Hopes, like spring daffodils, burst into bloom this week in the certainty that the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will arrive in just five short months as Chinese worker bees prepared the massive assembly lines that will bring the smartphones into the world. And could the 5.5-inch iPhone be far behind?
Other speculation rejoiced in the power of 20 nanometer chips, in the promise of advanced DRAM technology, and in the too-long-delayed thrill of making an iPhone voice call over an LTE connection.
+ Also on NetworkWorld: Best & Worst iPhone 6 Design Concepts +
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4.7-inch iPhone 6 mass production starts in July; 5.5-inch model in September
The iOSphere thrilled to the iPhone 6 specifics regurgitated by a flock of blogs, nearly all them based on a partial post at a Japanese vendor website which itself was referring to a story by a Taiwanese newspaper.
GForGames.com seems to have been the first English website to notice a post at a Japanese website called EMSone.com
"Not long ago there have been reports suggesting that the screens for the iPhone 6 will enter production as early as May," GForGames began. "Now we've dug out a new report, hinting at the time-frame in which the phones themselves will enter mass production."
Calling it a "report" gives this far, far more credibility than it deserves. "According to the Japanese media, citing one of Taiwan's biggest newspapers, the iPhone 6 measuring 4.7 inches will enter mass production starting with July 2014. After that, the 5.5 inch phablet will allegedly hit the conveyor belts in September," according to GForGames.
The "Japanese media" is a website with the URL of http://www.emsodm.com/, though the actual name of the home page is EMSOne. EMS stands for electronics manufacturing services, supplied by companies that, according to the Wikipedia entry, "design, test, manufacture, distribute, and provide return/repair services for electronic components and assemblies for original equipment manufacturers;" and ODM stands for original design manufacturer, which is a company that designs and builds a product to the specifications of another company that brands and sells it.
Specifically, EMSodm.com seems be a site for Nihon Denkei, for "Over 60 years we have been distributing thousands of Japanese manufacturers' Test and Measuring Instruments." According to a whois lookup on DomainSigma, EMSodm.com is a "Web site specializing in market EMS/ODM." Or as an awkward translation puts it, a website for "Specialized information on the site EMS/ODM of one, many of the company EMS/ODM, the Chinese, Taiwan, Hong Kong is the only system in the world. It delivers a daily news Nihondenkei EMS Inc., of electrical and electronic, corporate information ODM, in addition..."
Here's the entire post, allowed to unregistered visitors, via Google Translate:
"Observation and efforts to 2 size development and enlargement of the next-generation model smartphone "iPhone" and "iPhone 6", Apple (Apple) is, with the mass production from the September July 2014, a 5.5-inch 4.7-inch Taiwan It seems to be growing in the market. I have seen those economic newspaper of Taiwan "Industrial and Commercial Times" (April 8 date), was reported as saying foreign financial institutions stationed in Taiwan, released as these sizes both become '14 fourth quarter that."
9to5Mac's Ben Lovejoy at least acknowledges that this is a "sketchy rumor," before going on to suggest at some length that a plethora of other, "consistent reports" show that it's not really sketchy at all, apparently on the journalistic principle that "where there's smoke, there's fire."
The Rollup was unable to find a link to what is purportedly the original post in the Taiwan-based Industrial & Commercial Times.
"We've recently discussed what we should expect from the iPhone 6 in terms of release time-frame, and we've been pretty certain that the gadget will not hit the shelves earlier than September," GForGames concludes. "If these recent reports are correct, then our speculations have been confirmed."
Most of the world has been pretty certain that the Next iPhone will arrive no earlier than September 2014, because on Sept. 10, 2013 Apple announced two new iPhones, the 5s and 5c. And because Apple usually announces successor models about 12 months later.
iPhone 6 will have a 20-nanometer A-series processor
Currently, Apple's 64-bit A7 system-on-chip is based on a 28-nanometer die, manufactured by Apple's long-time chip builder, Samsung. There has been a lot of speculation for a long time that Apple is moving most of this work to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSM).
John Donovan and Steve Mullane, of BlueFin Research, say that TSM is "moving much quicker than thought to get ready to make chips with feature sizes of 20 nanometers, to meet Apple demand for its "A" series custom microprocessors for the iPhone and iPad," according to Tiernan Ray, in a post in his TechTraderDaily blog at Forbes.
A "die shrink" or "process shrink" of this type offers a range of benefits: it reduces the size, power consumption, and cost of the resulting chips.
TSM, after a delay, has begun ramping up its 20nm production, "targeting 30K wpm [wafers per month] by June and 65-70K wpm by the end of the year." The delay was caused, the researchers say, by "a CMP/metal gate process issue," and Apple "was putting tremendous financial pressure on TSM to get the issue resolved." The BlueFin wafer-per-month forecasts for TSM are "significantly higher than what other sell-side analysts have been recently reporting recently." And they expect it to be introduced in the iPhone 6 in September. Samsung will remain a second source for the 20nm chip, according to BlueFin, which based this conclusion on talks with "several semi material suppliers."
