TIME Big Picture

Questions About a 5.5-inch iPhone

There’s already a bit of controversy surrounding the launch of Apple’s new iPhones this fall.

Most informed sources seem to all agree that Apple will introduce an iPhone 6 sporting a 4.7-inch screen, as compared to the 4-inch screen on today’s iPhone 5s and 5c models. But there are several rumors coming from the supply chain that suggest Apple is also preparing to release a 5.5-inch version of its newest iPhone, too.

The possibility that Apple could be making a 5.5-inch iPhone leads to a few important questions.

Why make a giant iPhone?

The first: If Apple really wants the 4.7-inch model to be what we in the industry call the “hero” model — one that would drive the majority of iPhone sales going forward — why even make a 5.5-inch model at all?

While we will sell about a billion smartphones this year, fewer than 70 million will feature screens larger than five inches. However, the answer to this question is actually pretty simple: While demand for smartphones larger than five inches is minimal in the U.S. and Europe, there is great interest in smartphones in the 5.5- to 5.7-inch range in many parts of Asia.

For example, well over 80% of smartphones sold in Korea have screens that are at least five inches and above. They have also become big hits in China and other parts of Asia where larger smartphones double as a small tablets, thus driving demand in these regions of the world for what are called “phablets.”

I suspect that if Apple is making a larger iPhone 6 in the 5.5-inch range, it will most likely be targeted at these Asian markets where demand for large smartphones is relatively strong. This is not to say that Apple wouldn’t offer a 5.5-inch iPhone in the U.S. — I believe there could be some interest in one of this size — but like most of my colleagues in the research world, we believe that the lion’s share of those buying the new iPhone would want the 4.7-inch version if indeed this is the size of it when it comes out.

Would you buy it?

The second question: If Apple does bring a 5.5-inch iPhone 6 to the U.S. market, would you buy one?

For the last month or so, I have been carrying three smartphones with me of various screen sizes all day long, and have learned a lot about my personal preferences. In my front pocket is an iPhone 5 that has a four-inch screen. In my back pockets are a Galaxy Note 3, which has a 5.7-inch screen and the new Amazon Fire, which sports a 4.7 inch screen — the same size that is purported to be on the new iPhone 6 when it comes to market.

Here are my observations. Keep in mind they are personal observations, but I suspect that my preferences are pretty close to what the majority of the market may prefer when it comes to the screen sizes in a larger smartphone.

I like to keep my primary smartphone with me all of the time, so my iPhone 5 is in my front pocket. The screen size is very important in this case and, at four inches, it easily fits in my right-front pants pocket and is easy to access as I need it. The other thing that is important about the four-inch screen is that I can operate it with one hand. From a design point, one-handed operation has been at the heart of all iPhones to date, as Steve Jobs was adamant that people wanted to be able to use their phones with one hand. So the idea of possibly moving up to a new iPhone with a 4.7-inch screen has intrigued me, as I wondered if a smartphone with this size screen would fit in my pocket and still be usable with one hand.

So when I got to test the 4.7-inch Amazon Fire phone, I immediately put it in my front pocket. Thankfully, it fit well and continued to be just as easy to access as the smaller iPhone 5s with its four-inch screen. Also, while I had been skeptical that I could still use it with one hand since I have medium-sized hands, I found that I could still operate the Amazon Fire with one hand easily. The other thing about a 4.7-inch screen is that the text is larger; for my aging eyes, this is a welcome upgrade. However, on these two issues, the Galaxy Note 3, with its 5.7-inch screen, flunked both tests. This phablet-sized smartphone did not fit in a front pocket, nor could I use it for one-handed operation.

That led me to wonder if a Samsung Galaxy S% smartphone, with its five-inch screen, would work in these similar scenarios. So I took a Galaxy S5 that I have, put it into my front pocket and tried to use it with one hand. To my surprise, it also worked well. But I had another smartphone with a 5.2-inch screen and, amazingly, that failed both tests. On the surface, at least for me, a smartphone up to five inches did fit in my pocket and allowed me to use it one-handed, but any screen larger than that was a bust.

