iPhone 6 rumour rollup for the week ending August 16

iWatch, sales approval, connector cable stuff, sapphire ... all gems in the rumourverse

The iOSphere is more and more certain it knows the details of the Apple iPhone 6, even though there is less and less to go on.

Some were reassured that "next generation" iPhone models have been approved for sale in, of all places, Thailand. Others think, or hope, that the long-rumoured wearable wrist thing, sometimes called iWatch, will be announced at the same September 9 event as the iPhone 6. Still others entertained the idea of a Lightning connector cable with a reversible USB connector...or something. And sapphire remains the crown jewel of rumours: gleaming, elusive, and, for many, deeply confusing.

You read it here second.

__________

"If nothing else, the existence of these model numbers confirms that Apple plans to sell the new iPhones in Thailand in the near-future."

      ~ Mark Gurman, 9to5Mac, getting down to brass tacks after a Thai government agency announced it had approved for sale two specific models of a next-generation iPhone.

__________

iPhone 6 models approved in Thailand

Evidence of either a glacially slow news day or a hyper-obsession in the iOSphere: a "report" that a Thai government agency has approved for sale two new iPhone models, the A1524 and the A1586.

The approval is by Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, which according to 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman is "that nation's version of what we know in the U.S. as the FCC."

 +Also on NetworkWorld:Best/Worst iPhone 6 Concepts+

Gurman analyzes in depth what this approval means, or could maybe possibly might mean.

"The two model numbers could be representative of a combination of different iPhone lineups," Gurman explains. "It is possible that one number belongs to the new iPhone 4.7-inch model and another belongs to the upcoming 5.5-inch model. Another possibility is that these model numbers could belong to tweaked iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s models with updated internals like new cellular chipsets. Another possibility is that a single 4.7-inch model could come in two cellular flavors for Thailand, and that is what the two model numbers represent."

That's a lot of possibilities. But we can be certain of one thing.

"If nothing else, the existence of these model numbers confirms that Apple plans to sell the new iPhones in Thailand in the near-future," Gurman writes.

They must be dancing for joy, in traditional Thai dance style, in Bangkok.

The best part of Gurman's post is a YouTube video of Thailand's Secretary General confirming the approval...speaking in Thai, with no English translation or subtitles. For all we know, he could be sharing his mother's secret recipe for khanom chin nam ngiao, of fermented rice noodles served with pork blood tofu in a sauce made with pork broth and tomato, crushed fried dry chilies, pork blood, dry fermented soy bean, and dried red kapok flowers.

And fellow 9to5Macker Zac Hall had the second-day follow-up to this vital, breaking news story. According to a "local report" by Thai Rath, also in Thai by the way, "Apple expressed concern that confidential information including device specifications would surface out of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission following the disclosure and approval before the company is prepared to bring the device to market next month, but the NBTC Secretary General apparently insisted that Thailand's disclosure process fit with the laws of the nation as device specifications were not revealed," Hall wrote, favoring a stream-of-consciousness fluidity.

He drew the Obvious Conclusion: Apple's request is "suggesting these model numbers are more than just changes to existing devices...," Hall suggests.

iPhone 6 will have a new Lightning cable with reversible USB connector

To be fair, MacRumors' Richard Padilla mainly focuses on the possibility of Apple introducing a Lightning cable with reversible USB connector at some point in the future, though he does note at the end of his post that the iPhone 6 is expected to be announced on September 9.

But in the iOSphere, Rumor Rule 8 is "If it's New, it's Next."

Padilla's post is based on a post at the Chinese website Dianxinshouji.com, via the French website Nowhereelse.fr. 

"While it is unable to tell for sure whether these cables are legitimate or not, it is possible that Apple could ship new Lightning cables to match the forthcoming USB 3.1 cables that will soon come with newer smartphones," Padilla speculates. "As revealed last week by the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, the USB 3.1 Type-C cable comes with reversible ends and will start shipping next year."

The Rollup considers this to be bogus. The obvious evolution is a Lightning cable with an adapter that matches the Tesla Motors Tesla Universal Mobile Connector, enabling you to charge your Tesla Roadster from your iPhone, or vice versa. It's no accident that Tesla's Palo Alto HQ is just 10.8 miles from Apple's Cupertino HQ.

iPhone 6 will be announced with the "iWatch"

Aldrin Calimlim doesn't miss a beat. Or a hint. Or an implication.

Writing at AppAdvice, Calimlim declares that "Apple may introduce its so-called "iWatch" as early as next month."

The basis for this revelation about the long-rumored wearable iOS device is a passing comment in a recent post by tech blogger John Gruber. The post at his Daring Fireball blog was actually a link, with a couple of remarks, to a post at The Verge about Motorola's Moto 360 smartwatch.

Here is Gruber's post in its entirety: "It looks like Motorola's designers tried to draw as much attention as they could to the 360's stupid flat-tire display shape. The only way this could get funnier would be if it doesn't even ship until after Apple announces their wrist wearable thing next month." That would be September.

According to the Calimlim post, Gruber "hints" and "implied" and "suggested" that iWatch is being announced in September, rather than, as some have predicted, in October.