The A series chip is technically a "system-on-chip" or SoC it integrates a growing number of what had been separate components into one integrated circuit. With the A7 for the iPhone 5s, Apple introduced the first 64-bit SoC for mobile devices. Based on the latest ARM Ltd instruction set, Apple was able to leverage a range of dramatic performance gains that actually had little to do with the key feature of a 64-bit architecture: the ability to address much more memory.
Apple's plans for the iPhone 6 SoC undoubtedly involves more than just using a smaller die: it will continue to unpack and exploit the 64-bit features and refine the chip's internal architecture to optimize performance, and to keep making power usage more efficient.
And this brings us to....
iPhone 6 will feature advanced DRAM memory technology
Independent investor and investment researcher Matt Margolis believes Apple will introduce advanced DRAM memory, known as low power DDR4 (LPDDR4) into the Next iPhone and several other products later this year.
He makes his case on a recent blogpost.
Basically, Margolis notes that Apple is already using LPDDR3 DRAM chips from Elpida; that Elpida was acquired by Micron Technology in 2013; and that Micron has been talking about LPDDR4, and its benefits, for a year.
The benefits include much better power efficiency, and double the memory bandwidth compared to the current DRAM generation. It has a lower pin count, making the chips easier to connect, and lower cost, allowing companies like Apple to maintain their product margins.
He quotes from a recent article by Reynette Au, who is vice president of wireless solutions marketing at Micron Technology: "LPDDR4 targets 34 GB/s of total bandwidth for a x64 memory subsystem, doubling the bandwidth target from LPDDR3. This bandwidth is achieved by moving to a dual-channel architecture with eight banks per channel--providing more responders for higher efficiency and lower latency--and by using a new high-speed I/O interface capable of up to 4.267 Gb/s."
The unanswered question is whether Apple will actually boost the amount of memory on the high-end iPhone.
iPhone 6 will have infrared technology to detect different touchscreen pressures
A number of iOSphere websites are reporting that the iPhone 6 will have some kind of "new touchscreen technology with IR [infrared] light," as the headline at International Business Times puts it.
"The spotted system features IR light and offers improvements on the touchscreen interaction," according to the notably vague explanation by IBT's Precious Silva. "Whereas there are no clear details yet about the release date of these new devices, it appears Apple wants to push its offerings further. What will the new touchscreen interaction be like? Can it separate Apple's products from the rest of the market?"
Those are the kinds of questions that are asked when the writer has no idea what the New Thing is about or how it works.
According to Campbell's post, the invention "uses frustrated total internal reflection in conjunction with other touch sensing technology to determine how hard a user is pressing on a device screen."
The Rollup doesn't pretend to be an expert on this. According to a Wikipedia entry, "total internal reflection" occurs when a light wave crosses a boundary between two transparent materials that have different refractive indices. When the angle is just right, the wave is "totally" reflected back. Frustrated TIR uses a third medium to, yes, frustrate that totality some of the light energy crosses the boundary. The Wiki entry gives a simple example: "When a glass of water is held firmly, ridges making up the fingerprints are made visible by frustrated total internal reflection. Light tunnels from the glass into the ridges through the very short air gap." Here's the photo.
FTIR is already used in some touch-sensing application. Presumably, one reason for Apple's interest is in exploring the use of using pressure as an additional element in a touch-sensing display and user interface.
As Campbell notes, "It is unclear if Apple intends to use the above FTIR technology in a future iOS device, but the addition of a force-sensing element would open new levels of interaction beyond existing static gestures like tap' and hold.'"
So, if you are hoping for pressure-sensitive touch on the iPhone 6, you will be frustrated. Like, totally.
iPhone 6 will have VoLTE, for voice calls over LTE
In a roundup of iPhone 6/iOS 8 expectations, 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman, citing "carrier sources," says that the Next iPhone may let users make voice calls over LTE connections.
Today, LTE is, for the most part, used only for data. In most cases, with MetroPCS (and therefore its new parent T-Mobile USA) currently being one of the few U.S. exceptions, voice calls on an LTE phone are shifted to 3G.
Gurman: "Another significant addition being considered for iOS 8 and the next-generation iPhone is voice-over-LTE support (VoLTE), according to carrier sources. Currently, when an LTE-capable iPhone needs to make a phone call, the actual call is placed over last generation networks such as 3G. With VoLTE, calls will be transmitted over the same type of network that LTE data is processed through, and this can allow for benefits such as improved call quality."
VoLTE requires changes to the carrier's network, and most U.S. carriers are testing it now, with Verizon Wireless and AT&T planning to switch on VoLTE later in 2014. Gurman suggests that if these carriers aren't going to support it in 2014, Apple could delay introducing it in the Next iPhone.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.