I also did this test with some of the women in our office. We have a very casual workplace and most wear jeans to work, so I had them try the 4.7-inch Amazon Fire. They were also surprised that it fit O.K. in their front pockets and could still be used in a one-handed operation mode. However, like me, a screen larger than five inches did not fit in pockets and was impossible to use with one hand for all of them. These women did point out to me though that for most women, it’s less likely that they would carry a smartphone in their pockets as more keep them in a purse or handbag. That being the case, at least for the women in our office, a smartphone with a 5.5-inch screen was acceptable to them, although one person said she would prefer the smaller 4.7-inch smartphone if push came to shove.

Ultimately, it probably comes down to personal preference, yet I suspect that an iPhone with a 4.7-inch screen would take the lion’s share of Apple’s iPhones sales if this is indeed the size of the company’s new iPhone.

What about tablets?

But a 5.5-inch smartphone begs a third question that, at the moment, has stymied many of us researchers: Would a 5.5- or 6-inch smartphone eat into the demand for a small tablet?

I find that in my case, even though I do use the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 often for reading books while out and about or while standing in line, my iPad Mini is still my go-to tablet due to its size. I also have a 9.7-inch iPad Air with a Bluetooth keyboard, but I almost exclusively use that tablet for productivity and less for any form of real data consumption.

Some researchers have suggested that, especially in parts of the world where larger smartphones or “phablets” are taking off, this has really hurt the demand for smaller tablets — and that’s partially why demand for tablets has been soft in the last two quarters. Unfortunately, the data is still inconclusive on this, but my gut says that “phablets” are at least having some impact on demand for tablets in many regions of the world.

With the expected launch of Apple’s new larger-screen iPhones just around the corner, those planning to buy a new iPhone might want to keep my experience in mind. There’s a very big difference between how a person uses smartphones that are less than five inches and smartphones that have larger screens. For those who keep them in their pockets and/or want to use them with one hand, they have only one real choice. For them, a smartphone smaller than five inches is their best bet.

But for those that don’t keep their smartphones in their pockets, the virtue of a larger screen is that it delivers much more viewing real estate. Consequently, it’s much easier to use when reading books, web pages and for other tasks where a large screen can deliver a real benefit. The good news is that if these Apple rumors are true, people will have better options coming from Apple. For the first time in the iPhone’s history, Apple might give users multiple screen sizes to choose from.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

TIME Rumors

That 5.5-Inch iPhone Is Still Pretty Mysterious

A larger iPhone seems likely for this fall, but don't bet on an even larger "phablet" version just yet.

There comes a time in every Apple rumor’s life when it starts to feel like inevitability–when the sum of insider information, leaked images and “supply chain” speculation becomes too difficult to dismiss.

That seems to have happened with the 4.7-inch “iPhone 6,” which is widely expected to arrive this fall. But that’s not the only iPhone that Apple is reportedly working on. Reports of a 5.5-inch iPhone have been circulating since last year, and they’re starting to reach that threshold of inevitability as new reports keep rolling in.

Still, looking at the dozen or so rumors about the extra-large iPhone, there’s little consensus on when the phone would arrive, how it would differ from the 4.7-inch iPhone and what the larger screen would mean for apps and software. Until we get answers to more of these questions, it’s foolish to assume an iPhone “phablet” is imminent.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was telling its suppliers to prepare for a record number of iPhones, including 4.7- and 5.5-inch models. But the paper also said that Apple was struggling to get good production yields from the larger model, which may not enter mass production until a month after the smaller iPhone.

We’ve seen other publications make similar claims, but the timing is always murky. 9to5Mac, for instance, says that Apple hasn’t decided whether to debut the 5.5-inch iPhone in September along with its smaller sibling. Chinese media sources claim that mass production on the larger model won’t even start until September. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo–a hit-or-miss source for Apple rumors lately–believes the 5.5-inch iPhone won’t arrive until after October, or possibly next year.

As for the phone itself, there isn’t much corroborating evidence on how it would be different from the 4.7-inch model aside from screen size alone. Kuo has speculated that it would be the only iPhone with a scratch-resistant sapphire display and optical image stabilization, but without corroboration from more reliable sources, I’m skeptical.

