As summer wanes, the iOSphere this week unhesitatingly dredged up the most tenuous and implausible allusions, inferences, hints, and of course teases for iPhone 5. All in good fun.
This week: how Facebook's new iOS app reveals stuff about iPhone 5 even though it doesn't; new iPhone 5 parts in a video show us exactly what the iPhone 5 will look like; shortage of other parts mean there won't be enough phones to go around; purchase predictions; and The New Dock at last.
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"At this point, I think it's safe to say that we know exactly what the iPhone 5 is going to look like. Apple won't be able to surprise us with the hardware come September 5 [or 12?], but they could still wow us with some impressive new software." -- Zach Walton, WebProNews, who apparently believes almost every unsourced, unverified and indeed unverifiable, iPhone 5 rumor on the Web.
iPhone 5 "teased" in new iOS Facebook app ... somehow
It was widely reported this week that Facebook was releasing its first iOS Facebook app. But apparently only Andrew Dodson, at iPhoneTouch.Blorge, discerned that the new app revealed hidden things about iPhone 5.
The actual headline is: "iPhone 5, iOS 6 teased with recent Facebook app update."
Dodson is a bit of a tease himself, because he doesn't actually explain what it is that is supposedly being teased. Or even what "teased" means in this context.
Apple had announced in June that iOS 6, which will run on the iPhone 5, will be integrated with Facebook features and functions; and by the end of the month, there was convincing evidence that Facebook was putting the final touches on a brand new, native iOS app expressly for iPhone, to replace the HTML5 app, "wrapped" in shell written in Objective C.
This week, Facebook officially announced the new app is available on the iTunes App Store, as noted by, among many others, AllThingsD's Mike Isaac, who describes the existing app's performance as "embarrassing, considering Facebook is the most installed iOS application in the entire world."
Facebook's blog has a post with a load of technical information on details such as how they optimized the app for performance.
There's no mention by Isaac or by Facebook of iPhone 5 or even of iOS 6. And the new app runs on existing iPhones with the current iOS release.
Yet iPhoneTouch.Blorge's Dodson insists this "much-needed update to the Facebook app for iOS gives us a glimpse into how we'll use the popular social network on the iPhone 5 and iOS 6."
"How does this [new Facebook app] relate to the iPhone 5, Apple's highly anticipated next-generation iPhone?" Dodson asks, obviously rhetorically.
Eventually he gets around to offering an answer. "This update needed to happen because the iPhone 5 is expected to be the fastest smartphone on the planet upon release," Dodson declares. "It's powered with a quad-core A6 processor and 1 GB of RAM. It doesn't need a buggy Facebook app slowing it down."
Setting aside the belief in the mythical quad-core iPhone 5 processor, Dodson's argument is that Facebook was so appalled at the possibility that its existing iOS app would slow down the fastest smartphone on the planet, despite the "quad-core A6 processor," that it decided to create a new app. Unless, it was Apple who was so appalled by that possibility, and it strong-armed Facebook into creating a new app.
The implausibility of this argument is breathtaking. And even if Dodson was correct, there's nothing in the new app and nothing in Dodson's post that reveals, or even teases, anything about iPhone 5.
iPhone 5 glass panels flex cables and stuff show differences
A smartphone repair outfit based in Columbia, S.C., posted a YouTube video of what it claims are a set of iPhone 5 components, including black and white glass panels, 8-pin dock connector flex cable assembly, and two other flex cable assemblies.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that there is no source whatever given for the components, or how the company obtained them, the video had racked up almost 240,000 views by early Friday morning.
The video, comparing the "new" parts with those of the iPhone 4S, was posted by SmartPhone Medic, which focused originally on smartphone (including iPhone) repairs for the Columbia area, but has since branched out nationwide.
The uncritical acceptance of the video is astonishing, even for the iOSphere.
"Repair firm SmartPhone Medic has just posted a new video comparing several parts from the next-generation iPhone to their counterparts from the iPhone 4S," writes Eric Slivka, at MacRumors. "[W]hile all of these parts have been seen previously, the video offers another good look at what changes can be expected for the next-generation iPhone."
Zach Walton at WebProNews goes even further. "At this point, I think it's safe to say that we know exactly what the iPhone 5 is going to look like," he writes. "Apple won't be able to surprise us with the hardware come September 5 [though nearly everyone else expects Sept. 12], but they could still wow us with some impressive new software."
It turns out that SmartPhone Medic itself doesn't quite share Walton's and Slivka's assurance. How do we know this? Because PC Magazine's Chloe Albanesius called the repair company and asked them. You know, like real reporters do.
"When asked, a SmartPhone Medic spokesman said 'the parts in the video are from a very reliable source that we have worked with for years. They have been very accurate when releasing early parts to us in the past, but obviously we cannot say 100 percent that they are indeed the parts for the new iPhone. Apple is very good at protecting [their] parts/devices until their launch, despite what people may think. It is very difficult to acquire them.'"
According to the unnamed spokesman, "The quality, build and markings suggest that they [the parts shown in the video] are accurate."
iPhone 5 supplies will be limited
Short supplies of key iPhone 5 components -- especially a new display based on "in-cell" technology -- mean lower-than-expected shipments of the new handset, and fewer of new phones will be available when they go on sale, according to a brief post by DigiTimes.
