New technologies and patents sprouted everywhere this week, causing it seemed a thousand new iPhone 6 rumors to bloom, each more daring, or at least weird, than the one before.
Some thrilled at the prospect of being able use a ballpoint pen to write on the screen. Others at some not-very-well-understood video 3D augmented interactive synchronized something that would do something magical.
And let's not forget the mysterious Killer Feature that was foretold by a stock analyst. And finally, the vision of the Next iPhone, as it slipped from your fingers and plunged toward the concrete floor, suddenly sprouting wings and gently, gently landing. Our Precious.
You read it here second.
iPhone 6 will let you use a regular ole pen
One hundred twenty-five years after the first patent for a ballpoint pen was issued, Apple is about to give us a new use for all those vendor-labeled promotional pens you've thrown into your kitchen drawers and stuffed into old coffee mugs.
You'll be able to actually write on, not just touch, the iPhone 6 screen! Without needing some fancy-smancy "smartpen," let alone a "stylus."
It's hard to imagine a more thrilling advance in smartphone user interface technology, eh?
"Today we've heard further iPhone 6 possibilities, as there are reports that the phone will have a new display from Sharp that will recognize handwriting, not from a stylus, but from a standard pen," writes Mark Chubb at his PhonesReview website.
What Chubb means by "today we've heard" is that he read a brief post at Patently Apple by Jack Purcher, who didn't mention "iPhone 6" or even "iPhone."
Purcher, in a post in comment, explained that this technology, from Japan's Sharp Corp., was unveiled in late 2012 and has now gone into production. Unfortunately, though Purcher posts a picture of a pen writing on a big display, he doesn't link to the actual "Asian report" he references in his original post.
The new technology "brings up to 8 times higher sensitivity to a capacitive touch panel," he writes. "A few of the advantages associated with the new display include being able to drastically reduce the display's thickness, allow users to operate their smart devices in the winter using gloves, and more importantly, it'll be the first time in history that a user will be able to write on a display using an ordinary pen or pencil for taking notes."
Think about it: The First Time in History.
"Whether Apple will use this display technology for their next generation iPhone 6 is unknown at this time," Purcher concludes, injecting a completely unnecessary dash of reality.
But we can dream, and Mark Chubb at PhonesReview is definitely a dreamer. "This idea would mean that users could write on the screen of the iPhone 6 with an ordinary pen for notes, emails and texts for example, with no need for a special stylus," he gushes. "Previously we had heard rumors of a stylus for the iPhone 5S or 6 but it seems this would be taking that a step further forward."
Exactly: It's more advanced because you get to use that plain ole unsophisticated non-advanced ballpoint pen!
"Although it's not confirmed that the iPhone 6 will definitely use this technology, it's certainly a possibility for the phone that has been rumored for a release sometime in Q1, 2014," according to Chubb.
Well, we've waited this long to be able to scribble on the iPhone with a pen, what's another 12-21 months?
Finally, some considered the ballpoint pen UI ... farfetched. "Isn't the mere idea of bringing a 99-cent Bic into contact with the surface of a priceless iPhone obscene enough to have Steve Jobs clawing his way out of his grave?" asked one industry source [specifically, the Rollup's editor].
iPhone 6 will have a FaceTime 3D interactive augmented reality video collaboration ... or something
International Business Times alerts us to the rumor that Apple "seemed to be working on further improving its FaceTime and takes it to another level of 3D video calls and video conferencing."
This sounds exciting, doesn't it? "The technology is also known as Synchronized, Interactive Augmented Reality (AR) Displays for iDevices," according to IBT's Kristin Dian Mariano. "It is basically a linking technology to rope together a number of devices for live video calls and information sharing."
Mariano doesn't go into much detail. One suspects, basically, that it's because she doesn't really understand what this means. But whatever it is, she understands that it's important. "This technology will be most likely an important feature for future Apple devices," she predicts confidently. "This will attract more consumers from various fields because of the diversity of its function and usage."
How could it not, right?
Mariano references a "report" from Patently Apple. But this report simply announces that Apple has been granted a patent for "synchronized, interactive augmented reality."
That patent application actually was filed in early 2010, and Patently Apple posted an analysis of it in July 2011, after it was published by the U.S. Patent Office.
Which ought to give some indication of the real world of technology development for big companies like Apple, as opposed to the technofantasies of the iOSphere. For one thing, we can't even say that "Apple has been working on this for three years" because we don't know anything more than that Apple applied for a patent, which was eventually granted. For all anyone knows, the project has been moldering in a file cabinet or hard drive somewhere in Apple's headquarters ever since.