The other big question is how screen resolution would change with the larger display. It’s unlikely that Apple would stretch the screen without increasing the number pixels as well, but there hasn’t been much discussion to address this issue.

None of this leaves me feeling confident that a 5.5-inch iPhone is coming any time soon. If you’re only interested in phones with gigantic displays, and absolutely can’t wait longer than a couple months, you might want to consider other options.

TIME Apple

Apple’s iPhone 6 Will Probably Have an Unscratchable Screen

A leaked video shows what may be Apple's next iPhone design

+ READ ARTICLE

A well-known leaker of Apple news may have provided hard evidence that the next iPhone will come with a scratch-resistant sapphire glass display.

In a video on YouTube, Marques Brownlee demonstrates what is apparently a front panel from the iPhone 6, straight off Apple’s assembly lines. He bends the panel under his sneaker, stabs at it with a knife and scrapes at it with a set of keys, yet the display seems no worse for the wear. He also notes that the glass measures 4.7 inches diagonally, marking an increase in screen size from the 4-inch iPhone 5S.

Brownlee says he received the display from Sonny Dickson, a well-known leaker who has gotten a hold of other pre-release iPhone components in the past. (Dickson himself has posted his own bend test and size comparison videos of the sapphire glass display.)

As ExtremeTech points out, Brownlee doesn’t subject the glass to any impact tests. While sapphire is nearly scratch-proof, it’s also quite brittle and could be susceptible to damage from drops on its own. However, Apple patents and other circumstantial evidence suggest that the front panel is actually a laminate of sapphire and another cheaper material. This could bring costs down while also helping the display survive a hard impact.

Of course, we won’t know about the iPhone 6’s display until Apple makes an official announcement about the phone. There’s still no consensus on a release date for the iPhone 6, but a September launch seems likely.

TIME Wearables

iOS 8 Has the Ingredients for a Pretty Good Apple Watch

Apple didn’t announce an iWatch at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, nor was it expected to.

But what happened instead was just as intriguing: With iOS 8, Apple quietly laid the groundwork for what could be a great wearable platform, adding the raw ingredients to compete with Google, Samsung and others.

One of the big new features in iOS 8 is interactive notifications, which allow users to directly respond to e-mails, calendar appointments and social media posts without going into the app itself.

Yes, it’s one of several features that Apple “borrowed” from Android, and this may not be a coincidence given that actionable notifications are the centerpiece of Google’s own wearable platform, Android Wear. Instead of just seeing static notifications on your wrist, Android Wear will let you respond to them while leaving your phone in your pocket. Without a similar system in iOS, Apple would have been at a big disadvantage.

Interactive notifications aren’t the only smartwatch-friendly feature in iOS 8. Apple is beefing up Siri with streaming voice (so you can confirm what you’re saying as you talk), support for more languages and the ability to activate voice commands by saying “Hey, Siri.”

Siri will also be able to control home automation setups through HomeKit, which makes a lot of sense for a wearable device. You don’t want to have to dig out your phone or tablet just to tweak the thermostat or turn down the lights.

And of course, there’s Health and HealthKit, which will allow users to keep track of all their fitness tracking applications. Wouldn’t it make sense to keep an eye on these stats while exercising, without having to strap an iPhone onto your shoulder?

I’ll cheerfully admit that the case for an iWatch isn’t airtight. There are still tough hardware problems to solve, including battery efficiency, fashionability (for both men and women) and pricing, and I can still pick out some things I’d like to see on the software side (such as third-party app support in Siri).

But Apple’s never been known to tick every feature box at once. Instead, the company tends to take its time building up from a foundation. In hindsight, that’s exactly what Apple did as it built up iOS on the iPhone, before launching the iPad a few years later. With iOS 8, it’s a lot easier to believe that an iWatch is coming next.

TIME FindTheBest

9 Possible Endgames for the Apple-Beats Situation

As we wait for the final outcome of the Beats-Apple situation, we might as well prepare ourselves for the best, the worst, and everything in between. Here are 9 potential endgames for the supposedly looming Apple-Beats acquisition, ordered roughly from “likely” to “totally implausible.”

