iPhone 6 rumour rollup for the week ending February 14

Will sapphire bejewel iPhone 6 in a big way? Yes! No! And other AOS rumours

Just in time for Valentine's Day, blurry photos of the iPhone 6 appeared online and went viral thanks to social media and Apple Obsession Syndrome. It didn't even matter that they were fakes.

Also this week, Apple is changing to 0.4t side-view type LEDs in iPhone 6 and that just has to be a Good Thing. A new "report" affirms the long-held rumor that Apple will release two iPhone 6 models, each with a bigger-than-four-inch display. And there were duelling rumours about whether or not sapphire would bejewel iPhone 6 in a big way.

You read it here second.

iPhone 6 "leaked" via blurry photos that turn out to be fake, but that doesn't matter

This leak turns out to be a complicated tale as is the social media tail that revealed it. It's rife with deception, betrayal, visual manipulation, self-serving promotion, solemn pronouncements.

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In any case, according to one account, it began with an anonymous Twitter account posting photographs of a larger, thinner iPhone. The iOSphere's leading Professional Leaker, Sonny Dickson, helpfully tweeted attention: "Could this be Apple's next iPhone? The iPhone 6?" The iOSphere went into spasms of pleasure.

(Dickson posted the photos at his own website, claiming to have "gotten our hands on some great photos of the iPhone's rear casing in Space Grey...." Several commenters quickly labeled them "fake" largely because the all-metal back casing would effectively block cellular antenna signals. That led to a further discussion about using the Wondrous Liquidmetal as the casing material, but that's another continuing rumor....)

"In the full photos, a new design is clearly shown with a larger display and no bezel on the side," according to the detailed analysis by Jacob Kastrenakes, at The Verge. "Bezel on the top and bottom has narrowed significantly as well. The design wouldn't be out of line for Apple and it aligns with what early reports of the new device have described."

Not out of line a bit with all those early "reports." This is the well-known "hall of mirrors effect" an unsubstantiated rumor, including a "leaked" photograph is validated because it's just like all the previous unsubstantiated rumors. Conversely, if the new rumor is different, it's validated precisely because it's different.

But then some iOSpherians began raising questions, pointing out that some parts of the photographs seemed identical to images created by one Martin Hajek, who specializes, according to his website, in "visualizing the future in 3D one render at a time" especially with regard to future Apple products.

What's really interesting is the reaction to the fake, namely the conclusion that it doesn't matter.

At the Motley Fool, Ashraf Eassa raised the question twice. "[T]he question that investors and phone enthusiasts must ask themselves is this: Is this image real or just a very clever render?"

But after his own analysis that claimed to have found all kinds of flaws, thus revealing it is, in fact, a fake, he adds a subhed to his post "Is it fake?" and then concludes, "At the end of the day, the iPhone 6 may very well look like the leak above, and the leak itself may prove legitimate. There really are only so many ways to make a larger, thinner iPhone, and the leaked image does look plausible."

So even though the image, because it's a fake, is completely useless in helping us learn about iPhone 6, nevertheless the image, because it's a fake, helps us learn about the iPhone 6 because it looks plausible.

Kastrenakes updated his post with among other additions this "Correction: This story has been updated with evidence that the iPhone 6 images are fakes." But, you know, useful fakes.

iPhone 6 will come in two larger sizes: new report

If it's new, it must be right.

In a post that mainly echoed the Dickson/Hajek revelations, Mashable's Adario Strange went for, you know, context. In iOSpherian terms that means using another set of rumors to give a new perspective on the rumors you're repeating.

"Earlier on Wednesday, the South China Morning Post released a report that described Apple's next iPhone in similar fashion [i.e., with a larger screen]," Strange wrote. "Citing industry insiders, the newspaper reported that the iPhone will come in two sizes: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively, and will hit stores in September."

You can find the entirety of this ground-breaking, earth-shattering "report" here

"The tech giant will roll out the iPhone 6 in two sizes - 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch - in September, according to industry insiders who have seen the prototypes," according to the SCMP post.

And there's more. So much more. "The new iPhone screen will be made entirely from scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass, they said. Sapphire crystal, second to diamond as the hardest material, is now used by Apple for its iPhone camera lens cover and touch identification. It will also sport a new display at 441 pixels per inch (ppi), the same as the Samsung Galaxy S4. The highest definition Apple now offers has only 326 ppi."

On and on it goes, an overflowing abundance of nearly every major iPhone rumor for the past 12 to 18 months at least.

But this time there are industry insiders who have seen prototypes of these big-screen iPhone 6 models.

There are probably a lot of iPhone prototypes gathering dust on shelves throughout the Apple supply chain. Because doing prototypes is part of what's called the Design Process. And as others have pointed out for several years, it's almost certainly true that Apple routinely has been testing out different screen sizes for both its phone and tablet products. But there is no indication that the prototypes mentioned in the SCMP post are prototypes of the 2014 iPhone models.

So is Apple testing out different sizes for iPhone screens? Sure. Will the 2014 iPhone model or models have bigger-than-four-inch screens? Not so sure.

Finally, Strange repeats another claim in the SCMP post, that "Apple will discontinue its cheaper iPhone 5C, but will keep the iPhone 5S in production using cheaper materials."

This shocks, awes, and astounds him. "If that portion of the report turns out to be accurate, it would represent the first and biggest mobile-device misstep on Apple's part in the entire history of the iPhone," he assures readers, with "Apple admitting that it made a huge mistake...."

