chip LTE solutions, coupled with a separate solution for 3G voice (which for the most part isn't widely implemented yet in LTE), and the resulting impact on interior space, and battery demands.

That's changing as LTE silicon rapidly advances. But Apple support for LTE this year may not be the slam-dunk sure thing that many assume.

iPhone 5 will have the A5.5 chip for its CPU

At least, that seems to be the thrust of Rue Liu's post at Slashgear, with the headline "Apple developing both A5X and A6 processors, hints iOS 5.1 code."

The basis for this latest rumor is, once again, cryptic references to processor chip numbers in the iOS 5.1 beta code.

"The original iPad had used an A4 chip, which had the model number S5L8930X, while the iPad 2's A5 chip had the model number SL8940X, a full 10-point step up," Liu writes, apparently ignoring the extra "5" in the first number, and its absence in the second. Maybe it's his typo. Or even Apple's typo.

A full 10-point step-up. Wow. By contrast, "The reported [meaning 'rumored'] A5X chip has a model number of S5L8945, indicating a half-step up. But what [also] has been found in iOS 5.1 code includes a new mystery S5L8950X processor, suggesting a full step up to an A6 processor."

So do the "points" refer to anything or mean anything? No one seems to know, including Liu.

Liu runs through a bunch of possible fantasies to explain the iOS chip numbers. Perhaps the lack of specificity, not to mention credibility, comes from not wanting to be seen as relying too much on "trustworthy publications" for his sources, apparently The Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD blog by John Paczkowski, which has a much more firmly grounded, and coherent, account.

In his post, Paczkowski cites BlueFin Research Partners analyst Steve Mullane, who draws on "information coming out of the semiconductor supply chain" to speculate that Samsung, which actually manufactures Apple's chips, "isn't equipped to manufacture 28-nanometer quad-core chips, as the A6 is presumed to be."

Samsung's recently built massive Austin, Texas, plant currently cranks out the A5 chip using a 45-nanometer process. Mullane is quoted as saying, "Since the A6 processor is based on a 28-nanometer process, we believe the 32-nanometer ramp [up] validates the recent rumors that the iPad 3 will likely use a higher speed, die-shrink version of the A5 dual-core processor, named the A5X processor, as opposed to the next-generation A6 quad-core processor."

Reviewers of the first iPad were struck by how fast it performed -- how fast and smooth was the user's interaction with the applications and UI -- with the Stone Age processor of 2010. Apple is able to do a lot with speed, apart from relying on raw CPU processing power. A 32-nanometer "A5+" along with separate graphics processing improvements could do a lot to increase what Apple considers to be performance, without needing a quadcore CPU.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwjohn_cox@nww.com http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed



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