1. Apple buys Beats, releases brand new streaming music service

Midway through Apple’s WWDC keynote, Tim Cook announces what many quietly expected: an all-new Apple-branded music streaming service, courtesy of newly-acquired Beats by Dre. Named “Dring” (a hybrid of “Dre” and failed Apple music network, “Ping,”), the streaming service comes complete with 25 million songs, pleasantly-rounded corners, and brushed aluminum menus. In honor of the late Mr. Jobs, Cook plays Bob Dylan’s “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’” as the first tune to ever stream through the service. The next day, somebody on Twitter jokes that “beyond here lies nothin’” is also an apt description for Apple’s product roadmap.

2. Apple buys Beats, refreshes headphones line

The streaming music service rumors prove unfounded: it was about hardware all along. Apple signs the Beats deal, then rolls out a whole new line of headphone and speaker accessories, each more colorful and more expensive than the last. Beats’ celebrity army of NBA stars, R&B artists and pop sensations appear in a new series of Apple ads, with the tagline, “Hear what you’ve been missing.” Even Justin Bieber gets a spot. Meanwhile, Apple stores around the globe become three times as noisy, as Apple’s new Beats-made headphones leak noise faster than Edward Snowden can leak NSA secrets.

3. Apple doesn’t buy Beats, everyone feels stupid

As articles (like this one) continue to trickle out over the coming weeks, the tech world becomes desperate for action. Why haven’t we heard more? Why didn’t Apple say anything at WWDC? A dozen conspiracy theories emerge, from “Apple and Beats never met” to “Apple actually bought Beats in 2009.” The Internet loses its collective mind until summer 2015, when Dr. Dre’s former PR manager releases a book, Think Different: The Real Story Behind the Apple-Beats Negotiations.

4. Apple buys Beats, realizes headphones have become a commodity market

The deal is signed. Cook, Jony Ive, Peter Oppenheimer, Craig Federighi, and Dr. Dre pour champagne while listening to Dre’s “The Next Episode” at Apple headquarters. Mid-clink, a freckle-faced, 19-year-old intern bursts through the door. “Mr. Cook!” she gasps, “We just got that report on the headphone market—the one you said was critical to the deal.” Laughing nervously, Cook sets down his champagne glass and eyes the report’s title, gingerly: Study—headphones now a commodity. Brand power rapidly losing its effect on fickle consumer market, which will now buy anything, as long as it’s cheap. “Well, sh–,” he says.

5. Amazon swoops in, buys Beats

In a surprise Monday morning headline, the world learns that Amazon—not Apple—has officially purchased Beats. “This isn’t about our upcoming streaming music service,” says CEO Jeff Bezos, in a next-morning Washington Post interview, “This is about Amazon Prime.” Beats customers begin noticing subtle changes in their orders, as packing peanuts are replaced by Amazon Prime coupons, and “Try Prime!” stickers are placed on every pair of Beats Solo HDs. One customer swears she hears “free two-day shipping on any order” every time she plugs in her primeBeats earphones, but gets laughed out of court by Amazon’s lawyers.

6. Apple buys Beats, kills Beats

Weeks after Apple announces the formal deal, a funny thing happens: Beats products disappear. eBay stock sells out. Even Amazon can’t seem to find them. Furious, a drunken mob surrounds Jony Ive at a Cupertino bar, demanding answers. “Okay!” he says, “All our research says people only care about two things: bright colors and overpriced brands. That’s our thing, not Beats’. That’s why people buy Apple. Beats had to go. They just had to, okay?”

7. Apple walks away from Beats deal, buys Skullcandy instead

In a hastily assembled press conference, Cook agrees to take five minutes of questions on the just-announced Skullcandy acquisition. “What happened to Beats?” a reporter asks. “Forget about Dre,” Cook responds. “But why Skullcandy?” another asks. “I mean, seriously,” Cook says, “these are headphone manufacturers. They all do the same thing.”

