Obsession is its own reward, as the iOSphere constantly shows. The rumorati were gaga over a stock analyst's speculation that iPhone 6 would be available in, of all things, different colors.
You can ask Nokia how well that strategy worked for its Lumia Windows Phone lineup.
Also this week, the revelation that Apple is, once again, testing its next generation phone hardware and software, just as it's done for the last five or six years; and new speculation that IZGO display technology will be the next Big Thing for the iPhone, even though most users probably won't notice its benefits.
You read it here second.
iPhone 6 breakthrough: It will be available in "multiple colors"
The iOSphere was abuzz and agog after Brian White, a veteran technology stock analyst currently with Topeka Capital Markets, announced his expectation that the Next iPhone, whatever its name, will come in colors other than black and white.
"Multiple" in this case apparently means eight colors, or 10 if the black and white models are different from the "silver" and "slate" models of the iPhone 6 (or 5S).
Oh yes: White also expects or foresees or predicts that the Next iPhone will have "multiple screen sizes," according to AppleInsider's Neil Hughes. The iPhone 5 was the first model to have a 4-inch screen; all the earlier ones have a 3.5-inch screen.
In the old-fashioned Lamestream Media, this was called "burying the lead" -- meaning that the real news, or in this case, the real rumor, was ignored in favor of obsessive trivia.
Hughes quotes from White's investor note that "This eventually opens up the possibility for a lower-priced iPhone (i.e., iPhone mini) with a smaller screen size that could allow Apple to further penetrate markets such as China and open up opportunities in India."
AppleInsider quotes White on the reason for shifting to several screen sizes: "We believe this is about to change with the next iPhone offering different screen sizes that we believe will allow Apple to better bifurcate the market and expand its reach."
"Bifurcate" means to divide into two, which ties into White's stated expectation of an "iPhone mini" with a lower price, supposedly to spur iPhone sales in those emerging markets.
But one gets the sense that AppleInsider isn't too interested in what the Chinese and Indians want in terms of screen size. "The possibility of different iPhone screen sizes also opens up the opportunity for Apple to build a handset with a larger display," Hughes points out, though White himself apparently doesn't address this. Hughes means "larger than the larger, 4-inch display first introduced a few months ago with the iPhone 5."
As others do, Hughes points to the availability of large-screen phones from other vendors as evidence of the market opportunity that Apple, by implication, is missing. "Apple's chief rival, Samsung, has found some success in the market with its Galaxy Note series, which features a 5.5-inch screen with its latest model."
So far, Apple hasn't seen a need to segment the iPhone market as it has done with the iPod music player product line, or with the iPad line by introducing the smaller-screened iPad mini. Its current low-price iPhone option is the discount it applies to the previous generation iPhone once a new one is announced. And some carriers offer the older models for free with a contract. The still-available iPhone 4 and 4S models create in effect a smaller-screen iPhone compared to the latest iPhone 5, though there's no indication that people are buying them because of their screen size.
It may not be "iPhone 6" but "iPhone6,1" that is being tested, kind of
"Developers have contacted The Next Web to share references to a new iPhone identifier and the next big operating system update for the smartphone and tablet devices: iOS 7," wrote TNW's Matt Brian, in a brief post that was widely interpreted as saying that the "iPhone 6" was being tested.
The helpful developers told TNW that app usage logs were showing a new hardware "identifier" for a phone running iOS 7, the as-yet announced next version of Apple's mobile OS. The identifier is "iPhone6,1" indicating something other than the current "iPhone5,1" or iPhone5,2" models, which differ according to which LTE cellular bands each supports.
The iOS versions are typically revealed around midyear, often at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in June.
"From the developer logs that we have seen, the app requests originate from an IP address on Apple's Cupertino campus, suggesting that members of Apple's software development and app teams are compatibility testing some of the more popular or well-known applications already on the App Store," Brian concluded.
Neither he nor, apparently, the developers added anything else. So it's not clear if the 6,1 identifier indicated an iPhone 6 prototype, or possibly an iPhone 5 modified for development and testing purposes with early builds of iOS 7 and apps.
Not everyone was suitably appreciative of the news that Apple was testing its next iOS version. "I don't understand how this is news," said Uri Kelman, in the comments section to Brian's posts. "They do the same thing every year. I think it would be news if they WEREN'T testing anything new."
iPhone 6 won't sell because consumers won't be interested
They won't be interested because Apple probably won't make "drastic" changes in the Next iPhone, or because it will release a drastically changed iPhone but do so too soon after the last iPhone, which will "piss off" consumers and if there's one thing we've all learned it's "not to bet against the consumer."
This is the confused and confusing conclusion by TheStreet's Chris Ciaccia, who headlined his post "iPhone 6: Will People Even Care?"
Referring to TheNextWeb's story on the 6,1 testing, Ciaccia wrote, "The tech titan's reportedly testing the next iPhone, but will consumers clamor for it like previous versions?"
Both of these questions qualify as rhetorical: The answer to both is clearly supposed to be "no."
One would like to say that Ciaccia marshals a formidable argument to support his position. But he doesn't.
