iPhone 5 rumor rollup for the week ending April 13

Disguises, big gig, aspect expectations, aluminum recycled

iPhone 5 prototypes are popping up like Spring daffodils, and the iOSsphere is intoxicated with them even though none have yet turned up in a beer house.

This week: disguised prototypes at Apple's headquarters, aspect ratios and screen sizes, recycling rumors of the aluminum iPhone, and life-changing, mind-altering software.

You read it here second.


"Unlike the iPad 2, the new iPhone packs 1GB of RAM, according to a source familiar with the SOC's manufacturing."

~ Mark Gurman, 9to5Mac, Sept. 11, 2011, before the announcement of iPhone 4S

"Like the A5X-powered iPad, these new iPhone prototypes are packing 1GB of RAM."

~ Mark Gurman, 9to5Mac, April 9, 2012, before the announcement of iPhone 5


iPhone 5 is in disguise at Apple headquarters and will have 1 Gig of memory

"Apple has internally seeded a prototype next-generation iPhone with the iPhone 4 design," Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac confidently declares. That seems to be geekspeak for "some Apple employees have a prototype iPhone 5 that looks like the iPhone 4."

With the assurance of an experienced rumorster, Gurman doesn't bother to cite even an anonymous source for this conviction.

"The actual next-generation iPhone is specifically said to not include the iPhone 4/4S design, but Apple is testing these new devices in older casings to throw off leaks," Gurman says. The passive tense "is...said" raises the obvious question of who, exactly, said this. But let's not get bogged down by Lamestream Media concerns over things like reliability of sources and, you know, facts.

"The purpose of the prototype iPhone that we heard about is to test a variation of the 'A5X' chip in an iPhone," Gurman continues. "The A5X processor in the new iPad was specifically built to drive the new Retina Display, so that chip wouldn't make much sense in an iPhone."

The principal change in the new iPad's dual-core A5X is the addition of a quad-core graphics processor. It drives not just a Retina Display, which the iPhone 4 and 4S also has, but a much larger 9.7-inch diagonal Retina Display, with more pixels than a high-def TV. So, if that doesn't make sense for an iPhone, then what would the A5X "variation" be? Gurman doesn't speculate and apparently neither did his source, or sources.

"Like the A5X-powered iPad, these new iPhone prototypes are packing 1GB of RAM," he declares, again without any attribution.

But perhaps Gurman is relying on the same source that told him, way back in September 2011 that the about-to-be-announced iPhone 5 (which turned out to be the iPhone 4S) would for sure definitely absolutely have 1GB or RAM.

"The new [to-be-announced] iPhone features Apple's dual-core A5 processor like the iPad 2 for even faster performance, better gaming, and drastically improved graphics," Gurman wrote then. "Apple didn't stop there though. Unlike the iPad 2, the new iPhone packs 1GB of RAM, according to a source familiar with the SOC's manufacturing."

The great thing about insisting year in and year out that the next iPhone is going to have 1GB of RAM or more storage or a more powerful processor is that, eventually, you'll be right.

iPhone 5 will have a 3.99-inch (diagonal) screen. Give or take.

Finally. A rumor you can believe in.

Well before the disappointing yet wildly successful iPhone 4S, the technoglitterati have been predicting or demanding a big-screen iPhone. How big, you ask. Well. Big.

The problem with a bigger screen is that iOS applications would have to be redone. Now comes a suggestion, beautiful in its simplicity, which suggests how Apple could increase screen size without forcing developers to rework apps: change the aspect ratio of the iPhone's screen.

In a post at the Verge, with some intriguing illustrations, modilwar develops an idea first posed by a caller to one of the Verge's online chats, one Timothy Collins.

Currently, all iPhones have had a 3.5 inch display with 3:2 aspect ratio, with iPhone 4 and 4S having the same Retina Display resolution of 960 x 640 pixels.

If Apple kept that resolution but increased the diagonal screen size to 4.0 inches, it "significantly reduce the ppi to 288" which as modilwar notes is "well below the 300 mark Apple as touted as retina [display] quality."

But. ... If Apple changes the aspect ratio to 9:5, you could create a screen that would retain the same dimensions and pixels on the shorter side - 1.94 inches, 640 pixels - but the longer side would get...longer: to a smidgen over 3.99 inches, and 1,152 pixels. "I'm sure Apple PR could round this to 4," modilwar writes.

The result: a 20% increase in the number of pixels compared to iPhone 4 and 4S. That would add another row of app icons on the homescreen, and as the mockups show, significantly increase space for everything from app screens to typing messages. It might also mean that the next iPhone's external dimensions could remain the same.

iPhone 5 will have a unibody design, just like the MacBook

Apple will pass on glass for the next iPhone and go with a body formed of the same material used in beer cans.

