It's amazing Apple hasn't sunk, given how many purported leaks began spouting blueprints, parts and chips this past week. The iOSphere pulled on its boots and began splashing in the puddles, with Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference drawing near.
This week: Completely un-authenticated iPhone 5 blueprints, not to mention fore-and-aft parts, added together "confirm" all kinds of details; speculating on what kind of chip the Next iPhone will have; and is Apple losing the battle for the soul of its fans?
You read it here second.
iPhone 5 blueprints leaked, showing, you know, changes
The headline at CydiaBlog asks, but not too seriously, the question, "Is this the Schematic Blueprint of iPhone 5?" That's answered in the affirmative by Mike On's opening sentence: "We have just received a schematic blueprint of upcoming iPhone 5 (in our mailbox) ..."
And here it is, though even when you blow it up, there doesn't seem to be anything that demonstrates its authenticity.
"If the drawing is legitimate, we can deduce [a?] few design changes the next generation iPhone might carry," On writes. Few is right: "The leaked iPhone 5 schematic confirms that Apple has increased the display screen size and the camera next to the ear speaker has been moved to the top of the ear speaker."
ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is more definite about what the drawings show. "The blueprints, if genuine, show an iPhone design featuring a 4-inch screen with an aspect ratio close to that of 16:9 when held horizontally. However, despite the larger screen, this iPhone is the same width as the current iPhone 4/4S and only 7 mm taller," he writes. "It also shows that the front-facing camera has been moved to the center of the device to just above the ear speaker."
But he lists four reasons that argue against the diagrams being genuine. For one, "there's never been a [schematics] leak that corresponded to a real [Apple] product." Second, CydiaBlog is "an outlet that doesn't have an established track record for having good sources." Third, blueprints can be easily faked. And finally, "even if these are real blueprints, bear in mind that Apple designs and tests dozens of prototypes for each product. This could be a rejected design for the iPhone 5, or even a rejected design for the iPhone 4 or 4S," Kingsley-Hughes writes.
Still another alternative is that the blueprint is a fake that nevertheless accurately shows the dimensions of the next iPhone.
Leaked iPhone 5 parts!
9to5Mac had not one but two posts this week on two different sets of purportedly leaked parts that show a taller-but-no-wider iPhone 5, and other Neat Things like a smaller dock connector, and the centering of the front-mounted camera lens.
The first maddeningly or conveniently blurry image, forwarded to the rumor site by the smartphone repair outfit iFixyouri.com, is supposedly from a "Chinese parts supplier" who iFixYouri says is "a reliable one (not a fly-by-night) and that they [the supplier] are actually selling these parts (do not worry, we have one on order)."
The photo supplied by the parts supplier "could be the back plate for the upcoming new iPhone or one of the early prototypes." If it's the latter, that would mean iFixYouri and its reliable Chinese parts supplier are selling (and 9to5Mac is buying) "replacements" for parts that may not even exist in the final production model. But they would make perfect ashtrays or high-tech coasters.
The second set of images, in a separate post by Mark Gurman, "showcase a comparison between the black and white versions of the next-generation iPhone back ... a large portion of the back - as you can see - is made out of metal. We are unsure at this point what purpose this metal serves (or if it is just a stylistic addition), but the metal is definitely present in all of our photos of the device's back."
Christian Zibreg at the iDownloadBlog was not impressed with the metal backplate. "I know a blurry spyshot don't do it justice, but I'm kinda not liking this back plate, looks pretty fugly to me," he sniffed.
The photos were provided by "our supply chain sources, who obtained these parts," according to Gurman, a description which explains away far more than it explains. Based on the photos, Gurman concludes that the iPhone's current antenna, in the outer metal band of handset, is moved inside iPhone 5 and "molded into the metal backplates. We assume this is Apple's way of creating a unibody enclosure for mobile devices."
It's unclear whether Gurman means "the antenna is wrapped around the interior configuration of the backplate," which is certainly possible, or "the backplate actually becomes the antenna," which is possible but not a good idea. Because if it's the latter, the entire antenna would then be covered by the user's palm, and we'd see the advent of "Antennagate, Part Deux," with human flesh doing what it does best with antennas: detuning them.
Other deductions from the parts pictures: The next iPhone "will be the same width as the current 4 and 4S models, but it will be longer," with a "taller display" incorporating the front centered above the earpiece. "From the above photos, we can also deduce that the rumored edge-to-edge technology is not coming in this iPhone," Gurman declares.
