Even without Apple being at the gigantic Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, it proved to be a treasure trove of iPhone 6 revelations for those with the wit to look beneath the surface of things.
Things like IGZO screens. And Gorilla Glass 3.
Also this week: The sky darkened under the crisscrossing trajectories of contradictory speculation: The Next iPhone would be smaller and cheaper; and bigger and cheaper; and bigger and more expensive. Or something.
IN THE NEWS: Will Apple introduce a lower-priced iPhone?
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iPhone 6 feature revealed by Sharp at CES
And they didn't even realize it! Not so sharp, after all, apparently.
GottaBeMobile's Adam Mills found Sharp's booth, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where the company was proudly showing its IGZO display technology. (You can check out GottaBeMobile's video, which shows a prototype tablet sporting the prototype display.)
"Sharp not only showed off flexible displays like Samsung, but maybe more importantly, the company showed off its IGZO display technology, the same technology that has been rumored to be coming with the next iPhone model, presumably called the iPhone 5S or the iPhone 6," Mill announced, just in case you weren't au courant with the IGZO rumors, which are almost as tediously repetitive as the rumors that Apple's next iWhatever will have a fabulous Liquidmetal body.
IGZO displays can be brighter, higher-than-1080p resolution, and much more power efficient than conventional displays, according to Sharp, which with several other display vendors is a major supplier to Apple.
In a few sentences, possibly using copy/paste or a macro, Mills deftly summed up months of rumors about the next iPhone. And then he ruined it all at the end.
"Keep in mind, Apple rumors often don't pan out so it's possible that Apple will go in a different direction with the new iPad and the new iPhone in 2013," he wrote.
No one has yet connected the dots between another CES reveal and the Next iPhone: TrackingPoint's Precision Guided Firearm (PCWorld has details), which marries a high-tech digital scope and sensors with a custom-built Surgeon Rifles bolt-action long rifle. Among other things, the PGF uses Wi-Fi to display its high-tech in-scope image and data on its accessory iPad mini. Using the Next iPhone and a new software protocol, iShoot, to remotely control the rifle, upload photos and video to iCloud, and automatically sync calendars with your local butcher is an obvious next step.
iPhone 6 will have triple strength Gorilla Glass
If only we could have CES once a month instead of once a year.
Jonathan Leggett, of USwitch.com, was hanging around in Vegas, too, and took note of Corning's announcement that a "new strain of Gorilla Glass purported to be three times tougher than the version currently in service on top-end smartphones, paving the way for a new generation of more robust handsets."
And one Very Special New Generation Handset in particular.
According to a March 2012 post by 9to5Mac's Seth Weintraub, Apple and Corning's relationship has been "shrouded in mystery." The glassmaker was never mentioned in Apple marketing material and "even isn't included in Apple's supplier lists," he wrote. But on March 2, 2012, "Apple released its US Jobs report which included the following info: 'Corning employees in Kentucky and New York who create the majority of the glass for iPhone...,'" Weintraub noted.
"Debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, Gorilla Glass 3 has been conditioned to be less brittle than ever before thanks to an ion-bonding treatment and some clever atomic jiggery-pokery that we're not even going to pretend to understand," Leggett wrote, with disarming humility. (But the neat British-ism "jiggery-pokery" usually suggests trickery or underhandedness rather than manipulation.)
With somewhat less humility, Leggett didn't hesitate to draw the obvious conclusion.
"With rumours indicating that Samsung could opt for a plastic screen for its next kit - possibly even a flexible one - we think [GG3 is] most likely to debut on the sixth-gen iPhone," he declared. "Especially given that Gorilla Glass has featured in every iPhone since the iPhone 4 dropped back in 2010."
iPhone 6 will be a higher-end iPhone
Without a trace of irony, a BGR post this week says that a "new report adds weight to recent rumors" that Apple will launch more than one iPhone model by mid-2013.
The "report" is that treasure trove of firsthand, in-depth knowledge called the Note to Investors, this one by stock analyst T. Michael Walkley, of Canaccord Genuity. In the note, Walkley "sees," according to BGR's Zach Epstein, "Apple launching a new 'higher-end iPhone' sometime in the June quarter, and a low-end model could be in the works as well."
Whoa. Not just a cheaper iPhone 6-or-whatever but also a more expensive one!
According to BGR, Walkley wrote, "We believe Apple could launch a higher-end iPhone model by the June quarter versus its more typical September/October timing for a new iPhone launch. We also believe Apple could potentially launch a lower-end iPhone focused on more price-sensitive pre-paid markets, as we believe consumers in markets such as China, Latin America and Eastern Europe would have very strong demand for a more affordably priced 3G iPhone."
