On this day, the anniversary of the original iPhone going on sale, the iOSphere celebrates with ever more tenuous and ever more familiar rumors of iPhone 5.
This week: iPhone production battered by flawed batteries; speculation that The Date of the Unveiling will be sometime after June 29; wireless charging; NFC ecstasy.
You read it here second.
"[T]he information coming out Apple's Asian supply chain is fuzzy, unfocused and unreliable." -- Ronald Carson, Tapscape.com, without explaining how fuzzy, unfocused and unreliable information can actually be considered "information."
iPhone 5 faces a "battery challenge"
Apparently stock analyst Brian White, of Topeka Capital Markets, whiles away his free time perusing Chinese news websites, like Sina.com, and thank heavens he does.
In a "note to investors," White explained that he discovered a Sina.com "story" or "report" that the unnamed company making the battery for the iPhone 5 "may be having trouble providing batteries ... that are up to [Apple's] standards," according to AppleInsider's Neal Hughes who wrote about what White wrote.
We know about Apple Standards. Steve Jobs held up the release of the white iPhone 4 for months and months because his suppliers could not get white right. [See our satirical "iMoby: the hunt for the great white iPhone"]
According to Hughes' post, the investors note by White (no relation to white) about Sina.com's report "suggested that only 30 percent of the battery volumes produced currently meet Apple's standards."
In what must surely be one of the great 2012 iOSphere understatements, the "unnamed battery vendor is reportedly working to solve the problem as development of Apple's next iPhone ramps up ahead of an anticipated release later this year."
Assuming the report is true, Hughes' comment is missing a few modifiers like "frantically, desperately, screamingly" working to solve the problem. Of course, there are limits: They mustn't run afoul of Apple's Supplier Responsibility Code of Conduct, which among other things mandates not working more than, ahem, 60 (as in six-zero) hours a week.
White also found on another Chinese news site, ifeng.com, a post that "suggested Apple might want to launch its next iPhone as soon as the end of August," according to AppleInsider.
Chinese websites seem to be pretty suggestive. "To suggest" means "to propose" or "evoke" or "imply." Maybe in this case, ifeng.com "reported" that Apple would announce iPhone 5 between the third week of August and the start of September.
Despite the suggestion, White isn't buying it: he "still believes that Apple will launch its sixth-generation handset in September." Which suggests that the suggestion of an end of August unveiling would be, you know, wrong.
So what about the battery problem that started all this rumoring? "If there is a battery challenge, we trust that Apple will be able to figure it out in time for a September launch," White assured his readers.
And speaking of The Date ...
iPhone 5 will be announced in August. Or September. Or October.
Hopes of an earlier-than-expected iPhone 5 announcement suffered a blow when DigiTimes posted that its sources in Apple's "upstream supply chain" say they "have not yet seen any significant increases in iPhone component supply for July."
You need the little tiny components to make the larger components that get put together in the rumored Liquidmetal unibody teardrop-shaped radically redesigned but possibly only slight longer iPhone 5 case.
DigiTimes forthrightly acknowledges that "rumors have circulated in the IT market claiming that Apple may shift forward the launch of its new iPhone to late August hoping to catch back-to-school demand in September ..." Missing the back-to-school shopping spree didn't seem to bother Apple last year, when it announced iPhone 4S in October, and it certainly didn't seem to bother sales for that model, bar far the most-sold iPhone.
If Apple wanted to release the phone in late August, they'd want to announce it in early August, which would mean increasing component shipments in July, according to DigiTimes: "however, so far, they have not yet seen Apple increase its orders for July."
What a bummer.
But there's hope. "However, some players believe that Apple is actually planning to announce the new iPhone at the end of August." Players?
"According to Apple's plans for the new iPhone, mass shipments of components are set for August, but since order visibilities are not very clear, there is still the possibility that it could shift orders to July." However, some players believe that since order visibilities are not very, you know, visible, then the increase in orders could come, like, whenever.
As Ronald Carson, at Tapscape.com summarized, "Nevertheless, DigiTimes points out there is still time for a late August iPhone 5 launch." Provided someone wakes up and places those mass component orders.
"Expert opinion is divided, though we have no idea which experts are actually speaking," Carson observed. We also have no idea of they're actually experts, but that's a quibble. "[T]he information coming out Apple's Asian supply chain is fuzzy, unfocused and unreliable," Carson says.
