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Rumor Roundup: Why so serious?

There aren't many jobs out there where screwing up is rewarded. A neurosurgeon with a 25 percent success rate probably won't be a neurosurgeon for very long. Pilots can only make so many unsuccessful landings before they cease to be pilots (or anything else). Burn enough of those sad grease patties masquerading as hamburgers, and even the world's worst fast food joint will fire you.

But for some reason, if your job involves spreading digital manure about Apple, you can be as wrong as you like as often as you like, and it will never matter. Someone, somewhere, will pay attention to you.

It's been said there's no such thing as bad press. Let's put that to the test.

Rumor: Apple will be moving to TSMC for A8 chip production for the 4th year in a row (9to5 Mac)

According to "sometimes accurate" Digitimes.

9to5 Mac spends half this post trashing Digitimes' accuracy, but that didn't stop them from publishing this perennially unrealized rumor from the laughingstock of the Apple rumor scene anyway.

Rumor mill again points to Boost Mobile getting Apple's iPhone (AppleInsider)

From the article: "While the promotional materials could be real, @evleaks has in the past been off with Boost Mobile predictions." This also isn't the first time Boost has been rumored to be getting the iPhone. And these "leaked" posters would be trivially easy to fake.

Apple is reportedly testing iWatch designs with flexible OLED displays (BGR)

"According to a brief report from South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo" -- sounds legit!

"While there is still no firm sign from Cupertino that the company actually has a smartwatch in the works," don't let that stop us from speculating about it. Endlessly! And when this hypothetical, nonsensical product fails to materialize year after year, we can always claim that Apple has encountered manufacturing issues, or licensing problems, or any other excuse to cover up the fact that we have no idea what we're talking about and are completely making all of this up.

Case in point...

Reuters: Retina iPad mini may not launch in 2013 due to supply constraints (AppleInsider)

See, this is how the rumor scene works now. If Apple does debut an iPad mini with a Retina display, the rumor blogs will be high-fiving themselves over the accuracy of their sources. If the device doesn't debut this year, it's not because their sources were completely full of it. It's all Apple's fault, or at least its manufacturing partners. It's the perfect scenario; the rumor blogs get to pretend to be accurate sources of news no matter which way the die falls.

Report claims iPad 5 & Retina iPad mini will sport 8MP rear cameras w/ larger aperture (9to5 Mac)

Some analyst says, "Apple could upgrade the camera" in the iPad, and the rumor blogs are on it.

If there's anything the iPad needs, it's a better camera. A better camera means more people will be convinced that using an iPad as a camera is a good idea... which means more opportunities to laugh at people using their iPad as a camera.

iPhone's Touch ID metal ring fits in iPad 5 part, but likely isn't evidence for fingerprint-scanning iPads (9to5 Mac)

"Home button size has not drastically differed across Apple devices, so this could just be a coincidence." Wow, you think?

The dark side of Apple's iBeacons (BGR)

iBeacons are new technology and haven't been widely deployed, so now is the perfect time for BGR to spread the FUD. (For those not hip to acronyms, FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, while BGR stands for Boneheaded [Expletive Deleted] Rumors.)

BGR wants us to know that there is "a darker side of iBeacons that could become a huge annoyance for iPhone owners and other iOS device users." You see, while iBeacons can be used for good (transmitting useful data to iPhones via Bluetooth -- think museum exhibits, information at tourist attractions, maybe even mobile payments -- they can also be used for evil (EEEEEEEVILLLLL), like bombarding people with location-specific advertising.

Imagine a hellish future where a shopping trip to Target makes your iPhone explode with promotional offers the minute you drive into the parking lot. Imagine further that in this near-future hellscape, you don't have the ability to block this insidious form of iBeacon advertising by turning your iPhone's Bluetooth off. Say, from an interface easily accessible from the bottom of the screen at any time. A Center, if you will, that allows you to Control certain features of your device, including activating/deactivating Bluetooth, with a minimum of steps.

Supply chain sees weak demand for notebooks, expects big things from Apple's fifth-gen iPad (AppleInsider)

Some analyst "confirms" everything we already "know" about the next-gen iPad. What intrigues/depresses me most about this story is the analyst in question has moved on from Topeka Capital Markets and now works for Cantor Fitzgerald. Despite getting almost every single bit of analysis about Apple wrong over the past couple of years, this analyst is apparently still moving up in the world. Apparently accurate insight doesn't count for much in the financial services industry. This is, sadly, not at all surprising.

And now, time for a brief digression.

Recently, after publication of last week's Rumor Roundup, one of the writers from a publication that regularly shows up on these lists randomly contacted me on Twitter with a simple question: "Why are you so angry?"

