As September edged nearer, with all its trembling magical promise, the iOSphere seized on rumours that any sane person would dismiss out of hand, such as the Next iPhone having a new AirPlay version that won't work with Wi-Fi.
Also this week, the outpouring of purported iPhone 5 parts, aided by Adobe Photoshop, continued apace; a document-that-isn't-posted is nevertheless said to sort of confirm some of the parts; and finally someone talks technical sense about NFC's prospects for the next iPhone.
You read it here it second.
"We are a bit weary of the authenticity of this picture, as its originator, Sonny Dickson, said it needed to be 'enhanced with Photoshop.'"
~ Elyse Betters, 9to5Mac, on why a blurry, Photoshopped image of a purported iPhone 5 logic board with "A6" processor might be less than it appears; she presumably meant "wary" but let's face it, "weary" works just as well.
iPhone 5 will have "AirPlay Direct" without Wi-Fi...to compensate for no NFC and because the Chinese will love it...or something
Bloggers and tech sites are saying that iPhone 5 will debut with an improved version of AirPlay, Apple's music and media streaming technology, by eliminating Wi-Fi connections in favor of direct peer-to-peer connections using BlueTooth. They're citing as the source for this claim a story by The Telegraph's Matt Warman.
But there's one problem: Warman's story nowhere talks about eliminating Wi-Fi.
Citing "sources familiar with the iPhone-maker's plans," Warman, in a somewhat confusing and possibly confused story, seems to be saying that Apple wants to let iDevices and AirPlay-compatible third-party products to share multimedia files using a direct peer-to-peer connection. He's rather fuzzy on the details but his basic point is clear: the sending device would "form its own network [with receiving devices] to allow a direct connection...."
Currently, the proprietary AirPlay software stack sits on sending devices (iPhones, iPads, computers running iTunes, etc) and receiving devices (Apple's AirPort Express, AirPlay speakers, and Apple TV which links to flatpanel TVs). These devices must all be on the same network, interconnected via Wi-Fi (home wireless router, AirPort Extreme), Ethernet, or Bluetooth. [See "How Apple AirPlay Works," by Stephanie Crawford, at HowStuffWorks.com.]
But like the old "telephone game," where things get more garbled with every successive whisper, so it is in the iOSphere.
Jonny Evans, writing Computerworld's Apple Holic blog, read Warman's story and announced to his readers that AirPlay Direct will allow "iOS devices to stream audio directly without need of a Wi-Fi network, using Bluetooth." And that in turn "should enable accessory manufacturers to introduce wireless speaker systems and home Hi-Fi equipment that (a) doesn't require inclusion of a Wi-Fi chip and (b) enables seamless connection to any user's iDevice."
Never mind that manufacturers of almost every conceivable kind of product are busily and happily incorporating Wi-Fi chips as fast as possible.
(In a completely unrelated context, Evans also predicted "fresh questions as to the inclusion -- or not -- of NFC support within the new [Apple] smartphone," which becomes important later.)
Brian Patrick Eha, CNN/WPTV Web Team read Evans' blog, and in a story about Apple's prospects in China (posted at ABC15.com), he (or an editor somewhere) bizarrely tacked on to the start of that story a completely unrelated opening about AirPlay Direct: "According to computerworld.com, AirPlay Direct will allow iOS devices to stream audio directly without need of a Wi-Fi network, using Bluetooth."
Over at Examiner.com, Rachel Dillin read the post on ABC15.com, and wrote: "One of the new iPhone features is supposed to be AirPlay Direct, which could help makeup for the lack of NFC. [Attention Jonny Evans!] According to an August 29 report from ABC 15, AirPlay Direct would allow apple's newest smartphone to stream audio without a Wi-Fi connection. The chip uses Bluetooth technology." And, apparently drawing on the rest of the ABC15.com story, Dillin somehow made a China Connection: "The introduction of this new AirPlay Direct may make the iPhone 5 more attractive in overseas markets like China."
