iPhone 6 rumour rollup for week ending January 21

Apple doesn't listen to Americans, but they will listen to the Chinese
  • John Cox (Network World)
  • 21 January, 2014 15:08

The Chinese, as everyone knows, drink a lot of tea. And with Apple's deal with the humungous China Mobile to offer the new iPhones to its zillions of subscribers, iOSpherians are trying to read all those tea leaves. But they're drawing, honestly, some strange conclusions.

Apparently, the Chinese, who are reputedly enamoured with Big Screen Smartphones, are going to demand a Big Screen iPhone 6. Apple doesn't listen to Americans, but they will listen to the Chinese.

And that shifty Apple CEO Tim Cook, at China Mobile HQ for the launch, did a lot of dodging and shrugging off, because he didn't tell Chinese buyers who were busy buying the iPhone 5S anything about the iPhone 6.

Disclosure of a new Apple patent application sent a thrill of anticipation through those longing for near-field communications in their favorite phone, apparently because they misread what the patent was actually about.

Finally, the same "expectations" of a larger-screened iPhone 6, in at least two sizes, were recycled from last October.  They still remain just expectations.

You read it here second.

iPhone 6 with "massive screen" more likely because of China

This is the ... well, let's call it the "innovative" argument by GottaBeMobile's Josh Smith.

And it's simple: Apple has just started offering the iPhone to the zillions of subscribers on China Mobile. And Chinese people like Big Screens on their phones. Therefore, to please them, Apple "will likely" increase the screen for the iPhone 6.

Here is Smith's first sentence in his blogpost: "The iPhone 6 screen size will likely grow in 2014 as Apple pushes to compete with growing smartphone sizes in the U.S. and looks to offer an iPhone with a larger screen in China."

Here is Smith's second sentence: "This week the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c launched on China Mobile, bringing orders in the multi-millions and spawning lines around buildings at China Mobile stores, including one where Tim Cook was on hand to sign autographs."

So "multi-millions" of Chinese are buying the iPhone with its puny 4-inch screen, not to mention its sky high price tag, oblivious to all those "competing smartphones [that] range from 4.7-inches to 5.9-inches with 1280 x 720 and 1920 x 1080 resolution displays" that are also, like, cheap! What is wrong with those idiots?

So far, Apple has not segmented the smartphone market as it did the portable music player market with multiple iPod models. So far, it still puts a premium on a display size that permits one-handed use, and display technologies that create a high pixel density, readable text, and crisp images and video with very accurate color representation.

Last fall, Apple introduced for the first time, a second iPhone model, the 5C priced $100 less than the 5S with a plastic body instead of metal, most of the internals of the prior iPhone 5, and the same four-inch screen. The 5C is now routinely offered by carriers as a very low-priced iPhone with a contract, or even free with a contract.

Apple may decide the time is right to offer a third model, with a larger screen, and presumably a higher price, if it thinks it can achieve the display quality including color representation and power trade-offs.

But the "multi-millions" happily buying a four-inch display in China suggest that the iPhone is doing just fine as it is.

Tim Cook dodges iPhone 6 questions

What a prevaricating, evasive weasel this guy is. And thank heavens we have CNET's Rich Trenholm to call him out on it.

Cook was in China to launch the iPhone 5S and 5C with China Mobile. He appeared at the carrier's headquarters with Chairman Xi Guohua, the two of them handing out autographed copies of the phones to early buyers.

Not too surprisingly, one of them at least, asked Cook about iPhone 6. According to Trenholm, "Tim Cook has shrugged off questions about a bigger, badder iPhone." And that weasel "wouldn't confirm or deny rumours of a larger screen for the hotly-anticipated iPhone 6."

But Cook did hint, according to Trenholm. "We have a lot to look forward to in 2014," Cook hinted, "including some big plans that we think customers are going to love."

Used as a verb, "dodge" means "elude or evade by a sudden shift of position or by strategy: to dodge a blow; to dodge a question."

Trenholm based his blog post, and everything in it, on an actual news story, from Bloomberg. Here's Bloomberg's account of what actually happened:

"Cook was at China Mobile's headquarters store as the world's largest carrier started selling the iPhone, concluding six years of negotiations with Apple. As Cook handed out autographed iPhones with carrier Chairman Xi Guohua, people asked him about bigger screens and the use of flexible displays.

"We never talk about future things," Cook said. "We have great things we are working on but we want to keep them secret. That way you will be so much happier when you see it."

We're not seeing much eluding and evading, or even shrugging off. Cook simply and politely repeated to his questioner Apple's long-standing policy on "future things" and repeated the kind of general, upbeat comments he's made before "great things."

iPhone 6 will have NFC because Apple filed a new patent application

Ben Lovejoy at 9to5Mac noticed a newly published Apple patent filing, which unfortunately included the acronym "NFC" which is short for near-field communications, which specifically refers to a very short-range wireless communications technology but which almost everyone thinks means "wireless wallet and payment system."