8. Dr. Dre becomes new “Voice of Siri”

Apple finally addresses the artificially-intelligent elephant in the room: No one really likes Siri. In an open apology letter to all Apple customers, Cook explains that all those Siri statistics—“85% use Siri at least once per month”—are “inflated,” and “probably half of those” are people who “accidentally hold down the home button a little too long.” Cook goes on to describe the $3 billion acquisition as “mostly about voice talent. We thought, ‘Who does everyone love? What voice has achieved such an iconic level of success that customers wouldn’t mind even if it repeatedly misunderstood them, called the wrong contacts, or drove them to the wrong restaurant four times out of five?’ The answer? Dr. Dre.”

9. Apple buys Beats, Dr. Dre becomes Apple CEO

In a somber press event, Cook announces that the completed Beats deal will coincide with his resignation. “Honestly, I’m just sick of it,” Cook explains, saying he’s actually happy to see “someone, anyone” taking over “the most thankless job” in the tech industry. “You sell 43 million iPhones in one quarter, post $45.6 billion in revenue, and all anyone wants to talk about is how great Jeff Bezos is. I mean, seriously.”

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME Apple

The Case for a Triple-Resolution iPhone 6

Apple is reportedly testing a 4.7-inch iPhone with a 1704-by-960 resolution display.

Rumors of a 4.7-inch iPhone have been kicking around for a while, but nobody has really explained how the iPhone’s screen resolution would change to support a larger display.

Over at 9to5Mac, Mark Gurman makes a good case for a resolution of 1704-by-960 in the iPhone 6. His unnamed sources say that Apple is in fact testing at least one model with this resolution, and he explains why this exact number of pixels makes sense.

If you took the original 3.5-inch iPhone with its 480-by-320 resolution and stretched it to 4 inches at the same pixel density, you’d have a resolution of 568-by-320. If you then tripled the number of pixels in each direction, you’d wind up at 1704-by-960. So while the iPhone 4, with its 960-by-640 resolution, was a “2X” display compared to previous models, the iPhone 6 will be a “3X” display.

Why does this matter? App developers will ultimately have to tweak their code to make things look great on the larger screen, but until that happens, it behooves Apple (and users) for these apps not to look horrible. An increase in resolution at the same aspect ratio would leave apps looking decent enough until developers got around to optimizing their apps. Unlike with the transition from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5, you wouldn’t have to deal with any black bars surrounding the screen.

As for physical screen size, there have been reports of Apple testing a 5.5-inch iPhone as well. The rumor mill seems to agree that this extra-large iPhone won’t arrive this fall, if it arrives at all. Either way, a resolution of 1704-by-960 would make for an increase in pixel density over current models and would allow Apple to take on the many larger Android phones that are already on the market.

TIME apple rumors

Report: The iPad Is About to Get Much Better at Multitasking

Marc Gurman over at 9to5Mac is reporting that Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, will bring with it the ability to run two apps side-by-side on an iPad.

Apple is expected to unveil iOS 8 (and other goodies) at its developer conference, which runs June 2 to June 6.

Gurman only cites unnamed “sources with knowledge of the enhancement in development,” but he’s got a solid track record with Apple rumors. And this is a feature iPad users have been requesting for quite some time, so this seems like a somewhat safe bet by Apple-rumors standards. It’s also, as Gurman reminds us, a feature Microsoft uses to set its own Surface tablets apart from the iPad.

Assuming the rumor pans out, this feature would extend beyond simple screen-splitting.

Says Gurman:

In addition to allowing for two iPad apps to be used at the same time, the feature is designed to allow for apps to more easily interact, according to the sources. For example, a user may be able to drag content, such as text, video, or images, from one app to another. Apple is said to be developing capabilities for developers to be able to design their apps to interact with each other. This functionality may mean that Apple is finally ready to enable “XPC” support in iOS, which means that developers could design App Store apps that could share content.

The split-screening would apparently work for the full-size iPad, and in landscape mode, but it’s unknown whether it’d extend to the iPad Mini. If this feature is indeed coming, we’ll hear more straight from Apple in a few short weeks.

