This week's iPhone 5 rumor roundup features information on The Date from that hotbed of Apple smartphone rumors, St. Albans, Hertfordshire; more slips from Verizon's loose-lipped CFO; LTE prospects in Red China; how the iPhone 5 is causing a slump in global smartphone cells; a new SIM card standard that will extend Apple's control over identity stuff; and why new tables in the Apple stores mean iPhone 5 will have NFC.
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"Some report elsewhere whatever is told them; the measure of fiction always increases, and each fresh narrator adds something to what he has heard." -- Ovid, "Metamorphoses"
The Date: The iPhone 5 will be "delayed" again, at least in the U.K., until November. We know this because an employee of this corner Phones 4U store in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, said so.
"Speculation around the Apple iPhone 5 is at fever pitch this week as reporters have been badgering an employee of phones4u into spilling the beans on its official release date," according to a breathless account in Gadgets and Gizmos.
The Herts Advertiser 24 apparently embroidered a bit more, saying that "rumours surfaced this week that a sales assistant at the St Albans branch of Phones 4u had told a customer that the release date, thought to be September, had been pushed back to November due to handset problems."
This rumor reached a "new level of stupidity," according to U.K. tech site Electric Pig, which is saying something as iPhone rumors go.
"Why did no one else realize that Apple had installed a Batphone straight from Steve Jobs' personal office to the backroom of the St Albans branch of Phones 4U?" asked Mic Wright. Wright on.
Details revealed: Some vague comments by Verizon Communications' CFO are being subjected to a heady blend of obsessive analysis and wishful thinking. According to Reuters, Fran Shammo, CFO for the parent company of Verizon Wireless, spoke at the Reuters Global Technology Summit. There, Shammo's main points were that the mobile carrier will scrap unlimited smartphone data plans this summer, offering tiered pricing, along with new options such as family plans for data services.
But he also mentioned that the "next iPhone" from Verizon Wireless will launch "at the same time as AT&T," according to Reuters. There's been speculation that some customers have held off buying Verizon's iPhone 4 because they're waiting for an iPhone that runs on Verizon's recently introduced "4G" network based on Long Term Evolution (LTE). Reuters: "Shammo said that even if the next iPhone does not support LTE, Verizon will have enough high-speed alternatives to sell. 'I think it's a bigger issue for Apple than it is for us,' he said. 'Depending on where Apple plays, that's where we'll sell.'"
"Verizon CFO Reveals iPhone 5 Details," announced PC Magazine. One alleged detail was that iPhone 5 will be a global phone, able to work on both CDMA and GSM networks. But this appears to be a misreading of the Reuters story, which noted correctly that Shammo had already talked about this in April. By saying that Verizon "would be able to launch the iPhone 5 at the same time as AT&T," Shammo was "all but confirming a simultaneous launch on both carriers," PC Mag helpfully pointed out. But the CFO was "fairly mum" about iPhone 5 and LTE. So, not much of a detail there, apparently.
ZDNet, which misidentified Shammo as "Verizon CEO," linked both the demise of unlimited data plans and the new family plans to the looming iPhone 5: "Verizon plans to kill unlimited data plans as the global iPhone 5 draws near."
"Both of these changes come as Apple readies the release of the iPhone 5, which is widely expected to appear this fall," according to the post. More confident than PC Mag, ZDNet claimed Shammo had indeed "confirmed" that Verizon and AT&T will "get the iPhone 5 at the same time."
Leaving plenty of room for future rumors about whether they will announce, start presales, start regular sales, and ship the phone at the same time.
Chinese LTE: China Mobile, the country's biggest wireless carrier with just over 600 million subscribers, announced "it has reached consensus with Apple Inc. on using its fourth-generation technology on iPhones to be offered by the Chinese mobile services provider," according to a brief story in MarketWatch.
Coyly, the story noted that China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou "declined to elaborate on exactly what has been agreed with Apple."
IPHONEYS: The iPhone 5 edition (slideshow)
Currently, China Unicom is the sole source of iPhones in China. The fourth-generation technology mentioned in MarketWatch is China Mobile's own flavor of LTE, called TD-LTE, as it also currently offers a variant of CDMA. The "consensus" could mean that China Mobile will only offer the iPhone as a 4G device in the future, rather than the 3G iPhone 5 as previously speculated.
At PC Mag, the "consensus" between the two companies morphed into a "deal" that will let China Mobile "offer the iPhone." Digital Daily's John Paczkowski is more restrained. He writes that "some progress has been made" and clearly spells out that "the [iPhone] version [China Mobile is] evidently getting won't run on its current 3G TD-SCDMA network, but on its next generation 4G TD-LTE network, which won't be fully lit up for 12-18 months."
