The iOSsphere is buzzing this week as "evidence" surfaces of schematic drawings and photos of new iPhone cases for a new iPhone, a furtive photo of a commuter using an "amazing" device, facial recognition software with vast implications, and a report that Apple plans to become a weapons manufacturer.
Evidence is to rumours like wind is to sails: It fills them out and drives forward the ship of speculation.
"Rumors are like songbirds; they sound filling but make a poor feast." -- W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, "People of the Nightland"
Third-party case schematics reveal big changes for iPhone 5.
A bigger screen, curved back and fewer buttons will define iPhone 5. Those claims, by U.K.-based MobileFun, are based on the site's analysis of a schematic of a new third-party iPhone case, from one manufacturer, and a picture of a mockup of a case from a second manufacturer.
IN PICTURES: Inside iOS 5
In comments, one wag summed up the resulting phone: "Wow it looks like ... an iPhone 3."
- The screen size is "extended considerably" from the current 3.5 inches to 4, by minimizing the bezel around it on all four sides, and extending the screen from edge to edge.
- The phone's rear panel curves around its edges, similar to the iPhone 3G. (Oddly, MobileFun extends this observation: "This likely means that the back will be metal, and could serve as a replacement for the iPhone 4's unique side antennae ..." That seems a stretch since making a curved metal rear case the antenna means the user's entire palm would be touching the antenna, not just his fingers.)
- In place of the current physical home screen button, there is a small, touch-sensitive oval area which takes up the middle half of the bottom border. "This area might be used for unique multi-touch gestures, given its increased size."
- Side buttons are shifted to the opposite side of the phone, with the lock button close to the camera, the volume buttons moved further toward the bottom.
MobileFun has a handy July 28 update at the bottom of its story, summarizing and linking to other news and technology sites that picked up on the story, adding assessment and insights of their own. CNET UK, for example, noted "that even with the expanded home button, it would be difficult to get more than a single finger in there, meaning that the gestures for that area are likely to be specialized one-finger gestures."
Another purported iPhone 5 case, a silicone sheath in a luscious shade of lime green and allegedly indicating a thinner model, was also posted by 9to5Mac.
We have found the iPhone 5.
Actually the 9to5Mac headline reads, "Have we found the iPhone 5?" but it's one of those rhetorical questions.
A "tipster" sent the website two grainy photos of a fellow commuter, apparently on a train, using a phone the tipster didn't recognize. Ergo, it must be the iPhone 5 or a prototype of it.
"Our tipster has had an iPhone 3GS and currently has an iPhone 4," 9to5Mac revealed, breathing heavily. "He knows his iPhones and iPods and this was like nothing he's ever seen."
Like. Nothing. He's. Ever. Seen.
Probably because he wasn't able to see very much of it. Here's one of the two photos, so you can judge for yourself.
The tipster says it was "almost EVO-like" in screen size, a reference to the big-screen, Android-based HTC Evo 4G smartphone released last year; that it was thinner but wider than the current iPhone, with rounded edges, and a curved back of glass or plastic.
"He said it looked too amazing to be built by anyone besides Apple (fanboy!)." I may not be able to define magic but I know it when I see it, or even partially see it.
The behavior of the commuter is, apparently, further evidence this is the iPhone 5. He was "furtive," says 9to5Mac, and according to the tipster, "It seemed apparent that he was trying to hide what he had more than the average smartphone user."
The user was probably just trying to follow Apple's "Field Guide for 'Next iPhone' Prototype Testers," Rule 57: "Try to hide the device more than the average smartphone user, but don't look furtive."
iPhone 5 will have sophisticated, sought-after facial recognition, with obviously vast implications.
That's according to 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman, whose online post about this scoop was filled with an almost thrilling sense of being thrilled.
In September 2010, Apple acquired a Swedish company, Polar Rose, which, according to this Wikipedia entry, offered a service, based on its facial recognition software, that let users "put names to the faces of people whose photographs appear on the web, and to then find other pictures of the same individuals."