[9to5Mac]

TIME Technologizer

Whatever Happened to the Apple HDTV?

The rise and fall (and rise and fall, and rise and fall) of an oft-rumored product

In late 2006, the crescendo of rumors about Apple building a smartphone became deafening–and sure enough, in January 2007, the company announced the iPhone. Three years later, the blogosphere was afire with scuttlebutt about an Apple tablet–right before Apple unveiled the iPad.

Then there are the rumors about Apple making an HDTV. One with streaming video from the iTunes store, a predictably polished interface and industrial design, and–as long as we’re rumormongering–maybe a breakthrough or two that will change TV forever.

Analysts, pundits and other assorted Apple watchers have been talking about such a TV for years. Sometimes, they’ve even said that factories were in the process of cranking up production so that TVs could reach Apple Stores in the immediate future, or issued forecasts of how many units the company would sell.

And yet, the Apple HDTV not only isn’t here yet, but feels like it’s slipping away. When people bring it up now, they assume it will debut in 2015, if they specify a date at all.

More often, though, they don’t talk about it–the rumor brigade has pretty much moved on to obsessing over the possibility of an Apple smartwatch or other wearable gizmo of some sort. If it turns out that Apple has no definite plan to enter the TV market, it wouldn’t be shocking–a possibility utterly at odds with the last few years of conventional wisdom.

To understand what happened, it’s worth recapping how we got here…

2008

October: Entrepreneur Jason Calacanis says that Apple is working on a networked HDTV–like a TV set with a built-in Apple TV box.

2009

August: Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster speculates that Apple might release an HDTV by 2011, with an “iTunes TV Pass” subscription service and the ability to sync with iPhones, iPods and iMacs.

2010

March: Munster talks about a $2,000 Apple HDTV arriving within 2-4 years, along with a video subscription service for $50 to $90 a month.

2011

January: Late 2012, Munster now says.

February: Munster says that Apple’s $3.9 billion investment in display production is yet more evidence that an Apple HDTV is on the way. He thinks the company might make $2.5 billion from HDTVs in 2012, $4 billion in 2013 and $6 billion in 2014.

June: A former Apple executive tells DailyTech that Apple will blow Netflix away with an iOS-powered HTDV capable of running third-party apps. It’ll ship in late 2o11 unless Apple’s famously high standards push it into 2012.

July: Dave Richards of Australian site Smarthouse says that Apple may be getting ready to release a 55-inch OLED HDTV in 2012, crediting “a Hollywood lawyer” with the scoop.

July: In a totally different Apple HDTV rumor from Dave Richards’ 55-inch OLED one, Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research–the guy who now says Apple is doomed unless it has a smartwatch by later this month–says he’s 75 percent sure about the HDTVs in three sizes, which Apple will probably release in March 2012. They’re modeled on Bose’s VideoWave and will be two inches thick, with 16 built-in speakers.

August: Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities channels his inner Gene Munster, saying that Apple’s TV plans are moving “at a faster pace than the market expected” and that he thinks it’s possible the company will release an HDTV by the end of the year.

October: Shortly after Steve Jobs dies on October 5, the Washington Post prints an excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s upcoming authorized Jobs biography in which the Apple cofounder confides that he’d “finally cracked” the secret of making an easy-to-use TV.

Also in October: Bloomberg reports that “people with knowledge of the project” say that Jeff Robbin, one of the people responsible for the iPod and the iTunes Music Store, is leading the development of an Apple TV. The story also says Gene Munster thinks Apple may release a TV in late 2012 or in 2013.

November: Jeffries & Co. analyst Peter Misek says he expects Apple to begin production of an HDTV with a Sharp LCD panel in February for a mid-2012 release.

December: Taiwanese supply-chain news source DigiTimes reports that Apple is gearing up to release 32- and 37-inch HDTVs in the summer of 2012, with Samsung chips and Sharp displays.

2012

February: Gene Munster still thinks late 2012 makes sense for the Apple HDTV’s release, but he’s not sure what the content strategy will be. It could involve TiVo-like management of existing cable TV service, over-the-air broadcasts, a-la-carte or subscription streaming services, or apps.