Phones Review, which confusedly referenced iPhone 4G, iPhone 5 and iPhone 4s, appears finally to conclude that the China Mobile "agreement" means that an iPhone with 4G "will more than likely happen in 2012 and no sooner."
iPhone 5 causes slump in handset sales: "Sales of handsets slumped as consumers hold out for high-profile device launches, like the iPhone 5, according to research firm Gartner, " according to Mobiledia. The only problem with the statement is that Gartner didn't exactly say it.
Gartner reported this week on Q1 sales of mobile communications devices. Smartphones were 24% of total mobile device sales, an 85% jump over the same period a year ago. "This share could have been even higher, but manufacturers announced a number of high-profile devices during the first quarter of 2011 that would not ship until the second quarter of 2011. We believe some consumers delayed their purchases to wait for these models," says Roberta Cozza, a principal research analyst at Gartner.
iPhone 5 of course hasn't been officially announced. So it's harder to guess how many people are delaying current iPhone purchases in the hopes of buying the i5. (Though the folks at Beatweek have devoted themselves to continually answering "the most common tech-related question we get here ... is when the iPhone 5 will be released and, accordingly, whether the iPhone 4 should be purchased in the meantime.")
The Gartner study doesn't speculate on iPhone 5, but simply notes that the quarter's performance "helped Apple consolidate its position as the fourth largest brand in the mobile communication market overall," according to Carolina Milanesi, Gartner research vice president. "Considering the higher than average price of the iPhone this is a remarkable result and highlights the impact that a strong aspirational brand can have on a product."
Gartner thinks the smartphone market may cool off somewhat later this year. "Part of the reason for the lowered expectations is that consumers may be holding out for the high-profile iPhone 5 release from Apple," Mobiledia asserts.
Relocated LED flash: Probably not the No. 1 Eagerly Awaited iPhone 5 Feature for most folks. But Ars Technica's Chris Foresman does a pretty good job putting it in context.
The "thin evidence" in support of this rumor is a photo of a new product from the main supplier of "random Chinese-made iPhone cases," Alibaba.com. The product is a "crystal case" for something called the "iPhone 5g." The case shows a rear-facing camera in its usual position on the left side, but the LED flash has moved far to the right.
Foresman says that having the two components close together "often results in less-than-optimal image results" because of light leaking into the lens, among other problems. He says the redesign is plausible but cautions about reading too much into the Alibaba product because case designers often crank out new designs based on nothing more than rumors, hoping to get a jump on their rivals.
9to5Mac reports that the case now has been removed from the Alibaba website and speculates that Apple's legal team made them do it. "We're not going to say for sure that Apple was behind the removal of the above iPhone 5 case, but it makes sense." Unlike the St. Albans leak cited earlier.
New smaller SIM card: U.K. tech site V3 reports that Apple has proposed to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) a new standard for a smaller Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card, which could be included in "its forthcoming iPhone."
The story says an ETSI spokesman confirmed the proposal, but nothing has been approved. Although V3 says the new card is for the upcoming iPhone 5, it's actually not clear if that's Apple's intent. The ETSI spokesman was quoted as saying "No technical details about the proposal were provided." KnowYourMobile.com picked up on a related Reuters story, which notes that ETSI standards can take a year or more to finalize. Another complication for Beatweek's iPhone 5 buying recommendations.
What would the change mean? V3 talked to Jeremy Green, practice leader at Ovum's telco strategy team, who said, "The new SIM card will not only be smaller, it is highly likely to be reconfigurable, which will give Apple increased control over user activity."
Apple could update the International Mobile Subscriber Identity number, update other software and features, and possibly let customers change networks with replacing the SIM card, according to Green.
Near Field Communications: The ping-pong ball rumors about whether NFC -- a very short-range wireless technology that can be used for automatic wireless payments -- will be included in iPhone 5 are now trending toward "yes," thanks to information from "multiple Apple sources," cited by The Boy Genius Report.
BGR says Apple's point-of-sale devices (the iPod touch-based wireless payment terminals) "recently all went offline for 'maintenance' for an entire day"; plus some employees in some stores stayed late to "assist in installing TBD devices" throughout the stores"; and new tables were installed in stores, with different wiring compared to Apple's standard tables.
What does it all mean? "We have a feeling Apple's 10th anniversary plans might put a few pieces of the puzzle in place, but one of our sources also believes that NFC payment processing capabilities are among the enhancements that will be brought about by the new gear."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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