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Rumor Roundup, Episode 15: Let's do the time warp again

Thus far, 2012's rumor cycle has been eerily similar to 2011's. We keep hearing about the iPad mini, an aluminum-backed future iPhone, and a whole bunch of other stuff that failed to materialize last year. But this year will be different -- that's the implicit promise, anyway. For the rest of us, it kind of feels like the rumor mill is stuck in a time warp... and as we'll learn later, this week the New York Times took that concept and ran with it. All the way to Tijuana.

Apple will provide an adapter for the new, smaller Dock connector set to debut with the iPhone 5 (iMore)

With rumors of the next iPhone's Dock shrunken connector starting to look plausible, the Internet calmly assessed the situation and logically thought out how Apple might handle it. Hahaha, just kidding, everyone lost their damned minds. Variations on the words "I have hundreds of dollars in accessories and Apple's going to render them obsolete overnight?! HELL NAW!" echoed across the Web a few thousand times.

Whether the iPhone's Dock connector is actually shrinking or not, and whether or not iMore's sources are accurate, the site is pretty much just stating the obvious. If Apple's going to fundamentally change a connection port that hundreds of millions of consumers have grown to depend on over the past ten years, of course it's going to provide an adapter. Duh.

That having been said, prepare to have this debate again in five years if/when the iPhone has no Dock connector at all.

Now let's have a blitz of rumors, all via MacRumors, and all from the same source: KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

That's an awful lot of rumors from the same guy, all in one week. MacRumors goes out of its way to say he's offered "remarkably accurate" information in the past, but as I recall Kuo's been responsible for only a handful of rumors that were already all over the Internet by the time he said them. The one original piece of analysis I can remember him producing was the demise of the 17-inch MacBook Pro -- a call I personally thought was misguided -- so I suppose I'll give him a bit more leeway than I'd reserve for a traditional "analyst" of Apple's affairs.

The iPod touch and iPod nano haven't seen any real updates since 2010, so whether Kuo's accurately forecasted this or not, I hope he's right. Both products are starting to feel decidedly stale next to Apple's other product offerings.

As for the "tweaked iPad" and iPad mini rumor, I'm calling B.S. The "tweaked iPad" rumor originally came from DigiTimes, which automatically makes it about as realistic as the Tooth Fairy riding a unicorn to the leprechaun's gold at the end of a double rainbow. And anyone who's read more than one of these Rumor Roundups already knows where I stand on the iPad mini: two years of B.S. rumors means it ain't real until it ships. Maybe not even then.

Kuo's also calling for 13-inch MacBook Pros with a Retina Display to appear in October alongside updated iMacs, though he doesn't say whether the iMacs will have a Retina Display or not. It seems inevitable that all of Apple's products will eventually have Retina Displays -- at least the products that have displays; any analyst who suggests a Retina Mac mini or Mac Pro is going to get a permanent place in the Hall of Shame. Calling specific timeframes is trickier, because we don't know how well or how quickly production of new displays will scale.

Apple to Update iPod Touch with 4-Inch Display, A5 Chip, Buffed Aluminum Rear Shell? (MacRumors)

Macotakara is the underlying source for this latest rumor, and the best odds I can put on it are 50/50. The site offered accurate info on the iPad 2 a couple years back, but since then it's been one inaccurate rumor after another.

Even so, an A5 processor and the same 4-inch display rumored for the next iPhone do seem like obvious additions to the iPod touch; the device has traditionally shared many of the same components as the iPhone. If Apple follows a staggered schedule of upgrading iOS devices to the latest processors -- iPad first, iPhone six months later, iPod touch a year after that -- it'll go a long way toward keeping CPU supplies unconstrained.

Multiple reports say iPhone 5 will launch on September 21st (BGR)

Multiple sources you've never heard of before, PhoneArena and App4Phone, claim the next iPhone will launch September 21. BGR notes that neither site has a "proven track record" with iPhone rumors, but that didn't seem to matter when posting the story or writing that very definitive-sounding headline.

Apple iPhone 5 and iPad mini event planned for September 12, iPhone 5 release date for September 21 (iMore)

iMore spins the roulette wheel and comes up with a completely different date for the launch also pins the iPhone release date on 9/21, with an announcement coming nine days earlier. I'm eagerly waiting for Jim Dalrymple of The Loop to weigh in on this; the last time iMore predicted an Apple launch date, one "Nope" from Dalrymple was enough for me. Apologies to iMore for the error -- in fact, the last time the site pinned a product launch date, Dalrymple actually responded with a "Yep." AllThingsD has now (Monday afternoon) weighed in as well, saying that its sources are also pointing at the 9/12 event date; the site also cites analyst Maynard Um saying that Apple is spending more money on components now than it had in previous quarters, meaning something's got to be built out of all those parts.