A stock market analyst, traipsing around Taiwan and China talking to component suppliers predicts the next iPhone will have an aluminum unibody design, just like Apple's MacBooks. So wondrous will unibody be, that "This new, sleek look will be the most important reason that consumers decide to upgrade," gushed Brian J. White, the traipsing analyst, who works for Topeka Capital Markets. His speculation was in a "report to investors" issued this week, and picked up by various tech news sites, including AppleInsider

AppleInsider's post was picked up by still others, such as Simon Thomas, at 3G.co.uk, who cited the Website as a "reputable source" for the unibody rumor, even though all AppleInsider did was parrot White's comments.

But in any case, the unibody would demolish one of the "major criticisms" of the iPhone 4S, says Thomas. "One of the major criticisms aimed at Apple's iPhone 4S is that it looks identical to the previous model, which meant it was hard for people to realize [sic] you'd splashed out on a new iPhone."

Rollup thought that, too. What is the point of buying a new smartphone if the people you want to impress can't even tell it's new?

Apple machines the MacBook casing from a single block of aluminum [the process is shown in an Apple video]. Apple execs say the process lets them create an extremely strong but thin and elegantly simple casing.

Based on his chats with the Far East suppliers, White "believes the next iPhone will have a larger screen, which he sees as being 4 inches. He also expects the device will have high-speed 4G LTE connectivity, just like the new iPad," according to AppleInsider's Neil Hughes.

The iOSsphere is recycling the iPhone Alumination rumor. Last September, in the run-up to the announcement of what turned out to be iPhone 4S, Hughes wrote of another Wall Street analyst's prediction that that phone would have an aluminum unibody, echoing speculation that began in March of 2011. In January 2012, Rollup noted that Boy Genius Report's Jonathan Geller "has learned" that the next iPhone will have an aluminum backplate with a rubberized edge.

iPhone 5 will really be about software and artificial intelligence

But we'll settle for a better iTunes and iOS 6 improvements.

Forget about big screens, big processors, and release dates. Focus on what's really big: software that can, yes, change our lives.

"But for as much as the speculation over the iPhone 5 is heavily focused on screens and release dates, I think that, in the end, Tim Cook's iPhone 5 pitch will be mostly about how the iPhone 5 will change our lives," intones Michael Nace, at the iPhone5NewsBlog.

So, how will it change our lives, you ask. Let's start first with NFC, near field communications, the short-range radio link that is used in contactless mobile payments.

"Recently, rumors of NFC for the iPhone 5 have waned," Nace says. "But I believe that Apple is ready to move on this technology, and if they do, it will quickly become a defining feature."

NFC has been, for years, all set to quickly become a defining feature that changes life as we know it. But breath-holding is not recommended, based on the World Payments Report 2011, which predicted that mobile payments will represent just 15% of all card transactions by 2013, growing from 4.6 billion transactions in 2010 to 15.3 billion in 2013.

Then there's the Siri voice interface, introduced in beta form with iPhone 4S. Nace sees great things ahead. "An advanced Siri — sometimes dubbed "Assistant" — could extend its functionality into the Safari browser, and be able to answer more questions and perform (more) complex functions than what we currently have," he says, predicting in effect that Apple will improve a software application.

If we're really lucky, Apple will improve Siri to the point where it will be able to answer really life-changing questions like "When will the next iPhone be announced by Apple?"

And don't forget games, and maps: "an improved gaming platform — a trend we saw established with the new iPad — as well as a stunning new set of maps that would finally put their use of Google Maps to rest." And if games and stunning maps aren't life-changing, what is?

You have to realize that although "Sure, the retina display [technology] is incredibly advanced and impressive," that really it isn't: "but the display in the abstract wasn't impressive," Nace explains. "[I]t only became impressive after we saw it working in tandem with new iLife elements: photos, painting, games, etc." It's obvious: if there's no app on your screen, the display is just an expensive glass paperweight.

Oddly, Nace doesn't mention the two software pieces that nearly everyone actually cares about: iOS and iTunes (both the computer application and the online store). AppleInsider, citing multiple anonymous sources, this week says Apple has internally deployed the next major release, Version 11, of the iTunes application.

The sources, according to writer Mark Gurman, say the new version will "support" the upcoming iOS 6 firmware release for iPhones and iPads.

"Multiple independent whispers" tell AppleInsider that the iTunes site, including the App store, are undergoing a revamp, due to be unveiled later this year. One key change according to Gurman: improved content discovery.

At Macworld, Jason Snell sees individual changes only contributing to the "complete mess" of the online store. A thorough rethinking and redesign of iTunes is long overdue. He notes that when iTunes was unveiled in 2001, it was just one thing: a music jukebox app.

"These days, iTunes is simultaneously Apple's most important and problematic product," he says. "Apple has packed almost everything involving media (and app) management, purchase, and playback into this single app. It's bursting at the seams. It's a complete mess. And it's time for an overhaul."

Linking to Snell's post at his DaringFireball blog, John Gruber asks, "Is there anyone who disagrees with this?

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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