The iPhone 5C is essentially a slightly improved iPhone 5, with a plastic case. As such, it fills the traditional role that the iPhone 5 would have filled after the release of the iPhone 5S of the lower-priced, slightly older model. The meme that the iPhone 5C has "failed" is as widespread as it is at least for now -- unfounded. What would be interesting to know is the unit sales of iPhone 5C since its release, compared to unit sales of the iPhone 4S after the release of the iPhone 5. But Apple doesn't segment its phone sales, at least for public consumption.

So that would mean that once the iPhone 6 is released, Apple indeed will "discontinue its cheaper iPhone 5C, but will keep the iPhone 5S in production using cheaper materials." Like...a plastic case.

iPhone 6 will have a 0.4t side-view type LED

The Rollup doesn't know what that means, except that Apple is supposedly changing the specifications for the iPhone 6 backlight LED. And it's doing that, according to LEDInside, because iPhone 6 will have a larger display, at 4.7 inches diagonal, and a "much lighter" frame," which apparently means being a "slimmer" phone overall.

And another thing: it's going to be released in June 2014.

All of this is based on "industry insiders" and/or "sources from Apple supply chain" and/or "industry rumors." They may be one and the same: the post doesn't go into details about from whence the details come.

LEDInside is a market researcher that "covers the technology development, market trend, and financial information of the LED industry." It's a subsidiary of TrendForce, a market intelligence company based in Taipei, Taiwan.

"In the previous generation, the iPhone used 0.6t side-view type LED, in contrast the new iPhone will probably be adopting 0.4t side-view type LED," according to the LEDInside post.

The advent of the 0.4t side view LED is exciting news no doubt (and would have been positively thrilling but for the use of "probably") if you believe the industry insiders, sources from the Apple supply chain and industry rumors.

TechRadar's J. Rogerson puts this revelation in terms that even we can understand. "While we've never been one to call the current crop of iPhones or iPads chunky little things, apparently the LEDS used to light the screen are just too big," he writes

Too big LEDs. What was Apple thinking?

iPhone 6 will not have a sapphire display but it will...or not

A contrarian post at a Chinese website called MyDrives.com sparked a blizzard of iOSphere repetitions. The original post, found here in Google Translate, asserted, kind of, that Apple will not be introducing a sapphire screen on the iPhone 6.

If you're interested in background on MyDrives, you can check Alexa.com's traffic and related data. Most of the visitors are Chinese and male and young. The second largest source of visitors: the United States. The top keyword search sending visitors to the site: iPhone. MyDrivers "provides drivers download and introduction, providing the latest industry news, the latest IT hardware evaluation and presentation."

The website claims there is a beta iPhone 6 with a sapphire screen but also claims it is unlikely to go into production.

"Earlier today, given the news that Taiwan's industrial chain, currently there is indeed a beta of iPhone 6 with sapphire screen version, but from the current situation, it seems that Apple intends to launch it, but the reality is not very optimistic," according to the post.

Why, you ask. Because sapphire screens are worth their weight in, well, sapphires to manufacture and the yields are limited. At least that's how The Rollup interprets the following: "Chain sources, the current constraints iPhone 6 screen, there are two main sapphire, the first is the manufacturing cost increase, the second is the limited production capacity, meanwhile, is about to meet with you iWatch will adopt sapphire glass, of course, for production supply, Apple is very hard."

The website arrives a distinctly downbeat conclusion. "As to whether the news finally come true, but also Apple's face, hoping that they will bring us pleasant surprise."

Hope is what the iOSphere is all about. With all the rumors about the virtues of sapphire, the deal between Apple and GTAT to run a massive sapphire foundry in Mesa, Arizona, hope bloomed like Valentine roses. "[E]veryone began to hope that the next iPhone flagship will indeed pack a sapphire screen," writes Mihai Matei, at GforGames.com.

Of course this contradicts another post, the aforementioned one at South China Morning Post, which declares that both the new larger-screened iPhone 6 models will have sapphire screens.

MacRumors is taking an agnostic approach to the contradiction, dutifully noting on Feb. 11 that there won't be any sapphire screens, except for the mythical iWatch and the next day, dutifully noting that there will be. 

GforGames' Matei seems resigned to a cruelly disappointed hope. "As always, it's difficult know for sure (or t0 accurately predict) what will happen in the second half of the year, and the next iPhone is still quite a mystery, despite the numerous rumors surrounding it," he writes, perfectly summing up the epistemic dilemma of the iOSphere. "Whether or not we'll get to see a sapphire screen on the iPhone 6 remains to be seen, but chances are slim."

At 9to5Mac, Mark Gurman has been working with an investor, Mark Margolis, to track down documents about Apple's deal with GTAT. The most recent post, from Feb. 6, links to a redacted SEC filing by GTAT that goes into detail about the agreement. You can find the document online. 

The Rollup doesn't agree with some of Gurman's specific deductions, but the SEC filing makes clear this is a massive Apple investment, apparently similar to the kinds of capital spending arrangements it has with its Asian suppliers and that it appears to commit GTAT to an exclusive relationship with Apple with regard to sapphire production in very large quantities. A reasonable conclusion is that Apple seems to be preparing to create sapphire displays for larger devices.

Margolis this week disagreed with the GforGames conclusion that sapphire is still too expensive for Apple to use on the iPhone. He argues that given the dramatic cost reductions in sapphire manufacturing and Apple's gigantic share of smartphone profits, there is "wiggle room in their margin to add sapphire displays."

The question remains as to when they'll be added.

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

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