Other alleged changes visible in the Chinese supplier-supplied parts: a smaller dock connector, the shift of the earphone jack to the bottom corner, redesigned speaker grills and "a new opening between the camera lens and the LED flash. We're not sure what this opening is, but it is possible that Apple is moving the second microphone ... to the back for improved audio capture during video recording," Gurman speculates.
It's a wealth of detail. Yet last year, before iPhone 4S was announced, there were similar detailed deductions made from new, larger third-party iPhone cases, including a teardrop-shaped phone design, and a larger screen. And we know how those turned out.
iPhone 5 will run the same A5X chip as the latest iPad
This is one rumor you'd better hope is false.
It's a conclusion by the "boutique" research firm BlueFin Research Partners, of Boston, as cited by Tiernan Ray in his Tech Trader Daily blog at Barron's.
The BlueFin deduction is based apparently (there's nothing Rollup could find on the firm's website) on their analysis of Samsung's production schedule for the Apple-designed, 28-nanometer A6 processor "for use in the next iPad." Samsung is producing the Apple chips at its Austin plant.
According to Ray, BlueFin drew "its conclusions based on conversations with 'key semi material suppliers,' who say that Samsung is nearing completion of an upgrade of the Austin facility to 28-nanometer chip production."
But that upgrade won't be ready until September, according to BlueFin. And because iPhone 5 is widely expected to ship in September or October, "we think it is likely that [the iPhone 5] will incorporate the same 45-nanometer A5X processor with quad core graphics as the recently released iPad."
But there's an alternative route: shrinking the A5X to a 32 nanometer process. And in fact, Apple has introduced such a chip in its Apple TV 3 and some models of the currently available, and reduced-price, iPad 2.
By itself, the A5X would consume more power than the iPhone 4S currently supplies, according to Anand Lal Shimpi, writing at AnandTech in March. He argues that "The A5X breaks Apple's longstanding tradition of debuting its next smartphone SoC in the iPad first. I say this with such certainty because the A5X is an absolute beast of an SoC. As it's implemented in the new iPad, the A5X under load consumes more power than an entire iPhone 4S."
Partly to support that load, Apple boosted the size of the newest iPad's battery. That option is considerably more limited in a smartphone.
The A5X CPU performance is almost identical to that of the A5. "This means everything from web page loading to non-gaming app interactions are no faster than they were last year [on iPad 2]," Shimpi writes. But where A5X does differ is in integrating quad-core graphics processing. "Prioritizing GPU performance over a CPU upgrade is nothing new for Apple, and in the case of the A5X Apple could really only have one or the other -- the new iPad gets hot enough and draws enough power as it is ...," Shimpi writes.
In a separate post earlier this month, Shimpi expands on a Chip Works investigation that found at least some of the most recent iPad 2 models, dubbed iPad 2,4, which are now Apple's entry-level iPad priced at $399, are fitted with a new Samsung version of the A5, die-shrunk to 32 nanometers.
"The performance remains the same, but the die is much smaller," he explains. "This isn't however just a normal die shrink, as Apple is using Samsung's 32nm high-k + metal gate LP transistors for this new A5 die. Intel was first to make the HK+MG transition back at 45nm in 2007 and correctly predicted that no one else would make the move until 32nm at the earliest."
He posted a comparison chart that shows the relative sizes of several generations of the Apple processors, and the dramatic reduction in size of the "A5R2" compared to the A5X.
The Samsung innovations and smaller die have several concrete benefits, for users and for Apple: less wasted current, for a more power-efficient chip, longer battery life, and cooler running; enabling Apple to maintain its margins for the lower-priced tablet; and trialing a new silicon process technology on lower volume products, so that potential problems can be limited and the process tuned if need be in preparation for larger volumes on new products.
iPhone 5 should "speak to my soul"
Chris Maxcer, writing at MacNewsWorld.com, doesn't beat around the bush in his opinion piece titled "Time for an Apple Design Renaissance."
It's time because Maxcer is, yes, bored. In fact he's getting "bored!"
"I've been following the micro-move rumors of the latest purported Apple iPhone 5 parts, including new covers and chassis, case designs and innards ... and a curious thing has happened: I'm getting bored!"
