iPhone 5 rumour rollup for the week ending March 23

The rumours are getting bigger and better!

iPhone 5 rumors are taking on new ambitions: the phone that can bankrupt Sprint, for example.

This week: how iPhone 5 will bankrupt Sprint, big screens that will disrupt the iOS app ecosystem, iOS 6 blossoms in June.

You read it here second.

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"The whole reason I'm writing this article is because the idea of a bigger screen on an iPhone had me salivating."     -- Todd Haselton, TechnoBuffalo, explaining the physiological impact of iPhone rumors.

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iPhone 5 will drive Sprint into bankruptcy

iPhone 5 will be an unalloyed good for everyone except Sprint, if the handset arrives with an LTE radio.

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This current rumor is based on a stock analyst's downgrade of Sprint stock this week. Craig Moffett, of Bernstein Research, cut his rating to Underperform from Market Perform, and reduced his target share price to $1.75, from $2.50. And he outlined how the company might be forced in bankruptcy in the next three or four years. (Forbes' Eric Savtiz picked up on Moffett's analysis.)

The company has huge debts coming due staring next year, for one thing. For another, it's committed to buying a whole lot of iPhones from Apple. And for yet another, there's the dread prospect of the LTE iPhone 5, according to Moffett, that "poses new and lager risks" for the carrier.

"We believe an LTE iPhone will likely be badly disadvantaged on Sprint's network, potentially impairing sales ... at a time when Sprint is subject to a punishing take-or-pay deal with Apple," Moffett writes. "The problem is 4G. Sprint doesn't have enough free-and-clear spectrum on which to launch a competitive LTE network, and it doesn't have the money to clear spectrum that's already in use. We expect Sprint's competitiveness to begin to backslide when LTE becomes the nation's de facto standard."

And the iOSsphere is all over it. Surojit Chatterjee, posting for International Business Times, breezily announces that "2012 is going to be the year of quad-core-powered, 4G LTE-enabled smartphones," that "4G LTE on the next iPhone is almost a 'done deal,'" and since Sprint hasn't released a 4G smartphone, "the launch of the new iPhone is expected to kill Sprint, as users will lean towards Verizon or AT&T for purchasing the upcoming iPhone."

Chatterjee, we suspect, kind of skimmed Moffett's analysis, because here's his take: "According to the $15.5 million contract signed between Sprint and Apple, the former has to buy minimum 25 million iPhones from Apple in the next four years. If Sprint fails to upgrade its network to LTE at a nationwide level, then these iPhones will go unsold and could cause Sprint to incur huge debts."

Sprint already has such huge debts that another $15 million looks like a drop in the bucket. And the new iPad's LTE chipset comes with advanced support for the highest 3G (or non-LTE 4G, depending on your choice of definitions) speeds available, which mobile carriers are still deploying. LTE subscriber growth in the U.S. has been spectacular in terms of the rate of growth, but at the end of 2011, the total number was still a fraction of all mobile phone users: 5.6 million, most of them on Verizon Wireless, according to data from Telegeography. And it's also a fraction of the number of potential subscribers: Verizon claims its LTE network covers more than 200 million people.

At the same time, a new study by Localytics found that cellular connectivity for iPad users is relatively unpopular. Only 6% of iPad sessions are over cellular; for iPads with 3G, 55% rely on Wi-Fi; and for 4G iPads (it's unclear if this is LTE or also more advanced 3G options), the percentage is even higher: 64%, or 2 out of 3.

Part of the reason is that users already have figured out that cellular has limits. In a widely linked-to Wall Street Journal story this week, new iPad users were bushwhacked by the rapid depletion of their monthly LTE data plans. One user streamed two hours of college basketball tournaments to his new iPad and discovered he had used up his entire monthly allotment of 2GB; a second user after five days of using the new iPad was two-thirds of the way through his 3GB plan on AT&T.

iPhone 5 will have 4.6-inch Retina display, even if that messes up all 500,000 iPhone apps

Reuters copied-and-pasted a rumor that originated on a South Korean media site, saying that the Next iPhone will have a 4.6-inch screen. The basis for the rumor: one anonymous source.