As it usually does, DigiTimes based its post on anonymous "sources in the supply chain."
But what's confusing is the prediction that "new iPhone" shipments in Q3 will be fall to 15 million from a previous forecast of 20 million because of alleged shortages of new in-cell displays and of a redesigned, smaller dock connector: We're already in the third calendar quarter. And assuming the iPhone 5 is announced Sept. 12, and is available a week or so later, then its sales will be counted as part of calendar Q4.
Apparently, by "new iPhone" DigiTimes means current Q3 shipments of new-to-the-buyer iPhone 4S and other models: Investors and Apple itself have noted that sales for current iPhone models slow as consumers decide to wait for the next iPhone. But this current quarter drop-off therefore can't have anything to do with the purported low yield rates for components.
In-cell touch panels are a new technology for touch screens, which lets the manufacturer eliminate several of the layers in conventional displays. The result is a thinner device. Rumors have circulated for months that Apple will introduce the technology in the iPhone 5. DigiTimes also claims that the "recently redesigned" dock connector is also not being produced in enough quantities either. Rollup is not persuaded that Apple decided on a major redesign for a key iPhone 5 component only "recently."
But it's all pretty convincing to Eric Brown, at International Business Times, who seems fully prepared to accept that "rumors now are suggesting that production problems could limit Apple's supply of the new phone."
"[I]t certainly is possible that the [next] phone will be a little harder to find than normal," he intones, sounding less like a reporter or even a blogger and more like a palm reader. ("Yessss ... I see millions of iPhones in your future. But be warned! They may be a little harder to find than normal!")
DigiTimes' source, assuming one actually exists, may even be right -- at some point there may have been a problem, or likely more than one, in yields of this or that new iPhone component. But these rumors completely lack context, such as when did the yield problem occur? In any case, manufacturing and supply chain processes and schedules are designed to identify and then fix exactly these kinds of problems.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that LG Display Co. CEO Han Sang-beom said the company has begun mass production of the in-cell panels, though he didn't say they're destined for iPhone 5. And he acknowledged there have been problems in the past.
"We had some hard times (in developing the new in-cell technology) at first ... but it seems those hard times have finally ended," Sang-beom told reporters. "The in-cell technology is the industry's latest development. (But) we will be able to supply the panels without any fail."
iPhone 5 will be bought by a whole lot of people
To put that into investor jargon, iPhone 5 "will see strong demand from consumers," according to a survey report by Robert W. Baird analyst William Power, as reported by Teresa Rivas at Forbes' Tech Trader Daily.
Baird got responses from 2,000 people though Rivas doesn't report much detail about the composition of the survey. Of the sample, 39% said they are now eligible for a phone upgrade on their cellular contract (another 6% will be eligible within three months). Of these eligible respondents, 45% said they plan to buy an iPhone and the "vast majority are waiting for the iPhone 5," writes Rivers. "The next biggest group, 31%, said that they were undecided on their next phone, and those planning to buy Google's Android devices rounded out the bottom at 22%."
Power's conclusion: "Those percentages, if they held, could suggest 50 million+ iPhone 5 sales in the U.S. alone, well above current forecasts."
In other words, a lot of people will buy the next iPhone. Let's face it: That's been true since the first iPhone was released in 2007 (though to be fair, Power's job is providing more technical guidance to investors, for whom accurate projections of sales bear on investment decisions).
Asymco's Horace Dideu has made several posts dealing with iPhone sales dynamics (first here and then here). A key element is the decision by fiercely loyal existing iPhone owners to eventually upgrade to a new iPhone model. Another is the decision facing feature phone users trying to decide on their first smartphone purchase.
Apple's strategy of offering older iPhone models at much lower prices has been one way of bringing in first-time smartphone buyers, and snagging their loyalty, turning them eventually into repeat buyers. Android is only now starting to face the loyalty test: As users come to the end of their first two-year contracts, will they stick with Android?
The fall of 2012, Dideu noted, is "when most early Android buyers will be looking for a new phone and when most iPhone 4 users (all 70 million of them) will be looking for a new iPhone. That would seem like a good time to introduce a new iPhone '5'."
iPhone 5 power cable, and smaller dock, revealed
Finally. We can stop holding our breath. And thank Twitter.
Salvador Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Times posted the admittedly skimpy details in a tweeted photo from a "Chinese electronics website," purporting to reveal the new, updated iPhone power cable with its new, updated and smaller dock connector.
You can see this technological marvel yourself.
The photo is from Veister.com, which has been repeatedly, even incessantly, retweeting the picture. "The picture is accompanied by the message 'For iphone5 USB cable Welcome visit veister.com,' but there's no official confirmation this is the real thing," Rodriguez writes. We guess he didn't ask any Asian supply chain sources.
"Though it isn't at all certain this image is of a real iPhone 5 charger cable, it is in line with rumors about the [redesigned] dock," Rodriguez declares. If you can't get official confirmation, having the rumor be "in line with" other rumors is almost as good.
Why else would an electronics website tweet a photo linked to one of the Web's most highly searched-on terms and by the way include a link to its own extensive catalog of consumer products? Oh. Wait ...
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Email: email@example.com Blog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed
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