Bored with Apple rumors?
"How long has it been since Apple completely blew the world away with a new product design? Lately its products have been getting some nice feature boosts, but they mostly seem incremental," Maxcer mourns.
"Steve Jobs was able to convince enough people that minor refinements were groundbreaking and amazing, but without him, Apple must resort to total proof and put forth a truly spectacular new product," he writes.
He seems to be saying that Jobs was a successful con artist, bamboozling credulous idiots into accepting minor refinements as groundbreaking advances. And now, without him, Apple actually, finally has to come up with a "truly spectacular" new product.
For example, the next iPhone: "will it sport a bigger screen on the same basic style as the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4? Probably," he writes. "The unit has great pocketability, and I don't see Apple creating a monstrosity just to satisfy techboy screen lust. I like the idea of a bigger screen, a smarter, faster camera, and getting intimate with Siri. And yet, I doubt Apple is going to deviate from the basic iPhone 4 design. Why? Apple doesn't yet have to. Doesn't yet feel the need, because the iPhone 4 design is serviceable and will sell very well for many months to come."
What fools these Apple mortals be. Maxcer yearns for something more.
"As I examine my lack of interest heading into Apple's WWDC [Worldwide Developers Conference, starting June 11] and some inevitable new announcements, I find that the big issue is that these basic designs no longer speak to my soul," he concludes.
So true. The magic has gone out of the world, and we long for wondrous love, O my soul, O my soul.
"So what if we get a new MacBook Pro, finally, that's thinner and has a Retina display?" Maxcer asks disdainfully. "Cool. Nice enough. It will become a much-needed utility. The new iPhone 5 ... same deal. I'll buy it and like it. Much appreciated ..."
The issue here is clearly an evolution of Moore's Law (the number of transistors on a chip will double approximately every two years), which we can call Maxcer's Law: The level of techno-boredom will double in the iOSphere approximately every two years, even as Apple sets year to year sales records for its boring products.
iPhone with Thunderbolt I/O would be a "game changer"
That's the contention of Joseph Hanlon, writing at CNET, whose speculation was provoked by, of all things, a recent CNET animation of what the Next iPhone will look like based on all the current rumors. The mind boggles, but in any case, one of the speculative features was the addition of the Thunderbolt I/O interface to iPhone.
Hanlon says this rumor started in January but it actually began almost as soon as Apple unveiled Thunderbolt for its computers. More recently, the persistent rumor that Apple will create a smaller dock port renewed interest in the Thunderbolt-for-iPhone rumor, according to Hanlon.
Thunderbolt was designed by Intel with help from Apple; it supports two-way data transfers of up to 10Gbps per channel (with two channels), and devices can be sequentially connected ("daisy-chained") together using it. Hanlon claims that "adoption of Thunderbolt is stalling, with limited compatible devices to connect them, to at this time."
NETWORKING'S HOTTEST ARGUMENTS: Thunderbolt vs. SuperSpeed USB 3.0
But all that would change if Apple added Thunderbolt to iPhones, even though he admits that "the advantages for phone users may not be immediately apparent. After all, who needs to transfer data, to and from their phone, at 10Gbps?"
Good question. Hanlon argues Thunderbolt can become the new docking connection for iPhone and peripherals, and "if the other phone makers took up the Thunderbolt port, it could become possible to have a unified connection for all phones and all peripherals in the future. A tech-lover's utopia."
There's nothing quite like a tech-lover's utopia.
The question is whether utopia is achievable. "There are technical hurdles that Apple would need to overcome, to bring this concept to reality," Hanlon admits.
Back in February 2011, Macworld concluded that the biggest hurdle probably could NOT be overcome.
"Because Thunderbolt is based on PCI Express, it offers a direct connection to the PCI Express bus, which is part of the reason it can offer such impressive performance," Macworld noted. PCI Express is the bus architecture that "underpins Macs and most PCs. But iOS devices don't use a PCI Express architecture, which would presumably make it difficult to simply stick a Thunderbolt port on an iPhone."
Then there's the iPhone's dock-connector port, which offers "quite a bit of additional functionality -- it's got 30 connection pins for a reason, after all." Their conclusion: "We suspect it's far more likely that Apple will eventually sell an optional Thunderbolt-to-dock-connector cable for charging and syncing."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: @johnwcoxnww Email: email@example.comBlog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed
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