Rumor Roundup, Episode 3: Your parts are leaking again
As expected, last week was a slow one for actual Apple news. Equally as expected, rumors of increasingly dubious parentage were shoehorned into various sites' RSS feeds to pad out the news cycle. In the old days this kind of "news" might have been used to line the bottoms of bird cages, but today all anyone does with birds is launch them at pigs with a slingshot.
Just when you thought iPhone parts leaks couldn't get more yawn-inducing than slightly different Home buttons, MacRumors lets us know that parts supplier SW-BOX.com supposedly got its hands on some "iPhone 5" SIM trays. These new SIM trays are almost identical to those in the iPhone 4 and 4S, suggesting the next iPhone won't be much different in design.
WhooOOOOoooo! Tk, tk, tk. That was the sound of the wind blowing through a ghost town and a tumbleweed blowing by.
B.S. detector reading: 9/10. Parts supplier no one's heard of? Check. Parts "leaking" to the public over five months away from the time the next iPhone's likely to launch? Check. This rumor isn't just clutching at straws, it's dreaming about clutching at straws.
Liquidmetal Inventor: Apple Will Use It In A 'Breakthrough Product' (Business Insider)
Business Insider takes a break from its usual schtick of behaving like the National Enquirer of the tech world and does an actual interview with a verifiable human being. If you're at all familiar with Business Insider's usual attitude toward all things Apple, you're probably as confused as I was. Anyway, some guy named Atakan Peker claims Apple is a long way off from using Liquidmetal in large scale deployment on any of its products.
B.S. detector reading: 0/10. Peker ought to know a little bit about how well Liquidmetal can scale, because he helped invent the stuff. He thinks it will take three to five years and hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and R&D before Liquidmetal can be widely deployed.
All this means is for the next couple years, any rumor that proclaims "all-Liquidmetal iPhone is coming out soon" is going to max out the B.S. detector.
Remember how the night before the newest iPad launched, the internet went bananas for a few hours and thought the device would debut with haptic feedback? Remember how, predictably, that didn't happen? Oh, how we laughed. It was a simpler time. But 9to5 Mac is certain that recently unearthed patents mean Apple is still on the Haptic Trail. Would you like to ford Speculation River, or caulk the iPad and float it across?
B.S. detector reading: 8/10. I've been following Apple long enough to know that more than half the stuff it patents never shows up on store shelves. Apple may still be considering implementing such functionality in future devices... or it may have decided to abandon that route and go a different way. A patent doesn't offer proof of either decision.
An analyst from JP Morgan spins the Wheel of Fortune and decides the Apple HDTV isn't coming until 2014. I'd like to solve the puzzle: "Making it up as I go."
B.S. detector reading: 7/10 -- and it's only that low because I agree the "iTV" probably isn't coming before 2014. But I only say that because, for reasons I discussed last week, I don't believe Apple is ever launching its own HDTV.
Having recently gone through the head-spinning and utterly confounding experience of buying a new HDTV myself, I agree it's an industry ripe for disruption. But I'm also more convinced than ever that it's an industry Apple's better off leaving to the other suckers. Let Samsung, Sony, LG, Panasonic, and the rest of them slug it out over who gets to sell TVs to people who are just looking for the cheapest way to watch Game of Thrones without having to squint to tell the difference between Gruff Old Knight No. 4 and Gruff Old Knight No. 7.
AppleInsider looked at the same JP Morgan analyst's thoughts on the proposed Apple HDTV and focused on his remarks regarding the "disruption" the device might bring to the industry. The headline kind of spoils it; JP Morgan's analysts don't think wild-eyed claims that the Apple HDTV will finally save us from the tyranny of cable providers hold much water.
B.S. detector reading: 5/10. The film, TV, and cable industries saw what happened to the music industry in the last decade -- Apple slowly upended the entire market and now holds almost unprecedented influence over how people buy and listen to music. Cable companies will do absolutely anything they can to stop that from happening to them -- no matter how many of their customers they tick off in the process -- so an iTunes-centric HDTV is probably going to send content owners scrambling to divorce themselves from Apple as quickly as they can.
I'm pretty sure the only reason these media companies even tolerate the likes of the current Apple TV box is that it's a relatively low seller, a tiny blip in the marketplace. If Apple launches what amounts to the iPhone of HDTVs, expect those same companies to "turn traitor" before Tim Cook leaves the keynote stage.
The next iPhone will supposedly have a 4" screen and will be about 10 millimeters taller and 2 millimeters thinner. (That popping sound you heard just now was someone having an aneurysm from me mixing Imperial and metric units in one sentence.) The dock connector will allegedly be a redesigned, smaller port.
B.S. detector reading: 7/10. Lots of sites re-reported iLounge's crystal ball gazing like it was brought down from the summit of Mount Sinai, simply because some of iLounge's past guesses have been accurate in the past. All this iLounge post really did, though, was collect several months worth of rumors in one spot and slap some halfway-decently Photoshopped pics on it.
