July 8, 2011
Another day, another inbox full of repetitious rumors and outlandish speculation from the oft-conflicting corners of our tech-blogger nation. Certainly, iPhone and iPad design and specification "leaks" are nothing new to our industry, but -- as these particular handsets and tablets gain ever more traction and influence across the globe -- the daily barrage of spilled beans and source "confirmations" is getting irritatingly difficult to keep in check. Consider the latest news from Joshua Topolsky over at This is my next, where claims of two new 2011-bound iPhones and an "iPad HD" are currently soaking up the hits. In addition to the customary next-generation iPhone set for a September release, Topolsky says his sources are hinting at another new -- but cheaper -- iPhone model to launch alongside the flagship. This idea has been tossed around for quite some time, and Topolsky's most current "insider reveal" is summarized thus:
It seems that just a few months ago the entire tech media world was convinced the new iPhone was set to be merely an iPhone 4 update — and now many are assuming that the 4S will actually be this cheaper version the WSJ is rumoring. ...Simply put, as the iPhone 5 components are built for a smaller and lighter device, they can be easily fit into a casing which for all intents and purposes looks identical to an iPhone 4… and that’s exactly what Apple has been doing. Our sources tell us that the company has been testing the new components in old iPhone cases, for obvious reasons. Some of those reports we’ve heard about a larger screen for the old design would make sense too, as a slight tweak of the size (say, to a 3.7-inch display), would be barely noticeable to the eye, but obvious in internal component design.Unfortunately, this explanation does nothing to explain why Apple would consider going the "econ-iPhone" route via an all-new or internally-updated configuration. The fact that the company has been testing new components in old iPhone 4 shells isn't overtly compelling one way or the other. It could well be that the new iPhone will use essentially the same housing as the current model. That would explain the practice. On the other hand, Apple might simply be hiding its unreleased designs, a la the iPhone 4 and its customized 3GS "lookalike" case. Furthermore, with the iPhone 4's current manufacturing installations and parts surpluses, it makes ample financial sense to sell that unit as the "cheaper" iPhone while debuting and promoting the fifth-generation model as top-of-the-line. Apple's done that with every new iPhone unveiling so far, so why deviate from the tried and true? After all, in most countries (particularly the regions in which Apple plans to make the largest strides moving forward), the iPhone 4 is still very, very new. All in all, this rumor seems exceptionally difficult to logically justify. And the iPad HD rumor -- again, recycled from earlier this year -- is even harder to take seriously. According to Topolsky,
the new tablet is said to sport a double resolution screen (2048 x 1536)... The idea behind the product is apparently that it will be a “pro” device aimed at a higher end market — folks who work in video and photo production possibly — and will be introduced alongside something like an iPad version of Final Cut or Aperture. This product is specifically said to not be the iPad 3, rather a complimentary piece of the iPad 2 line. Think MacBook and MacBook Pro.There are literally dozens of good reasons why this reasoning falls short. First and foremost, the target audience -- these so-called "professionals" -- must be exceedingly small in number. I've heard absolutely no complaints from the commercial audio/video set about any shortcomings regarding the current iPad 2; and, for people in the video-processing and high-res photography professions, processor power and memory management are each more immediately important than a crisper, cleaner screen. And consider that screen: No known manufacturer has yet begun efficient assembly-line production of such a high-resolution, tablet-sized IPS panel. If Apple has already developed and deployed that technology to its OEM partners, it makes a tremendous amount of sense to stockpile the slow trickle for use in next year's iPad 3. Indeed, many analysts are hinting at earlier-than-usual parts orders from Cupertino as proof of a late-2011 iPad variant, but I'm inclined to believe Apple is simply preparing itself for the sure-to-be astronomical demand of its 2012 tablet offering. The company simply can't make enough product in its customary three-month pre-launch window to meet iDevice sales expectations anymore. Heck, here we are three months after the launch of the iPad 2, and it's still largely backordered. There's just no way Apple is going to divert time and trouble to a niche product when finances and resources are better served meeting current iPad demand. Besides, the entry of a higher-end iPad model would seriously hamper and fragment the goodwill and trust Apple's faithful have instilled in the brand. We know everything comes with a yearly refresh, and we plan accordingly. It is one of the core ways Apple is able to simplify its hardware offerings while also gaining the confidence of valuable early adopters. But, somehow, the rumor mill doesn't stop there. Just yesterday, we got wind of some statements regarding the features and shape of the iPhone 6! Even though it's at least a full year away and guaranteed to be in its structural infancy, folks are clamoring about its supposed radical looks and hot, new charging method. Of course, it doesn't take a trend-analyzing wunderkind to predict that something new will be something new, and I think that's where all this speculation needs to pull itself together. Any intelligent tech denizen can leak an obvious guess to all the hundreds of dedicated websites out there, and too many of those are willing to cite "anonymous" and run with the story. Even AppAdvice has been guilty of that from time to time. But unless these guesses, ideas, assertions, and assumptions are backed with sound, logical reasoning, their release does nothing but confuse the interested populace and breed uncertainty (and ultimate disdain) among those uninitiated looking for clear guidance. To curb the constantly reiterated influx of unproven and tenuous gossip across our industry, we bloggers should sedate ourselves and carefully consider the self-explanatory OPIATE method governing the categories under which all such reports are likely to fall: Obvious, Plausible, Implausible, Absurd, The End. While most rumors warrant a small mention at some point, consulting the OPIATE rubric shows that none of those discussed in this article is really worth repeating ad nauseam. And good riddance, too, because I'm sick to death of them. Here's the skinny: The new iPhone will be faster and slimmer and lighter, that low-budget model is the current-gen handset, and there won't be an iPad HD. Of course, I could be totally wrong and have to eat my words. Good thing they taste so good...