By John Cox, Network World | July 18th, 2014
Apple iPhone 6 scuttlebutt includes: Delay by bottleneck(s), or not, happy haptics, battery woes.
Summer temperatures are boosting the amount of hot air in the iOSphere, or maybe it’s the other way round.
In any case, this edition of The Rollup covers some of the rumors for the last two weeks, taking note of the cyclical angst-relief pattern as, first, rumors of iPhone 6 delays swept the iOSphere, followed by rumors that mass production was about to start. A rumored haptic display featuring some kind of sensory feedback was praised as a “secret weapon” even though no one was able to describe how or why it would actually enhance the user experience. And there are numerous contributions to battery confusion.
You read it here second.
iPhone 6 5.5-inch model will be delayed until 2015
Kuo speaks, and the iOSphere shudders.
That would be KGI Securities stock analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, whose latest Note To Investors (NTT) warns of production delays or bottlenecks or problems for the rumored 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and “likely” therefore, for the rumored still-larger 5.5-inch iPhone 6. This means the two phones may not be announced at the same time, with the 5.5-inch model announced late in 2014 or (cue shudder) sometime in 2015.
+ Also on Network World: Apple iPhone 6 concept design slideshow+
Kuo’s NTT was “obtained” by AppleInsider’s Neil Hughes, who posted his summary of the contents on July 13.
“According to Kuo, Apple is already facing production bottlenecks on the 4.7-inch model related to the new technology for the device’s in-cell touch panel, as well as color unevenness on the redesigned “iPhone 6″ metal casing,” Hughes wrote. “‘These problems will likely be even more complicated with a larger size,’ [Kuo] said. In particular, he said the new in-cell touch panels may have issues related to touch sensitivity on the edges of the panel as displays become larger in size, making the 5.5-inch model a much greater technical achievement for Apple to accomplish.”
Another problem apparently is that “Kuo said he doesn’t expect that a new scratch-resistant 5.5-inch sapphire front panel will easily pass the drop test near term.’ That technical issue could also prompt delays,” he said.
Hughes cites some specifics from Kuo but it’s not clear how much real foundation there is to Kuo’s assertions. First, he claims that there are “production bottlenecks” but these appear to be caused by “issues related to touch sensitivity on the edge of the new in-cell touch panels.” But it’s not clear how that rather vague “sensitivity problem,” if it exists (or currently exists), creates a problem bottlenecking — for the assembly lines.
There’s also the quite unwarranted, and as far as we can tell wholly unsubstantiated, assumption that because the 4.7-inch model has these problems, then the 5.5-inch model also has them and they will be even worse because the screen is bigger. It’s also odd that Kuo says, or at least implies, that the 4.7-inch display is bottlenecked, and yet still on track to be released in September or October.
“In-cell” refers to a display technology in which the touch digitizer is “integrated into the LCD-TFT gating itself, and thus into the cells of each pixel, rather than as a discrete layer atop the stack after color filters,” as Brian Klug explained in AnnandTech’s review of the iPhone 5, the first iPhone to make use of in-cell. It let Apple make the entire display assembly thinner, minimize back reflections (caused by multiple layers in the assembly), and as a result make the display about 10 percent brighter without having to boost power. Apple seems to be continuing with in-cell; or at least there have not been any indications, including rumors, that show a major shift in its display technology.
Mahai Matei, GForGames, who has convinced himself, along with pretty much every Apple fan in China, that a rumored increase in the milli-ampere rating for iPhone 6 — to 1,800 mAh from 1570 mAh — is actually a step backward because it won’t be enough, even though mAh is an incomplete metric in understanding how the battery will actually perform.
What’s missing from Kuo’s note is any sense of his sources, and hence any sense of how reliable his information is, and any timeline. It may be that at some point in development there were indeed problems with touch sensitivity. The question is whether that’s actually a problem at this point.
iPhone 6 including the 5.5-inch model ready to start mass production
Fortunately, Reuters (via BusinessInsider) now is repeating a counter-rumor that Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., aka Foxconn, will start mass production of a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 during the third week of July, and of the 5.5-inch model during the second week of August.
Reuters lifted that from a post at Taiwan’s Economic Daily News, which didn’t say where it got the “information.”
Since that isn’t a whole lot, even for an Internet post, Reuters threw in a sentence about a “separate report” that Foxconn plans to hire 100,000 new worker bees for its “mainland facilities” to “meet future demand” for the phone. Without a trace of irony, Reuters said this information was in a post from “a China state-run news service,” based on comments by the chief of the Henan Provincial Commerce Department.
iPhone 6 will have haptics technology which is, like, awesome
Mihai Matei, at GForGames, interprets the English translation as: “Recently, the Chinese media has reported that one of the iPhone 6’s secret weapons might be the introduction of a new haptic feedback technology. According to sources, the new tactile feedback linear motor is more intelligent and capable of producing different types of subtle vibrations in correlation with the application’s scenario. It can even emit different vibrations depending on the area of the touch screen that is being pressed.”