His analysis hinges on two assertions. One is that already-weary, and wearying, meme that has been around since Apple announced the iPhone 4S: that Apple has lost its smartphone design elan, brilliance, magic and overall awesomeness, so it just cranks out new iPhones with changes that don't qualify as "drastic."
Ciaccia: "Sentiment has changed towards Apple, especially at the end of 2012, as the company released a slew of new products. ... I was impressed with the new Macs and the iPad mini, but the iPhone 5 offers incremental changes to the iPhone 4S, at best. It wasn't a drastic change, save for a slightly larger screen, thinner design and a new operating system."
Second is "the market's" judgment on Apple's share price: It fell from a 2012 high of about $702 to about $510 by year's end. "In the final three months of the year, Apple fell 19.29%, compared to a decline of just over 3% for the NASDAQ," he writes. "That's a massive change for the world's largest tech company, and something that won't be easily altered by a slightly thinner screen or an enhanced version of Siri."
"[G]iven the recent market sentiment towards anything Apple, demand could be tepid [for iPhone 6]," he worries.
Almost exactly the same thing was said about the iPhone 4S, released in October 2011. The following January, it was reported that Apple had sold during the October-December quarter a record 37.04 million iPhones, most of them the widely derided, unmagical 4S.
We're still awaiting numbers for the October-December 2012 quarter, and stock analysts have been revising their projections both upward and downward. An early December post at Forbes noted two analysts predicting sales of 47.5 million. A post this week at iStockAnalyst notes that one analyst had lowered his estimate to 45 million units, while three others had raised theirs to 50 million or more.
Even the "lowered" estimate is well above the 37 million phones sold a year ago.
"As we've all learned," Ciaccia noted, speaking for everyone, "never bet against the U.S. consumer. Every company, not just Apple, is wise to heed this lesson." So are analysts.
iPhone 6 will have an IGZO display because Apple and Sharp are talking about it ... still
Rumors that Apple will adopt IGZO technology for iPhone displays has been around for a long time, as iOSphere rumors go: since late 2011, which is when The Rollup first covered the feverish rumors.
It was rumored that the third-generation iPad, announced in March 2012, would use IZGO and, most recently, there were rumors in summer 2012 that the then-forthcoming iPad mini would have an IGZO screen.
Neither of them did.
IGZO, for the uninformed, is indium gallium zinc oxide, a display technology that is supposed to greatly reduce power consumption, while boosting pixel densities and improving the touch input signal-to-noise ratio for more accurate and precise touch. (9to5Mac posted an IZGO assessment based on a Sharp demonstration during a September 2012 trade show.) Sharp unveiled the technology in early 2011. It was reported in late 2012 that Sharp will have IZGO screens for smartphone and tablet makers to release in their products around mid-2013.
Cue DigiTimes and "industry sources."
DigiTimes published a typically brief -- four paragraphs -- post with the headline, "Apple furthers discussions over IGZO technology, say sources."
The post says little more than what its opening sentence claims: "Apple is reportedly further evaluating how much IGZO panel supply will be available in 2013 if it were to use the technology in its next generation iPad, iPad mini and iPhone products, according to industry sources."
The key point, according to the sources, is the production capacity that Sharp, which has been pioneering IGZO, can deliver. The post says Apple is also talking with AU Optronics, a leading Taiwanese manufacturer of TFT-LCD panels, about IGZO production.
The remaining two paragraphs don't add much, and almost nothing directly related to Apple.
But the iOSphere reads a lot into a little.
AppleInsider's post about the DigiTimes post claims that "low yield rates have prompted the Cupertino tech giant to look at other Asian display makers in efforts to bolster its supply chain." And it claims, "Apple was unable to take advantage of the technology as the struggling Japanese electronics firm saw setbacks with initial yields."
One or two analysts did claim in early 2012 that IZGO screens were about to be produced in volume and that Apple planned to introduce the technology in the third-generation iPad. But most of the rest of the "evidence" for such a plan was rumor based on weakly sourced Asian Web posts.
9to5Mac's spin on the DigiTimes claims is that Apple "is evaluating whether Sharp's supply will be able to meet the demand of the iPhone, iPad mini, and 10-inch iPad throughout 2013" before deciding to switch to IZGO.
And then, the Leap of Faith we've all been waiting for: "The fifth-generation iPad is now looking like a likely candidate for the new screen tech in March."
The nice thing about repeating rumors year after year is that eventually you'll be right.
Sharp is in dire straits. An August 2012 Bloomberg story noted that "Sharp's shares collapsed to the lowest level in 37 years in Tokyo and its bonds fell after the maker of Aquos TVs forecast an annual loss of 250 billion yen ($3.2 billion), bigger than the company's market valuation."
Foxconn, which assembles many of Apple's products including iPhones and iPads, holds a nearly 10% stake in Sharp. "Foxconn wants a stake in Sharp to secure access to the latest technology for parts used by its biggest customer, Apple," according to Bloomberg. "In offering a lifeline, [Foxconn] is betting that Sharp will continue to provide it with key components for the iPads and iPhones that Foxconn assembles, while ensuring one of Apple's important suppliers survives."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: @johnwcoxnwwEmail: [email protected]
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