This week: There will be no iPhone 5 launch at WWDC because of a fire at one of Apple's partner assembly plants, triggering panic among bloggers; there will be an iPhone 5 launch at WWDC because Apple is inviting British journalists and casting a TV commercial; iPhone 5 is already out there being tested but you can't tell because it looks just like the existing iPhone 4; and you will be able to tell because iPhone 5 will have a concave glass screen.
The Date, Part 1: No iPhone 5 launch at WWDC
There is no, zero, nada chance of iPhone 5 being released in June, BeatWeek assures us. Why, you ask? Because of an explosion and fire a week ago at the Foxconn manufacturing plant where the iPhone, and the iPad, are built. The fire "should put to bed the pipe dream that saw Apple somehow introducing the iPhone 5 a mere six weeks after first shipping the white iPhone 4," BeatWeek sneeringly concluded.
But just to cover all the bases, BeatWeek also said, "But even if Apple were planning to secretly launch the iPhone 5 in June, those plans would certainly have to be scuttled after the factory damage."
The use of the word "certainly" when it comes to rumors and unfounded speculation is always good for a laugh.
Gizmodo had a brief official statement from Foxconn, which didn't do much to clarify exactly what had blown up and burned, how bad the damage was, or whether there really would be any impact on either current iPad 2 shipments or on the iPhone 5 rollout.
The prospect of delay panicked some folks, like Derick Lemay, at The Red 99. The despair was almost palpable in his post:
"All we can hope is that Foxconn can get their plant up and running as soon as possible. Otherwise we may not be seeing a new generation iPhone at all in 2011."
2011: The Year of the Lost iPhone.
But by last Sunday, two days after the fire, MacRumors was linking to a reassuring China Times story (in Chinese) which claimed that "sources" were saying that "production of iPad 2 would not be delayed and related iPhone devices [could this be iPhone 5?] and new iPad products would still be in mass production in the third quarter."
The Date, Part 2: iPhone 5 will be launched at WWDC
We know this because 1) Apple is inviting British journalists to the WWDC in San Francisco, and 2) a casting call was posted on Craigslist looking for actors to appear in an iPhone 5 TV commercial.
U.K. tech site Mobile Pig tackled the issue head-on: "If you believe the rumours currently fizzing down Britain's broadband pipes, Apple has pretty much put the kibosh on iPhone 5 -- at least for 2011."
That statement actually qualifies as a separate rumor all on its own.
"But if that's the case," Mobile Pig triumphantly asked, "why is Apple's public relations department -- specifically the team dedicated to all things iPhone -- reaching out to selected British journalists in an effort to persuade them to attend Apple's WWDC developer jamboree on 6-10 June?"
That was pretty conclusive for James Isabel, at The Appera. Isabel dismissed the rumor that WWDC will focus only on the software, iOS 5, but not the iPhone 5 hardware. He wrote, "I doubt this is a simple software reveal judging by the magnitude of people they're inviting. I'm betting on iPhone 5 [insert excited emoticon here]. Also, even though Steve Jobs is on leave, I'd expect him to be at the keynote on June 6."
Plus there's the TV casting post at Craigslist. MacRumors noted that it appeared Wednesday, May 25, but apparently only for a couple of hours, seeking male and female actors for a commercial for "iPhone 5" to be filmed in L.A. with payment, oddly, in British pounds sterling. MacRumors couldn't find any online information on the contact or production company. The site noted that it was similar to a casting call in New York in April. Real? A mistake? A hoax? Who knows? Who cares?
ITPortal admitted that it didn't know if the casting call was genuine, but couldn't resist adding that if it was genuine, "then the iPhone 5 could indeed be launched at WWDC 2011."
"On the other hand," according to GizmoCrunch, "it could just be the work of Apple PR to build up hype for the phone which is not expected to launch this summer." Creating hype for iPhone 5 must be the world's easiest job, because thanks to ITPortal, GizmoCrunch and a zillion other websites, Apple PR doesn't actually have to do anything.
iPhone 5 is cleverly disguised to avoid being seen
That's what GizmoCrunch concluded after reading TechBuffalo's exclusive account of how the iPhone 4 was secretly brought to Verizon's network. That would be the "insider" account based on one, repeat one, source "close to the action." No one referred to the "iPhone" but the "Acme"; it was being tested six or seven months before the actual release; employees had to sign a four-page non-disclosure agreement, and enter a unique PIN every 12 hours to confirm they still had the phone, and so on.
Even though TechBuffalo's story never mentions "iPhone 5," GizmoCrunch sees a connection: The Verizon iPhone was being tested at Verizon stores and in the field, but "due to the fact that [the Verizon iPhone] resembled the AT&T version it went unnoticed."
(It's not real clear how that would work, between two Verizon employees: "Hey, watcha got there?" "Oh, it's the Acme." "Really? Gee it looks just like the AT&T iPhone." "I didn't notice." "Oh, me either.")
Unfazed, GizmoCrunch optimistically asks, "So what does all this mean as the Verizon iPhone 5 release date nears?" And they have an answer. "For one, it could mean that the Verizon iPhone 5 is already undergoing field testing and may be under our very eyes."
But someone has seen the iPhone 5 and taken a photo of it, with another iPhone 5
Winner of the Most Convoluted Rumor of the Week goes to iFan, which on Monday published a picture, from a Chinese website, of what purported to be a "white iPhone 5's backplate with even more evidence of the [previously rumored] separation of the camera and the flash components."
By early the next morning, iFan had a new post, about how commenters to the first post had detected a reflection in the picture, revealing another iPhone 5 taking the photography. They say you can make out the Apple logo, and the widely separated flash and camera components (which are close together in iPhone 4).
Then, iFan asked not one but two Adobe Photoshop wizards to manipulate the original image, a process that TFTS.com called, without a hint of irony, "forensic tech voodoo." Their conclusion: It's an iPhone 5!
iPhone 5 will have a curved glass screen
DigiTimes claims that unnamed sources say that Apple has bought 200-300 expensive glass-cutting machines to fashion curved glass screens for iPhone 5.
"That would seem to fly in the face of recent reports that the iPhone 5 would be very similar to the iPhone 4 in appearance," observed 9to5 Mac.
PC Magazine notes some phones already have a concave screen, including Samsung Nexus S. "The concave glass display of the Nexus S is often praised for feeling more comfortable when holding it up to your face. In fact curved glass displays are more about aesthetics and "perceived usability" (as Engadget notes in its review for the Nexus S) than any actual change to display quality," according to the post.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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