One of the iOSphere's enduring myths is that one or another component or production screwup has repeatedly delayed most iPhones, including the iPhone 5S or 6 or whatever.
The latest iteration of this myth is that some screwup with the alleged Next iPhone's fingerprint sensor, itself another unconfirmed feature, delayed the phone's release, causing British mobile carrier Vodafone to upend its 4G network rollout and postpone it until the end of summer. As is often the case, there is less to this than meets the eye.
[ MORE SCUTTLEBUTT: iPad 5 rumor rollup for the week ending May 23 ]
Also this week: expect flexible Gorilla Glass screens on the next iPhones; you'll know it's a cheap iPhone by its colors; and new fan art reveals what impressive new specs for the Next iPhone might look like if the Next iPhone looked like what a guy with Adobe Photoshop thinks it will look like.
You read it here second.
"Sources confirmed the delay to the iPhone 5S had been a factor in Vodafone's decision to delay 4G."
-- Christopher Williams, The Telegraph, who manages to distill a mass of rumor, misstatement, misinformation and nonsense into a mere 18 words that rest on not a single fact.
iPhone 5S "delay" causes Vodafone to delay its 4G network
Britain's Vodafone has decided to delay the introduction of its 4G/LTE network -- originally planned for June -- because Apple has run into manufacturing delays and postponed the release of the iPhone 5S.
That's the theory anyway of a post at The Telegraph headlined "Vodafone delays 4G network until late summer for iPhone 5S" by Christopher Williams.
As is often the case with The Telegraph, the details are sketchy.
"The operator had originally planned to switch on superfast mobile broadband in cities in June, but said on Tuesday it would wait until August or September," Williams writes, in a posting whose confusing randomness seems to be the result of copying-and-pasting under deadline pressure to get something online in 15 minutes.
According to Williams, "The Silicon Valley giant [meaning Apple] had been expected to introduce an updated version, the iPhone 5S, that will work at the new frequencies in June, but it was reported last month it had been pushed back because of manufacturing delays." Yet he offers not a shred of evidence, not even a link to rumor sites, to support this assertion.
(Pocket-lint, another U.K. tech website, gives a more specific but no less confusing explanation for the iPhone 5S "delay": "a Vodafone-compatible iPhone was expected for this summer until rumours of fingerprint sensor issues allegedly stalled Apple's release." On its face, Pocket-lint is saying that the rumors stalled the release, but apparently intended to say that Apple delayed announcing the phone because it ran into some kind of problem with the phone's fingerprint sensor, yet another long-rumored feature.)
"Sources confirmed the delay to the iPhone 5S had been a factor in Vodafone's decision to delay 4G," Williams continues, again without any indication as to who or what the sources are.
A bit later, he adds this: "'End of the summer means when there's going to be a good commercial moment for launching 4G,' said Mr Colao."
The uninitiated may wonder who the mysterious "Mr Colao" is and why he's talking about Vodafone. You won't learn that from Williams' story.
Mr. Colao is Vittorio Colao, the Italian who is CEO of Vodafone Group Plc, the British multinational telecommunications company. Vodafone holds a 45% stake in Verizon Wireless, the subsidiary it created with Verizon Communications, which is currently enticing or pressuring Colao to sell back its stake in the wireless carrier.
As this Reuters story makes clear, Tuesday was the day Colao announced the company's full-year financial results, and then talked with reporters about a wide range of issues. Reuters focused on financial and business questions in its story.
Other news organizations focused on Colao's comments about Vodafone's 4G/LTE network plans, such as The Guardian's Juliette Garside, whose posting gives the details and context missing from Williams' post.
"Having spent £790m on 4G spectrum at a government auction in February, Vodafone had been expected to launch this month or next," Garside writes. "But it would have done so without the world's best-selling smartphone."
Currently, only the mobile operator EE offers a British 4G cellular network, and is the only operator to carry the iPhone 5. Rivals Vodafone and O2 plan to run 4G on different frequencies, currently not yet supported by Apple.
She quotes Colao at length, revealing more clearly the context and the meaning of his comments. "'We are convinced our own 4G will be better performing,' said Vodafone's chief executive, Vittorio Colao. 'We want to be able to launch it when it's really ready. End of the summer means when there is going to be a good commercial window for launching it.'"
