iPhone 6 rumour rollup for the week ending November 11

June promises to be the time when Apple, finally, bows to reality and introduces the bigger-than-four-inch smartphone display

As the weather in North America chills, the temperature of the iOSphere is increasing, as many fixate on June 2014 as the date for iPhone 6, the "real" iPhone instead of, you know, the disappointing iPhone 5 and the 5S that looks so much like it.

June promises to be the time when Apple, finally, bows to reality and introduces the bigger-than-four-inch smartphone display that so many long for, though opinions on how big remains, um, varied: 4.5, 4.7, 4.8, 5, 5.5 are all being clamored about.

The promise of the iPhone 6 is so alluring that some are advising shoppers not to buy the iPhone 5S for Christmas but wait at least eight months to buy the iPhone 6.

Finally, Apple's latest brand, iPad Air, launched a frenzy of speculation and fan art about the prospects of iPhone 6 becoming iPhone Air.

You read it here second.

iPhone 6 will arrive in June with a screen of 4.7 to 5.5 inches

ValueWalk's Michelle Jones claims that unnamed, and unlinked-to, analysts at Nomura Holdings believe that iPhone 6 will have a larger-than-four-inch screen, apparently based on, yes, also unnamed sources in Apple's supply chain.

They're not precise on how much bigger, because according to Jones, they "say the key deciding factor for how large the iPhone 6 screen will end up will depend on how well in-cell technology can be scaled up to a larger size."

Jones adds that the analysts "believe Apple Inc. is having touch panel makers send samples for testing." The Rollup is not an expert on the agility of Apple's supply chain, but if, as Jones also reports, Nomura expects iPhone 6 by June 2014, then that gives Apple seven months to sort out the touch panel technology and size questions. That seems a bit compressed.

The Nameless Nomurians suggest other possible iPhone 6 "innovations," which we put in quotes because Jones avows that Apple "has fallen behind in innovation," including a 20-nanometer 64-bit processor (compared to the 28-nm A7 processor in iPhone 5S), "optical image stabilization" added to the camera, and integrating the touch and display driver integrated circuits.

Nomura analysts also believe the iPhone 6 will have a 64-bit 20 nm processor, a better camera and a "redesigned acoustic system. While many argue that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has fallen behind in innovation (and I would agree), Nomura analysts see Apple as already being ahead of the curve in smartphone innovation because of the 64-bit processor, which is the first in a smartphone. They believe the addition of 20 nm will happen next year and keep Apple ahead of the curve."

A 20-nm chip by June 2014 would be aggressive, but then The Rollup and almost everyone was wrong in predicting that Apple would not introduce a 64-bit architecture for iPhone 5S, and now also for iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display.

The Nomurians also anticipate optical image stabilization to be added to the iPhone 6's camera and the integration of the touch IC with the display driver IC.

iPhone 6 will have a sapphire crystal display

Or as various iOSpherians put it, an "unmatched" and "super strong" sapphire display.

The rumoring is based on Apple's recent confirmation that it's building a Mesa, Ariz., components facility, in partnership with GT Advanced Technologies, a crystal materials manufacturer. GTAT will own and run its furnaces at the Apple plant, with 700 of its own employees; the company has a multi-year contract to supply Apple with sapphire material, used mainly in Apple's camera lenses, and most recently in the Touch ID fingerprint scanner in the iPhone 5S home button.

Sapphire in this context is a synthetic, "produced from agglomerated aluminum oxide, sintered and fused in an inert atmosphere (hot isostatic pressing for example), yielding a transparent polycrystalline product" that's very transparent to light, very strong and very scratch resistant, according to the Wikipedia entry. It's been a geek hot-button for years, fueled in part by GTAT itself, at the most recent Mobile World Congress for example. There, an executive "tried to scratch a thin slice of sapphire mounted atop an iPhone 5 display with a sharp piece of concrete," wrote Computerworld's Matt Hamblen. "After several seconds of scraping, tapping and even pounding, the concrete actually flaked off into tiny particles since the sapphire cover was actually harder."