March: Asian research firm CLSA says that scuttlebutt about Foxconn’s and Sharp’s display-manufacturing plans suggests that the Apple HDTV will be a 2013 product.

April: Jeffries & Co.’s Peter Misek now says that Apple will begin production of an HDTV he thinks will be called the iPanel in May, to arrive in stores by the holidays. It will use a Sharp panel with IGZO technology and will cost $1,250.

Also in April: Michael Lantz, CEO of app development firm Accedo, says that the Apple HDTV will focus on superior industrial design, and that the appointment of John Browett to run the Apple Store will ensure that “the more complex distribution chains for TV sets can be dealt with cost-efficiently.”

May: Leander Kahney of Cult of Mac reports about a source who’s supposedly seen a prototype Apple HDTV. It looks like an Apple Cinema Display only much larger, and has Siri voice control plus an iSight camera for FaceTime videoconferencing.

Also in May: BGR’s Jonathan Geller says that “a trusted source” tells him that Apple will demo a new TV operating system at WWDC in two weeks. The same source thinks Apple won’t show the actual HDTV hardware at the conference. Then again, “it’s certainly possible” that the set will make an appearance.

Also in May: China Daily reports that Foxconn chief Terry Gou has told him that his company is gearing up to produce Apple’s “iTV.”

June: Analyst Brian White, who thought that Apple might release an HDTV by the end of 2011, now says that a report on a Chinese news site that Apple will begin receiving LCD panels from Sharp earlier than expected suggests that the company may release an HDTV by the end of 2012.

August: Pacific Crest’s Andy Hargreaves does something startling–given that he’s an analyst–by saying he thinks Apple won’t release an HDTV in the near-term future, based on comments by Apple executive Eddy Cue.

November: James Kisner of Jeffries & Co. says that a major North American cable company is performing bandwidth tests to verify that it can support an Apple HDTV, suggesting that a release may be imminent. Jeffries’ Peter Misek, who once expected an Apple HDTV in mid-2012 and later talked about it shipping by that year’s holiday season, now forecasts sales of 4.9 million units in 2013 and 11.6 million in 2014.

Also in November: Gene Munster now thinks the Apple HDTV will arrive in November 2013. He predicts sizes of 42 to 55 inches and price tags from $1,500 to $2,000.

December: Morgan Stanley analysts Katy Huberty and Jerry Liu speculate that Apple patents suggest that the Apple HDTV may have a 3D display.

2013

January: Gene Munster says that Apple is still working to get an HDTV out in 2013.

Also in January: BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield says that Apple won’t release a TV set in 2013.

March: Munster still hopes an Apple HDTV will be out by the end of the year.

Also in March: “Industry supply chain sources” tell DigiTimes that Apple is working on a 4K Ultra HD TV called the iTV, with an LG panel. It could ship by the end of the year, but early 2014 is more likely.

April: Remember Brian White? He thought the Apple HDTV might show up by the end of 2011. Then he said the signs pointed to the end of 2012. Now he expects a 60-inch “iTV” in the second half of 2013. He talks about it being bundled with a 9.7-inch “Mini iTV” and a unique input device called the iRing you wear on your finger, for a package price in the neighborhood of $1,500-$2,500.

October: Research firm Advanced Research Japan Co. says that Apple will probably start selling 55- and 65-inch 4K Ultra HD TVs in the fourth quarter of 2014.

November: Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities says that he thinks an Apple HDTV is at least two years away.

2014

April: The Korea Herald reports that an unnamed display company is working on a sample 65-inch OLED panel for possible use in an Apple HDTV expected in 2015.

The trend is clear: There are far fewer stories about an Apple HDTV today than there were a couple of years ago, and the ones which do pop up are more vague. And when Re/code’s John Paczkowski broke the news that Apple wouldn’t show a wearable gizmo or a new Apple TV box at its WWDC event next month, he didn’t even bother to mention an Apple HDTV–presumably because nobody really expected it to arrive as soon as mid-2014.