From Patently Apple's original 2011 post about this, Apple seems to be combining video, and possibly 3D, with augmented reality "information layering" -- using sensor and location feedback to add information to the video clip. "Apple's invention could provide all levels of management, sales and/or service personnel with the ability to collaborate or share information about production, manufacturing processes, sales or marketing problems or promotions - live," according to Patently Apple.
Well. Maybe. We're inclined to think that Apple's invention provides at best a technological foundation for that kind of collaboration and that a lot more would be needed to turn it into either a finished iOS app or service, or into a platform for third parties to do the same.
We're not holding our breath.
Next iPhone will have a Killer Feature. Guess what?
Seriously, you do have to guess.
Because the stock analyst who assured everyone during a recent CNBC TV interview that the next iPhone, which she thinks is the iPhone 5S, will have a "killer feature" apparently arrived at the conclusion by deductive reasoning.
The analyst is Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty, who appeared on CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime Report," with host Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.
Tiernan Ray, writing the Tech Trader Daily blog at Barrons.com, picked up on the segment.
According to Ray, Huberty "predicted a big comeback for the company with software features for the iPhone, including a 'killer feature.'"
His transcript of her comments:
"I do believe that AAPL is approaching a bottom. As you have heard, they are talking about returning more cash, and we think they will do that in coming weeks. But people don't own AAPL for that, they own AAPL for innovation.
"You saw the Samsung Galaxy S4 come out last week, that shows you the innovation cards are up for grabs. What is lacking in that product [the S4] is a killer feature.
"We think that's where Apple will surprise this year. This [iPhone] 5S cycle this year will be about a killer feature that drives consumers increasingly to the platform, and that increases the value of those 500 million accounts."
But apparently Huberty didn't say what the Killer Feature is. And Caruso-Cabrera apparently didn't think to ask her. Huberty's reasoning seems to be that the iPhone 5S or Apple "needs" a Killer Feature, so Apple will, you know, create one.
Evan Niu, writing at The Motley Fool, zeroed in on the Huberty's reference to those 500 million accounts. Rather generously, he interpreted her comment to mean that Killer Feature "will involve tapping the 'value of those 500 million accounts,' referring to active iTunes payment accounts with credit cards on file." Niu thinks this, in turn, means doing something about the wonderful world of mobile payments, because "Apple has been surprisingly quiet as mobile players jump on payment solutions, opting instead to merely offer a Passbook app last year that has obvious digital wallet implications."
Huberty's comment provided hilarity for commenters to iClarified's bare-bones post about the interview.
"The killer feature is apple bringing back 'google maps,'" posted Fukran John. Teros posted, cheekily, "Flash player? Lol"
Some were just confused by the whole concept, such as wtf: "wtf is this killer switch? Can anyone please explain?"
And Camfella was resolutely skeptical. "These 'analysts' remind me of those guys at the racetrack always touting a horse in every race. Once in a while they will get one right, and then that's all they will talk about. Meanwhile they've been wrong 80% of the time!"
iPhone 6 will have a crash sensors, and sprout wings to slow down if it falls
iDownloadBlog's Ed Sutherland waxed metaphorical to explain how new Apple inventions will protect your precious future iPhone in case you drop it.
"Think of how a cat, when dropped, can twist its body to land on its paws," he writes. "Now think of your iPhone falling. Makes you cringe, just thinking of the finely-crafted case and display biting the sidewalk or floor. Enter Apple, taking a lesson from felines and wrapping it in some futuristic technology for a patent designed to protect your iDevice from falls."
Yes, that's right: another patent application which will for sure appear in an iPhone at some point, so why not the Next iPhone?
In this patent application, called "Protective Mechanism for an Electronic Device," Apple describes several technologies. These include sensors to detect when a device is falling, how fast it's falling, and its orientation to the ground. One protective mechanism is a specially designed plug, for say your headphones: You grab the cable and it won't jerk out.
"Other possibilities: Your device could sprout wings, acting as air foils to slow or alter the fall," Sutherland writes, apparently without giggling. We have to admit that it's our favorite option. "Finally, your iPhone could be equipped with a canister of gas that acts as a 'thruster' (I'm not kidding, that's what Apple's filing mentions)," Sutherland writes.
We can't wait for the app for that: [with thanks to IMDB.com]
[the U.S.S. iPhone 6 is falling into a black hole, seconds away from doom]
James T. Kirk: Full thruster, Mr. Scott!
Scotty: I'm giving her all she's got, Captain!
[the Gorilla Glass display begins to crack as the ship's drawn closer]
James T. Kirk: All she's got isn't good enough! What else ya got?
Scotty: Um... Okay, if we eject the core and detonate, the blast could be enough to push us away! I cannae promise anything, though!
[the aluminum unibody casing starts to rupture]
James T. Kirk: DO IT, DO IT, DO IT!
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: @johnwcoxnww Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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