And the phone will be released "around the second quarter," whatever that means.

"Apple has decided on the bigger 4.6-inch display for its next iPhone and started placing orders to its suppliers, the Maeil Business Newspaper said, quoting an unnamed industry source."

That was enough to set TechnoBuffalo's Todd Haselton "salivating."

"The whole reason I'm writing this article is because the idea of a bigger screen on an iPhone had me salivating," he posted. "I just can't get on board with the 3.5-inch screen on the current model. I used to love it ... [But] I've just grown tired of the screen in comparison to Samsung's Super AMOLED HD displays and other screens found on high-end smartphones from HTC and LG. A 4.6-inch Retina Display will definitely grab my attention all over again."

Perhaps not for long, though. As John Gruber at Daring Fireball pointed out, "no one seems to be pointing out that if it's true, this new iPhone would need way more pixels than the current 960 × 640 iPhone display. ... That means every app in the App Store would need to be redesigned/resized."

The iPhone 5 firmware, iOS 6, will be unveiled in June

In an astounding feat of deduction, Cult of Mac's Killian Bell gazed upon the Moscone Center's public calendar and realized that the weeklong, generically labeled "corporate meeting" scheduled for June 11-15 is nothing else but Apple's yearly Worldwide Developer Conference. One clue was probably Apple's practice of scheduling the WWDC for early June. At Moscone Center.

He expects that we can expect all kinds of things to be announced, like iOS 6. And that's what TechRadar thinks, too, after reading Bell's post.

"The next version of Apple's mobile operating system iOS 6 could be previewed in mid-June, following reports that the date for this year's WWDC has already been set. Last year saw Apple announce iOS 5, which became available alongside the launch of the iPhone 4S in October, so it's likely we'll get a first look at iOS 6."

Past practices show future practices in the iOSsphere. But wait. "Past WWDC events have also seen Apple announce new iPhones. However, Apple broke away from that tradition in 2011 by making us wait until October for the iPhone 4S."

So past practices do not show future practices. Except when they do. So iOS 6 and iPhone 5 either will or will not be announced at the WWDC.

iPhone 5 will be a universal remote control for TVs, other consumer electronics

Patently Apple picked up another Apple patent application released by the U.S. patent office, this one an invention for a "remote control device that is configurable to gather state information from controlled components."

"For example, the remote control may have one or more cameras, microphones and/or other sensors. The sensors may be configured to operate upon actuation of the remote control device to determine if signals transmitted by the remote control were received and a desired result was achieved."

The website speculates that "it's likely to be integrated into a future iPhone (or other iOS device) instead of it being an add-on app at the App Store. The advanced features being added to Apple remote could be signaling their preparation for a standalone HDTV as it's to control a television and other related entertainment devices."

Our guess is that the iOSsphere doesn't quite know what to make of this, as witnessed by Arnold Kim, at Mac Rumors, who writes vaguely that "it shows Apple's research interests into home entertainment systems and seems relevant given the ongoing rumors of a[n] Apple TV set."

Others were bolder, or perhaps more reckless. "A leaked Apple patent reveals possible schematic changes to the upcoming iPhone 5 -- the most surprising of them being that Apple's next-gen smartphone may be usable as a universal remote," InvestorPlace's Adam Patterson breathlessly proclaimed. The phony idea that this is a "leak" and not a regular, public publication by a federal agency always seems to lend the requisite urgency that iPhone rumors call for.

No word on whether iPhone 5 will have a built-in bottle opener.

iPhone 5 will be an NFC wonder

Over at the aptly named Planet Insane, Delaon has concluded that Near Field Communications (NFC) on the iPhone 5 "is becoming a huge possibility."

And why, you ask? Because he reads Patently Apple, which had post on a recently published Apple patent application about "iWallet" and NFC "which may possibly be the iPhone 5."

"The image [in the patent application] also points to the location of the NFC sensor in the iPhone 5 which appears like it's in the front of the device on the left side of the ear piece. The location is interesting because some may want the sensor to be somewhere else on the handset such as on its bottom or side part."

If it's in a diagram describing an invention it must be for the iPhone 5.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Email: john_cox@nww.com Blog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

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