iPhone 6 rumour rollup for the week ending January 11

The case of the mysrerious metal frame and more

The iOSphere steamed with speculation last week over a mysterious metal frame that revealed Important Details of the iPhone 6.

The heat edged still higher with a New Report that the next iPhone would be 6mm thick; that Apple might refuse to upgrade the phone's camera from 8 to 13 megapixels; and that Pegatron was building a huge new plant in China where its worker bees would crank out half of all future iPhone 6s, even though no one explained why that would matter.

You read it here second.

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iPhone 6 phablet is revealed in leaked photos of metal frame

Photos appearing on a Chinese website were copied throughout the iOSphere, even as the copiers often solemnly acknowledged that there was no way of knowing whether the photos actually showed anything to do with an iPhone.

Here's one of the two photos being replicated. 

One line of postings started with Vlad Andrici at a site called GForGames, who assured his readers that "There is no way of being sure that this is indeed iPhone 6's metal housing, but China is definitely the way to look for accurate Apple related leaks and rumors." Because...well, just because.

He sourced this accurate leak from this Chinese language blog on the social networking site Weibo.com (login is required). But that microblog seems to be simply a corporate site for CTech.cn.com (here's the Google Translate version of the home page), which is variously described by iOSpherians as a "Chinese news site," "prolific leaker," "Chinese site", and by GForGames as "renowned Apple leaker." The Rollup googled for a bit but couldn't come up with any more details, at least in English, about CTech or C Technology.

"Chinese news site C-Tech carries photos of a smartphone outer shell that is both a lot larger and much slimmer than the current iPhone 5S and the sizing shown in the blurry image marries up with recent rumours regarding the iPhone 6," Jamie Hinks confidently declares at ITPortal.com, even though it's not really an outer shell. Those not-so-recent rumors, for an iPhone with a bigger-than-four-inch diagonal screen, date from at least September 2012 when Apple released the four-inch iPhone 5.

At MacRumors, Eric Slivka took a close look at the "leaked" metal frame, and compared it to Apple's actual design changes. His conclusion: it may be a leaked smartphone frame but it's almost certainly not the iPhone 6.

"The part appears to be a midframe such as that found in earlier iPhone models, allowing components to be attached to both sides of the part before being enclosed in the device's shell," he observes. "Apple did away with midframe components as of the iPhone 5, opting for a unibody rear shell design that allows components to be mounted directly to the shell, yielding a thinner design. A return to a design requiring a midframe part would seem unlikely given Apple's emphasis on thinness."

Secondly, the "frame seems to show accommodation for a headphone jack at the same end of the device where a circular feature presumably corresponding to the device's rear camera is positioned, undoubtedly the top end. With the shift to the narrower Lightning connector in the iPhone 5, Apple shifted the location of the iPhone's headphone jack to the bottom edge of the device....Moving the headphone jack back to the top edge of the device for the iPhone 6 appears unlikely, though not impossible."

Perhaps we need to rethink the idea that China is definitely the way to look for accurate Apple related leaks and rumors.

iPhone 6 will be 6 mm thick and be called iPhone Air

For the metrically challenged, it's 0.23622, or just under one-quarter of an inch, as ChannelPartners' Craig Galbraith helpfully points out. Compare that to the chunky iPhone 5S, which is a whopping 7.6 mm or 0.299213 inches thick.

Galbraith assures us that a "new report" says this. Specifically, a "source not only spilled to Korea's ET News the width of the device, but also that it will be called the iPhone Air."

Checking the ETNews.com webpage, to which Galbraith links, and putting it through Google translate we end up with this: "Chinese IT media, digital tech (digi.tech.qq.com) to 5 (local time), citing sources, Apple's leading manufacturer of next-generation smart phones' iPhone Air (working title), so the thinner the thickness of 6mm reported that ."

So the original story, for ETNews, is actually the Chinese news site, digi.tech.qq.com, (here's the Google translation of the home page) and its apparently unidentified "sources." is part of Tencent Holdings, a big China-based Internet services company. 

The translation, on which Galbraith so blithely relies, continues with this gem: "Apple's next-generation iPhone to large screen display is used, the attention of people rea jimyeo news delivered equipment is collected, but there was no detailed information about the thickness. Recent leading online sources for the next generation of the Apple iPhone is the thickness of the experimental drug would be said about 6mm."