"Less than a year after this purchase, we have discovered what Apple actually intends to do with this software," Gurman announces.
Apple is going to incorporate this code into iOS 5 and "open up facial recognition as a public developer API for iOS 5 applications," according to Gurman. These "highly sophisticated" APIs are CIFaceFeature, which can figure out "through an image where a person's mouth and eyes are located," and CIDetector, which is a "resource within the operating system that processes images for face detection," a capability that "presumably would power face detection via live motion imagery."
In case you don't realize the implications of this technology, Gurman lays it out: "The implications of this are obviously vast." And it has "vast amounts of uses." And this is obviously so obvious that Gurman doesn't give a single example of how it might actually be used or why it's "sought after." He does refer to the Photo Booth application originally in Mac OS X 10.5 in 2007 and more recently on iPad 2, though neither seems to use facial recognition.
It's going to be called "iPhone 5 Damnit!"
Whatever the Next iPhone ends up looking like, one thing is certain: Apple is way too smart to call it "iPhone 4S." Stuff.tv, "where you can find tech news that's wry but not dry," settles this nonsense once and for all.
Rumors of the iPhone 4S have been circulating for months, most often as a model that keeps the basic look of the current iPhone 4 but adds a dual-core CPU and some other internal goodies, and runs iOS 5, but sometimes as a genuinely new design for a lower-priced iPhone model.
Stuff insists this is all ... stuff. iPhone 4s "is exactly what the next iPhone won't be called. Why? Because consumers - that's you and us - are easily confused."
So this analytical rumor starts by insulting you and us.
"Apple has infiltrated the mainstream by building computers, phones and -- more recently -- tablets that people find intuitive and easy to use. It is not a company that likes to cower behind indecipherable product names. ... It is not going to confuse and alienate its massive, and still growing, customer base by calling its next phone the iPhone 4S."
One can picture the instant consumer backlash. Plunging sales. Scathing reviews. Savage posts in online forums about the indecipherable indescribable insufferable 4S moniker. "Steve: PLEASE give us a label we love for the phone we love." "That's it! I've had it. As soon as my AT&T contract expires, I'm buying a Symbian."
BeatWeek also insists that the 4S "is now officially dead to the world. ... It's clear now that it never existed, not even on Apple's drawing board, as a commercial product."
iPhone 5 will be announced in the second week of September; Apple to become weapons supplier.
Machine translation let MacRumors pick up on a story in the Taiwan-based China Times, revealing, according to MacRumors, that iPhone 5 will be released during the second week of September, with a starting order of 4 million units, and suppliers said to be readying a trial run of 400,000 units.
This seems like an optimistic reading of the original Chinese language story, to which MacRumors helpfully links for all of you Chinese linguists. But copy/paste the original into Google Translate and ... well, things become a bit more murky.
The headline reads: "New iPhone 9 second week of listing." Whoa. iPhone 9? That ought to launch a frenzy of brand new rumors all by itself.
"Long-awaited new iPhone plan for the second week of September (September 6 to 15) choose the listing, the first batch of 400 million units in terms of shipments, component suppliers will ship before this week trial production of 400,000 units." That sounds vaguely like what MacRumors thinks it means.
"Hon Hai is mainly responsible for the assembly is expected to victory, 8-9 monthly revenue forecast is expected to be high, and the remaining components plant performance will be higher." Uh.
But our favorite nugget from China Times is the revelation, strangely ignored by MacRumors, that Apple plans to become an arms manufacturer: "In addition, Apple iPad another version of a deadly weapon components supplier in less than a possible extension to market before Thanksgiving, but also change the mining machine sea tactics, the first shipments will substantially pulled, the appeal of 'quality without additional price' approach swept flat-panel market."
BoyGeniusReport has a source, presumably one who speaks English, also claiming an early September release of the phone, and concludes that Apple will, therefore, unveil iPhone 5 in late August.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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