You know what I think would be absolutely hilarious? If the next iPhone looks exactly the same as the last two. Same screen size, same form factor, just with a slightly faster CPU/GPU. Apple is already selling around 4.5 iPhones every second (not an exaggeration), but still everyone seems convinced the company needs to do some radical redesign if it wants to stay ahead of its competitors. I'm pretty sure the "disappointing" sales of the iPhone 4S and iPad (3) are proof enough that Apple no longer needs to change things just for the sake of changing them -- if it ever did.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster walked through an Apple "mini-store" at a Target. After browsing the shelves and chatting with a Target salesperson, he somehow became convinced Apple will widely deploy these mini-stores in both Target and Walmart locations across the United States.
B.S. detector reading: 5/10. I'll give Munster credit for actually doing some on-scene investigating (that's how I used to refer to my Target shopping trips, anyway). But it's pretty much equivalent to me eating at my local Burger Fuel and saying, "Man, the Bastard Burger sure is tasty. You know who'd love this thing? Drunk college kids. Headline: Burger Fuel to expand from New Zealand to Ivy League colleges across the northeastern US."
iPad tablet market share will dip to 50% by 2017, study says (AppleInsider)
NPD claims the iPad will account for only half the tablet market five years from now. As evidence, NPD researchers waved their hands over a pile of gnawed chicken drumsticks scattered on the NPD's throne room floor and proclaimed, "THE BONES HAVE SPOKEN."
B.S. detector reading: 10/10. This survey is even worse than one I saw last week, which claimed essentially the same thing would happen in 2016. Predicting what any segment of the tech market will look like five years from now is like forecasting the 2096 US Presidential elections. (I'm voting for Kodos.)
Famed blues guitarist "strategic advisor" Whitey Bluestein claims Apple is about to sell mobile wireless services directly to its iPad and iPhone customers. He then laid down an astonishingly funkadelic bass groove that I've been humming all week long, to the annoyance of everyone around me.
B.S. detector reading: KABOOM! Wow, good thing I keep a backup detector in my desk, because the first one is toast. "Apple will strike wholesale deals with several mobile operators so that Apple can provide wireless service directly to its customers, as Apple Mobile," Bluestein claims, ignoring three different Apple shades of Apple reality in one Apple sentence.
Look, there's no question that dealing with wireless service providers is one of the worst parts of owning an iPhone or 3G iPad. Imagine that owning a car meant it ran out of gas at random and without warning, or that it couldn't drive to certain areas of the country in the first place, and even with those irritating limitations you endured monthly chain-whip floggings at the gas station to sustain the privilege of driving your car.
AT&T in particular has earned every last bit of enmity its customers (and former customers) feel toward it. Recent remarks from its CEO suggest the company's only regret is it didn't figure out how to overcharge for data services sooner than it did. "You lie awake at night worrying about what is that which will disrupt your business model [...] If you're using iMessage, you're not using one of our messaging services, right? That's disruptive to our messaging revenue stream." These are actual words AT&T's CEO said, presumably right before doing donuts in his Ferrari in a parking lot that used to be an Indian burial ground.
I don't know about you, but I'm finding it difficult to sympathise with a company that charges about (back of the envelope math) $1.60 per kilobyte for data related to sending SMS texts. But does that mean Apple's going to swoop in and rescue its users from these digital highwaymen? Not a chance. Let's dismantle Whitey's groovetastic bass line phrase by phrase.
"Apple will strike wholesale deals with several mobile operators" -BZZT! Nope. Mobile operators are already milking more money directly from their customers than Apple's going to be willing to throw at the likes of AT&T and Verizon. And even the dumbest of wireless providers still has to be smart enough to know that letting Apple wedge itself between them and iPhone users would be a last, well-deserved nail in the coffin of companies that like to pretend they're anything other than digital plumbers.
"Apple can provide wireless service directly to its customers" -BZZT! Name one possible benefit to Apple if it does this. The company would have to hire loads of support people to answer (and endure) the usual questions and tirades from customers dissatisfied with their wireless service. Instead of being able to do what it's done for the past five years -- shrug and deflect blame for terrible service on the carriers, where it usually belongs -- Apple would have to shoulder the burden (and cost) associated with users bellowing into their iPhones in the scarce seconds between dropped calls.
A deal the carriers would never go for, coupled with one of the top five worst strategic decisions Apple could possibly make? Sure, why not? Other than being the dumbest idea I've heard in months, I don't see any downsides!
That's it for the rumors this week. By this time next Monday, we'll know the precise dimensions of the next iPhone's mute switch, the launch date for Apple's VHS/DVD combo player, and exactly how much of the tablet market the iPad will hold in 2018.
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