About Those Alleged iPhone 6 Mockups or Prototypes

May 14th, 2014

As we get closer to the expected release of the next iPhone, more and more mockups and raw case parts are emerging online. They are all allegedly sourced from the supply chain, and are presented, with or without comment, on various sites, particularly those that truck in Apple rumors.

By and large, they fit into the current media meme about the iPhone 6, which is that it will come in a 4.7-inch version, and as a “phablet,” with a 5.5-inch display. The general tenor of the phablet claim is that Apple is allegedly having problems with displays and batteries, and thus may debut this model a few weeks or a few months after the smaller handset appears. It has also been given a name, the iPhone Air, which is in keeping with the flagship iPad motif.

Where there’s any consistency, it’s that the case is thinner on both models, and the corners are more rounded, somewhat in keeping with a vintage iPod touch. But when it comes to a smartphone, there are only so many variations on the rounded corner theme before it’s not so rounded and appears all or mostly squared off. Apple is into making things sturdy but slim, so I suppose the larger case could be used to contain a bigger battery without making the unit noticeably larger.

Other rumors talk of using the next generation A8 chip, and an enhanced camera sensor with larger pixels, or more pixels, or a combination of the true. The antenna is also said to be undergoing a redesign, though the one on the existing iPhones seems to work well enough. We are way past the day of that infamous Antennagate episode, although Apple is reported to have only recently discontinued production of the 2010 iPhone 4, the model that featured the controversial antenna design, which continued to be sold in India and other countries.

Now I’m not about to suggest whether or not the prototypes are as represented, nor will I reproduce the drawings and photos. It’s not as if we really know which might be real, which might be made up, or which might be a combination of the two extremes.

It’s certainly true that leaks from the supply chain have been common with recent Apple hardware. We all pretty much knew the basics of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c before they were released, so a lot of the details did not come as a surprise. Even the fingerprint sensor had been rumored in light of Apple’s purchase of AuthenTec, the company who invented the technology, in 2012. So it was only a matter of time before the feature that became Touch ID appeared on a new Apple mobile device.

As we get closer to the actual release date, which may happen as early as August according to a new set of rumors — though that would depend on the release date of iOS 8 — you’ll see more and more photos of the new model or models. They would likely be more accurate representations of the finished product.

I suppose it’s unfortunate that these product leaks have diminished the wow factor of new Apple gear. All right, you didn’t know the surprising details about the Mac Pro before the original demonstration at last year’s WWDC, but Apple was still several months from production, so there was more opportunity to keep the prototypes secret. With an iPhone, an iPad, or any other Mac, the time between launch and going on sale is a matter of days, the better not to kill demand for an existing model.

But there is still a side effect of all those iPhone 6 rumors, leaks, or whatever. It is reported that a fair percentage of people are holding off buying an iPhone until the next model comes out. But that wouldn’t require a rumor, since Apple’s release cycle is fairly consistent. Even if the iPhone 6 comes out a month earlier this year, it would still be roughly in keeping with the refresh schedule.

At the same time, I wonder how many people, who might have bought, say, a Samsung smartphone because it has a larger display might be holding off now that there appear to be credible and consistent rumors of larger iPhones. So I wonder if some of these leaks aren’t deliberate, and that Apple had a hand in it.

Still, I expect Apple will try to keep some features close to the vest, particularly as they interact with iOS 8. Yes, you’ll know more about the new mobile OS at the WWDC as of June 2, but the final details, and some of the built-in features of the iPhone 6, won’t be apparent until the release date or shortly before.

Regardless of how things turn out, there was surely something to be said about wondering about the next great Apple product, but getting no solid information until the official rollout. These days, fairly accurate information leaks days or weeks ahead of time. Even the recent MacBook Air refresh was hinted at a day before the actual announcement. So the press release and product rollout came across as mostly an afterthought.

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