Walkley clearly is willing to take the Rumor Games to the next level, since among the most fecund of recent rumors has been the one insisting that Apple must, must introduce a less expensive version of the iPhone, or face Collapse, Failure, Utter Destruction, and the End of the World. [See "Will Apple introduce a lower-priced iPhone?"]
Probably the more expensive Next iPhone will have a much larger screen, in super high-def with IGZO, a quad-core processor, bigger battery, a kaleidoscope of colors, and Gorilla Glass 3 if not 4. Oh yes: and NFC contactless payments.
iPhone 6 shows radical redesign: It looks just like the iPod nano
For a long time, the Rollup has boycotted any mention of "concept art," a.k.a. "fan art," that purports to show what the Next iPhone will look like, based on current rumors, febrile imagings, or certain organic chemical agents. Or some combination thereof.
But when Macworld Australia's Ashleigh Allsopp headlines her post, "Is this what Apple's iPhone 6 will look like?" we'll make an exception.
Although she doesn't answer the headline's question, we will boldly go where so far no one apparently has and say, "Uh, no."
"New images of a potential iPhone 6 design have been created based on an alleged test prototype, sporting a similar shape to the latest iPod nano," Allsopp reveals.
The renderings are the latest by a talented Italian designer, Federico Ciccarese, with the Twitter handle @ciccaresedesign, a website where he posts these illustrations, and an acknowledged need for some work assignments.
Ciccarese mentions something about his newest creations being based on some iPhone test prototype, but in practice it looks like he just "grew" the iPod nano into the Next iPhone. And added something called "iOSX," a hybrid blend of iOS and OS X. And this is what he comes up with.
iPhone 6 will be cheaper than iPhone 5 ... but it will also be bigger
This is getting confusing, even by the standards of iOSphere rumoring: smaller and cheaper; bigger and more expensive; bigger but cheaper; more expensive but smaller. All of the above.
A characteristically brief and anonymously sourced story at International Business Times repeated the rumor that "according to supply-chain sources," Apple will introduce a low-cost version of iPhone for China and similar markets, in the latter half of 2013. So far, so yawn.
But there was this little iOSphere twist: "Some sources claimed that they have seen the sample of the low-cost iPhone, which will come with a larger display ..." So the intensely rumored "iPhone mini" moniker refers to the phone's price, not its dimension.
The reasons for the cheaper but bigger iPhone 6? "Growing sales of the iPad mini ... may have served as an impetus for Apple to roll out a low-cost iPhone ..." And "Qualcomm's recent launch of its latest family of Snapdragon chipsets ... for the entry-level to mid-range smartphones may pave the way for Apple bringing out the low-cost iPhone ..."
The latter reason is a bit odd, verging on a technical non sequitur. Because Qualcomm offers the ARM-based Snapdragon as a mobile system on a chip, with the processor integrated with a bunch of other components. With the iPhone 5's A6 chip, Apple apparently has for the first time custom-designed its own ARM-based main processor, manufactured by Samsung. Apple does use Qualcomm's mobile data modem chipsets, but not the Snapdragon.
"You'd think if Apple wanted to make a low-cost iPhone, it would be small," wrote Dave Smith, at International Business Times, after reading the DigiTimes account of unsupported anonymous speculation. "An 'iPhone nano,' if you will." (Smith must have been watching Frederico's design blog!)
You would think that. But you would be wrong. Apple is, after all, magical.
"If DigiTimes' sources are correct, Apple's "low-cost iPhone" could easily look like a Galaxy S3 smartphone, and given its 'low cost,' it might even compete with Samsung's prices, too," Smith concluded.
So if DigiTimes' sources are correct, Apple is going to imitate the Galaxy S III and voluntarily start a price war with Samsung.
DigiTimes and various stock analysts agree, according to Smith: "Apple wants to sell a lower-priced iPhone. Whether the 'iPhone 6' will be bigger or smaller has yet to be determined; Apple simply wants it to be cheaper." Clearly. "The obvious explanation: A cheaper iPhone -- easily the company's most popular product -- would help Apple penetrate some key markets, particularly those Eastern, lower-income areas like China and India."
We can hear Apple CEO Tim Cook now, the new Colossus gazing to the East and crying out, "Give me your tired, your poor, your lower-income huddled masses yearning to buy an Apple iPhone, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the phoneless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my cheaper iPhone 6 beside the golden door."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: @johnwcoxnwwEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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