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

iPhone 6 will stay with 8 megapixel camera instead of 13

Here's the starting point: a story on the English-language site of ChinaPost.com, about the sliding stock price of Largan Precision Co., a major supplier of camera lens modules for a range of mobile devices. The ChinaPost story says the stock price "tumbled dramatically during trading yesterday, bottoming out after a near 7-percent drop shortly after noon as disappointed investors reacted to rumors that Apple's upcoming iPhone 6 handset would not be upgraded with a 13 megapixel (MP) camera."

In fact, what investors were apparently reacting to was an investment note, published by Nomura Securities (referenced by not linked to by ChinaPost). In that note, the unnamed Nomura analys (or analysts) says that "Largan's recently lagging performance in the market is caused by rumors that Apple may adopt an 8 mega-pixel (MP) camera with improved optical image stabilization on its upcoming handset, instead of the 16 [apparently a typo for 13'] MP upgrade anticipated by industry observers."

In other words, the stock analyst read some Apple rumors, notified investors about them, and stepped away from the stampede. But the ChinaPost story goes on to say that "Apple's decision is based on the design requirement to retain the handset's more portable form factor, said Nomura Securities." That claim by Nomuro suggests more than a mere rumor, but again no source for the claim is offered.

It's also a claim that explains away rather than explains the alleged Apple decision. For years, Apple's iPhone evolution has been about constant refinement and improvement, all of which are viewed from a wholistic appreciation of the "user experience." That's why Apple can still have "only" a dual-core processor in the iPhone 5S while far less successful rivals keep touting their wondrous four-core processors.

BusinessInsider's Jay Yarrow buys into this conventional wisdom in his post about the Nomura claim: "Its top rival, Samsung, has a 13 megapixel camera on its top of the line phone, the Galaxy S4. So, it's a little surprising that Apple doesn't want to upgrade the megapixel count on the iPhone."

But Yarrow goes on to draw a more insightful conclusion. "The iPhone's camera is either the best or second best (depending on who you ask) for smart phones, even with an 8 megapixel lens. Apple has managed to improve camera performance through software, and other hardware engineering."

iPhone 6 will be built by Pegatron in addition to Foxconn

This is one of those rumortoids that have no relevance to real life for 99 percent of the world's population. It's like knowing that "Traveling at the speed of light it would still take you over 4 years to reach the Sun's nearest neighbor star."

From what The Rollup can tell, Taiwan's Chinese-language Liberty Times (the parent also publishes the English-language Taipei Times) posted a story - based on a single anonymous source claiming that contract manufacturer Pegatron was building a massive new plant in China where it would be building up to half of all future iPhone 6 units.

That post was picked up and rewritten by wire service Agence France-Presse (AFP), from which it was picked by outlets such as ChinaPost.com, and content syndicators like Repost.us. From there, it made its way into a blizzard of repostings in the iOSphere, like MacRumors, and from MacRumors to Ubergizmo.

Here's the core of the rumor, from the original AFP summary of the LibertyTimes post: "Taiwan's Pegatron Corp, an assembler of Apple's iPhone 5C, is expected to win half of the orders from the U.S. tech giant for its next smartphone model, a report said Thursday.

In order to meet the demand, Pegatron has started building a new plant at Kunshan, a satellite city near Shanghai where all its iPhones are assembled, the Liberty Times said without identifying its source.

The paper said the Kunshan plant is scheduled to become operational in the middle of the year and start mass production late this year, when Apple is expected to roll out its iPhone 6."

To The Rollup, and we freely admit to being non-expert in building large-scale manufacturing sites, if Pegatron is just now starting to build a massive new plant for the iPhone 6, it seems a bit of a stretch that it will be ready by June or July to cranking out phones in volume.

In any case, 1) the entire web of reposted and regurgitated speculation hinges on one anonymous source and 2) even if true, doesn't really tell us anything about the iPhone 6 that people might care about. Although Ubergizmo's Tyler Lee gives it his best shot: "It's odd that the report only mentions one device, the iPhone 6, because if the previous rumors have any credibility to them, Apple is said to launch two phones: one of the 4.7-inch variety, and one of the 5.7-inch variety."

Exactly: it's a mystery why one rumor about building the Next iPhone doesn't take into account all those other rumors about two Next iPhones.

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

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