Colao pretty obviously, and reasonably, is saying that Vodafone wants to make sure the 4G network is solid; that "end of summer" gives them the time to ensure that; and that end of summer coincides with a "good commercial window" which certainly could be a reference to the expected time frame of Apple's Next iPhone announcement. Perhaps because Colao was paying attention last month when Apple CEO Tim Cook clearly stated, at his company's quarterly earnings call, that "Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software, and services that we can't wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014 [emphasis added]."
iPhone 6, iPhone 5S will have flexible Corning Gorilla Glass screens
International Business Times' Erik Pineda seems to have made this rumor up on his own. At bottom, the idea that the Next iPhone probably will use a cover glass from the same manufacturer that's been supplying glass for previous iPhones can hardly be considered a revelation.
It's the word "flexible" that suggests something new. But IBT is simply deceptive. The headline to the post is "iPhone 6, iPhone 5S Will Have Flexible Screens Made of Corning Gorilla Glass on Release Date?"
But Pineda's opening sentence to his post casts a different meaning on the word: "Tough as the robust gorilla but flexible enough to suit any screen size and designs, that is the next screen material geared for the upcoming iPhone 6 and iPhone 5S, courtesy of device screen maker Corning."
So what Pineda means to say is that Corning's Gorilla Glass is adaptable to different form factors and screen designs, not that you can bend it or fold it.
Pineda bases his post on what he says is an "interview" by a Corning executive, Jeffrey Evenson, with MacRumors. Pineda doesn't bother to link to the MacRumors report but here it is, by Eric Slivka.
But there is no interview. Slivka is simply summarizing a "feature" published by Corning on its website. The feature, which Corning actually classifies as a "news feature," is nothing more than a press release, a Q&A, and four videos that show Corning's latest offering, Gorilla Glass 3, being subjected to different tests.
Neither Slivka, nor Corning, mention iPhone 5S or iPhone 6.
Corning's point is that "sapphire glass," which the Q&A explains is not actually a glass but a "crystalline material that can be manufactured by applying high heat and other demanding conditions to purified aluminum oxide," is harder and therefore more resistant to scratching than Gorilla Glass. Apple uses sapphire as the cover to its iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPad touch rear camera lens; some watchmakers have used it as the cover glass for wrist watches.
But sapphire suffers from a range of process requirements and other characteristics that, in Corning's view, make it both costly and unsuitable for use as the cover material for a smartphone screen.
Not surprisingly, the company touts the virtues of the newest Gorilla Glass, which offers "significantly improved scratch resistance and greater toughness. We achieved these benefits by re-engineering the atomic structure of the glass so if the glass does scratch, it retains its strength." And, of course, it's lighter, less brittle, allows more light through, and is much cheaper to manufacture than sapphire.
It was less food for thought than fuel for flaming, judging from the comments to Slivka's post.
"OMG those cheaters/imposters/fools!" ranted randfee2. "Applying pressure is NOT A VIABLE TEST OF WEAR ENDURANCE!!!"
"This is ridiculous and surely done on purpose," he continued. "Any engineer or scientist knows, that the hardest materials are more brittle! If you put a 1mm steel plate against their gorilla glass it'll surely withstand WAY more pressure than 200 pounds, yet it scratches rather easily. The purpose of using sapphire is to keep the surface scratch free. There is no way their glass can be as good as sapphire. So especially for a camera cover glass sapphire is the best you can get (besides diamond coating). I hate companies that think I'm stupid.... screw them!"
Yet if one actually reads Corning's information, the company never says Gorilla Glass 3 is as good as sapphire for resisting scratches, only that Corning has "significantly" improved the material's scratch resistance.
iPhone cheapo will come in an array of dazzling colors
The Japanese Apple fan site Macotakara announced in a blog post based on information from "several sources," otherwise not identified: "I have 2 information about color variation of cheaper iPhone from several sources. The first set is Navy, Gold Orange, White and Gray, and 2nd is White, Pink, Green, Blue and Yellow-orange. I can say one thing from these information, namely both sets do not contain Black model."
If the word "black" isn't in either list, then that probably almost certainly means that it's highly likely that "black" is not one of the colors.