"If, as suggested by Gruber, Apple is set to unveil its fabled wearable device next month, it's likely to do so at its rumored special event scheduled for Sept. 9, where it's primarily expected to launch the so-called 'iPhone 6,'" Calimlim writes, which is being rather more specific than Gruber was.

On the other hand, if the iOS wearable turns out to be an extension of the iPhone, in effect, an accessory, then it would be make sense to announce it with the 2014 iPhone models. On the still-other hand, if Apple wanted to emphasize a new product category, it would make sense to announce it by itself, without the new iPhone models. 

In other words, the best we can come up is "Gruber seems to think the Apple wrist wearable thing will be announced in September."

iPhone 6 will have a sapphire screen and a higher price tag

Daisuke Wakabayashi's story for the Wall Street Journal gets a lot wrong on the way to making a rather Obvious Point: that Apple is investing a lot of money in producing synthetic sapphire, apparently as the face of touch screens for mobile devices.

"The first sapphire display screens for the forthcoming larger iPhone and smartwatch are expected to roll off production lines this month at a Mesa, Ariz., facility that Apple opened with materials manufacturer GT Advanced Technologies Inc.," he writes.

But the Arizona facility is not producing display screens. It's producing raw synthetic sapphire in big, fat cylinders, called boules, that weigh nearly 365 pounds with the newest GTAT furnaces. The sapphire is then being shipped to Apple's partners in Asia for cutting, shaping, grinding and polishing. Because of sapphire's extreme hardness, and the scale of Apple's sapphire plan, these companies have to retool with new equipment. Apple will be making further capital investments with these partners for that purpose, boosting its total sapphire closer to $1 billion than the $700 million cited by Wakabayashi. [See "How Apple's billion dollar sapphire bet will pay off"]

He raises the issue of cost without doing much to resolve it. He cites the work of Eric Virey, a senior analyst at French research firm Yole Développement, who estimates that a finished sapphire screen will cost Apple about $16, versus the current $3 cost for a Corning, Inc. Gorilla Glass screen.

But it's unclear how or even whether that higher cost will affect the retail price of the iPhone, or Apple's margins.

And the WSJ story doesn't shed any more light on whether any of the 2014 iPhones actually will have sapphire. "Apple is considering using sapphire screens in more-expensive models of the two new, larger iPhones it plans to debut this fall, if it can get enough of the material, people familiar with the matter say," Wakabayashi writes. This is already being widely mis-interpreted, by rehash websites such as AppAdvice: "According to a new report in The Wall Street Journal, only the more expensive models of the next-generation device will have the harder screen cover."

Wakabayashi's lack of clarity lends itself to conflicting interpretations. If there is, in fact, a 5-5-inch iPhone 6, would only that model have a sapphire screen? Or is Apple carving out some kind of premium model in both the (rumored) 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 variants? Or would sapphire be offered as an extra-cost option on the phones, or on some of them? 

The most important part of Wakabayashi's story is this: "GT Chief Executive Tom Gutierrez told analysts last week that the Arizona facility was nearly complete and was starting the transition to high-volume production. He said the plant wouldn't reach full operational efficiency until early next year."

Based on historical iPhone sales trends, Apple could reasonably expect to sell 55 million to 60 million or more iPhones during the October-December 2014 quarter. If the Arizona plant is only now reaching high-volume for the raw sapphire, it will take weeks more for that quantity of material to be converted into parts that are incorporated into the iPhone assembly process for that many units.

Less than a month before the expected announcement of the sapphire iPhone 6, we still don't know if it will actually have a sapphire screen.

iPhone 6 currently in Product Validation Test 

Totally, like, wow.

The ever-vigilant GForGames' Mihai Matei picked up on "reports" from the "Chinese media" and revealed to his readers that the iPhone 6 is currently in product validation test, or PVT as it's known to the technoscenti. 

CNET's Lance Whitney picked up on Matei's post, but at least labeled the Chinese stuff (correctly) as "scuttlebutt."

Both writers posted a link to the original Chinese language post at Weibo. The Rollup offers this English version, from Google Translate, of that entire post:

"I believe iPhone6 sales will be very good, a lot of iPhone4 users, has entered the replacement period, many of these users are waiting iPhone6, and Samsung users different, Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo, Cool, millet is very easy to become a substitute, will not have too much accustomed to, Apple is different, the cost of replacement of high learning.

"@ Dumbo Xiang Ligang

The latest news from Zhengzhou Foxconn, iPhone6 has entered the PVT, the size of the two, the yield reached 90, estimated to soon be in volume production in September release, not a problem. I believe iphone6 will be sold, but the reduction in carrier subsidies, Apple's profit guarantee will be affected. "

Only in the iOSphere could these three sentences be considered a "report" and their two authors (one of them with the handle "Dumbo Xiang Ligang") be considered "Chinese media."

If Apple plans to announce iPhone 6 about 12 months after iPhone 5s/5c, then it will announce it in September, with availability about 7-10 days later, and therefore its assembly partners will be in, or close to, the last stages of high volume production. We don't need the Chinese Media to figure that out.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World."

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

Email: john_cox@nww.com

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