My answer was equally simple: "I'm not."

I don't write this roundup every week because I'm pissed off and have an axe to grind. I do this in a Quixotic attempt to let some of the hot air out of the room. "Reporting" about Apple has slowly but steadily become dominated by self-proclaimed "experts" in the industry, and the majority of rumors are treated as gospel in spite of sources that are shaky at best and comically inaccurate at worst.

This next story is almost prototypical of the problem with Apple reportage in 2013.

Report claims both likely & unlikely display changes for future Apple devices (9to5 Mac)

An Asian publication made a series of wild claims about Apple's supposed plans for its display technologies over the coming year. This publication merely cites "an industry source" for its claims, which could mean anything from some random factory worker to a financial analyst completely making stuff up out of thin air.

9to5 Mac runs with this source and adds a heaping helping of fantastical "analysis" on top of it.

"The iPhone has long been expected to adopt a larger display in 2014," they claim, but no truly credible source has ever pointed in that direction.

"The iPad screen size increase definitely makes sense," 9to5 Mac asserts, which actually makes no sense whatsoever considering how absolutely over-the-top bonkers tech reporters went in 2012 when the third-generation iPad had the temerity to be a few grams heavier and a fraction of a millimeter thicker than its predecessor.

"The iPad mini has long been rumored to adopt a higher-resolution screen," 9to5 Mac says, then goes on to say that " it's unclear if Apple will release the Retina iPad mini this year or early next year." This is called "having your cake and eating it too."

"In terms of OLED displays, there's definitely evidence for Apple going either way." This must be some strange new definition of the word "evidence" with which I was previously unaware. Note that no current Apple device ships with an OLED display, no hard evidence exists of any Apple prototype/production device with that display technology, and Tim Cook himself has said OLED isn't up to Apple's standards. But sure, there's plenty of evidence for Apple going either way.

"While not all are likely, it's highly plausible that at least a couple of the above claims will turn out to be accurate." And you can bet they'll be paying far more attention to the claims that turned out to be accurate.

Here's the problem: based on a sketchy rumor out of South Korea, 9to5 Mac has set (or simply reinforced) expectations for an iPhone with a larger screen, an iPad with a larger screen, and an iPad mini with a higher-resolution screen. So what happens when some or all of those products fail to materialize? What happens when Apple instead "only" introduces iterative updates of its existing product lineup?

I'll tell you what'll happen: exactly what's been happening since Apple dared to debut an iPhone 4S that was externally almost identical to the iPhone 4. Apple will be accused of losing its innovative touch. A thousand bloggers will rush to be the first to claim that Apple has lost its way since Steve Jobs died, and Tim Cook will be the company's doom. Samsung, the undisputed kings of "change for the sake of change" and creating products that satisfy bloggers' fever dream checklists, will be hailed as the new weathervane of innovation in the industry despite its most successful products continuing to be blatant, shameless ripoffs of Apple's designs.

Meanwhile, Wall Street will swallow all of this drivel passing as objective reporting and logical analysis, and it will act accordingly by continuing to devalue Apple's stock -- further decoupling Apple's performance in financial markets from its performance in retail markets.

Mainstream publications will look at Wall Street's reaction to unfulfilled rumors and draw their own conclusion: Apple must be doomed. Just look at its tanking stock price! Just look at the new iPad, that looks pretty much the same as the one that came before it! And ugh, whyyyyy is Apple still sticking with a teeny-tiny four-inch screen on the iPhone when Samsung is innovating all the way up to six glorious OLED inches?

Rumor blogs aren't the only source of stupidity when it comes to the media's distorted image of Apple, but they definitely are a symptom of the disease. Posts like the one cited above set unrealistic expectations for what Apple will produce. How far has Apple's stock sunk simply based on four years of unfulfilled Apple HDTV rumors? How many years in the row can the iWatch fail to be anything other than some analyst's fantasy before Wall Street decides Apple hasn't made this nonsense product not because it's nonsense, but because Apple can't make it without Steve Jobs?

This is what your "reporting" is doing to the company many of you claim to love. That sourceless report out of Asia with its Wild Claim of the Week about Apple gets inflated from fiction to accepted fact in the blink of an eye, and your breathless shouting into the Internet's echo chamber is a major reason why. And when the reality presented onstage at Apple's keynote events fails to match up to the endless months of fantasy you've been pimping all over the blogosphere, the financial markets panic, the media claims Apple is circling the drain, and even "normal" people start to question how much life Apple -- the most financially successful company on the planet right now -- has left in it.

I'm not angry. I'm disgusted. There's a difference.

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