The website's post sustains the long-running rumor that Apple is preparing to create a less expensive phone. And we'll know that it's the cheap phone, because it will be colorful. Nothing says "Look at me, I'm cheap" quite like yellow-orange plastic.
And the colorful iPhone is slated for production. "The source told me that cheaper iPhone will be produced 1,000 units for field test from June, and will be produced during July September for shipping."
There's even a tidbit about the iPhone 5S. "And I got another information about iPhone 5S, which will be placed as flag-ship model when cheaper iPhone was shipped, will have dual-LED flash, and will be changed shape of mic-hole to be shaped as circle which is placed between iSight camera and flash."
At AppleInsider, the staff made a connection that would be beyond the ken of mere mortals. "The latest rumors could be supported by images that surfaced online last week showing multi-colored SIM trays alleged to be for a next-generation iPhone," the story announced. Multi-colored in this case means ... two colors: "one with a greyish hue, and another that appeared to be either golden or beige." Or maybe yellow-orange. Maybe Apple is reaching for an understated color contrast fashion statement, pairing the greyish hue with the white, pink and gold-orange/yellow-orange, with the golden or beige SIM tray with the blue and green and possibly grey phones.
AppleInsider reminded us that "Earlier this year, analyst Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets claimed he was told by supply chain sources that Apple planned to release an 'iPhone 5S' in a total of eight colors later this year." Which raises more questions than it answers. Are the cheap iPhone and iPhone 5S one and the same? Or if separate, just colors will they have? Will they be different enough to preserve the cheap-expensive distinction or will the colors blur the differences between the phone?
At MacRumors, Juli Clover interpreted the somewhat ambiguous Macotakara schedule. "According to Makotakara [sic], the low cost iPhone will begin a field test production in June, which will be followed up by wide ranging production in July to accommodate a September launch," she writes. "This launch date is a bit confusing, as Macotakara previously said that the low cost iPhone would ship in 2014."
A great deal regarding the Next iPhone is a bit confusing.
iPhone 6 "concept video" shows "impressive new specs"
A year ago, Tim Cook told interviewers, "We're going to double down on secrecy on products." Four months after that, on the day Apple announced iPhone 5, Business Insider's Jay Yarrow crowed that "Apple Delivered No Surprises Today Whatsoever."
"It's time for people to stop calling Apple one of the most secretive companies in the world," Yarrow declared. "It seems to have no product secrets anymore."
Eight months later, Yarrow's confidence may have been premature. Very little credible information has emerged about the Next iPhone, even what it will be called, though now the Consensus Rumor is that Apple will announced "iPhone 5S" in fall 2013, and "iPhone 6" in 2014. There's widespread belief but no real evidence beyond anonymous sources in the supply chain that Apple also will deliver a "cheap iPhone" aimed at emerging markets overseas.
So some in the iOSphere are left "reporting" on fan art. Exhibit A, chosen more or less at random, is a GottaBeMobile blog post this week by its editor Josh Smith. The website is about "mobile news and reviews."
The definition of both terms apparently is pretty elastic. Smith's post is about a newly posted "concept video" -- otherwise known as fan art -- that reveals, he assures us, "impressive new specs and possible iPhone 6 features."
And there's more. "While we don't expect an iPhone 6 until next year, this concept ties together some of the latest iPhone 6 rumors into a two-minute video overview," Smith says. Isn't that convenient? Everything in one place: specs, features and rumors.
Or as CultOfMac's Buster Heine put it in his promotional post, "With WWDC less than a month away, we've seen a ton of designers come out with their visions for what iOS 7 might look like, but the next iPhone has been ignored." Alas, no longer.
And what do we find? "This iPhone 6 concept includes a Full HD display, a new look, water and dust resistant coatings, a notification LED, improved camera, wireless charging and a touch sensitive volume button," Smith deftly summarizes, as if he was describing a real product at an exclusive one-on-one meeting with Apple's marketing guru Phil Schiller.
"In the video we get a look at an iPhone 6 concept that is not very much like the iPhone 5 or earlier iPhone models," Smith says. We are totally there, man: It's Radical.
But Smith ends on a down note. "While we do expect Apple will roll out a new design in the iPhone 6, the way the black part of the bezel remains raised over the metal iPhone 6 body doesn't look very much like something we would see come out of the labs at Apple."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
Email: [email protected]
Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.