Lovejoy's own post about the filing was a model of reticence. He offered his opinion that "it seems likely that Apple is intending to eventually establish iBeacon as a wireless electronic wallet system, rather than the existing NFC system commonly used in parts of Europe and Asia..."

That's debatable, partly because Apple hasn't said much in public about its iBeacon plans. iBeacon was introduced in iOS 7. It relies on a Bluetooth variant: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which minimizes power in part by offering lower data rates. The beacons themselves are small, Bluetooth sensors placed around, say, a department store or museum. They connect with the Bluetooth radio in an iPhone or iPad. Apps and software can be used for indoor mapping, navigation, notifications, customized ads, and coupons. Presumably, mobile payments might be another app.

Sonic Notify makes such beacons, supporting both iOS iBeacon and the recently introduced Android BLE. Two grocery chains this month began trialing the iBeacon-based hardware and software from InMarket.

Lovejoy's blog post also noted, correctly, that a patent application isn't a sure and certain sign of a product introduction in the next nine months. And while Apple has said little about its plans for electronic payments, Lovejoy is probably right when he concludes that "the question of using iPhones for payment is almost certainly when and how rather than if."

Reticence in the iOSphere is rather like a snowball in hell.

The patent application put's Russell Holly into a lather of NFC anticipation: his blog post was titled, with unconscious irony, "iPhone 6 could have NFC (No really, it might happen this time)."

"Despite all of our wildest hopes and dreams, Apple has yet to grace the iPhone with what could end up being one of its most important hardware upgrades," he wrote. "Once again, however, it looks like there may be a chance we'll see NFC on the new iPhone."

Despite all Holly's wildest hopes, the Apple patent application itself is actually not for NFC, but for a "commercial transaction method." The idea, as the document explains, is first creating a secure link between a "purchasing device" a smartphone and a point of sale device through a specified "air interface" the way of transmitting information over the air between two radios. Then a second air interface is used to "conduct a secure commercial transaction."

NFC is one air interface named in the patent. So is RFID, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. The real focus seems to be creating and completing a "commercial transaction between the purchasing device and the backend server using payment data secured by a shared secret known to a secure element in the purchasing device and to the backend server," using one, or two, of several possible radio technologies.

Holly himself acknowledges what surely must be at least one of the reasons why Apple has not fallen all over itself to present the world with NFC on an iPhone: "The last two releases of Apple's flagship smartphone have been absolutely riddled with hope for NFC inclusion..." Holly writes. "The biggest reason Apple hasn't bothered yet is because no one has been able to truly justify the technology to users. While geeks use it to do all sorts of fun things, there's nothing out there aside from the hope of a future filled with smartphone payments that has been even a little exciting to the average consumer."

Quod erat demonstrandum.

iPhone 6 will have two or even three or maybe four different screen sizes

Or maybe not.

BGR's Chris Smith is excited by another "report" from NPD DisplaySearch, which was picked up by CNET.

Smith's summary of CNET's summary is that Apple "is expected" to offer bigger iPhones in 2014, and DisplaySearch is "predicting" what kinds of displays they will be.

"The researchers [meaning DisplaySearch analyst David Hsieh] mention two iPhone 6 sizes including 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, which could have LCD displays with 1600 x 900 resolution (386 pixel-per-inch density or PPI,) and 1920 x 1080 resolution (401 PPI), respectively," Smith writes.

The Rollup loves those precise numbers. It makes it so much easier to overlook mere "expectations" and "predictions," otherwise known as "guesses."

The problem with Smith's summary is that DisplaySearch made the same predictions in October 2013. And BGR, in the person of Zach Epstein, was equally excited to cover it then, too.

Here's Hsieh's October blog post, entitled, "In 2014, Apple Will Once Again Rely on Displays for Innovation," which essentially argues that Apple for some years led in display innovation, but has been trailing more recently compared to rivals. "Introduction of the iPhone 5S and 5C was the latest example that Apple has been slow in adopting the latest display technologies," Hsieh wrote then. "While 5-6" FHD [full high-definition] resolution displays are rapidly growing in the smart phone market, the iPhone has stayed with the 4" 1136×640 screen for over a year and a half." He predicted that in 2014, Apple will turn again to new display technologies, higher resolutions, and larger screens to again be a contender.

Here is his most recent blog post, entitled "New Display Sizes and Formats to Look for in 2014," based on his visit earlier this month to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). In this post, he shows a set of tables of "display models we may see in 2014. Of course, not all of the panels listed here will go into mass production, as panel maker strategies can change."

Of course.

The information, such as it is, about Apple's displays remains unchanged, as do their status as expectations, predictions, possibilities, mays and cans.

Hsieh, in neither blog post, actually asserts what Apple's display plan is or even what he thinks it is. In essence, he's simply saying that Apple is likely to try to keep improving screen technology for its mobile devices.

Unless the Apple engineers in charge of displays, and Tim Cook, have all fallen into a deep sleep, we can expect that Apple continues to be interested in "high quality" displays according to Apple's definition of "quality" -- that realize an ever-improving "user experience," according to Apple's definition of "user experience."

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

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