That report also noted that while conventional smartphone glass "costs about $1 per diagonal inch in a smartphone, compared to $3 to $4 per inch for sapphire," according to the GTAT executive.

The manufacturing deal has sparked a new round of rumors, such as those rounded up in this Daily Mail post, that iPhone 6 will have a full HD display made with sapphire glass, though there's no necessary connection between the two.

In June, the iOSphere rippled from a German news site interview (picked up by sites such as iClarified) with the chief executive for Vertu, the British maker of luxury smartphones, who claimed that Apple had tested smartphone-sized sapphire displays but decided not to pursue them.

iPhone 6 will have better battery life, so wait at least six months instead of buying 5S

One website's comparison test of smartphone battery life found the iPhone 5S didn't stretch as far as the Samsung Galaxy S4. That was enough for Erik Pineda, writing for International Business Times, to draw the Obvious Conclusion: buy the S4 ... or wait at least six months for iPhone 6 but whatever you do, do NOT buy the iPhone 5S.

Pineda wasn't surprised by the bad showing for iPhone 5S. "But with only a battery rating of 1570mAh, the outcome was hardly surprising to many experts though for buyers craving for an iPhone gift come Christmas time, the development is quite a turn off," he says.

Quite. A turn off.

So much of a turn off, in fact, that Apple sold 9 million of its newest phones during the first weekend of availability; and, according to some data blogged by TUAW's Yoni Heisler, the iPhone 5S and 5C are off to strong sales in India, of all places; and data from comScore MobiLens, shows that the iOS share of U.S. smartphone subscribers grew slightly from June to September 2013, while Android fell slightly; and comScore found Apple remained by far the dominant smartphone vendor in the same period with 40.6 percent of subscribers compared to 24.9 percent for Samsung.

Nonetheless, to Pineda "waiting out for something better seems a good proposition." Of course the only problem with waiting for the iPhone 6, which by definition must be "better," is that the "earliest Apple could out the phone is middle of 2014 with analysts debating a June to September launch in the same year."

AnandTech.com did its own battery tests of the iPhone 5S and 5C, using several different workloads over cellular and Wi-Fi networks. In terms of cellular talk time, the iPhones trailed Android rivals, yet still delivered 9 to 10 hours. But in Web browsing over LTE they led the pack; and in other workloads at least showed no regression.

iPhone 6 will be called iPhone Air

With the introduction of the iPad Air, joining the similarly named MacBook Air, Apple has stabled what the iOSphere calls a "trend."

And the conclusion to be drawn is that Apple is working on the iPhone Air, formerly known as iPhone 6.

This conclusion was given new impetus by fan art, from the likes of CiccareseDesign, which imagines what an iPhone Air would look like. You know: thinner, and lighter. 

But the iOSphere is not uncritical of fan art. It makes a distinction between realistic fantasies and unrealistic ones. "While many of these iPhone 6 concepts have been far-fetched and downright impossible with the technology that is out right now, there are others that have taken a more realistic approach," explains GottaBeMobile's Adam Mills. "In other words, while they likely won't look exactly like next year's iPhone, it's possible that it could have some similar features."

In other words, even though it's impossible, anything is possible.

"One thing that Apple is really good at doing is branding," says Michael Nace, creator of the iPhone6Newsblog. "The MacBook Air came to replace the standard MacBook' and characterized Apple's ongoing dedication (fixation?) with making mobile computing devices increasingly thinner, slimmer, lighter, etc. Given the trend with the current iPad Air, one wonders: will we see the rise of the iPhone Air' next year?"

The answer seems to be yes-and-no maybe. "I think the device will be overhauled much in the same way that the iPad Air was: look for perhaps a slimmer bezel and thinner body -- all thanks to advancing AMOLED screen tech -- but I don't think that they will traverse the 5-inch screen anytime soon," Nace concludes inconclusively.

In other words, we don't know.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwEmail: john_cox@nww.com

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