Welcome to the iOSphere version of the mystical Christian classic "The Cloud of Unknowing," wherein, instead of seeking God, we are encouraged to seek the iPhone "not through knowledge and intellection (faculty of the human mind), but through intense contemplation, motivated by love, and stripped of all thought."
The original story by Warman essentially claims that Apple is contemplating direct peer to peer AirPlay connections without having to go through a Wi-Fi access point, which is very different from suggesting that Apple is dropping Wi-Fi in favor of Bluetooth, a step that is ludicrous on its face. Apple may simply be looking at adopting for AirPlay the Wi-Fi Alliance's Wi-Fi Direct standard, which was expressly crafted for simple, quick peer to peer connections using the Wi-Fi radios in mobile devices, without having to connect first to an access point. (On a very narrow technical definition, Evans is correct in saying that AirPlay Direct doesn't use a "Wi-Fi Network" because "network" in this context means "connecting to an infrastructure" - an access point.)
Less likely, Apple could be planning to create its own peering protocol. But in either case, the peering of AirPlay compatible devices would depend on Wi-Fi, not ignore it.
AirPlay, with Apple's Bonjour protocol and zero configuration networking, has both promise and challenges for the enterprise. For its potential, see from February 2011 "How AirPlay and iTunes could enable the 'post-PC' office," by InfoWorld's Galen Gruman; for its challenges, see from August 2012 "Petition to 'fix' Apple's Bonjour technology now online."
iPhone 5 parts pour onto the Web from...who knows where
A mélange of purported parts made their appearance this week, with 9to5Mac offering a sampling of the components, without even attempting to examine their provenance.
Based on the translation, the French site apparently obtained the photographs from a catalog provided by a Chinese parts distributor, SinoCet. Such companies "have long since realized that they could reap some benefits of this turmoil. Thus, they do not hesitate to boast of being in possession of parts produced for a future and obviously highly anticipated iDevice. The huge free visibility that gives them their little indiscretions is confirmed with the arrival of the iPhone 5 ..."
Make of that what you will; 9to5Mac makes rather more of it than The Rollup does.
So does Zach Epstein, writing at BoyGeniusReport about the images "believed to be authentic." "The difference this time, however, is the fantastic quality of the images," he gushes. "The pictures show the purported sixth-generation iPhone parts with vivid clarity...." The implication is that the quality of the image, by some kind of iOSphere alchemy, validates their authenticity.
Another new iPhone component, pictured here, is supposed to be the new phone's logic board, which, if you blow up the image, shows a black chip labeled "A6" [in the left side assembly, the big black block near the top].
"We are a bit weary of the authenticity of this picture, as its originator, Sonny Dickson, said it needed to be 'enhanced with Photoshop,'" Betters writes. (She presumably meant "wary" but let's face it, "weary" works just as well, if not better.) Sonny Dickson is listed on his website as a "9to5Mac Researcher" and self-identified hacker. Earlier in August he posted a variety of purported iPhone 5 components but made no mention whatever of how or from whom he'd gotten them. And 9to5Mac's Betters apparently didn't bother to ask him about the logic board's provenance.
Rumors or rather rank speculations have been circulating since before the iPhone 4S that Apple would launch the next iPhone with a quad-core processor. But it's not as though poor iPhone performance is a chronic or even occasional complaint. Four cores at this stage seems like overkill, especially in light of the graphics improvement achieved when Apple added a quad-core graphics processor to the dual-core CPU in the latest iPad. The iPhone 4S runs the dual-core A5; the new Retina Display iPad runs the A5X, a slightly modified version that adds the quad-core graphics processor.
But none of these Web sites have offered more than a cursory source for these alleged components. For example, Killian Bell, at CultOfMac, says the answer to what processor the Next iPhone will have "Thanks to the latest leak, that has become a little clearer." And then goes on to say that "However, it appears this image may not be as genuine as it seems."
An unsourced image makes clearer what the next iPhone will have; but the image may not be genuine, which means...it can't make anything clearer, after all. Unless you just believe.
Despite the flood of images, we still know nothing more than we did a week ago, which was little enough, and little more than we knew a year ago. And we're weary. Very, very, very weary.
iPhone 5 will not have an NFC chip after all
More precisely, it's "unlikely" according to Brian Klug and Anand Lal Shimpi, who author the technically sophisticated and well-written AnandTech blog.