The invaluable Google Trends shows that web searches for “Apple HDTV” have tapered off at the same time that ones for “Apple smartwatch” have spiked, suggesting that we’ve collectively lost interest in the whole subject:

 Trends
Google

What can we learn from all this?

  • Rumors that are at odds with each other are a bad sign. For instance, the fact that the alleged experts couldn’t agree on the Apple HDTV’s screen size, screen technology or screen supplier showed that either some of them or all of them had it wrong.
  • So are rumors that sound fundamentally improbable. Such as Apple selling a TV with a large OLED screen, or bundling an HDTV with a secondary screen and a device called an “iRing.” By the time the company is actually about to announce something, the wackiness has usually subsided.
  • The supply chain can mislead. People keep thinking they see signs that Apple’s Asian suppliers are about to start helping it make an HDTV. So far, such evidence has meant nothing.
  • Analysts get irrationally exuberant. If they think Apple should make an HDTV, they tend to see signs that it will make an HDTV–one with the features they’d like to see–and will do it soon. Once a given analyst’s predictions have failed to come true for two holiday seasons in a row, it’s reasonable to ignore anything that person says about the topic in the future.
  • Patents have nothing–repeat, nothing–to do with product roadmaps. Which means that a pundit who uses them to make any predictions at all about an upcoming Apple product can also be safely ignored.

At this point, the Apple HDTV rumors have fizzled so decisively that when new ones come along, as they surely will, it won’t make any sense to assume that anything anyone has said so far is likely to be true. Instead, we can just start again on this topic from scratch–and the more skeptical we are this time around, the better.

TIME apple rumors

Reports Say Not to Expect an Apple TV Revamp Anytime Soon

Earlier reports of new hardware in the spring might not pan out.

Big changes to Apple TV might not happen as soon as the rumor mill expected.

A new Apple TV box was first rumored for last fall by former TechCrunch reporter MG Siegler. When that didn’t pan out, 9to5Mac reported that we’d see new hardware in the first half of the year.

But now, sources are saying not to expect a new Apple TV anytime soon. 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman says the hardware “seems to have been pushed back,” while Re/code’s John Paczkowski says Apple won’t show any new TV hardware or software at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Gurman also said the revamped Apple TV software could be tied to iOS 8.1, which may not arrive until late this year or early next year.

It’s unclear exactly what the next version of Apple TV might include, but there have been murmurs of a proper App Store, a gaming component and Siri integration for years. Last November, Apple also acquired PrimeSense, whose technology helped power Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller, so gesture control seems like a possibility.

Eventually, Apple may also want to launch a broader TV service, in conjunction with pay TV providers and networks, but those negotiations have been slow-going.

In the meantime, Apple has been adding new TV apps such as Crackle, WatchABC, Vevo and MLS Soccer, so the $99 box continues to get more useful even without a major software update.

TIME Rumors

Report: iPhone to Get Built-in Song Identification Features

Siri
Bloomberg / Getty Images

A report said the next version of Apple's iPhone software will have built-in features to tell you what song is playing within earshot. Such a move would be a bit of catch-up for Apple, as similar song identifying features are baked into Android via the Google Now app

Bloomberg is reporting that the next version of Apple’s iPhone software — iOS 8 — will bring with it the ability to tell you which song is playing within earshot. The feature will reportedly leverage Shazam technology, which is already available as a standalone song-identifying app on several platforms, including Apple’s.

Such a move would be a bit of catch-up for Apple, as similar song identifying features are baked into Android via the Google Now app — you can simply ask Google Now “What’s this song?” — as well as Windows Phone via Microsoft’s new Cortana personal assistant, which features a song-identification button.

Bloomberg merely cites a duo of unnamed “people with knowledge of the product,” so take this news with a grain of salt. However, this seems like a logical extension of Siri’s abilities — the report claims you’ll be able to ask Siri “what song is playing,” which would be similar to how the aforementioned Google Now functionality works — and it help pad Apple’s bottom line by providing direct access to music tracks for purchase through the iTunes store.

Apple is holding its annual developer conference from June 2 to June 6 — we’ll find out more then.

[Bloomberg]

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