Here’s the Google Translate version of the original Chinese: “Recently, micro-grid set from Foxconn that Apple iPhone 6 there is a very important secret weapon, that is – the tactile feedback linear motor (Haptics). Simple, tactile feedback is a more intelligent motor vibration motor, according to different application scenarios, allowing users to feel a different sense of shock and can emit slightly different subtle vibrations on the touch screen of the different locations.”
The Rollup’s translation is more succinct: “Don’t hold your breath.”
Haptic technology (from a Greek word that derives from “to grasp”) use a variety of techniques to create tactile sensations (forces, vibrations, motions) than can be used to create and control virtual objects, or to fine tune control of remote machines or devices. It’s used in a variety of focused applications, such as sophisticated simulators to help in training surgeons, and for various gaming platforms, such Valve’s Steam Controller. For years, there’s been an effort to apply more advanced haptics to mobile devices, beyond the most common, and most basic one: the cell phone’s vibrator.
Apple’s interest in haptics is shown by a number of published patents, the most recent apparently from May 2012, which describes a flexible OLED screen that could change its contours, to create a circular button to be pressed for example. But the size and thinness, and battery operation, of smartphones (even if you believe Apple will create a 5.5-inch iPhone 6) create a whole new set of challenges.
The two scenarios that would make most sense for Apple to use haptic technology would be to apply it to an existing iPhone feature, such as the onscreen keyboard to enable the typing experience to mimic that of using a physical keyboard, or to integrate haptics deeply into iOS, in other words, to recast the user interface (a variant of this would be to combine haptics with a 3-D user interface, along the lines of what Disney Research is exploring).
So far, no one has revealed anything in the current iOS 8 beta software that shows even a hint of haptic interfaces.
iPhone 6 battery “design bottleneck” solved but it will still be a lousy battery
GForGames continued its string of confused and confusing postings about the allegedly pervasive iPhone 6 battery problems. Last week, the site’s Mihai Matei revealed that the iPhone 6 battery – despite having more milliampere-hours (mAh) than the iPhone 5c/5s battery will leave users worse off. His conclusion was based on “the entire Chinese mobile media [which] has started passing along a new rumor concerning the iPhone 6.”
Based on one, anonymous, unsourced post, The Entire Chinese Media revealed that the 4.7-inch model would have a battery between 1,800 and 1,900 mAh, and the 5.5-inch model a battery of 2500 mAh, compared to the current 5c/5s battery of 1,570 mAh. “However, due to the fact that the next-gen iPhone is also expected to pack a larger 4.7-inch display, pretty much every Apple fan in China who has stumbled across this report is now wondering if 1,800 mAh is enough,” Matei writes. “We’re in the same boat too.”
Matei wasn’t alone in confusing the issue. NowhereElse.fr on Thursday, July 17, published photos purporting to be of the new battery for the iPhone 6, and then 24 hours later, published photos of a completely different battery, also purporting to be for the iPhone 6. BGR’s regurgitation called this “intriguing.”
Last April, Matei repeated an unsourced and unauthenticable rumor, that Apple’s battery suppliers were running into various “manufacturing difficulties” in creating a battery thin enough and powerful enough to fit the allegedly much thinner design of the iPhone 6.
This week, citing yet another vague Chinese-language post, Matei concludes that “the iPhone 6 battery design bottleneck has been allegedly solved” because Apple found a new supplier, Simplo. Our Google translation of the original Chinese post at UDN.com doesn’t cite any source, and simply asserts that Simplo “successfully solving the bottleneck thin design process.”
But that leaves open the “problem” of how well the battery in the new phone will perform. Matei believes that bigger is better: he notes that even the 2500 mAh battery for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 falls short of the 3000 mAh battery for the 5.5-inch LG G3 and the 3200 mAh for the 5.7 inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3.
The problem with all this is that mAh is only one part of the battery picture. “The problem with this method is that it doesn’t give a complete picture of the total energy stored,” according to a post at GoalZero. “It is easy to find cases where two different batteries with the same number of amp-hours will have completely different amounts of total energy.”
This is evident in the AnandTech’s review of the iPhone 5C. The review included a series of battery benchmarks tests, comparing the iPhone 5c and 5s with the iPhone 5 and several Android rivals. Among other things, the post gave a more complete picture of the iPhone batteries: it noted that the 5c battery is 1507 mAh, 3.8V [volts], and 5.73 Whr (watt-hours); and the 5s battery is 1570 mAh, 3.8V, and 5.96 Whr.
In one benchmark test, a demanding one for web browsing over Wi-Fi, the 5c and 5s delivered, respectively, 9.7 and 8.9 hours — somewhat less battery life than the iPhone 5, but more than most its Android rivals. In particular, the Samsung Galaxy S 4 — with battery specs of 2600 mAh, 3.8 volts, 9.88 Whr was near the bottom, with 6.5 hours.
A second benchmark measured web browsing over LTE: the 5s was first, followed closely by the 5c and 5, and all three far surpassed Android rivals, including the Samsung Galaxy S 4. Yet in terms of a third benchmark, cellular talk time, all three Apple phones were closer to the bottom of the phones tested.
Android phones have larger batteries than the iPhone because they need larger batteries. The mAh simply doesn’t tell us anything substantive about how the iPhone 6 will perform in terms of battery life.
Bottom line: don’t panic.