On that, expert opinion is undivided.
iPhone 5 will have wireless charging
This is firmly based on the recent publication by the U.S. government of Apple patent applications, including one for an iOS docking station that can rejoice the iPhone wirelessly via inductive charging.
And here's what it will look like in a very general, sort of, kinda way.
It's a "patent win [that] covers an iOS docking station based on inductive charging that has yet to surface," noted PatentlyApple. "Perhaps this granted patent opens the door for its release in the not-too-distant future."
That would be the not-too-distant future wherein lies less-than-8% unemployment, surging sales for the Chevrolet Volt electric car, and screaming Mitt Romney supporters.
The Apple patent relates to the various electrical "stuff" packed into a docking station, such as re-radiating antennas to "enhance signal integrity," the inductive charging units, and wireless or optical data links. Apple has not yet introduced an induction charging system.
According to Wikipedia, inductive charging uses an electromagnetic field, created by a pair of induction coils, to transfer energy between two objects.
iPhone 5 will have NFC and mobile wallet and stuff
It's been an article of faith for over a year that the Next iPhone will have a Near Field Communications (NFC) radio chip and the software to let you pay for or charge goods and services, without cash or a debit/credit card.
9to5Mac has been delving into Next iPhone details derived from prototypes at Apple (the details apparently supplied by one or more sources who have some kind of access to the prototypes), and first reported on a month ago.
"But we forgot one very important bit of information," writes Seth Weintraub this week. "Further investigation into this hardware code dump leads us to believe that these iPhones also have Near Field Communication controllers directly connected to the Power Management Unit."
In case you're in any doubt about whether that's a big deal, Weintraub tells you how big a deal it is. "The implications are obviously monstrous," he writes.
Obviously. Even though one widely cited Pew Research report -- a report that's actually nothing more than an opinion survey of a thousand invited "Internet experts" -- says that it will be 2020 before "widespread adoption" of mobile wallet systems for everyday purchases.
There's little doubt that mobile payments using a smartphone is something that a whole lot of companies, including Apple, is interested in. Apple's unveiling of its Passbook app in iOS 6 has been widely interpreted as a first step toward mobile payments: Passbook right now simply stores digital cards, passes, and tickets that have some kind of scannable code, such as a bar or QR code.
Because NFC-based payments require an NFC chip, you won't be able to just install a software update on your existing phone: You'll have to buy a new one. And it's monstrously obvious that the NFC chip itself is useless without the on-device and on-network software infrastructure to securely and simply process payments, not to mention equipping store registers with the necessary hardware and software, such as MasterCard's PayPass system, to accept the wireless transactions.
MasterCard is one of the key partners for Google's Google Wallet app, originally announced in September 2011 for only one NFC-equipped smartphone. Google Wallet is being linked with as many payment and card processors as possible.
iPhone 5, no matter what it has or when it's released, will be bought by lots of people
Not afraid to go out on a limb, J.P. Morgan stock analyst Mark Moskowitz predicts that iPhone 5 will be "the leading smartphone in 2013."
This fearless, daring prediction was reported in a post by CNET's Lance Whitney.
Specifically, Moskowitz wrote in a note to investors: "We think that a combination of revolutionary hardware enhancements and software-driven services (i.e., Passbook, Maps, FaceTime over cellular) stand to reaffirm the iPhone as the leading smartphone in 2013."
It's not clear why Moskowitz considers 3D maps, a card-collection app, and video chatting (all part of iOS 6), not to mention LTE, a somewhat taller display, and a slightly more powerful CPU, to be "revolutionary." The iPhone 4S was widely derided, even mocked, by tech pundits when it was announced in October 2011, precisely because it failed their "revolutionary" test. Yet it's become the successful iPhone ever in terms of units sold.
In the short term, the brokerage has lowered its projections for current third-quarter iPhone sales; there's traditionally been a slowdown as consumers anticipate the release of a new iPhone. The firm also has trimmed its estimates of Apple's calendar-year second-quarter sales and earnings due to "macroeconomic challenges," according to CNET's Whitney, "meaning tough times are expected for hardware vendors."
If "macroeconomic challenges" refers to, oh, things like the endless economic migraine of the European debt crisis and the stubbornly high U.S. unemployment rate then we can expect tough times for more than the hardware vendors.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwEmail: firstname.lastname@example.orgBlog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed
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