New leaked photos may reveal final iPhone 5 design (BGR)

A case vendor posted photos of a mockup iPhone? Stop. The. Presses. Because when have case makers ever gotten it wrong? I honestly have no idea why the various rumor blogs latched onto this one so fervently when it's pretty obvious this case vendor is just reading the exact same rumors as everyone else.

Apple, Google Line Up to Bid for Kodak's Patents (Wall Street Journal)

"People familiar with the matter" say the patent sharks are circling Kodak's portfolio. Apple is supposedly in an unholy alliance with Microsoft and, even worse than Microsoft, Intellectual Ventures. O what dark days are these when Apple teams up with well-known patent trolls to shout "Ni" at passing camera companies.

Samsung was reportedly interested in buying the patents too. If its bid is successful, it could lead to some wretched Twilight Zone lawsuit where Samsung sues Apple for violating Kodak's patents on devices Samsung itself blatantly copied from Apple.

New purported next-generation iPhone parts photos show fully assembled device (9to5 Mac)

A cellphone repair shop assembled the front glass and backside of the alleged next-gen iPhone and posted pics for all to see. These pics show nothing new: the device is thinner and longer than the iPhone 4S, has a mostly aluminum backside, a smaller Dock connector, headphone jack on the bottom (ugh), and a design aesthetic that looks like the original iPhone and iPhone 4S had a few too many piña coladas and made the beast with two anodized aluminum backs.

Though I'm skeptical of almost every Apple rumor that crosses my desk, put non-Blurrycam and not obviously Photoshopped pictures in front of me and my skepticism starts to lift. If these parts are fakes, they're very cleverly done -- like, "Apple should hire this guy" cleverly done.

On the other hand, assuming these pics are representative of the real deal, I can hear the pundits complaining already that the device doesn't look "different enough" compared to its predecessors. At least five brain-dead analysts will call the device "boring" and opine that Apple has lost its creative spark. They'll then hold up some knockoff abomination from Samsung as evidence of what Apple should have done instead. Finally, these arguments will vanish in a puff of logic and an avalanche of cash when Apple sells 70 million in six months.

Apple Officials Said to Consider Stake in Twitter (New York Times)

This was my favorite rumor this week, because it's so emblematic of how far the media has fallen. Last week, I said to myself (and anyone listening on Twitter), "You know what I haven't heard in at least 3 months? 'Apple should buy Twitter! Herp derp!'" Not even a day later, I woke up to the New York Times piece linked above and laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

Predictably, the Internet exploded with speculation. Only instead of "Apple's gonna buy Twitter!" this time it was "Apple's gonna invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Twitter!" Different verse, same song.

Meanwhile, I wondered the same thing I wonder every time someone mentions this: What can hundreds of millions or billions of dollars invested in Twitter get Apple that it doesn't already get now? "Apple has to be social," people say, which I suppose is true. "Apple doesn't know how to do social itself," they say, and that's definitely true (coughPingcough). Ergo, "Apple needs Twitter."

But Apple already has Twitter. Since iOS 5 there's been systemwide integration on iOS devices, and in Mountain Lion that's migrated to Macs. People who might have had zero interest in "the twitters" now hear about it and get curious -- Twitter signups jumped following iOS 5 going public. The third-party app ecosystem handily addresses the needs of users who despise Twitter's own apps or find its web interface a hassle. So where, exactly, is the need for Apple to dump a truck full of cash into this?

The closest thing to a logical argument I've heard on this is that Apple should invest in Twitter because Google might do it first. If Google bought Twitter, or even a majority stake in it, Apple could get shut out (somehow). On the other hand, since virtually every action Twitter's taken in the past few months seems like a case of a drunk hunter deliberately trying to shoot himself in his own foot, that line of reasoning might well be moot before too much longer.

That word "moot" is remarkably appropriate in this instance, because it turns out the New York Times got it somewhat wrong. "Apple Discussed Investing in Twitter" the Wall Street Journal's headline goes, with the past tense of discuss a delightfully subtle dig at the Times.

"Apple Inc. and Twitter Inc. held discussions more than a year ago about Apple possibly making a strategic investment," the Journal writes. "The discussions between Apple and Twitter didn't immediately result in a deal and aren't currently active."

I've been wondering this for a while: do major publications like Bloomberg, the New York Times, and even the Wall Street Journal still have access to people who actually are "familiar with the matter"? Or have they simply started posting old and dusty Apple rumors sourced from the same dodgy bin that everyone else draws from, banking on their credibility to drive page views and subscriptions on a level that the smaller outlets can't compete with?

Certainly in the past, an iPhone rumor felt "real" if it showed up in the New York Times, but you can't rely on that anymore. This time, the New York Times got itself caught in the same "last year's news" time warp as the rest of the rumor crew, and it seems like just a matter of time before it starts posting six-month-old tinfoil hat ravings about the Apple HDTV.



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Rumors Apple

The iPod touch and iPod nano haven't seen any real updates since 2010, so whether Kuo's accurately forecasted this or not, I hope he's right.