The depth of winter seemed to have a chilling effect on iOSphere rumoring. Most of the mongering activity focused on the shocking "news" that the 4.8-inch iHumongous phone has been "delayed" until mid-2014.

Both the news and its shock value raced through the iOSphere even though the stock analyst's Note to Investors, which triggered them, merely analyzed possible manufacturing challenges that might affect the unannounced and perhaps nonexistent phone's price or schedule.

And photos that claimed to give us a detailed look at "sweet, sweet innards" of the "iPhone 5S" turned out to be much less than met the eye. Kind of like a metaphor for iPhone rumors.

You read it here second.

iPhone 6 "delayed" until 2014

Stock analyst Peter Misek, who just weeks ago helped fuel speculation about a roughly 5-inch screen iPhone 6, poured icy water on the iOSphere's fervid hopes in a new Note to Investors. The NTI has been widely and wildly interpreted as saying that the iPhone-that-Apple-hasn't-announced has been "delayed."

MacRumors picked up on Misek's new speculation in a post headlined "Apple's 4.8-Inch iPhone 6 Reportedly Not Launching Until Mid-2014." 

MacRumors' Eric Slivka quoted from Misek's most recent NTI, wherein the analyst says that he sees "three possible bottlenecks for the iPhone that could contribute to lower yields (and hence higher costs) and/or a delayed launch."

But this introductory statement is already different from the MacRumors headline. Based on that quote, Misek is simply saying that there are "possible" problems that could affect iPhone 6 costs, the phone's release schedule, or both.

First, there is a potential shift from a 32-nanometer process to a 20-nanometer for Apple's A series CPU. From what we can understand about silicon, this is a pretty big jump, essentially skipping the 28 nm process. Misek thinks Apple is "likely" to make the jump "to facilitate adding more cores (4 or even 8)."

Second is Apple's possible decision to switch from in-cell LCD displays for iPhone 5 to on-cell OLED or IGZO for future iPhones, which has been a rumor for months. "We think in-cell is having difficulty ramping to 4.8", which is making Apple look at switching to on-cell (a different integrated touchscreen technology) and OLED (despite Apple's suppliers being well behind Samsung in their OLED capabilities) or IGZO," according to Misek, without apparently explaining what the manufacturing problems actually are.

Thirdly, again without explanation, Misek says, "We think Apple plans to re-architect iOS to utilize more cores and better compete with Samsung." He also "believes" there will be substantial changes in the way iOS "interoperates with iCloud, gestures controls, and advertising ..."

According to MacRumors, Misek expects the iPhone 5S and a lower-cost iPhone to be released in mid-2013.

Slivka adds almost nothing to the Misek excerpts, letting them stand in effect on their own.

Others, such as Ubergizmo's Tyler Lee, weren't so reticent. Lee interprets the MacRumors account of Misek's speculation as meaning that "the iPhone 6 with a 4.8" display will only see a release in 2014, suggesting that it would miss its supposed 2013 schedule due to possible production problems with regards to its display."

The interpretation by Business Insider's Jay Yarow was even more original. "Apple wanted to release a 4.8-inch iPhone 6 this year, but it ran into manufacturing problems, says Jefferies analyst Peter Misek," Yarow declared.

But as quoted by MacRumors, Misek didn't say anything like what Tyler and Yarow claim he says. Misek in December 2012 claimed there were 4.8-inch iPhone prototypes being evaluated. Yet even if that's true, the existence of the prototypes doesn't translate into a "schedule" or even a "wanting" to release such a phone in 2013.

There's not a lot of substantive reporting in terms of understanding Apple's display options, with many of the rumors based on anonymous industry, or Asian supply chain, sources, and on each other. The Rollup attempted a brief summary of some display issues in the "iPad 5 rumor rollup for the week ending Feb. 6," specifically the section "iPad 5 will have GF2 DITO OMG IMHO screen structure."

The "low yields" refrain is now so widespread and reflexive that it's difficult to tell whether it's a real problem for any Apple displays or it has achieved the status of Internet Urban Legend.

On July 31, 2012, AppleInsider was one of many websites that warned, based on a story in DigiTimes, that "Low yield rates for in-cell touchscreens may affect Apple's next iPhone," that is, the iPhone 5. Yet barely 60 days later, AppleInsider was more upbeat, based on a Note to Investors by Sterne Agee's Shaw Wu, claiming that "yield rates for Apple's iPhone 5 in-cell touch panels [are] improving."

iPhone 6 won't look like these "leaked" photos

Photos that purport to show the Next iPhone, which could be iPhone 5S or iPhone 6 depending on your preference, were posted at this Chinese website two weeks ago, and last week began appearing on some blogs and tech sites.

"Leaked iPhone 5S Images Show Off Identical Look To iPhone 5," was the bold headline over an Ubergizmo post by Daniel Perez. "[W]e're seeing another photo possibly leaking the iPhone 5S' sweet, sweet innards coming from Chinese website," he gushed.

Now, he did admit in a masterful understatement that "it's hard to confirm the legitimacy of each rumor." And then fell back on that tried and true iOSphere confirmation criterion: Why would anyone lie?

"But at this point, we'd have to wonder why anyone would leak images of anything that wasn't the next iPhone ..."

We couldn't have said it better.

Unfortunately for the credulous Mr. Perez, MacRumors' Slivka actually studied the photos and concluded they show that "the device is clearly an iPhone 5 clone," in other words, a ripoff, a counterfeit.

"The photos show a device with an outward appearance very similar to the iPhone 5, but the internals show essentially no resemblance to an Apple-designed device," Slivka wrote.

Here are "examples of just a few of the inconsistencies," Slivka wrote:

  • A battery capacity of just 1130 mAh compared to 1440 mAh for the iPhone 5;
  • An apparent SD card slot;
  • Loose red and black wires connecting components;
  • A green PCB for the connector bearing no resemblance to Apple's Lightning connector.

But wait. There's Another Possibility. What if Slivka is too quick in his dismissal? What if instead of a clone, this is actually a prototype? What if it's a prototype of the iCheapo phone? Using, you know, cheaper stuff, smaller battery, and all that?

You need to rumor creatively. Maybe this rumor will have legs after all.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: @johnwcoxnww Email: [email protected]

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See also:

Apple working on USB 3.0 support for iOS Lightning connector?

iPad mini 2's Retina display could add 30% to component costs - report

iPhone 6 rumours: 'iPhone 5S motherboard with quad-core A7 chip' leaked

iWatch could be name of Apple television, not smart watch