In a post this week, they take on the newest set of NFC-expectant rumors, sparked by yet another purported component in iPhone 5. (It's part of a longer, and excellent, technical analysis of what is technically feasible and likely for iPhone 5 in several areas.
The component in question is a square chip, shielded by an EMI can, shown here outlined in red on what is claimed to be the iPhone 5 back assembly: its rumored to be "an NFC combo controller and antenna, based purely on its square dimensions."
But such speculation is technically deficient, according to AnandTech. "Given the primarily metal backside of the new iPhone, it's highly unlikely that NFC is in the cards for this generation," they write. "In fact, given the very little space at top and bottom dedicated to those glass RF windows, you can almost entirely rule it out."
The main reasons derive from that fact that NFC "operates on the 13.56MHz ISM band, which has a relatively large wavelength, at 22.1 m." Their basic point is that NFC needs a big antenna, which is typically a metal coil wrapped in a square or circle and centered in the back of relatively small mobile phones. That's a technical challenge all of its own. And, if the "leaked" photos showing iPhone 5 as having a metal backplate, with small glass "strips" or windows at top and bottom for RF pass-through, then Apple would be complicating the NFC RF even more.
"Getting a good inductor into the device is important because how much inductance your antenna has will determine maximum coupling distance and ease of alignment [between the NFC-equipped iPhone and a reader]. It shouldn't need saying, but having a huge ground plane (the unibody metal back case) in the way of your NFC antenna will seriously degrade performance, thus only the top or bottom windows are logical places to put it."
They continue: "It's this last point which makes us very skeptical about the top or bottom RF windows being used for a relatively small NFC loop - not because such a thing is impossible - but rather because of how terrible the resulting ease of alignment and maximum coupling distance would be. Most NFC implementations at present place the inductive coils as near to the center of the device as possible, partly because this is the most optimal way to maximize the area which can be dedicated to it, partly because it makes alignment natural. With an NFC antenna at the extreme top or bottom, alignment with non-iPhones (for example, payment tokens or reader tags) becomes a much more confusing task, and that doesn't seem like the Apple-like level of polish everyone is waiting for to drive NFC adoption."
So what is this mysterious square chip if it's not NFC? It's probably the new touch and display controller combination, according to AnandTech. There are "a healthy number of signaling pins in the flex cable leaving the mystery chip, some of which appear to be signaling for the front facing camera which is part of the assembly, others for earpiece, proximity, and ambient light sensor. In addition this assembly also is obviously the assembled display and touch stack," they write.
Their conclusion: "When you consider the inclusion of in-cell touch sensing which has been rumored for the upcoming iPhone [and which would create a thinner display], and the requirement for time multiplexing of both display driving and touch sensing signals (to mitigate interference and make this possible), it's more likely that the components under that heavily shielded (and grounded with a big spring finger) EMI can are the touch and display controller combo that need to work in conjunction for in-cell to be possible."
iPhone 5 leaked parts look like the parts in this leaked document
New Zealand PC World "obtained a document" - originally sent to a New Zealand "retailer" - that describes a number of iPhone 5 components similar to those disclosed by another Website, for the repair service, iResQ.
Oddly, the PC World post doesn't actually show this precious document. We're told it "comes from a trusted source, and was originally sent by a reputable supplier of iPhone components in China."
Based on the document, "The components for Apple's new iPhone that have been leaked online appear to be legitimate," the PC World story announces, referring to posts at iResQ, such as this one on 20 August.
The story explains what it doesn't show: "The document shows the iPhone's two-tone rear panel, as rumoured. The black version of the iPhone will come in dark grey/black, and the white in white/silver. The phone appears to be a similar shape to the iPhone 4/4S despite its obviously taller screen; however, the document does not say how large the screen is."
"The battery is the same as the one pictured in iResQ's images, and the power/dock connector is smaller than in previous versions of the iPhone, in line with rumours of a 9-pin connector," according to PC World.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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