The iOSphere this past week wondered at the prospect of iPhone 6 with a Supercharged Siri, an all-knowing, all-doing software entity that will manage your iOS life for you. Eventually, probably in iOS 9, Siri will offer psychotherapy.
The Bummer of the Week was a confused, and confusedly reported, rumor that Apple is negotiating with carriers to raise the iPhone 6 price by $100. Why Apple would need carrier by-in to price its smartphone was unclear. The rumor resulted in something rarely seen: cheers for the carriers, who according to the Wall Street analyst who floated the context-less rumor, were supposedly resisting the hike.
Bloggers and tech websites also eagerly sifted through anonymous photos of third-party phone cases, "specially designed for the iPhone 6," and bigger batteries that, although they could be for any smartphone, if you think of them as being for the iPhone 6, show that the iPhone body would have to be larger, too.
It's simple really.
You read it here second.
iPhone 6 will have "supercharged" Siri
This is less a rumor than a hope. It's based on listing the various ways in which Apple's Siri voice assistant lacks certain features found in rivals, such as Google Now and Microsoft's just-announced Cortana, and looking at some Apple acquisitions. Neither technique really guarantees what we'll see in Siri with the next release of iOS.
This latest comparison is a Slashgear post by Chris Davies, who uses the space to mainly rehash and link to various earlier Slashgear posts on this general topic.
As did many others, Davies points again to Apple's recently disclosed acquisition of Novauris Technologies, a startup created by Dragon Systems co-founder James Baker, which reportedly is working on an automatic speech recognition system that runs partly on the client device and partly in the cloud.
"Local speech processing is one of the elements that rivals to Siri have cited as key advantages," Davies claims. "Rather than waiting for server-side analysis, for instance, Intel's Jarvis voice control can do it on the wearable itself."
The other elements of the "supercharged" Siri would be a personalized calendar, via Apple's acquisition of Cue, integration with the Shazam audio database for music recognition, and a Siri API, which would let third-party app developers tap into Siri. Apple is "believed to be readying" this, according to Davies.
Davies seems to be borrowing the API stuff from a TechCrunch post by Darrell Etherington, who in turn is, openly, borrowing from a subscription-only original article, "Apps Emerge as Key Battleground in Mobile Search," at The Information, a high-profile news startup focusing on the technology business.
That article, as Etherrington notes, looks at Siri as part of a larger analysis of the evolving mobile search/app integration space. As such, Siri is likely to become "smarter" and more capable relating apps, calendars, and personalized information to tasks carried out on behalf of the user, sometimes in cooperation with third-party apps or online services.
In that sense, Siri becomes a growing part of the end-user "infrastructure" of Apple iOS users, analogous to Apple's extension of iOS location services by means of the iBeacon software framework for Bluetooth Low Energy radios on iOS devices, opening them up to interacting with third-party BTLE beacons, notifications, and apps and other content.
As a human-machine interface, Siri is a work in progress, and there's no indication that Apple has given up on it or made it a lesser priority.
iPhone 6 will be $100 more expensive than the iPhone 5s
Business Insider's Jay Yarrow thinks Apple is "too focused on profits."
That's his conclusion, in a blog post titled "Apple Reportedly Wants To Raise The Price Of The iPhone By $100," about a claim put forward by Jefferies stock analyst Peter Misek. According to Yarrow's post, Misek says, "Our checks indicate Apple has started negotiating with carriers on a $100 iPhone 6 price increase. The initial response has been no, but there seems to be an admission that there is no other game-changing device this year."
"Because the iPhone is the only phone that matters this year, carriers may cave and give Apple the price bump it wants," Yarrow concludes. This strikes The Rollup as a fundamental misunderstanding of Apple's relationship with the carriers. About 70 percent of Apple's iPhone business is transacted mainly through carriers and some retailers.
There's a lot about this relationship that's not clear. In general, the conviction is that mobile carriers pay Apple something close to the full retail price of each iPhone, which they then sell to subscribers for less, if the phone is bought with a two-year contract: the starting price iPhone 5s is $199, with a contract, for example. There are additional costs for the carriers: as part of the deal, Apple requires carriers to commit to TV and print advertising, set up an "exclusion zone" around the iPhone display space to keep other products further away, and dedicate customer service staff specifically for Apple products, at least according to this July 2013 article in The Telegraph, which examined Apple's terms with European carriers.
As importantly, Apple apparently requires a "minimum order quantity" or MOQ from carriers, which seems to be a percentage of their total subscriber base. (See Horace Dediu's analysis of this at his Asymco blog).
None of this suggests that Apple negotiates the iPhone "price" with carriers. They can negotiate, or try to, the amount of the "subsidy" the difference between what the carriers charge their subscribers for an iPhone and what Apple charges the carriers. So far, they've been willing to pay that, because of the phone's popularity and because of the data usage patterns of iPhone users they use a lot, and if they're on LTE, they use even more.
Yarrow seems to assume that Apple simply intends to raise by $100 the price of whatever the iPhone 6 turns out to be. "But really, for a company with $150 billion in cash, adding $100 to the price of its phone seems like a move that's too focused on profits," he declares.
"This seems like a strange move for Apple," Yarrow writes. "At a time when its rivals are going down in price, Apple wants to go up." But then he undermines his own argument by noting that "Samsung's phablet, the 6-inch Galaxy Note 3 sells for $100 more than its 5-inch Galaxy S5."
UPI's Ananth Baliga wrote a story based on the same Misek Note To Investors, but added one detail missing from Yarrow's account. "According to the note the extra cost will be split between the customer and carrier, with each asked to pay $50," she says. "The iPhone 5S is currently sold at a subsidized rate of $200 with a standard two-year contract. If the price increase were to take place, customers would have to pay $250 for the new phone."
It remains very unclear whether, or how, Apple will extend the iPhone portfolio in 2014. It currently has two models, the flagship 5s and the lower-priced 5c, both with 4-inch diagonal screens. Many people are expecting two new iPhones by the end of 2014, both with screens larger than that. But would that mean Apple does away with the 4-inch display completely? Would a 4.7-inch iPhone become the new "5c" and a 5.5- or 6-inch iPhone the new "5s?" Or do both phones migrate to a 4.7-inch screen and a new, third model offers a 5-inch-or-larger screen, at a price hike?
And what, actually, is strange about charging more for a phone that's more expensive to produce, if consumers see, and are willing to pay for, added value?
iPhone 6 will have 4.7-inch screen, as revealed by anonymous third-party phone cases
Thank heavens someone is tracking the trends in Purported iPhone 6 Cases.
And why? Because "Purported iPhone 6 cases suggest design changes," according to the CNET post by Don Reisinger.
"Photos of purported iPhone 6 cases have popped up on the Web and seem to show features that have been rumored over the last several months," he announces.
"The cases, made by an unidentified third-party and specifically designed for the iPhone 6, feature the same design in a few colors," he reveals. "They come with a screen opening of 4.7 inches and a new location for the power switch from the top of the iPhone to the side. The cases also include rectangular volume controls on the opposite side of the power button. An opening for Apple's logo and another for a camera are also in the cases."
Reisinger gets this from 9to5Mac, which got it from the French site NoWhereElse.fr, which in turn picked up from the Japanese Mac fan site, Mac Otakara.
NoWhereElse's Steve Hemmerstoffer exhibits an almost compulsive attention to details, measuring and annotating everything and drawing conclusions. The assumption behind all these posts is that companies making money selling protective cases for iPhones have an interest in getting accurate information so they can pre-design and manufacture cases for the Next iPhone before anyone else.
Here's the Google translation of part of the research and analysis from NoWhereElse: "Designed on the basis of information obtained from a source kept secret, these shells are supposed silicone perfect fit an iPhone 6 with a screen measuring 4.7 inches diagonally. Wishing to avoid that these data may allow a more props to manufacture their own products, my contact was unfortunately not want to give me the exact dimensions of these hulls ..."
Makes perfect sense to us: secret sources, alleged or purported photos, no exact dimensions. No, you know, facts. The perfect rumor.
iPhone 6 will be bigger because photos show bigger batteries
It was busy week for Hemmerstoffer's NoWhereElse blog, which was also the source of photos supposedly showing the batteries for the iPhone 6. The batteries are bigger than the batteries in today's iPhones, therefore the Next iPhone must be bigger, too.
To lend credence to this imagining, the post notes that (via Google Translate of the original French) "End of March, Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai of Digitimes claimed Apple would at already placed orders with suppliers of batteries under the production of its future iPhone 6, according to Hemmerstoffer. "Imagine a picture that you was passed earlier in the morning seems to confirm the rumor launched by the Taiwanese website ...The photo in question is supposed to introduce ourselves batteries or to equip the next iPhone. These batteries could of course have been designed for any other smartphone but admit for a moment that my source is telling the truth ..."
Wait. What? "These batteries could of course have been designed for any other smartphone?"
But we can get past that, by admitting - for a moment - that his source is telling the truth. Why would he lie, right?
"In examining these batteries more closely, you will actually realize that a mysterious metallic elements missing from current models has been integrated alongside the and - terminals whose positioning has also been slightly modified," Hemmerstoffer notes. "A hole was drilled at the end of this new element, I guess it will fix the battery housing of the device." So by examining the mysterious details, we can see that these batteries that could be for any smartphone are indeed different from the battery in the current iPhone.
"Assuming that the batteries that have led me to write this article are indeed intended to supply the iPhone 6, it could therefore be effectively presented in approximately three months either in the month of July ... Wait & See ..."
If we all just waited and saw what Apple actually announces for the 2014 iPhone, life would be so much simpler.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World."